Since the first very day, when it became known that the Patriarchate of Constantinople had appointed Exarchs to Ukraine, the question arose as to where their residence would be.
It is known that [the exarchs] Archbishop Daniel and Bishop Hilarion are originally from Ukraine. One from Buchach1, and the other from Ternopil2. But they won’t be able to receive guests, study the “Ukrainian Question”, and consider the possibility of granting autocephaly from their homesteads of Buchach or Ternopil. In addition, as church hierarchs, they must serve somewhere and celebrate the liturgy. Therefore the question of “where” remains the elephant in the room.
There were not many possibilities for their temporary residence:
Firstly, they presumed that their accommodations would be given to them by the Presidential Administration. But this option disappeared immediately because, according to the Constitution, the Church in Ukraine is separated from the state, and the state cannot (in fact!) interfere in the affairs of the Church.
The second option was considered in the winter, and based on the fact that there was an agreement between the Patriarchate of Constantinople and the representatives of the “Ukrainian Autocephalic Orthodox Church”, which was to give the Phanar one of its churches in Lviv.
But this option disappeared, most likely, because Lviv is still not the capital, and the Phanar must be as close as possible to the epicenter of everything going on. And so, volens nolens [Latin: like it or not], they had only once choice: Kiev, the Mother of Russian Cities3.
But Kiev is massive; in addition, there are several church problems in Ukraine, which despite their most bold statements, Constantinople must still take into account. For example, the problem of the schism and its rejection by the majority of real church-going people of our country. You can believe that the Phanar is very familiar with our situation, and no “studies” of various Razumkov Centers, which claim that almost all Ukrainians support the creation of a “National Local Church”, will convince them.4
Indeed, among those who have nothing to do with church, there are in fact many who support the Schism. Some of them, for example the presidential adviser Yuri Biryukov even call themselves “atheists of the Kiev Patriarchate”5. But these people can not be considered a flock of any kind of Church (except potentially), which means it’s hardly worth taking them into account. It is necessary to take into account only the position of “church-going, religious” people—and the vast majority of them do not accept the schism.6
The slightest hint of a connection with the schismatics will raise additional questions, and may have a repulsing effect in the Orthodox society of Ukraine. Therefore any premises or residences which would even remotely suggest this connection exists between the Schismatics and the representatives of Constantinople will not be used, at least, not yet.
Even if there is talk about Saint Sophia’s of Kiev7; we recall that the so-called “Warm [Gentle] Church”8 was given by the Ministry of Culture for the use of the “Kiev Patriarchate”9, and that kind of proximity is not ideal for the Phanarites.
This leaves us the operating churches of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. But there would be no priests or bishops who would allow the Exarchs Daniel and Ilarion to serve the liturgy in their churches. This is because even the most ardent supporters of autocephaly understand perfectly well, that communion and serving together with bishops who are illegally in the territory of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church can have the most severe consequences.
Therefore, the Exarchs require a residence which meets the following criteria:
Would not in any way be connected with schismatics.
Would have a church for services.
Would have a good reputation among Orthodox Christians
And it seems they’ve found a facility. Journalists of the Union of Orthodox Journalists obtained information, that on the evening of September 7, the head of the “Kiev Patriarchate” Philaret met with the Acting Director of the National Kiev Caves Historical and Cultural Reserve10 Alexander Rudnik.
Philaret demanded the swift transfer of a specific Lavra territory to the Kiev Patriarchate: the 19th Corpus of the Lavra.11
It turned out, however, that there emerged new details of this meeting. Apparently, Philaret asked for this facility not for himself, and not even for the “Single Local Church”, but in fact, for the Exarchs of the Ecumenical Patriarchate! As to how much this information corresponds with reality, we will find out in the very near future. But it appears that everything is moving in this direction.12
And if this is truly so, then what does this mean?
The Kiev Caves Lavra is undoubtedly the main holy site of the Ukrainian people, and one of the greatest holy sites in the entire Orthodox world. And by using it as a residence, the Phanar’s Exarchs would effectively infiltrate into the very heart of our church.
At the same time, they would solve several of their main problems:
This would place them at the epicenter of events
They would have a basis to look authoritative in the eyes of Orthodox Christians
They would not have an external connection with the schism.
Indeed, at first glance, it would seem to be problematic to serve the liturgy without consent from the His Beatitude Metropolitan Onufry, as this is an unquestionable violation of the canons; but then again, the position of the Exarchs is anti-canonical in and of itself, so one more canon, or one less, what’s the difference between one more canon, or one less [if they’ve already so crudely broken the canons.—Trans]?
In addition, it must be taken into account that every divine service of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church on the territory of the Upper Lavra13—which belongs to the National Kiev Caves Historical and Cultural Reserve—is conducted in agreement with the National Reserve’s leadership.14 And they can grant, or deny permission to serve… or… give it to someone else!
With all we understand, if Patriarch Bartholomew turns to President Petro Poroshenko with a request that the Phanar Exarchs be given the opportunity to serve in Dormition Cathedral, then such a request would be immediately granted!
Thus, the Phanarites have a quite real chance to place their residence in the territory of Kiev Caves Lavra, and even to serve in one of its main churches!15
It’s not hard to guess who came up with this cunning move, and they are, of course, counting on the idea that in time, representatives of Constantinople will force out the monastics of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church from the entire territory of the Lavra!
And moreover, that Orthodox people will get used to the idea of the leadership of a “Single Local Church” in an ancient holy sight, because in the national consciousness, everything connected with Kiev Caves Lavra is Holy, right, and canonical. It is certainly more convenient to receive those hierarchs and clerics who want to bind their lives to a “Single Local Church”, from inside the Lavra. And to promise them parishes and cathedrae from within the Lavra is far more convenient than from any other parish church.
It is clear that canonically, all the actions of Constantinople in relation to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church do not stand up to even the most insignificant criticism. Nevertheless, no matter how arrogantly the Phanar treated the hierarchy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, once all is said and done, they will still have to explain their actions to His Beatitude Metropolitan Onufry, and the Primates of the other Local Churches.
And the editorial board of the Union of Orthodox Journalists became aware that the arguments of the Exarchs of Constantinople will be built on one of the theses of Patriarch Bartholomew, which he voiced at the recently held synaxis, namely, that the spiritual connection of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church with the Moscow Patriarchate is illegal, and therefore, the canonical status of the Ukrainian Church is not orderly, and should be reviewed—naturally, in favor of the reassignment to the Patriarchate of Constantinople.16
And furthermore, the Phanar is free to do whatever it wants with “its own” structure. Though even now, the fact that the Phanar did not even think it necessary to notify the leadership of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, about it sending its “Exarchs” to Ukraine, speaks to the fact that the Phanar already considers the Ukrainian Orthodox Church to be its integral part. After all, the leaders do not have to inform their subordinates about any of their actions, do they? They usually simply place them before the fact.
Will this state of affairs agree with the leadership of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, the Moscow Patriarchate, and all the other Local Churches? And even if they don’t agree, then what?
The Phanar will have almost unlimited opportunities, which the Ukrainian authorities are ready to give them: forceful, administrative, and legislative support.
And therefore, we recall the famous words of Al Capone: “You can achieve much more with a kind word and a gun, than with just a kind word alone.”
And it’s really hard to argue with that! The Phanar will have on their side everything that earthly power17 can give.
Only one question remains: Will God be on their side?18