by Thomas Bremer
When the Ecumenical Patriarchate granted autocephaly to the newly established “Orthodox Church of Ukraine” (OCU), it intended to create a single local Church which would basically comprise all the Orthodox believers in that country. The name of the new Church as it appears in the tomos, namely “Most Holy Church of Ukraine,” implies that idea, as do several statements of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in the course of 2018 in which he underlined the need of unity for Orthodoxy in Ukraine. The OCU affirmed this as well, calling itself on its website for a long time the “only” or “single” local Church (yedina in Ukrainian, a term which is difficult to translate), and stating on its home page, “Our Church is open for all!” The main idea was to unite Orthodoxy in Ukraine.
It is well known that the till-then only canonical Church, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC), rejected the initiative. Several hundred parishes changed their jurisdiction, but there was no landslide movement toward the OCU; the UOC still remains the largest Church in the country. In fact, self-proclaimed “Patriarch” Filaret split off from the new Church (though he has only marginal support) so that the attempt to re-establish unity obviously failed. Realistically, for a long time to come there will be two large Churches in Ukraine, one acknowledged by Constantinople, the other by Moscow. 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 Fr. Bohdan Hladio
The historical path of the Church in Ukraine is controverted and complex: both Moscow and Constantinople claim Ukraine as their canonical territory. As a result, one of the largest Orthodox Churches in the world has experienced schism for over twenty-five years.
In April 2018 the Government of Ukraine officially requested a Tomos of Autocephaly for the Orthodox Church in Ukraine from the Ecumenical Patriarchate. This news brought joy to some, and caused anxiety for others.
In response, the Synod of Bishops of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) (UOC-MP) published an “Appeal to the Faithful of the UOC” on May 25 2018 (English translation). Sadly, this document contributes little towards the normalization of the ecclesial scene in Ukraine.
The Appeal refers to a “schism in Ukrainian Orthodoxy,” implicitly recognizing that the Orthodox Church in Ukraine extends beyond the borders of the canonically recognized Moscow Patriarchate jurisdiction, which is useful. Other statements, however, portray the struggle for Church unity somewhat disingenuously. Continue Reading…
by Rev. Dr. Nicholas Denysenko
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…