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…