Category Archives: Eastern Europe and the Balkans

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…

The Problem with the Kosovo “Solution”

by Fr. Sava Janjic  |  српски

For most Christians residing in the West, the Kosovo “question” has long been forgotten. But for Serbs and other non-majority communities who live in Kosovo, the march of the international community toward ethnic zones in an independent Kosovo presents a genuine risk to our sacred shrines and our lives.

The lynchpin in the current international plan, wrongly supported by the President of Serbia, Aleksandar Vučić, calls for areas of “delimitation between Serbs and Albanians.” This would create ethnically pure territories within Kosovo, forcing over 80,000 Kosovo Serbs to leave their homes. This scenario would forever estrange our people from their historic sacred spaces and—as it has in all other instances across the globe—it will almost certainly lead to violence.

Those Serbs who believe that this compromise is necessary for the progress of the Serbian nation are not only forsaking their own cultural ancestry, but they are exchanging them for short-term gains that will neither create a better future for the Serbian people nor bring peace or stability for this region of Europe. This arrangement, in fact, is eerily similar to the one promoted by Milošević for Krajina, Croatia in 1995. We know only too well where that led: to ethnic cleansing and war. Continue Reading…

The Church in Modern Ukraine: Information Literacy and the Narrative

by Rev. Dr. Nicholas Denysenko

“A Tomos of autocephaly from the Ecumenical Patriarchate would legitimize the schism in Ukraine. We must support the canonical church.”

“Autocephalists are not ‘church people’. They are nationalists who seek to exploit the Church, and autocephaly will sever communion with the Orthodox Church.”

“The schism in Ukraine began in 1992 when Metropolitan Filaret violated the canons and inaugurated the autocephalous movement.”

“The Americans are the architects of the present project for Ukrainian autocephaly even though the vast majority of Orthodox in Ukraine are opposed to it.”

I constructed these four sentences as a synthesis capturing the most popularly circulated clichés about the history and contemporary situation of the Church in Ukraine. These ideas are not essentially distillations taken from translations published on websites about Orthodoxy, and not necessarily official Church websites, but media services—we do not always know who administers these services—that browse the Web for “Orthonews” and then republish it.

For the general public, the Ukrainian Church issue entered the spotlight with the Euromaidan phenomenon in 2013, which evolved into Russia’s forceful annexation of Crimea and then the catastrophic war in Donbas. Experts such as Antoine Arjakovsky and Cyril Hovorun referred to Church ministry among the people on the Maidan as the beginnings of a new and hopeful ecumenical movement in Ukraine. When St. Michael’s cathedral became a temporary hospital for the wounded, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Kyivan Patriarchate (UOC-KP) was re-introduced to a general audience as the Church to which the monastery and cathedral belong. When Ukraine’s Parliament formally requested that the Holy and Great Council in Crete grant autocephaly to the Orthodox Church in Ukraine in 2016, the UOC-KP was no longer merely an outcast Church that happened to open its doors to the wounded during the Maidan.

The Ecumenical Patriarchate’s (EP) commitment to establishing one canonical autocephalous Church in Ukraine that would include Orthodox outside of the Moscow Patriarchate (MP) became obvious in the events that have occurred since President Poroshenko publicly announced the imminence of a canonical Tomos during this past Bright Week. The Ecumenical Patriarchate has declared its determination to complete the implementation of the process of granting autocephaly to the Church in Ukraine following the meeting with Moscow Patriarch Kirill on August 31.

In principle, one would assume that this action of the Ecumenical Patriarchate would be a source of joy and relief to the Orthodox world as it would signal the end to a schism that began in 1921—not in 1992, as is erroneously reported and circulated on a daily basis. My own sampling of support for Ukrainian autocephaly among Anglophone Orthodox indicates disinterest, opposition, and most of all, ignorance about the facts. Continue Reading…