Kiev, November 30, 2017
The leader of the uncanonical “Kiev Patriarchate” Philaret (Denisenko) has reportedly asked forgiveness from the Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church, which is meeting in Moscow’s Christ the Savior Cathedral through Saturday, for his sin of schism, and has asked to return to communion with the Orthodox Church, according to the official website of the Russian Orthodox Church and RIA-Novosti..
His words are included in the Council of Bishop’s text “On the Appeal of the Former Metropolitan of Kiev and All Ukraine Philaret.” He entreats the hierarchs to restore Eucharistic and prayerful communion with the Christians involved in the Ukrainian Church schism, and to cancel all decrees, including that of “punishment and excommunication… for the sake of the peace between fellow Orthodox Christians and reconciliation between peoples commanded by God.”
Philaret’s letter ends with “I ask forgiveness for every way in which I have sinned in word, deed, and in all my senses, and I sincerely forgive you all from my heart.”
The Council of Bishops resolved to establish a commission for discussions with the schismatic members of the self-proclaimed “Kiev Patriarchate,” to be headed by Department for External Church Relations Chairman Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev) of Volokolamsk.
“The Council is pleased to receive the appeal as a step toward overcoming the schism and the restoration of ecclesiastical communion on the part of those who have fallen away from unity with the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church,” the Russian Council’s decision reads.
“After 25 bitter years of the strife, violence, mutual animosity, resentment, and strife that arose in Ukrainian Orthodoxy and Ukrainian society as a result of the schism, there has appeared, finally, the chance to embark upon the path of the restoration of unity,” the decision continues.
The decree also names specific concrete steps for overcoming the schism in Ukraine: “A firm rejection of violence and the seizure of churches, a rejection of mutual accusations and reproofs, and mutual forgiveness of one another’s old grudges—these are the healing means of self-sacrifice and love of Christ which are the only means by which the unity of the canonical Church in Ukraine can be restored.”
However, Interfax-Religion reports that the press secretary of the Kiev Patriarchate Bishop Evstraty Zorya denies that Denisenko sent any such letter.
“Philaret never sent and will not send the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, or anyone else an appeal for forgiveness,” Zorya stated, explaining that the head of the schismatic group does not consider himself guilty of violating the canons for which he was declared anathema by the Russian Church in 1997.
The archbishop of the schismatic body later wrote on his Facebook page that an official statement from the “Kiev Patriarchate’s” press center will appear soon on the official website, and that Philaret will hold a press conference on December 1 on the matter, according to Interfax-Ukraine.
The official website of the “Kiev Patriarchate” states that “Pilaret will hold a press conference, during which he will speakabout the dialogue with the Russian Orthodox Church on the recognition of the autocephaly of the Ukrainian Church.”
Meanwhile, Interfax sources in the “Kiev Patriarchate” affirm that precisely Bp. Evstraty was one of the three bishops who sent Philaret’s petition to the Department for External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate. A source within the Department for External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate confirms that the department received Denisenko’s letter on November 16.
In 1992, then-Metropolitan Philaret, who was elected the Locum Tenens of the Muscovite patriarchal throne following the 1990 death of Patriarch Pimen, demanded autocephaly for the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. When his demand was denied, he created and legally registered the self-styled “Kiev Patriarchate.” None of the 15 canonical Local Orthodox Churches recognize or have communion with Denisenko’s group.
Updated 11/30/17 at 10:29 PM.