Category Archives: Eastern Europe and the Balkans

In Ukraine, Is Constantinople Rushing in “Where Angels Fear to Tread”?

by Nicolai N. Petro  |  ру́сский

On the eve of national elections in 2019, the President of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko, has set
himself the ambitious task of dismantling the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church, an
autonomous and self-administered part of the Russian Orthodox Church, and creating a new,
single national church out of the many Christian denominations in his country. His controversial
initiative has re-opened old confessional wounds in Ukraine and threatens to divide the Christian
world.

It is no secret that the cardinal sin of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, in the eyes of the
government, has been its refusal to support the war in Eastern Ukraine. Its head, Metropolitan
Onufry, calls it a “fratricidal conflict” and a “civil war.” To critics who complain of his lack of
patriotism, Onufry replies: “If I serve God and fulfill his commandments, then I am in fact a true
patriot. But if a person disdains the word of God, then no matter how much he may beat his
breast, he is no patriot . . . Our church is and has always been patriotic. Its patriotism consists in
calling upon people to live with God.”

With the establishment of a new national Orthodox church around the self-proclaimed Kyivan
Patriarchate, however, Ukraine will have a de facto state church. Continue Reading…

Give Us This Day Our Daily Portion of Nationalism… Reflections on the Issue of the Autocephaly of the Church in Ukraine

by Davor Džalto

I tried to stay away from publicly expressing my thoughts on the current church/autocephaly crisis in Ukraine, for many reasons. First of all, there are much more competent people who know the situation better than I do. Second, the issue of autocephaly of the church in Ukraine has, by now, escalated so dramatically that one feels compelled to side either with the “pro-Russian” block or with the “pro-Ukrainian/pro-Constantinople” one. The “camps” seem to be so fortified, and the discussion so heated, that it seems difficult to formulate and express one’s opinion without taking a clear-cut “pro” or “contra” position.

In the end, however, I decided to write a short piece about the issue because I received about a dozen requests from various people to comment on the situation, and to give my view on the issues at stake.

Let me say at the beginning that I do not share the mainstream views when it comes to the issue of autocephaly in Ukraine. I will try to explain why. Continue Reading…

Can History Solve the Conflict about Ukrainian Autocephaly?

by Thomas Bremer and Sophia Senyk

The conversion of Kievan Rus’

In early September 2018, the gathering conflict between the Patriarchates of Constantinople and Moscow around the status of Orthodoxy in Ukraine escalated. The Ecumenical Patriarchate, in response to a request by the Ukrainian president and the parliament, announced the preparation of a tomos which would grant autocephaly for the Orthodox Church in the country and named two bishops as exarchs. In reaction, the Russian Orthodox Church interrupted communion among priests and hierarchs and announced further measures if Constantinople proceeded with its intentions. On October 11, the Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate confirmed its decision to grant autocephaly, and restored communion with the self-proclaimed patriarch Filaret (Denysenko) as well as with the other Ukrainian bishops who were in schism until now. The Moscow Patriarchate announced counter-measures to be taken by its Synod which will meet October 15.

The core issue is canonical territory. Moscow regards Ukraine as its canonical territory and claims that the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, the only canonical Church in the country, belongs to it. Constantinople, in turn, regards itself as the mother Church of Orthodoxy in Ukraine and expresses concern for unity in the country. Who is right? Continue Reading…

Can Tug-of-War Lead to Unity? The Future of the Orthodox Church in Ukraine

by Ines Angeli Murzaku

 

The death of Patriarch Alexei II marked the end of the “cold era” contacts between Moscow and Constantinople and started a new epoch in inter-Orthodox relations. Kirill’s first foreign visit since his January 2009 election as Patriarch of Moscow was to Constantinople and the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. Unity and ecumenism were priorities for Patriarch Kirill, and the 2009 visit and his address prove it. He even attempted to put pressure on the Turkish government to reopen the Orthodox Theological School of Halki. But this was then. Now, the relations between Moscow and Constantinople have drastically changed over Ukraine.

In preparation for the independence celebrations, on April 10, 2018, the Ukrainian President Petro Porošenko made a request to the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew to create a new Ukrainian Orthodox Church and grant autocephaly to end the abnormity of three Orthodox jurisdictions in Ukraine. There are three Orthodox jurisdictions in Ukraine: 1) the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (under the jurisdiction of the Russian Orthodox Church), 2) the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kiev Patriarchate (established in 1992, headed by Filaret Denisenko) and 3) the Ukrainian autocephalous Orthodox Church (with the smallest number of faithful and parishes). Out of the three Orthodox jurisdictions, only the first is considered canonical, while the remaining two jurisdictions are considered “schismatic” and unrecognized by the Orthodox sister churches. Read More…