Tag Archives: Ukraine

The Heresy of Papism

by George Demacopoulos  |  ελληνικά  |  ру́сский

Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev)

The three-way dispute between Ukrainians, Russians, and the Ecumenical Patriarchate over the possibility of Ukrainian ecclesiastical independence is shaping up to be the greatest challenge to Orthodox Christian unity of our generation. From a purely political perspective, Ukrainian autocephaly would represent an unmitigated disaster for the Russian Orthodox Church. Not only would it deprive the Russian Church of one third of its parishes and undermine its Russkiy Mir project, but it would dramatically belie the claim of the Moscow Patriarchate that it is the leader of the Orthodox Christian world.

In a desperate effort to thwart the independence movement, the Moscow Patriarchate and its surrogates are pushing a host of rhetorical and historical arguments but none is more belligerent or ridiculous than the accusation that the Ecumenical Patriarchate has succumbed to the “heresy of papism.” While this is not the first time that the charge of “papism” has been leveled in an inner-Orthodox dispute, the uncritical consumption of this charge reveals both a broad theological illiteracy and the potency of anti-Catholic rhetorical smears within inner-Orthodox polemic. Continue Reading…

The Kremlin Hacks the Patriarchate: Is the Church Under Surveillance?

by Evangelos Razis

The Kremlin has a long history of interfering in the life of the Orthodox Church. Tsars, General Secretaries, and Presidents have seen in the Church a partner, a source of legitimacy, and a threat to their authority. We learned last week that Vladimir Putin has brought this Russian tradition into the digital age: Russian military intelligence has sought to hack and surveil His All Holiness Bartholomew, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople. This news underscores the Church’s vulnerability to the Kremlin when her affairs intersect with its worldly interests. It should caution those in the Church who see a close relationship with the Kremlin as desirable or benign.

The news of the attempted hacking was broken by the Associated Press, which discovered the names of high-ranking advisors to His All Holiness on a “hit list” of emails targeted by Fancy Bear. For about a decade, Fancy Bear has infiltrated organizations inside and outside of Russia, including the Democratic National Committee prior to the 2016 United States Presidential Election. A recent indictment by U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller confirms long-held suspicions that Fancy Bear is, in fact, part of the Russian military intelligence directorate. How long the EP has been under surveillance by the Russian government and what, if anything of value the Kremlin was able to learn is unknown. The attempted hacking is likely related to the current state of the Church in Ukraine. 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…

The Promise of Autocephaly in Ukraine: What’s at Stake?

by Rev. Dr. Nicholas Denysenko

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew with Ukrainian President

His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew talks with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko

Last week, news circulated that Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew is expected to issue a Tomos of autocephaly to the Orthodox Church in Ukraine. This news appeared on the heels of a meeting that took place between Patriarch Bartholomew, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and his delegation after Pascha on April 9, 2018. The discussions between the presidential delegation and President Poroshenko were reportedly lengthy, and Poroshenko formally requested the issuing of a Tomos that would be presented publicly on the occasion of the 1030th anniversary of the Baptism of Kyivan Rus’ in late July. The Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine’s Parliament, voted to voice its support for the appeal for the Tomos, and the synods of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Kyivan Patriarchate (UOC-KP) and Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAOC) issued letters voicing their support for the Tomos. The press office of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP) claims that the actions of the President and parliament violate Ukrainian law, since offices of the state are interfering in Church affairs, and the UOC-MP is also arguing that all of the Orthodox Churches must agree to autocephaly, and that autocephaly is no longer only a prerogative of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. The mechanism for granting autocephaly is a canonical issue that was on the agenda of the Holy and Great Council in Crete of 2016, but which was not taken up by the Churches that participated in the Council. Furthermore, there is no clarity on the recipients of the Tomos: to whom will the Ecumenical Patriarch grant the Tomos, where would the inaugural Liturgy celebrating the Tomos be celebrated, which bishops would concelebrate with the Ecumenical Patriarch, and whose names and sees would be entered into the diptychs of global Orthodoxy?

In the remainder of this essay, I will reflect on what is at stake for the major players in Ukraine and for the rest of global Orthodoxy. Continue Reading…