by Anthony J. Limberakis, MD
It is one of the most vexing and important questions confronting the Church in our time, and one of the least understood: the granting of autocephaly to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church by His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople has rocked the Church more than any event in the last millennium. Now the Order of Saint Andrew, Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, is hosting a Virtual Town Meeting to bring some light and clarity to this unfortunately heated and unquestionably crucial issue.
The New York Times reported Saturday that Russia is “comparing it to the Great Schism of 1054 that divided western and eastern Christianity.” This issue has indeed been the cause of a regrettable schism, with the Moscow Patriarchate unilaterally breaking communion with Constantinople not over any matter of doctrine, but simply over the question of jurisdiction regarding the Ukrainian Church.
Thus what was, or should have been, simply an administrative issue has become something far larger, with implications for the Orthodox Church as a whole that cannot be overstated. The questions involved in this issue include ones of authority, unity, jurisdiction, and the very nature of what it means to be an Orthodox Christian in the world today. Continue reading
by Rev. Dr. Nicholas Denysenko
In the last few days, a number of announcements appeared about the Ukrainian Church controversy. After President Poroshenko announced that the unification council will take place at St. Sophia Cathedral on December 15, a spurious text that appeared to be some version of the statute for the Church drafted by the Ecumenical Patriarchate (EP) circulated on the Internet, copies of the letters of invitation to participate in the council were posted on social media by multiple bishops, and a copy of the letter from Patriarch Bartholomew to Metropolitan Onufry dated October 12 also appeared. Those who are interested in this issue, especially Orthodox clergy and laity throughout the world, watched spellbound as the news appeared and then reacted. In other words, the responses are no different than quick analyses ordinary people post on political news flashes. On the theme of the Ukrainian Church issue, a handful of responses have become clichés. Observers favor either the Moscow Patriarchate (MP) or the EP in the canonical clash; people call for the Ukrainian schismatics to return to the canonical church; critics denounce Russian aggression and the complicity of the MP in the war in Eastern Ukraine; and people offer the now stereotypical “thoughts and prayers.”
Observers strain Google’s capacity to lead us to the truth by searching for quick, neat profiles on all of the leaders and land on any number of web sites claiming to possess the absolute truth. We might find what we want to find: another layer of incriminating evidence exposing the faults of Metropolitan Filaret, a photo of a grotesque icon demeaning Russia (or Ukraine), a headline announcing the seizure of a church, and through it all, we select the sources that support a viewpoint we have chosen to adopt.
Amidst all of this, the most important fact of all is lost, and it is the fact that we all need to confront as soon as possible: the Ukrainian Church crisis is a messy, nasty divorce, and the stories that assign blame to the parties involved have been handed down from one generation to the next. Continue reading
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
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…
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…