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A very active day on the ecclesiastical front. Pres Poroshenko visits Istanbul/Constantinople and signs an agreement on collaboration with the church, Archbishop Job of Telmessos interviewed by the Beeb states that “… from the canonic point of view, there is no more Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Moscow Patriarchate in Ukraine as on October 11, the Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate abolished the act of 1686 …”, and Patriarch Filaret of Kyiv interviewed by RFE/RL, warns against any actions that might provide Russia with an excuse to attack Ukraine. The Archbishop’s observation is in effect that the Russian church inside Ukraine is no longer a legitimate entity.
Some very incisive analysis by EU Today’s Cartwright, observing that: “In his words, Patriarch Kirill appears to confirm the warning of Patriarch Filaret. Putin will demand his revenge for what is the greatest setback and humiliation of his political career to date.” This is consistent with the toxic language emanating from Muscovy – the “Russian World” ideology was central to the domestic justification Russia employed when it invaded Ukraine in 2014. In Russia’s domestic ideological framework, the reshuffling of churches de-legitimizes the Muscovy regime, the ideological basis for its expansionism (i.e. revanchism), and its actions in Ukraine.
The question now is what will Muscovy do next?
President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko, who is currently on an official visit to Turkey, and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew have signed an agreement on cooperation and collaboration between Ukraine and the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko and the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, following the meeting in Istanbul, have signed an agreement on cooperation and interaction between Ukraine and the Patriarchate of Constantinople, the Ukrainian president’s press service told Interfax-Ukraine on Saturday. The agreement forms conditions for “the granting of the [autocephaly] tomos to proceed absolutely in strict accordance with the canons of the Orthodox church,” Poroshenko told reporters after the meeting in Istanbul. He called the day historical and thanked the patriarch for the warm “meeting filled with wisdom.” “I am sure the autocephaly decision will lead to the unity and unification of all Orthodox believers in Ukraine,” Patriarch Bartholomew said after signing the document. “I pray to God so that I visit your wonderful country again in the very near future,” he said. The agreement stipulates cooperation in creating an independent Orthodox Church in Ukraine, the president’s press service told Interfax-Ukraine. Under the document, the Ecumenical Patriarch shall grant a tomos recognizing the independence of the Ukrainian church and hands it over to the leader elected at Sobor (assembly); the Ukrainian state will provide assistance with these processes. The Ecumenical Patriarchate will set up a mission (effectively an embassy) in Kyiv to represent its interests and foster relations between the Ukrainian Church and the Orthodox world. These decisions are another step to receiving the tomos whose grant is explicitly stipulated in the agreement, the press service said. Now Ukrainian bishops are to gather for the assembly and elect the leader.
President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew signed an agreement on cooperation between Ukraine and the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Turkey. ‘The agreement we signed today completes this process (creation of Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church), creates all condition, in order the process of granting, or rather preparing for the Cathedral, the process of providing Tomos, was carried out in absolutely strict accordance with the canons of the Orthodox Church,’ Poroshenko claimed. Poroshenko added that the November 3 becomes a historic day. ‘I am sure that the decision of the Autocephalous will lead to the unity and the union of all Orthodox in Ukraine,’ Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew claimed this after signing the agreement.
From the canonic point of view, there is no more Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Moscow Patriarchate in Ukraine as on October 11, the Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate abolished the act of 1686. Archbishop Job of Telmessos (Gecha) and the representative of Constantinople Patriarchate made such statement as BBC Ukraine reported. “From the canonic point of view, it means that there is no more Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Moscow Patriarchate in Ukraine. All bishops of Ukraine de-facto are the bishops of the Ecumenical throne due to this decision and they should wait for the directive of the Ecumenical Patriarchate toward the further functioning and existence in the prospect of the provision of the autocephaly to the Orthodox Church in Ukraine,” he explained. By the abolishing of the act of 1686, the administration of Moscow Patriarchate of Kyiv Metropolis and all eparchies in Ukraine as Job of Telmessos claimed. He noted that solving the Ukrainian issue, the Ecumenical Patriarchate “gets nothing”. “If the Ecumenical Patriarchate wanted to get anything, it would just revive its metropolis existed (in Kyiv) at the end of the seventeenth century. But Constantinople does not want this. Constantinople wants to gift Ukraine the autocephaly to make it to have its own church,” he said.
A new church in Ukraine will be called “Orthodox Church in Ukraine” after the provision of the Tomos. Archbishop Job of Telmessos (Gecha) and the representative of Constantinople Patriarchate made such statement as BBC Ukraine reported. “It will not be “Ukrainian Orthodox Church” as the church is one and only. It belongs to Christ, not to some nation or state. A new church will be called in another way “Orthodox Church in Ukraine”,” he said. Archbishop Job of Telmessos had refrained from the answering question when the council will be gathered which will create a new church. According to him, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew will call this council when he decides that the time has come. “Ukrainian Orthodox Church” is the official legal name of the church of Moscow Patriarchate. Job of Telmessos also claimed that from the canonic point of view, there is no more Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Moscow Patriarchate in Ukraine as on October 11, the Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate abolished the act of 1686.
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The date of the council, where the representatives of Ukrainian Orthodox churches have to adopt a decision on the union of the church and choose its primate, depends on the Ecumenical Patriarch. Filaret, Head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Kyiv Patriarchate claimed this on the air of Radio Liberty. Related: Russian Orthodox Church launches an attack on Ukraine ‘It does not depend on us but does on the Ecumenical Patriarch because he has to appoint his representative to this council. The council will be led by Ukrainian bishops, and the representative of the Ecumenical Patriarch will be present at the council, as a representative but not as a chairman of the bishops’ council. Ukrainian bishops will be the chairman of the bishops’ council,’ Filaret claimed.
“The clergy that gathered, along with the bishop, showed loyalty to the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church and its primate, Blessed Metropolitan Onufry of Kyiv and All Ukraine,” the Diocese’s press service said. The Kharkiv Diocese of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church has declared it remains loyal to the Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate and its leader, Onufry.
The church to be created in Ukraine a unification congress will be called the Orthodox Church in Ukraine, not the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Archbishop Job of Telmessos (Getcha) has said in an interview with the BBC. “Not the Ukrainian Orthodox Church because there is one church… It belongs to Christ, not some nation or state. A new church will have a different name, that is the Orthodox Church in Ukraine,” the archbishop said. “In Greek, the names of churches are the Orthodox Church in Greece, Serbia or Bulgaria. Slavic names such as the Bulgarian, Serb or Russian Orthodox church are used inaccurately and point to ethnophyletism, that is religious nationalism,” he said. In September, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said that the institution which will be granted autocephaly by the Ecumenical Patriarchate will be called the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. The current Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate will have a new name.
The Ecumenical Patriarchate made a decision on provision of the autocephaly in April, 2018, as Job of Telmessos, an Eastern Orthodox Archbishop of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, said, BBC Ukraine reported. According to him, at a certain moment, it became clear that this format – Russia’s church administrating of the Ukrainian Orthodoxy – does not work and another one should be developed, which could not only save the people but also unite them. He added that the only format which exists in the Orthodox Church for a long time and which could help the Ukrainian situation is the model of the autocephaly. Related: Ukraine has right for autocephaly, like Balkan nations, – Patriarch Bartholomew After the meeting of Poroshenko and the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in April, Kyiv requested Constantinople for the provision of the autocephaly from the bishops of unrecognized Ukrainian churches, several bishops of Moscow Patriarchate churches, supported by the similar statements of the President and the Verkhovna Rada.
On October 11th, following a three day meeting in Istanbul, the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople announced its decision to terminate the effect of its Tomos, the publication of a declaration issued 300 years ago, which gave Russia patrimony over Ukraine, thus setting the Ukrainian Orthodox Church on the path to independence – ‘autocephalous’ in Church parlance – from Moscow. At the same time, the heads of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Kyiv (UOC-KP) Patriarch Filaret, and of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAOC) Metropolitan Makariy, both of who had been excommunicated by the Russian Orthodox Church, were reinstated in their canonical status. This move, precipitated by Kyiv in 2016 in response to Russia’s ongoing aggression against its neighbours, was taken in order to prevent Moscow’s continued use of the Orthodox Church as a political tool in order to exert influence Ukraine. This has caused considerable consternation and embarrassment for Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has always voiced his belief that Russians and Ukrainians are one people, a sentiment that inspired, and was used to justify, in Putin’s mind at least, Russia’s 2014 illegal annexation of the Ukrainian territory of Crimea, and subsequent military and other support for rebels factions in the ongoing conflict in Eastern Ukraine. Moscow had challenged the right of Constantinople to rule on this matter, but was overruled: as a result, in a fit of fury, the Moscow Patriarch announced that the Russian Orthodox Church was breaking its ties with the Patriarchate of Constantinople, sowing the seeds of what could possibly become the biggest schism in the Orthodox Church in a thousand years. The Patriarchate of Constantinople has the status of being “first among equals” as the main Church of the old Christian Byzantine Empire. Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, the Moscow patriarchate’s head of external church relations, declared the decision of the Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, to be “unlawful”, saying that Moscow “will not be able to communicate with the church which today finds itself in the midst of a schism.” This action may be driven not merely by the granting of autonomy to the Ukrainian Churches, but also by the fact that Moscow has had a difficult relationship with Constantinople for some time. In 2016, Moscow ignored and attempted to foil the long-awaited Great Orthodox Council, which Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew considered to be his lifetime achievement. They lately haven’t given any theological argument against Constantinople’s actions. If they go into a schism, they will marginalize themselves. Let’s see how long they will last. Religious studies expert Viacheslav Horshkov
He makes it clear he believes the West is using Ukraine to provoke a response from Moscow. Speaking to the World Russian People’s Council, Russian President Vladimir Putin blasted Russophobia, slammed “crude nationalism,” and demanded that foreign interests refrain from interfering with the Orthodox faith. His speech noted that there is an effort currently underway to “remake the world” by destroying “civilizational values”: “The aim is to create various faceless protectorates, because disunited peoples, deprived of their national memory and reduced to the status of vassals, are easier and more conducive to control and use as a bargaining chip for the benefit of their interests … “Both crude nationalism and Russophobic sentiment are being utilized, while unceremonious meddling in church life is being practiced. I am confident that only a united, consolidated society can stand up to the most serious historical challenges, achieve real breakthroughs and remarkable results, resist any external pressure, uphold the sovereignty and strengthen our spiritual and historical kinship.” Last month, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko effectively seized more than two dozen Russian Orthodox churches and monasteries as part of an “autocephaly” plan hatched with support from Constantinople. Among the sites seized was the Kiev Pechersk Lavra, which is of immense national importance to Russia. As a result, the Russian Orthodox Church has broken away from Constantinople, declaring that it is doing so in order to protect the “purity of the Orthodoxy.” On the political side, tensions between Kiev and Moscow have been heightened with tit-for-tat economic sanctions.
Russia and Ukraine have traditionally been considered nations where religious factors play a significant role not only in the spiritual life, but also in economics and politics. For more than 300 years the Russian Orthodox Church has subordinated the Kyiv Metropolia, previously subordinate to Constantinople. For about 100 years, Ukrainians have fought for religious independence from Moscow. While Ukraine was part of Soviet Russia, this independence seemed like nothing more than a “utopia for day-dreamers”. However, after the collapse of the USSR, this dream became closer to reality. The first attempt to get an autocephaly from Russian Church was made by Ukrainian clergy in 1991, but it ended up in collapse, removal of its leader Metropolitan Filaret from the leadership of Ukrainian Church, and the subsequent church schism. The Russians were simply psychologically unprepared to accept the independence of Ukraine as a state, and the independence of the church would be a psychological shock for many of them, as long as Ukraine has always been considered part of Russia, and Ukrainians were regarded as part of “the Russian people”. But it’s not just psychology that matters. Russian church was rightly considered (and still is considered) as an institution that is capable of keeping Ukrainians in the zone of influence of the Kremlin. For this reason, the ideology of the “Russian world” was developed – political in essence, religious in terms of vocabulary. For example, the “Russian world” ideology was presented for Orthodox believers as “prophecies of the Russian elders (startsy)”. Many church books and brochures were sold, describing the “great future for Russia and perdition to those who reject the possibility of such future”. Largely it was due to this propaganda, that the war began in Donbas in 2014. Many Russian Church priests (including members of Ukrainian Orthodox Church) became chaplains in detachments of the pro-Russian separatists. Here is what priest Andrei Semenov (Lugansk) said at the ceremony of consecrating the battle banner of the regiment of the “people’s militia of the LPR”: “Russian soldiers and military leaders have always been strong in faith. It is the faith that will lead you to triumph over the enemy. ” Another priest in Chuginka town, Luhansk region, harboured subversive groups of pro-Russian militants in his church, which was also used as an arsenal for their weapons and ammunition. Moreover Russian priests continuously blessed volunteers to go to the Donbas “to beat the fascist scum.” Since the 2014 events in Ukraine were represented by Russian propaganda as a coup d’état which brought to power “junta” and nationalists, some church leaders blessed both Russians and Donbas residents to fight “the hated junta and Bandera nationalists”. Moscow Patriarchate priests are still taking oaths from pro-Russian militants in their temples in the occupied Donbas, organising church services with the militants, assuring their believers that their enemies in Donbas are “waging war against God, and helping Satan rush to power”.
Russia and Ukraine have traditionally been considered nations where religious factors play a significant role not only in the spiritual life, but also in economics and politics. For more than 300 years the Russian Orthodox Church has subordinated the Kyiv Metropolia, previously subordinate to Constantinople. For about 100 years, Ukrainians have fought for religious independence from Moscow
Priests like Metropolitan Oleksandr face a choice: join Ukraine’s new independent church and be labeled a renegade by supporters of his own church, or stay away, and risk being branded a Russian agent.
The historic ties between Kiev and Russian Orthodoxy are more than talking points in arguments involving the United States.