Anonymous expert compilation, analysis, and reporting.
No major developments in Ukraine, but some interesting analyses and commentaries by Radziwinowicz, Illarionov, Sherr, and Herbst – Sherr’s comment “For the Kremlin, the significance of the tomos bears comparison to Ukraine’s admission into NATO – not as an attack on Russia’s security but its essence.” underscores why this is a development that the Chekist regime is determined to frustrate or sabotage in any way possible, as it collapses the ideological house of cards contrived by pre-Soviet regimes in Russia, and appropriated after the Cold War.
Russians continue the toxic propaganda campaign – and some of it is not selling at all in Orthodox Church circles outside Russia. Ultimately the Russian game plan of displacing Constantinople and Greece as the nucleus of global Orthodoxy with the ROC in Muscovy has backfired completely and is now doomed. The ongoing speculation about the future autonomy of the Belarusian church is illustrative.
It will be interesting to see whether Russia is eventually stripped of its church autonomy for repeated violations of canon law – and demonstrably, heresy.
From January 6, Ukraine – and it’s official – has its own full-fledged church, independent from Moscow. This is a historic defeat for Russia’s, and for Vladimir Putin, it’s the political catastrophe he deserved. Ukraine has ceased to be what Moscow considered its “canonical territory” from the time of the Pereyaslav Rada. From January 6, Ukraine – and it’s official – has its own full-fledged church, independent from Moscow. This is a historic defeat for Russia’s, and for Vladimir Putin, it’s the political catastrophe he deserved. The Ecumenical Patriarchate in Constantinople “brought back to life” the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU), handing over to the Metropolitan of Kyiv Epifaniy the scepter and the tomos, a decree creating an autocephalous, that is, independent, local Orthodox church, Gazeta Wyborcza reported. The publication writes that until that time, the only church in Ukraine that was “canonical”, that is, recognized internationally, was the so-called UOC of the Moscow Patriarchate. Its spiritual rivals were the UAOC and the UOC of the Kyiv Patriarchate, but none of them had international recognition. And now it is these confessions that have formed a new single OCU. Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, who enjoys the greatest authority in the Orthodox world, made it legitimate, despite Moscow’s extensive protests. For believers, this is a very important step against the background of the war in Donbas and the Crimea occupation. Ukrainians will now gradually shift to their own church, abandoning that which the Kremlin controls. It will be a long, but inevitable, process despite Moscow’s resistance. However, the creation of the OCU is also of historical significance.
Ukraine has ceased to be what in Moscow is called by its “canonical space,” and the Kremlin is losing what it considered its own from the Perejeslava Council in 1654. Ukraine has from January 6 its rightful Orthodox church independent of Moscow. It is a historic defeat of Russia, and for Vladimir Putin – a deserved political catastrophe. On Sunday, the world patriarch of Constantinople, Bartłomiej, handed over the newly established Orthodox Church of Ukraine (PCU), metropolitan Kiev and Ukraine, Epifaniusz, scepter and “tomos” – an edict constituting an autocephalous, ie independent, national Orthodox Church. What does it change? So far, so-called Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, the only “canonical” because recognized by the Christian world. Its weaker competitors were the self-proclaimed Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church – both “non-canonical” and bowed by confreres in faith. And, above all, they created the Orthodox Church of Ukraine; Bartłomiej, the supreme authority of world Orthodoxy, despite the furious protests of Moscow, fully legitimized her. Ukraine has ceased to be what in Moscow is called by its “canonical space,” and the Kremlin is losing what it considered its own from the Perejeslava Council in 1654. Ukraine has from January 6 its rightful Orthodox church independent of Moscow. It is a historic defeat of Russia, and for Vladimir Putin – a deserved political catastrophe. On Sunday, the world patriarch of Constantinople, Bartłomiej, handed over the newly established Orthodox Church of Ukraine (PCU), metropolitan Kiev and Ukraine, Epifaniusz, scepter and “tomos” – an edict constituting an autocephalous, ie independent, national Orthodox Church. What does it change? So far, so-called Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, the only “canonical” because recognized by the Christian world. Its weaker competitors were the self-proclaimed Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church – both “non-canonical” and bowed by confreres in faith. And, above all, they created the Orthodox Church of Ukraine; Bartłomiej, the supreme authority of world Orthodoxy, despite the furious protests of Moscow, fully legitimized her.
Paul Goble Staunton, January 10 – Many commentators have suggested that the grant of autocephaly to the Orthodox Church of Ukraine is a great victory for Ukrainians but a defeat for Russians, but that is not the case, Andrey Illarionov says. It is a defeat for Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin but it is very much a victory “for the free citizens of Free Russia in the future.” The receipt of independence by the Ukrainian church, the Russian commentator says, “is a death blow to the most important element of the Russian imperial institutional infrastructure that still has been preserved.” The destruction of that infrastructure is necessary for a free Russia to emerge (http://echo.msk.ru/blog/aillar/2349547-echo/). Indeed, if that imperial infrastructure continues to exist, Illarionov argues, “the appearance of a free Russia is judging from everything impossible.” And thus “the establishment of an autocephalous church of Ukraine is an absolutely necessary preliminary step on the path to a free Russia.” “The Russian imperial institutional infrastructure,” which began to be put in place in the middle of the 16th century and “achieved at the end of the 1980s the peak of its power” consisted at that time of the following five elements: the communist party, state multi-lateral institutions, the army, the special services, and Orthodoxy. The first of these was dismantled under Mikhail Gorbachev. The second was “partially completed” by 2014 and has been further weakened by Moscow’s war against Ukraine. And the third and fourth have been weakened over time but still constitute a serious threat to and source of worry in Russia’s neighbors. That leaves the fifth element of this imperial infrastructure – Orthodoxy or more precisely the Russian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate. It had largely remained in place at least at the level of claims with the exception of the disputed cases in Estonia and Moldova and allowed Moscow to speak about a broad “Russian canonical territory.” Indeed, the ROC MP to this day claims a canonical territory which covers “more than 35 percent” of the earth’s surface, Illarionov says. And because the other four elements of Russian imperial infrastructure had disappeared or been weakened, it is not surprising that imperialists in Moscow placed and place particular hopes on the ROC MP and its canonical territory. The weakening and eventual demise of this fifth element required the rise of independent states seeking their own autocephalous churches. Ukraine is especially important because of its size and because of the way in which its independence and now the independence of its church strike at the imperial nature of the ROC MP and push it toward becoming a national church. Unfortunately, Illarionov continues, “neither the ROC nor Russian society as a whole is in a position to escape on their own from the imperial nature of the Russian Orthodox Church.” Ukraine’s action thus not only achieves something critical for the Ukrainian nation and its independence but also something at least as important for a future free Russia. Other national churches will emerge on the former Soviet space, he continues; but what is important and deserving of celebration is that it has begun. Russian citizens thus should be extremely grateful to the Ukrainians, the Universal Patriarchate and Patriarch Bartholemew “personally.”
Paul Goble Staunton, January 9 –Russian commentator Andrey Illarionov has carefully compared the status of Ukrainian Orthodoxy in terms of 25 basic issues of church life and concluded that the new UOC is now “completely out from under the control of the ROC MP, has expanded its powers over its internal life and become an independent actor in international church affairs. Of the 25 issues that define the status of an Orthodox Church, he continues, the status of the UOC is no greater than that of its Ukrainian predecessor, on six it has put itself under the Universal Patriarchate in Constantinople, in one it has acquired new obligations and limitations,, but in 14 it has obtained new or better defined rights (echo.msk.ru/blog/aillar/2348717-echo/). Specifically, its status has not changed with regard to the title of the head of the church, its jurisdiction or its role regarding congregations abroad. In six cases, it has simply put itself under the auspices of the Universal Patriarchate rather than the Moscow one. And in one, it has accepted new limitations with representatives of Constantinople now playing a role in Ukraine. But on 14 issues, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church has acquired new rights or had its rights more carefully defined, including its name, status, canonical links, souces of law, organs of power and administration, election of its head, the administration of internal affairs, the formation of bishoprics, church courts, inter-church recognition, its place in the hierarchy of autocephalous churches, and its participation in inter-church and inter-Orthodox councils. All those gains mean that the UOC will now be an important player in the Orthodox world and also in the ecumenical world as well, having gained new rights and the status of the second largest Orthodox church in the world, a status that is especially important because the largest, the ROC MP, has declined in size so markedly because of Ukrainian autocephaly. As the author of these lines and others have said, the achievement of Ukrainian autocephaly changes the world as much as the achievement of Ukrainian political independence in 1991. It contributes to the completion of that process and opens the way to a role for Ukraine internationally far beyond what even the most optimistic assumed was possible a few years ago.
The granting of a tomos of autocephaly (a decree of canonical independence) by Bartholomew, Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, to the Orthodox Church of Ukraine on 6 January might well signify the greatest cleft in Orthodox Christianity since the Muscovite church declared its independence from Constantinople and proclaimed its own Patriarchal status in 1589. Whether or not this proves to be the case, success in Ukraine’s long campaign to secure autocephaly has created the greatest upheaval in its relations with Russia since the annexation of Crimea in 2014 The temporal consequences of the tomos are likely to be sharper and more far-reaching than the ecclesiastical ones. The proposition that Russian civilisation transcends the borders of the Russian Federation is not only an article of faith in Putin’s Russia, it is central to Putin’s conception of the state. Alongside language and history (which Kremlin ideologists have reified into a gospel of its own), Orthodoxy is deemed a pillar of Russia’s culture, its identity and its broader inheritance. No effort has been spared in associating the Church with the state, its foreign policy and even its wars. It is scarcely exceptional that in April 2014, Vereya (Yevgeniy), current Metropolitan of the Estonian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, was one of a group of clerics dispatched to St Vladimir’s Cathedral in Sevastopol with the aim of developing deeper relations with the Russian armed forces and law-enforcement personnel. Yet in confessional matters, as in other domains, Ukraine has a significance of its own. Almost two centuries before Alexander II promulgated the doctrine of the ‘tripartite’ [triediniy] Russian people, the Russian Orthodox Church was assigned a key role in the ‘gathering of the lands of Rus’ under Peter the Great and, subsequently, Catherine II. At the time Peter launched his campaign of conquest, the head of the Kyiv metropolitanate was still entitled Metropolitan of Kyiv and All Rus. In 1686, threatened by war, Constantinople revoked this status and transferred to the Russian church the authority it had arrogated to itself almost a century earlier. It is pointedly symbolic that the Istanbul Synaxis (bishop’s assembly) of October 2018 that approved the tomos used the occasion to condemn the loss of independence by the Ukrainian Church 330 years before. The establishment of a unified, independent Ukrainian Orthodox Church has not only crippled the Russian World project, it has all but demolished the claim that Ukrainians and Russians are ‘a common people’. Nevertheless, it is unlikely that any of this would have happened had the Russian Orthodox Church not flagrantly overplayed its hand. At the start of 2014 there were three main Orthodox churches in Ukraine: the Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP), with some 12,000 parishes, the Orthodox Church-Kyiv Patriarchate (UOC-KP, branded ‘schismatic’ by Moscow) with some 4,500 parishes and the separately established Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAOC) with 1,200 parishes. Although owing to greater church attendance, the Kyiv Patriarchate had a larger following than these figures suggest, the Moscow Patriarchate affiliated a clear majority of the 68 percent of Ukrainians who describe themselves as Orthodox. This no longer is this the case. The UOC-MP was the only orthodox church to oppose the Euromaidan. Even before the appointment of the new hard-line Metropolitan, Onufriy, in August 2014, it put itself in the vanguard of pro-Russian demonstrations, a number of priests calling on their parishioners to join the fighting and some joining it themselves. In October this year, Igor Girkin (Strelkov), former Moscow-appointed Defence Minister of the ‘Donetsk People’s Republic’ boasted that one unit of the Slavyanskiy Brigade was commanded by a novice of Svyatogorskaya Lavra and that his own security detail was ‘exclusively composed of sons of father confessors, monks and celibate priests’. The result is that parishioners left in droves. According to an August 2018 poll by three respected Ukrainian centres, 45.2 per cent of Orthodox Christians affiliate themselves with the Kyiv Patriarchate and only 16.9 percent with the Moscow Patriarchate. (The second largest group, 33.9 percent, are those who declare themselves ‘simply Orthodox’). The impact of the spirit of the Third Rome on the forbearance of Patriarch Bartholomew has not been entirely dissimilar to the impact of the Great Russian mentality on the affections of Ukrainians. But until Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill was received by Bartholomew at Phanar on 31 August, he was none the wiser. In February 2016, the Joint Declaration of Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill ceded everything the latter could have wished for on the Ukrainian question, and he seems not to have suspected that where the Pope was compliant, the antiquarian primacy of an ‘Ecumenical Patriarchate’ might stand in the way of a Russian Church that was paymaster of much of the Orthodox world. Russians are good at creating surprises, but rather poor in responding to them. At Phanar, Kirill was surprised, and he was indignant too. What followed was not only the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s decision to proceed with the tomos, but on 15 October the decision of the Russian Orthodox Church to break communion with Constantinople. More salient to the Ukrainian Orthodox and those outside the Orthodox world is Russia’s political reaction. On 12 October, two long-standing political toxins were sounded. Presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov reaffirmed Russia’s defence of ‘Russians and Russian speakers, and as Putin has said more than once, of the Russian Orthodox’. No less ominously, Foreign Minister Lavrov characterised the tomos as a ‘provocation with the direct public support of Washington’. Any student of Russian policy will know that these formulae are flags of warning. For the Kremlin, the significance of the tomos bears comparison to Ukraine’s admission into NATO – not as an attack on Russia’s security but its essence. Beyond the war Moscow is presently waging, the economic blockade it is imposing, and the provocations already witnessed in the Sea of Azov, it is unlikely that it yet has decided how to respond. That it will do so in this year of Ukrainian elections is a certainty. That Ukraine and its partners will be up to the challenge is less certain.
It’s Christmas Eve in Kyiv, and Ukraine just won a major victory in its long struggle for independence from Moscow. On January 5, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew affirmed the independence of the new Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Istanbul. Ukraine now joins fourteen other autocephalous churches making up the Orthodox Christian world. This formally severs the tie between Orthodoxy in Ukraine and the Moscow Patriarchate, which from the late seventeenth century had canonical authority over Ukraine’s Orthodox believers. The tomos, or decree of independence, follows the church conference in Kyiv last month that created a single Ukrainian Orthodox church out of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (Kyiv Patriarchate) and the Autocephalous Ukrainian Church. Two Bishops and some priests from the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) also participated in the conference and joined the new Ukrainian church. This is a huge blow to Moscow’s Patriarch Kirill and his close ally, Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose policies Kirill faithfully supports. It is also a large step in Ukraine’s efforts to free itself of Kremlin influence. The Moscow Patriarchate has been a very effective instrument of Kremlin soft power. Before the tomos, the Moscow Patriarchate could claim that the Orthodox churches in Ukraine not under its control had no canonical status in the Orthodox world. This is no longer true. The Moscow Patriarchate had been losing believers in Ukraine since at least the Orange Revolution in 2004 when it backed Moscow’s opposition to the changes, and this trend only accelerated after the Kremlin seized Crimea and launched a hybrid war in the Donbas. But the fight isn’t over. The Kremlin and the Moscow Patriarchate will fight hard to retain its church position in Ukraine. That was evident at the unification sobor in December where only two Moscow Patriarchate bishops participated, while as many as twenty-five had indicated their readiness to participate. It was also evident in the decision of the Moscow Patriarchate to sever relations with the Ecumenical Patriarchate over the decision to grant autocephaly to the Ukrainian Church. But this is a war that the Moscow Patriarchate and its Kremlin backers cannot win. While the Ukrainian Orthodox Church joins the fourteen other autocephalous churches, its relationship with the Ecumenical Patriarchate will need refinement. The tomos states that the Ecumenical Patriarchate must approve any changes from the language of the tomos. At least one part of the tomos is something that the Ukrainian Church will want to change, since it states that the Ukrainian church only has jurisdiction in Ukraine. This means that Ukrainian Orthodox parishes outside of Ukraine will be under the Ecumenical Patriarchate This is a nice gift to Constantinople and a reminder to all of the meaning of the adjective “byzantine.” The insistence that parishes outside of Ukraine must fall under the Ecumenical Patriarch will not be welcome by Ukrainian believers, and many such parishes may not go along. These complications are a reminder that the tomos is one more step—critical to be sure, but just one step—in the emergence of a united and independent Ukrainian church. Even with these limitations, the tomos is a very good thing for Ukraine and a victory for Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, who has worked hard, along with Patriarch Filaret of the now-defunct Kyiv Patriarchate. John E. Herbst is the director of the Eurasia Center at the Atlantic Council. He served as the US ambassador to Ukraine from 2003-2006.
The amendments to the Tomos of Autocephaly of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine and the proclamation of the patriarchate are quite possible. Exarch of Constantinople, Archbishop Daniel of Pamphilon said this in an interview with BBC News Ukraine. “It will be a change in the Tomos and proclamation of the patriarchate. Constantinople has never concealed that it is absolutely possible,” Archbishop Daniel said when asked about a possibility of introducing amendments and added: “It will be a new document proclaiming the patriarchate.” In this case, the valid document written in calligraphy is placed in the archives, and a new one is provided instead. “We have our own copy, and the church has its own. The copies must be identical in order to avoid the situation with the document giving the Russian Orthodox Church a right to autocephaly,” the exarch added. Daniel noted that he had not seen the Moscow’s document and was not fluent in the Greek language. “But, as far as I know, these documents have different meaning. The signatures on the document, which the Russian Orthodox Church has, differ from those on the document, which is stored here in Istanbul,” he added. As reported, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew signed the Tomos of Autocephaly of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine on January 5.
Two more church communities in Vinnytsia region, the first ones in the Sharhorod district, joined the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, the press service of the Vinnytsia eparchy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church reports. — Ukrinform
On January 9, in Istanbul, all members of the Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate signed a tomos of autocephaly of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine. — Ukrinform
The scroll of Tomos on the Autocephaly of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine has returned to Ukraine from Constantinople where it stayed for the duration of the day on January 9 to be signed by members of the Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, President Petro Poroshenko of Ukraine has said. The scroll of Tomos on the Autocephaly of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine has returned to Ukraine from Constantinople where it stayed for the duration of the day on January 9 to be signed by members of the Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, President Petro Poroshenko of Ukraine has said. “This morning the Tomos returned to Ukraine. By the decision of our primate, by His Holiness’s blessing, it is here, in Rivne,” Poroshenko said in his address at the Cathedral of the Intercession of the Holy Virgin in Rivne on January 10. After the words of the head of state, the scroll of Tomos was brought into the temple by clerics and demonstrated to those present in the temple. “The Tomos, which is equal to the Act of Independence of Ukraine, is today in Rivne. This is a historical event that will be written down in the history of this temple forever,” Poroshenko said. As reported earlier, head of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, Metropolitan Epiphanius of Kyiv and All of Ukraine, received the tomos of autocephaly from Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in Istanbul on January 6. Patriarch Bartholomew signed the Tomos on January 5. On January 7, Metropolitan Epiphanius and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko brought the scroll with the Tomos to St. Sophia’s Cathedral in Kyiv for the Christmas liturgy. After that, the Tomos was returned to Istanbul to be signed by all members of the Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, which traditionally meets on the 9th day of each month. It was also reported that the Tomos of autocephaly of the Ukrainian church would be briefly returned to Istanbul so that members of the Synod of the Patriarchate of Constantinople could sign it. A spokesman for the OCU, priest Ivan Sydor, said that the Tomos on the autocephaly would be returned to Ukraine immediately after it is signed by the participants of the synod, after which it would always stay in Kyiv. At the same time, he noted that the document is valid after the signature of the Ecumenical Patriarch, “but according to the procedure, there must also be the signatures of those bishops who are members of the Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.”
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has decided to award Patriarch Filaret (Denysenko) of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) the title “Hero …
Tomos granting Ukrainian Church independence finalised. It was signed by the Constantinople Synod. Political – LB.ua news portal. Latest from Ukraine and the world today
Filaret, who is an Honorary Patriarch of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, says the receipt of the tomos of autocephaly of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine is only launching the process of unification of Ukrainian Orthodoxy. The cleric’s comments came as he spoke at the Holy Protection Cathedral in Ukraine’s western city of Rivne, according to an UNIAN correspondent. According to him, “the process of unification of Ukrainian Orthodoxy has just begun. But as we believed in 1992 that we would one day receive a tomos (when very few people believed in it), we also believe today that we will unite all of Orthodoxy in Ukraine into a single local Ukrainian Orthodox church.” Read also“They are not asleep”: Archbishop warns of possible intensification of efforts by anti-Ukrainian forces over tomos “God will also create conditions for everyone to be part of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, but we need to work together with the government,” Filaret stated. As UNIAN reported earlier, on December 15, the Unification Council of representatives of Ukrainian Orthodox churches elected Epifaniy, Metropolitan of Pereyaslavl and Bila Tserkva a leader of the new Orthodox Church of Ukraine. On January 6, in the St. George Cathedral in Istanbul, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew handed to Epifaniy the tomos granting autocephaly to the new Orthodox Church of Ukraine in a move that marked Ukraine’s ultimate release from under Russia’s religious grip which the Kremlin has systemically exploited in geopolitical games of influence.
Patriarch Filaret has handed over the Order of St. Apostle Andrew the First-Called to Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko for his active participation in the process of obtaining a tomos of autocephaly of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine. The award ceremony took place after a prayer service at the Intercession Cathedral in Rivne on the occasion of the receipt of the tomos of autocephaly and the formation of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, an Ukrinform correspondent said. “Today, taking this solemn opportunity, I would like to hand over to the president the Order of St. Apostle Andrew the First-Called, which we awarded him on December 15 when there was a unification council at St. Sophia Cathedral,” Filaret said. He recalled that then it was decided to present awards to the president, Verkhovna Rada Chairman Andriy Parubiy and “some other active figures who took an active part in obtaining the tomos of autocephaly.” On January 8, Poroshenko awarded Patriarch Filaret the Hero of Ukraine title for his contribution to the struggle for the creation of a local church in Ukraine.
The January 6th announcement of autocephaly for an independent Orthodox Church of Ukraine marks a historic achievement as Ukraine seeks to chart its own future. On this momentous occasion, the United States reiterates its unwavering support for a sovereign, independent Ukraine. The United States maintains its strong support for religious freedom, including the freedom for members of religious groups to govern their religion according to their beliefs, without external interference. We welcome remarks by Metropolitan Epiphaniy that the Orthodox Church of Ukraine is open to all Orthodox believers and encourage government and Church officials to promote tolerance and respect for the freedom of members of all religious affiliations to worship as they choose.
U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo has called the provision of autocephaly to an independent Orthodox Church of Ukraine a historic achievement for the future of the Ukrainian state, the Ukrainian Embassy to the United States has reported.
The United States supports the independent, autocephalous Orthodox Church of Ukraine. The United States welcomes remarks by Metropolitan Epiphaniy that the Orthodox Church of Ukraine is open to all Orthodox believers.
By far the biggest news in Ukraine last year was the formation of a canonical self-governing Ukrainian Orthodox Church that saw 39-year-old Metropolitan Epifaniy (Serhiy Dumenko) elected as its primate on December 15. A presidential policy goal, the seismic shift further divorced Ukraine from Moscow and ended over 300 years of the hostile neighbor’s spiritual sway over the country. Consequently, the Church’s establishment reverberated throughout the Christian world and the Orthodox Church of Ukraine – the name of the newly unified Church – awaited the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s official granting of a Tomos bestowing autocephaly on January 6, 2019.
WITH SNOW falling on the green domes of Kiev’s Saint Sophia cathedral, Ukraine’s president, Petro Poroshenko, strode triumphantly towards its ancient doors on January 7th to mark an Orthodox Christmas like no other. Beside him stood Metropolitan Epifaniy, the newly minted head of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine.
Ukrainians celebrate church independence, but the blessing from Istanbul deepens the tension and conflict with Russia.
As Ukraine inaugurated its breakaway Orthodox Church on Christmas, President Petro Poroshenko stood proud for the ceremony. A few meters away stood the head of a violent neo-Nazi group.
The Order of Saint Andrew, Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, notes with disappointment the words of Russian President Vladimir Putin on the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s recent decision to grant autocephaly to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. At a press conference in Moscow on Thursday, Putin said this of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church: Look how it is becoming dependent on Turkey, the Turkish patriarchate. It involves appointments, and a lot of other things, and money, most importantly. I think Bartholomew’s main incentive and motive is to subdue this territory and then start profiting from it. I think this is the main incentive, but there are certainly hints from Washington as well. None of these claims is true. The granting of autocephaly to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church actually makes the Ukrainian Church less dependent, not more dependent, upon the Ecumenical Patriarchate, to which Putin derisively refers as “Turkey, the Turkish patriarchate.” Putin’s frustration is that the Ukrainian Church is no longer dependent upon the Russian Church, or state, for that matter. His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew explained this on Thursday, November 29, 2018, when he received delegates of the Inter-Parliamentary Assembly of Orthodoxy, including Russian deputy Sergei Gavrilov. His All-Holiness noted that granting autocephaly to the Churches had not augmented, but reduced the domain of the Ecumenical Patriarchate itself: “Certainly this has had as a consequence an enormous reduction in the flock of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, reduced to the outskirts of Constantinople, for political reasons.” Nonetheless, His All-Holiness stated, “We believe that granting autocephaly is doing the right thing. We believe that it is their right to have their own autocephaly, which all the countries and peoples of the Balkans have obtained precisely from Constantinople.” Putin also claimed that the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s action was a “blatant breach of religious freedoms.” His All-Holiness, on the contrary, explained that autocephaly granted the Ukrainians’ religious freedom, as the Ukrainians had the same right to independence as other Orthodox: “As all Orthodox peoples have received their autocephaly, this right also belongs to the millions of Ukrainians who have been living for years in a situation of absurd schism. And to satisfy their will and their just request, they addressed the Mother Church of Constantinople, as all the other peoples have done in the past.” The Order regrets the baseless aspersions that President Putin has cast upon the Ecumenical Patriarchate. We hope that he will make a more sober appraisal of the situation, and realize that the Ecumenical Patriarchate does not profit in any material way from the granting of autocephaly to the Ukrainian Church. Doing so was a matter of Canon Law, religious freedom rights, and simple justice. We hope and pray that it will be the occasion for a spiritual renewal in the autocephalous Ukrainian Orthodox Church, and for harmony and peace in the Orthodox Christian Church worldwide.
Ukrainian law enforcement authorities are investigating the disappearance of icons from the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra which is being rented by the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC MP), Interfax-Ukraine reports, citing Ukrainian Culture Minister Yevhen Nyshchuk. “A full inventory has already been partially done. We are now being sent full reports. There are some losses from the icons in the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra,” the Minister noted. “On the other hand, it shouldn’t be said that something has been taken from there. These losses could be from an earlier time, even before 2003. Now on the basis of this revision, criminal proceedings are underway. All the documentation is being sent to the law enforcement organs,” Nyshchuk added. On January 3, the Ukrainian news outlet Vesti reported that the Petro Poroshenko presidential administration had instructed the management of the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra museum and the Kremenets-Pochaev State Historical Architecture Reserve to prepare for lawsuits as the leases are terminated. In the middle of December, the Security Service of Ukraine said that Metropolitan Pavel, Viceroy of the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra, had coordinated provocations in an attempt to prevent the holding of the unifying assembly. The UOC categorically denied the charges against it, and Patriarch Kirill wrote a letter to the UN, complaining about the pressure from the Ukrainian authorities. Ukrainian Presidential advisor Rostyslav Pavlenko called this information fake, noting that a source close to him had been cited by the news outlet. “I say responsibly: it’s nonsense,” he wrote. He also called the published information “provocation”. On December 20, Ukrainian parliament passed a law which deprives the UOC MP of its name and obligates it to indicate in its name that its center is located in the “aggressor-state”. The UOC MP announced its intention to dispute the law in Ukraine’s Constitutional Court.
Paul Goble Staunton, January 11 – Commentators have suggested that in the wake of the achievement of autocephaly by the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, the church in Belarus may eventually follow suit. There are many obstacles to that possibility, but three reports in the last few days suggest that they may not be as insurmountable as many think. First, Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka’s statement that autocephaly isn’t going to happen is, according to ROC MP Archdeacon Andrey Kurayev a way of signaling to the Kremlin that it could if Moscow continues its push for the amalgamation of the two countries (nsn.fm/policy/kuraev-lukashenko-shantazhiruet-moskvu-belorusskim-cerkovnym-raskolom.html). Given that under current rules, only an independent country can have an autocephalous church; and given that the support of the political leadership of that country for autocephaly appears a fundamental requirement – autocephaly in Ukraine would not have happened without the efforts of President Petro Poroshenko – this is a clear warning to Moscow, Kurayev says. Second, Archbishop Daniil, the exarch of the Ecumenical Patriarch in Ukraine, told the BBC’s Ukrainian service that for the Belarusian church to receive autocephaly, “the people of Belarus, its authorities, and its pastorate must appeal to the Ecumenical Patriarch” as happened in the Ukrainian case (bbc.com/ukrainian/features-46827400). The ROC MP is very much opposed to that, Daniil said, “but each people and nation which wants to establish its own Orthodox church must have the right for this” – a clear invitation from Constantinople to the Belarusian government, people and church, to follow the Ukrainian example. And third, there are reports that the ROC MP is sufficiently concerned about this possibility that Moscow plans to replace Metropolitan Pavel, the patriarchal exarch in Belarus, with Metropolitan Feofan of Kazan and Tatarstan (kazanreporter.ru/news/29994_mitropolita-feofana-perevodat-v-minsk-a-zatem-v-pervye-lica-rpc-istocnik). Pavel is viewed by many as ineffective, and his Russian-centric approach while in Kyiv has offended many. According to the Kazan Reporter, he is not now viewed in Moscow as someone who can navigate the approaching storm. Feofan has two advantages: he has shown himself a skilled diplomatist in Kazan, and he is close to Moscow’s ambassador to Minsk. Such a shift in personnel might give Moscow a better handle on developments in the Belarusian church and thus Belarusian society. At the same time, however, it is likely to be viewed by many Belarusians as a sign of Russian desperation and give new urgency to calls for autocephaly. None of these things mean autocephaly is about to happen – there are simply too many problems to be overcome including Lukashenka’s own authoritarianism and Moscow’s still-strong hand in Belarus (charter97.org/ru/news/2019/1/10/319478/). But the possibility Belarus will have its own church and that that church will support the country’s independence appears to be far greater than it was.
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