The military actions of Russia against the sovereign nation of Ukraine, the lack of archpastoral support for Ukrainian Orthodox Christians by Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and the Russian Orthodox (ROC) ecclesial community, and their simultaneous approval of the military aggression against the Ukrainian state and Ukrainian people by the political leadership of Russia—all these have led to an irreconcilable contradiction between the official status of the Patriarch in relation to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) and the reality of the situation. The declarations by many hierarchs and individual priests in Ukraine that they are ceasing to commemorate the Patriarch were a consequence. The ecclesial life of Ukrainian Orthodoxy thus now exists in a new reality. It is an open question, however, what canonical form this new reality should take.
The polemics that have arisen around these new realities of church life haven taken three general directions:
After Russia’s invasion in Ukraine, the question of the further existence of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate became critical. Patriarch Kirill did not condemn the aggression and did not call the aggressor by name. He did not express any condolences to the families of the dead Ukrainians. Most of the Ukrainian episcopate condemned the invasion, but it was at a complete loss and failed to take an active anti-war stance. The initiative fell to the hands of parish clergy, a situation unprecedented for the post-Soviet space. First, at the initiative of priests in 22 dioceses, it was decided to stop commemorating Patriarch Kirill during the liturgy. The next step was an appeal to the Primate of the UOC-MP, Metropolitan Onufry, calling for a Council of Bishops to withdraw from the jurisdiction of Patriarch Kirill.
However, the most striking and bold initiative was an appeal by Archpriest Andrii Pinchuk to the primates of the Local Orthodox Churches, demanding a church trial against Patriarch Kirill. He admitted that he had intended to collect about 100 signatures, but in five days he collected 437, with priests from the vast majority of the dioceses in Ukraine responding. The letter was also supported by a significant number of priests who did not dare to put their signatures for fear of being subjected to repression by their bishops, but in private conversations with Fr. Andrii admitted to fully supporting him.
By today, an appeal was already sent to the heads of the churches, including Patriarch Kirill himself. But so far, there has been no response to the letter.
It is hard to guess what will be the reaction of the addressees, but there is certain dissatisfaction with the overcautious position of most of the primates of the Orthodox Churches.
This article was published in the first issue of the newspaper “Narod” (“People”), published in Kiev in April 1906, with Sergii Bulgakov and A. S. Glinka (Volzhsky) as editors. The newspaper “Narod” was conceived as a printed edition of the failed political project the “Union of Christian Politics.” In the period from April 2 to April 10, seven issues came out; then, the newspaper was closed by a court decision. All issues featured articles of Bulgakov.
The translated text is offered here with commentary by Regula Zwahlen.
SB: To the sounds of bells, with the rejoicing of nature and people, on the greatest of Christian feasts, we start our modest work.
Again the Christian world celebrates the final victory of good over evil, of life over death, of creative, constructive love over corrupting enmity; and it celebrates this victory, accomplished by the God-man and saving the world and people forever, as a pledge and an anticipation of the eternal resurrection of the world and transfiguration of creation. And, anticipating the final triumph by faith, the Christian world experiences it even now as a fact already being realized, as the shining of light in the darkness around us, as a flaming love and its joy in the midst of the kingdom of hostility and discord.
The Risen Christ still arises in the soul of every person, and in the soul of the nations and the bright radiance of the Risen One, breaking into the darkness of the night, not only blinds the joyful eye, but also pierces the darkness in which we live with the dazzling light of conscience, illuminating the Golgotha which we create from the world. And the singing of angels in heaven merges with wheezing and groans coming from the place of the execution. On the day of the Resurrection, we cannot forget about Golgotha, as long as we live, and we cannot and should not conquer Golgotha.
A 2007 Act of Canonical Communion of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) with the Russian Orthodox Church Moscow Patriarchate (Russian: Акт о каноническом общении Русской Православной Церкви Заграницей с Русской Православной Церковью Московского Патриархата) reunited the two branches of the Russian Orthodox Church: the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) and the Moscow Patriarchate.
On May 17, 2007, I stood in a modest headscarf at the Church of Christ the Savior Cathedral next to my sister and aunt. Two of my sisters, their husbands, two cousins, and life-long friends were in attendance as singers and clergy. They had come from the United States on a specially chartered flight. I had flown from Armenia where I was working for an American international development project and had gone to a great deal of trouble waiting on endless lines for a Russian visa.
The President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, came out holding a candle, displaying exemplary church demeanor and remaining for most of the service. I stood perhaps 30 feet away from him. He appeared suitably devout. We prayed hard. The ROCOR choir sang like angels above us. ROCOR clergy read litanies. We felt welcomed home. The next day we attended the blessing of the Butovo execution field venerating the graves of executed believers.
I did not personally decide to reunify the ROCOR to the Moscow Patriarchate in 2007. I was not at any of the meetings. (Indeed, there was controversy because at the All-Diaspora Council on the Sunday of the Myrrh-Bearing Women—when the issue was decided by ROCOR—there was absolutely no participation by women, which was not typical of church life in emigration.) But I plead guilty because I viewed the issue legalistically. I had read the ROCOR documents, I knew that the ROCOR charter was “temporary,” until the cessation of godless communism in Russia, and I thought that we were legally there. In 1991, when the USSR fell apart and churches reopened, I thought that the time was near.