Peć, Kosovo; Moscow; Warsaw, May 18, 2018
In response to Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s recent appeal to the Ecumenical Patriarchate to grant autocephaly to a united Ukrainian Church, to be made up of the nation’s currently-existing two schismatic bodies, several Local Autocephalous Orthodox Churches around the world have begun expressing their support for the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church that is headed by His Eminence Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev and All Ukraine, and which did not back the president’s appeal, as did the schismatic bodies and the nation’s parliament.
At its latest session, from April 28 to May 10, the Holy Synod of the Serbian Orthodox Church spoke of its good relations with the sister Orthodox Churches throughout the world. In this context, as the official site of the Serbian Church reports, the Holy Synod expressed its support for the canonical Ukrainian Church in a short but powerful statement:
“[T]he Assembly expresses full solidarity, in co-suffering brotherly love, with the martyred sister Church in Ukraine, exposed to the harshest persecution by the current regime in Kiev.”
The office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has recognized “that the government has launched a campaign of intolerance against the Church and expresses concern about the inactivity of law enforcement agencies in regard to the violation of believers’ rights.”
The members of the Russian Holy Synod have also expressed their support and concern for the suffering Ukrainian Church, which is an autonomous, self-governing part of the Russian Orthodox Church.
Speaking to journalists after the Synod’s most recent session in St. Petersburg on May 14, His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev) of Volokolamsk spoke about the Ukrainian issue, expressing the Russian Church’s united voice:
The issue was not on the Synod’s agenda. However, since His Holiness the Patriarch has received numerous letters from the Ukrainian faithful, it was discussed… The ecclesial status of these communities, which have separated themselves from the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, is not recognized in world Orthodoxy… Granting the status of a “parallel” autocephalous Church to a schism, apart from the will of the canonical Church on whose territory it is located, is nonsense in terms of Church law. Every member of the Holy Synod expressed support for the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
The Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, another autonomous body within the Russian Orthodox Church, previously released a statement in support of the canonical Ukrainian Church in late April.
According to the Greek news agency Romfea, the Holy Synod of the Polish Orthodox Church also took up the issue and has expressed its full support for the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church against the schismatic bodies operating in Ukraine.
Having considered a letter received from Met. Onuphry on the issue, the Synod states, “We express the clear position of the Polish Orthodox Church, namely that the ecclesiastical life of the canonical Orthodox Church should be based on the principles of dogma and the holy canons of the Orthodox Church. Violation of this principle leads to chaos in the life of the Church.”
“There are certain schismatic groups in Ukraine which must first repent and return to the canonical Church. Only then can we discuss the issue of providing autocephaly,” the Synod’s statement continues, referring to the uncanonical “Kiev Patriarchate” and the “Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church,” both of which supported President Poroshenko’s initiative to appeal to Constantinople.
“We must not be led by the political climate in questions of dogma and the canons,” the Polish Synod concludes.
The primates, synods, and hierarchs of the Orthodox Churches throughout the world have repeatedly expressed their support and love for the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church and His Beatitude Met. Onuphry. Most recently, His Beatitude Patriarch Theophilos III of Jerusalem spoke of Met. Onuphry as being chosen by God to overcome the schisms in Ukraine.
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