Official History of the Defrocking and Anathematization of Philaret Denisenko

Documents of the June 1992, 1994, and 1997 Bishops’ Councils of the Russian Orthodox Church

obzor.io obzor.io
    

Philaret Denisenko, the primate of the schismatic “Kiev Patriarchate,” was recently rehabilitated and received into communion by the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. This action has been condemned by the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church under the headship of His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry, and other hierarchs from the fraternal Local Orthodox Churches around the world, because they recognize and accept the legitimacy of the anathema that was placed upon Denisenko by the Russian Orthodox Church in 1997.

Philaret Denisenko has a long ecclesial history, having served as the canonical Archbishop and then Metropolitan of Kiev from 1966. However, after the fall of the Soviet Union, when Ukraine became an independent state, the religious situation in the country changed dramatically and the Orthodox faithful were divided into several branches, with Denisenko playing a main role in this process. Moreover, the Church was freer to act without the pressure and dictation of the KGB, and the hierarchy of the canonical Ukrainian Church was able to bring up ecclesiastical charges against Denisenko.

The documents presented here detail the charges brought against Denisenko by the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and the ensuing decision of the Bishops’ Council of the Russian Orthodox Church to defrock him on June 11, 1992. All of the documents from the June 1992 Council are included here, as well as, notably, the letter of His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to His Holiness Patriarch Alexei II of Moscow and All Russia in response to this decision.

The 1994 Bishops’ Council noted that Denisenko was continuing to serve, and warned him of the possible ecclesiastical punishment, and, in response to his continued activity in Ukraine, the 1997 Bishops’ Council of the Russian Orthodox Church resolved to anathematize Denisenko. An excerpt from His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew’s letter to His Holiness Patriarch Alexei II in response to this decision is also included.

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Statement of the Episcopate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church Read at the Bishops’ Council of the Russian Orthodox Church, June 11, 1992:

We, the hierarchs of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, concerned for the fate of holy Orthodoxy in our native Ukrainian land, draw the attention of all the fullness of the Orthodox Church under the omophorion of His Holiness the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia to the unworthy behavior of the former primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church Metropolitan Philaret (Denisenko), and in this regard we declare the following:

  1. Metropolitan Philaret is extremely cruel and arrogant in relation to the subordinate clergy and to his brothers in the episcopal ministry. Instead of fatherly care, love, and compassion to the younger brethren, he embarked upon the path of dictatorialness and intimidation, which is absolutely unacceptable in the behavior of an Orthodox hierarch, for he, according to the word of the holy Apostle Paul, must be blameless, as the steward of God; not self-willed, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre; but a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate (Tit. 1:7-8). Canon 27 of the Holy Apostles prescribes that those bishops, presbyters, or deacons who commit physical and spiritual violence be deposed from their holy orders.
  2. By his personal life, Metropolitan Philaret brings temptation among the faithful and also gives occasion for defamation and blasphemy against the Orthodox Church from the outside world, for which, according to Canon 3 of the First Ecumenical Council and Canon 5 the Fifth-Sixth (Trullan) Council, he is subject to the strictest canonical punishment, for, as Holy Scripture says, woe to that man by whom the offence cometh (Mt. 18:7).
  3. Metropolitan Philaret, who gave his word at the Bishops’ Council before the cross and Gospel to convene without delay a Council of the Ukrainian bishops in Kiev and to declare there his resignation,[1] and having promised to fulfill it, he broke his oath, entailing, according to Canon 25 of the Holy Apostles, deposition from his sacred office.
  4. Following the Bishops’ Council of the Russian Orthodox Church from March 31-April 5, 1992, Metropolitan Philaret has tried and is trying to use the mass media to maliciously and publicly distort the decisions made there and is thereby a slanderer and blasphemer of our holy Orthodox Church, and as such, according to Canon 6 of the Second Ecumenical Council, he bears strict canonical responsibility.
  5. Having ignored the decision of the Bishops’ Council of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of May 27, 1992, and having lost the conscience of a pastor, Metropolitan Philaret sacrilegiously grasped for himself the right to celebrate the sacred services as a bishop, which does not belong to him. In particular, he celebrated the Divine Liturgy and ordained deacons, priests, and even bishops multiple times, having no authority to do so from the Holy Synod. For such actions, Canon 28 of the Holy Apostle subjects those disobedient to canonical discipline to complete separation from the Orthodox Church: “If any bishop, or presbyter, or deacon, who has been justly deposed from office for proven crimes, should dare to touch the Liturgy which had once been put in his hands, let him be cut off from the Church altogether.”

St. Basil the Great, in his epistle to Gregory the Presbyter, included in the canonical code as his 88th Canon, warns the temporarily suspended cleric that if he, disregarding his suspension, dares “to touch the priesthood,” he will be “anathema to all the people.”

  1. By his actions, Metropolitan Philaret has caused a schism in the Church, for which he is subject to the deprivation of his office on the basis of Canon 15 of the First-Second Council.

All of the above we entrust to the judgment of the Bishops’ Council of the Russian Orthodox Church, which we urge to take strict measures of punishment in regard to Metropolitan Philaret, as a conscious trespasser against Church piety and canonical order, as required by the sacred canons, which we all solemnly promised before the Orthodox Church to follow.

Metropolitan of Kharkov and Bogodukhov NIKODOM
Metropolitan of Vinnytstia and Bratslav AGAFANGEL
Archbishop of Chernigov and Nizhyn ANTHONY
Archbishop of Zhytomyr and Ovruch JOB
Archbishop of Rivne and Ostroh IRENEI
Bishop of Volyn and Lutsk BARTHOLOMEW
Bishop of Ivano-Frankivsk and Kolomyia and temporary administrator of the Kherson Diocese HILARION
Bishop of Donetsk and Slavyansk ALIPY
Bishop of Chernovtsi and Bukovina ONUPHRY
Bishop of Ternopil and Kremenets SERGEI
Bishop of Simferopol and Crimea VASILY
Bishop of Kirovograd and Nikolaev VASILY
Bishop of Sumy and Okhtyrka NICANOR
Bishop of Lugansk and Starobelsk IOANNIKY
Bishop of Khmelnitsky and Kamenets-Podolsk NIPHON
Bishop of Dnepropetrovsk and Zaporozhye GLEB

June 11, 1992

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Judicial Acts of the June 11, 1992 Bishops’ Council of the Russian Orthodox Church:

Carrying out the trial in the case of the former Metropolitan Philaret (Denisenko) of Kiev and All Ukraine, the Bishops’ Council of the Russian Orthodox Church heard:

The statement of the episcopate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (the full text of the Statement is published above).

The Right Reverend archpastors of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and bishops, previously having held an archpastoral ministry in Ukraine, have confirmed by their witness statements the accuracy of all the charges brought forward against the former Metropolitan of Kiev and All Ukraine Philaret (Denisenko) in the Statement of the Episcopate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church; thus, the following crimes were attested to:

  1. authoritarian methods of governance of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and Kiev Diocese, complete disregard for the conciliar voice of the Church, as well as demonstrations of cruelty and arrogance in relations with colleagues in the archpastoral ministry, clergy, and laity, and a lack of compassion and Christian love;
  2. a manner of life incongruous with the requirements of the canons which casts a shadow upon the Church;
  3. oath-breaking, manifested in the violation of the vow made by him before the Cross and Gospel at the Bishops’ Council of the Russian Orthodox Church held on March 31-April 5 of this year to convoke the Bishops’ Council of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and submit there a petition for resignation from the post of primate of the Ukrainian Church;
  4. the conscious perversion of the authentic decisions of the Bishop’s Council of the Russian Orthodox Church in his public statements, including by means of mass information, invective, and slander against the Bishops’ Council, and thereby against the Orthodox Church;
  5. the celebration of the sacred services, including ordinations to the diaconate, priesthood, and episcopacy in a state of canonical prohibition;
  6. the individual appropriation of conciliar authority, expressed in the threat of imposing a punishment on the hierarchs who, acting in accordance with the sacred canons and the Statute of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, decided at the Bishops’ Council in Kharkov on May 27 to remove him from the post of the Metropolitan of Kiev and All Ukraine and to prohibit him from serving;
  7. creating a schism in the Church by the unlawful consecration of new bishops and appointing them to dioceses occupied by canonical hierarchs, and other wrongful acts.

The extensive discussion that then took place testified to the recognition by the fathers of the Council that the materials contained in the Statement of the Episcopate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and in the witness testimonies corresponds to the truth.

According to the results of the vote, the Bishops’ Council of the Russian Orthodox Church RESOLVES:

for the cruel and arrogant attitude of Metropolitan Philaret (Denisenko) to his subordinate clergy, dictatorialness, and intimidation (Tit. 1:7-8; Canon 27 of the Holy Apostles),

causing temptation among the faithful by his behavior and personal life (Mt. 18:7; Canon 3 of First Ecumenical Council, Canon 5 of the Fifth-Sixth Council),

oath-breaking (Canon 25 of the Holy Apostles),

public slander and blasphemy against the Bishops’ Council (Canon 6 of the Second Ecumenical Council),

celebrating services, including ordination, in a state of suspension (Canon 28 of the Holy Apostles),

the perpetration of a schism in the Church (Canon 15 of the First-Second Council):

  1. To depose Metropolitan Philaret (Denisenko) from his existing rank, depriving him of every degree of the priesthood and all rights connected with the clerical rank.
  2. To consider all ordinations to the rank of deacon, presbyter, and bishop celebrated by Metropolitan Philaret in a state of suspension from May 27 of this year, and also all the punishments imposed by him on clergy and laity from May 6 of this year, illegal and invalid.
  3. To depose Bishop Jacob (Panchuk) of Pochaev from his rank for complicity in the anti-canonical actions of the former Metropolitan of Kiev Philaret, depriving him of every degree of the priesthood.
  4. The decisions of the Bishops’ Council of the Russian Orthodox Church on the expulsion of Metropolitan Philaret (Denisenko) and Bishop Jacob (Panchuk) from their existing ranks and on their deprivation of every degree of the priesthood shall be brought to the attention of all the Local Orthodox Churches.

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Encyclical of the Bishops’ Council of the Russian Orthodox Church to the pastors and faithful children of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, June 11, 1992:

Dear fathers, brothers, and sisters in Christ!

The Bishops’ Council of the Russian Orthodox Church bitterly testifies that a new schism has arisen in the Ukrainian land.

The reason for this is the actions of the former Metropolitan of Kiev Philaret who was prohibited to serve by the Bishops’ Council of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of May 27 of this year.

Acting in the capacity of a Church court, the Bishops’ Council of the Russian Orthodox Church considered the claim submitted by the Ukrainian bishops and considered the testimony of witnesses and found Metropolitan Philaret guilty of cruel and arrogant treatment of the bishops, clergy, and flock, of violating the oath given by him before the cross and Gospel to voluntarily leave the post of the primate of the Ukrainian Church, of blaspheming the Bishops’ Council, of lawlessly celebrating the Divine services while under suspension, including episcopal consecrations, and of consciously and explicitly creating a schism in the Church. The Council also acknowledged that the personal life of Metropolitan Philaret introduces temptation among the faithful and gives cause for the condemnation of the Orthodox Church by the outside world.

The Bishops’ Council, strictly guided by the sacred canons, RESOLVED:

  1. To depose Metropolitan Philaret (Denisenko) from his existing rank, depriving him of every degree of the priesthood and all rights connected with the clerical rank.
  2. To consider all ordinations to the rank of deacon, presbyter, and bishop celebrated by Metropolitan Philaret in a state of suspension from May 27 of this year, and also all the punishments imposed by him on clergy and laity from May 6 of this year, illegal and invalid.
  3. To depose Bishop Jacob (Panchuk) of Pochaev from his rank for complicity in the anti-canonical actions of the former Metropolitan of Kiev Philaret, depriving him of every degree of the priesthood.
  4. The decisions of the Bishops’ Council of the Russian Orthodox Church on the expulsion of Metropolitan Philaret (Denisenko) and Bishop Jacob (Panchuk) from their existing ranks and on their deprivation of every degree of the priesthood shall be brought to the attention of all the Local Orthodox Churches.

All laity who from henceforth enter into ecclesiastical communion with the former Metropolitan Philaret (Denisenko) and Bishop Jacob (Panchuk) subject themselves to excommunication from the Church, and clergy—to deposition from their office. For, as the Divine canons say, “But they who communicate with him shall all be cast out of the Church, and particularly if they have presumed to communicate with the persons aforementioned, knowing the sentence pronounced against them” (Canon 4 of the Council of Antioch).

“If any clergyman shall join in prayer with a deposed clergyman, as if he were a clergyman, let him also be deposed” (Canon 11 of the Holy Apostles).

There exists the false opinion that the ecclesiastical judgment over the former Metropolitan Philaret will influence the decision on the issue of granting full canonical independence to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. By the force of our archpastoral word we testify that such assertions are either a misconception or deliberate slander.

We will not in any way prevent the discussion of the issue of the full canonical independence of the Ukrainian Church. We will accept any judgment pronounced by the voice of the people of the Church on this given matter. But we want this voice to be heard freely and clearly, and that the faithful would not be subjected to any pressure connected with political or other earthly interests. Being responsible before God for the people of the Church entrusted to our humble hands by Him, we will do everything in our power for their spiritual freedom and so that they would live as the Gospel and teachings of the Orthodox Church instruct.

The former Metropolitan Philaret and other Church offenders use the topic of “autocephaly” exclusively for personal purposes, creating the false impression that they are “victims” for their allegedly autocephalic convictions. We testify to you that among the participants in our Bishops’ Council, who deposed Metropolitan Philaret and Bishop Jacob, were those hierarchs who openly support the idea of a speedy granting of autocephaly to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. Philaret and Jacob are deprived of their office not for their convictions but for their transgressions against the Church, expressed in the conscious and egregious violation of the sacred canons.

As regards the granting of full canonical independence to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, we firmly believe that this issue should be resolved by lawful canonical means through the convening of a Local Council and the coordination of its decision with the will of all the fraternal Local Churches. If this does not happen, we will only reap more and more schisms, bringing destruction to Church life.

The Bishops’ Council appeals to Ukrainian state leaders to promote the establishment of Church unity in this blessed country.

We believe that in an independent Ukraine, embarking upon a path of building a democratic state based on the rule of law, the rights and freedoms of its citizens will be respected, including the right to organize Church life in accordance with the desire of the people of God.

We pray for God’s help to be sent down upon the new primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in his labors and we entreat the Lord to grant peace and harmony to all the fullness of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, in the name of which we call upon the clergy and faithful of Ukraine to coalesce around the canonical episcopate headed by the lawfully elected First Hierarch, Metropolitan Vladimir of Kiev and All Ukraine. To the leadership of Ukraine and all living in this wonderful country, may God Almighty grant prosperity and success in all things.

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Rulings of the June 11, 1992 Bishop’s Council of the Russian Orthodox Church:

The Bishops’ Council of the Russian Orthodox Church, in accordance with the Decision of the Holy Synod on May 28, 1992, gathered in Danilov Monastery on June 11, and:

I. Bore judgment upon the situation in the Ukrainian Orthodox Church that has resulted from the failure of Philaret (Denisenko), formerly Metropolitan of Kiev and All Ukraine, to fulfill the oath given by him to the Bishops’ Council of the Russian Orthodox Church, which met from March 31 to April 5, 1992 in Danilov Monastery, that upon returning to Kiev he would call a Bishop’s Council of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and would, for the sake of ecclesiastical peace in Ukraine, submit a petition for release from the post of primate of the Church, so the Council could find a new Metropolitan of Kiev and All Ukraine.

Background: The Bishops’ Council of the Russian Orthodox Church was held in Danilov Monastery in Moscow from March 31 to April 5, 1992. The Council’s agenda included discussion of the appeal of the episcopate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church headed by Metropolitan Philaret of Kiev and All Ukraine with a request to grant full canonical independence—autocephaly—to the Church.

The Council issued a resolution “to bear judgment on the granting of full canonical independence to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church at the regular Local Council of the Russian Orthodox Church,” as the majority of the episcopate, clergy, and laity of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church spoke out on the eve of the Council against the immediate granting of autocephaly. The Bishop’s Council agreed that Metropolitan Philaret, as the primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, was not in a state to heal the existing divisions and disorder in the Church. The Council noted Metropolitan Philaret’s statement about his readiness to submit, in the name of ecclesiastical peace, a petition for release from his duties as the primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. In this regard he said, “I give my archpastoral word that such a Council (meaning that Council that was to elect the primate of the Ukrainian Church) will be held, and that there will be no pressure from any side. That there will be none from society, I am sure, and there will be none from me… You can be sure that I will not be the primate.” Metropolitan Philaret gave his promise to relinquish the Kiev Cathedra before the cross and Gospel.

The Bishops’ Council’s ruling was met with the approval of the majority of the clergy and laity of Ukraine and opened the path to overcoming differences and divisions and creating ecclesiastical peace.

Returning to Kiev, Metropolitan Philaret held a press conference with the Ukrinform News Agency on April 14, at which he accused the fathers of the Bishops’ Council of the Russian Orthodox Church of putting pressure on him. Metropolitan Philaret stated that he gave the fathers of the Council an insincere promise to relinquish the post of the primate of the Ukrainian Church but in fact intends to keep it for life.

In this regard, an assembly of the bishops and representatives of the clergy, monastics, Orthodox brotherhoods, and laity of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church was held in Zhytomyr on April 30, expressing distrust for Metropolitan Philaret because of “his deliberate deception of the fathers of the Bishops’ Council of the Mother-Church.” This deception was assessed by the assembly as oath-breaking. The assembly insisted upon the immediate convoking of the Bishops’ Council of the Ukrainian Church to accept the resignation of Metropolitan Philaret and elect a new primate.

An augmented session of the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church was held May 6-7. The Synod, having discussed the situation that has unfolded in Ukraine in connection with the public declarations of the Metropolitan of Kiev, decided to strongly condemn Metropolitan Philaret’s statements “not corresponding to truth and misleading the flock,” and “evaluates them as blasphemy against the conciliar mind of the Church, acting under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.” The Holy Synod directed Metropolitan Philaret “to convene the Bishops’ Council of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church by May 15, to submit a petition there for resignation from the post of the primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, and to truly resign, as he solemnly promised before the cross and Gospel.” In connection with the extreme situation existing in the Ukrainian Church, the Synod forbade Metropolitan Philaret “from acting in the capacity of primate until the convening of the Council of the Ukrainian Church, namely: to convoke the Synod, to consecrate bishops, to issue Decrees and appeals, with the exception of convoking the Bishops’ Council of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church to accept his resignation and elect a new primate.” The Holy Synod ruled that “all penalties and punishments imposed, or which may be imposed by him upon hierarchs, clergy, and laity for their support for the Ruling of the Bishops’ Council of the Russian Orthodox Church of April 2, 1992, considering them unlawful and therefore invalid.” Metropolitan Philaret was simultaneously warned that in the case of failure to fulfill the Ruling of the Bishops’ Council and the Decision of this Synod, he will be brought to trial by the Bishops’ Council.

This Synodal decision was again ignored by Metropolitan Philaret. Consequently, the Holy Synod was forced to gather on May 21 in a regular session devoted to the state of Church affairs in Ukraine and the issue of the replacement for the Kiev Cathedra. The Synod instructed Metropolitan Nikodim of Kharkov and Bogodukhov, the senior archpastor of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church by consecration, to call and hold a Bishops’ Council of the Ukrainian Church in the period before the celebration of Pentecost to elect its new primate, having placed upon him the temporary performance of the duties of the primate. In response to this decision, Metropolitan Philaret declared to His Holiness Patriarch Alexei II of Moscow and All Russia on May 25 that he considers the decision of the augmented Synod “unfounded and incompetent.”

On May 26, His Holiness Patriarch Alexei II sent a telegram to Metropolitan Philaret in which, in particular, it says, “For the good of our common Mother-Church, in the genuine interests of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, I appeal to you, Vladyka, to humbly accept the decision of the Holy Synod, fully consistent with the spirit and resolutions of the Bishops’ Council, which you testified to being in agreement with before the entire episcopate of our Church. This decision does not contradict the previously accepted conciliar decisions and does not limit the independence of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in its administration. Do not inflict new wounds on the suffering body of the Church.”

On May 26, Metropolitan Philaret gathered his supporters in Kiev, calling the gathering the “All-Ukrainian Conference for the Defense of the Canonical Rights of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.” The participants of this conference, at which not a single hierarch of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church was present, rejected the decision of the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church of May 7 and 21, 1992, and the actions of the Orthodox archpastors of Ukraine who maintained obedience to the canonical head of the Mother-Church, were characterized as “a betrayal of the Church and the Orthodox people of Ukraine.”

The Bishops’ Council of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church was held May 27-28 in Kharkov with eighteen archpastors under the chairmanship of Metropolitan Nikodim of Kharkov and Bogodukhov. The Bishops’ Council expressed its lack of trust in Metropolitan Philaret as the primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and removed him from the Kiev Cathedra. For the schismatic actions he perpetrated, the Council forbade him from serving from henceforth until the decision of the Bishops’ Council of the Mother-Church. Metropolitan Vladimir of Rostov and Novocherkassk was elected by secret ballot from among three candidates and he accepted this election. At its meeting on May 28, the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church agreed with the decisions of the Bishops’ Council of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and scheduled a Bishops’ Council for June 11 in Moscow to consider the case of the former Metropolitan of Kiev. In accordance with paragraph 3 of the Ruling of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, adopted by the Bishops’ Council of the Russian Orthodox Church in October 1990, His Holiness Patriarch Alexei II blessed the newly-elected primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church Metropolitan Vladimir for his upcoming ministry. The primates of all the autocephalous Orthodox Churches have been informed of the decision of the Bishops’ Council of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

His Holiness Patriarch Alexei II informed Metropolitan Philaret of the decision of the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church to convene a Bishops’ Council on June 11 and summoned him to this Council. Despite the fact that he was summoned three times, Metropolitan Philaret has not appeared at this present Council. Being prohibited to serve since May 27 of this year, he has, together with Bishop Jacob of Pochaev, celebrated unlawful hierarchical consecrations.

The Bishops’ Council subjected the case of Metropolitan Philaret (Denisenko) to a comprehensive discussion and recognized the acts of the Bishops’ Council of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church on the removal of Metropolitan Philaret from the post of primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, on sending him into retirement, and on his probation from serving, as well as its agreement with these measures of the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church, which have legitimate pre-trial significance.

Taking into account the appeal of the archpastors of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church to the present Bishops’ Council on the need to adopt Churchwide canonical judgments in regard to Metropolitan Philaret (Denisenko), which is in essence а judicial claim, the Council RESOLVES:         

To transfer the case of the former Metropolitan of Kiev Philaret (Denisenko) to the court of the Bishops’ Council of the Russian Orthodox Church. The judicial proceeding shall be carried out at this present session of the Council.

II. [On the creation of new dioceses in the Belarusian Exarchate…]

III. Bore judgment upon the petition of the former Bishop John of Zhytomyr (Vasily Nikolaevich Bodnarchuk), deprived of his sacred office in November 1989 for the schism created by him (the creation of the so-called Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church), and now repenting of it, to return to the bosom of the Mother-Church.

RULED: To transfer the case of V. N. Bodnarchuk to the Holy Synod for consideration and to make a decision.

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Letter of His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to His Holiness Patriarch Alexei II of Moscow and All Russia, August 26, 1992:

Your Beatitude and Holiness Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, greatly beloved in Christ God and much-beloved brother and concelebrant of our mediocrity, Alexei, Your esteemed Beatitude, fraternally embracing you in the Lord, we sweetly greet you!

In response to the corresponding telegram and letter of Your greatly beloved and honorable Beatitude on the problem that has arisen in Your Holy Russian sister Church that led her Holy Synod, for reasons known to her, to the deposition of the until-recently leading member of her Synod, Metropolitan Philaret of Kiev, we desire to fraternally inform Your love, that our Holy Great Church of Christ, recognizing the fullness of the Russian Orthodox Church’s exclusive competence on this issue, synodally accepts the decisions regarding the one in question, not desiring to bring any trouble to Your Church. It is precisely in this spirit that we sent two brothers, His Eminence Metropolitan John of Pergamon and His Grace Bishop Vsevolod of Skopelos, after a visit to us by the one in question who has been deprived of his office, that we could be directly notified firsthand of what had occurred and avoid a misinterpretation in the given case. Consequently, we should note that we were grieved when we learned that there was not a full understanding of the purpose of their mission.

In this, embracing Your Beatitude with a holy kiss, we remain with unfailing brotherly love in the Lord for Your esteemed Beatitude, your beloved brother in Christ,

PATRIARCH BARHTOLOMEW OF CONSTANTINOPLE

August 26, 1992

    

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Ruling “On questions of the internal life and external activities of the Church,” Bishops’ Council of the Russian Orthodox Church, 1994:

22. In view of the lack of repentance on the part of Monk Philaret (Denisenko) and the continuation of his schismatic activity, which brings great harm to Orthodoxy in Ukraine, and also in connection with his sacrilegious celebration of the Divine services and the unlawful wearing of the marks of the hierarchical dignity after the deprivation of his holy office, the Sacred Synod calls him to repentance and warns that in the case of the continuation of this outrage, he will be excommunicated from the Church through anathematization.

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His Holiness Patriarch Alexei II’s Report at the Bishops’ Council of the Russian Orthodox Church, 1997:

The years that have passed since the previous Council have brought many new sorrows to the suffering Ukrainian Orthodox flock. This is primarily due to the decision of Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople in March 1995 to accept under his omophorion a group of Ukrainian bishops-autocephalists—the so-called Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the USA and diaspora, which was in Eucharistic communion with “The Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Kiev Patriarchate” of Monk Philaret (Denisenko). The origin and history of this schism are fraught with blatant violations of the conciliar rules of Church life, therefore the Russian Orthodox Church has repeatedly warned the Church of Constantinople against reckless acts, and now grieves that such acts have brought confusion to the life of the Orthodox world and has exacerbated the disorder among the Orthodox Christians of Ukraine.

...

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Encyclical of the Bishops’ Council to the God-loving Pastors, Honorable Monastics, and All Faithful Children of the Russian Orthodox Church (Moscow, 1997):

… Of those who have broken their fidelity to the Mother-Church and embarked upon the path of schism, may the apostolic word be true: They went out from us, but they were not of us (1 Jn. 2:19).

The Church treats all sinners with love and patience and calls them to repentance, but, when someone entrenched in sin does not heed this call and destroys Church unity and throws slander at the Church, and when a former cleric deprived of his holy order sacrilegiously continues to celebrate the Divine services, trampling upon the canons, the Church, with deep pain and sorrow, is forced to testify that such a man has placed himself outside of it.

The Savior said, Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the Church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican (Mt. 18:15-17).

Guided by these words, heeding the unanimous request of the Ukrainian episcopate, and in accordance with the resolution of the 1994 Bishops’ Council, the current Bishops’ Council has anathematized, that is, excommunicated Monk Philaret (Denisenko), unlawfully calling himself “the Patriarch of Kiev and All Rus’-Ukraine,” from the communion of the Church…

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Act of Excommunication from the Church of Monk Philaret (Denisenko), Bishops’ Council of the Russian Orthodox Church, 1997:

1. The Sacred Bishops’ Council bore judgment upon the anti-Church activity of Monk Philaret (Denisenko), deprived of every degree of the priesthood by the Judicial Act of the Bishops’ Council of June 11, 1992, and warned by the Bishops’ Council of 1994 that, “in the case of the continuation of this outrage, he will be excommunicated from the Church through anathematization.”

The Sacred Bishops’ Council is now forced to note with sorrow that Monk Philaret did not heed the call to repentance addressed to him on behalf of the Mother-Church, but in the inter-Council period continued his schismatic activity, which he extended beyond the bounds of the Russian Orthodox Church, contributing to the deepening of the schism in the fraternal Bulgarian Orthodox Church and receiving into communion schismatics from other Local Orthodox Churches; criminally neglecting the substantiated punishment from the lawful Church authorities—deprivation of his office, he continued to celebrate sacrilegious “services,” including blasphemous false ordinations; possessing no sacred office, Monk Philaret, to the temptation of many, dared to name himself “Patriarch of Kiev and All Rus’-Ukraine,” while the ancient Kievan See is rightfully occupied by the canonical primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the rank of Metropolitan; Monk Philaret did not cease casting blasphemy upon the episcopate, clergy, and faithful children of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in canonical communion with the Russian Orthodox Church and through it with the entire ecumenical Orthodox Church, continuing to inflict damage upon Orthodoxy in Ukraine by his criminal acts.

In view of the above, on the basis of Canon 28 of the Holy Apostles, which reads, “If any bishop, or presbyter, or deacon, who has been justly deposed from office for proven crimes, should dare to touch the Liturgy which had once been put in his hands, let him be cut off from the Church altogether,” and Canon 14 of the Council of Sardica, Canon 4 of the Council of Antioch, and Canon 88 of St. Basil the Great, the Sacred Bishops’ Council unanimously resolves:

To excommunicate Monk Philaret (Michael Antonovich Denisenko) from the Church of Christ. May he be anathema before all people.

2. In view of the lack of repentance from Monks Jacob (Panchuk) and Andrei (Gorak), participants in the unlawful schismatic activities of the former Monk Philaret, the Sacred Bishops’ Council again calls them to repentance and to cease their blasphemous atrocities and warns that otherwise they will be excommunicated from the communion of the Church through anathematization.

3. The Sacred Bishops’ Council, taking care for the lost involved in the schism of the former Monk Philaret, reminds everyone who dares to have communion in prayer with him, that according to the holy canons, if they do not terminate such communion, they are subject to excommunication from the Church. In his 88th Canon, St. Basil the Great, addressing himself to Gregory the Presbyter, whom he had suspended from the ministry, warns: “If, on the other hand, you should dare, instead of correcting yourself, to touch the priesthood, you will be anathema to all the people, and any persons accepting you will become excommunicated from every Church.”

4. The Sacred Bishops’ Council informs the primates of the Local Orthodox Churches of the excommunication from the Church through anathematization of the former Monk Philaret (Michael Antonovich Denisenko).

***

Letter of His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to His Holiness Patriarch Alexei II of Moscow and All Russia, April 7, 1997 (as quoted in the Statement of the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church Regarding the Encroachment of the Patriarchate of Constantinople on the Canonical Territory of the Russian Church):

On the anathematization of Philaret Denisenko: “Having received notification of the mentioned decision, we informed the hierarchy of our Ecumenical Throne of it and implored them to henceforth have no ecclesial communion with the persons mentioned.”

Translated by Jesse Dominick

10/17/2018


[1] In the document Ruling Regarding the Appeal of the Episcopate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church Concerning the Granting of Autocephaly from the March 31-April 5, 1992 Bishop’s Council of the Russian Orthodox Church, we read:

“The Bishops’ Council took into account the statement of His Eminence Philaret, Metropolitan of Kiev and All Ukraine, that in the name of ecclesiastical peace he would submit a petition at the forthcoming Bishops’ Council of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church to be released from his duties as the primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

“The Bishops’ Council, sympathetic to the position of His Eminence Metropolitan Philaret and having expressed gratitude to him for his many years of archpastoral labors in the Diocese of Kiev, blessed him to carry out his episcopal service in another diocese of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.”

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