Translator’s note: I recently received a link to the text of a sermon, an ardent denunciation of schism. The threat of schism is a frequent conversation theme of late, so a sermon on such a topic came as no surprise. What did come as a surprise, however was who gave this sermon and when: none other than Philaret (Denisenko), then Metropolitan of Kiev and All Ukraine in November of 1990. A fervent speech about remaining within the canonical Church spoken by a man who, in less than two years would not only go against the very canons he defended, declaring himself “Patriarch of Kiev and all Ukraine” in the schismatic “Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Kiev Patriarchate,” and soon after being excommunicated and anathematized by the Church he defends in this sermon. In short, I imagine that I would have similar feelings if a letter written by Judas calling for loyalty to our Lord Jesus Christ was somehow found. It’s as if we can still hear the echo of the faithful defender of the canonical order despite the deafening and violent rhetoric he now spouts as anow deposed and excommunicated layman.
The Synod of the Patriarchate of Constantinople recently declared that this layman dressed as a patriarch needn’t repent—he’s been “canonically restored.”1 Strangely enough, he’s back to being a metropolitan (though he doesn’t agree). As long as the Lord allows his lost sheep Mikhail Denisenko to continue to live, I will keep praying that he will hear the echo of his own sermon. And if he hears himself speaking, may God grant him the will and the strength to repent, and go down in history not as a follower of Judas, but that he find the strength that only Christ’s Truth can give be like the apostle Peter, who although he betrayed Christ, he repented, weeping bitterly.
Schismatics have reappeared in Ukraine, calling themselves “autocephalites,” tormenting the Church of Christ, tearing Her in pieces. Who are these schismatics who have broken away not only from our [local] Orthodox Church, but from all of Orthodoxy? They are the ones to whom the words of the Apostle John the Theologian refer, They went out from us, but they were not of us.2
The history of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church did not begin with Vladimir as they claim. That is a lie. Their Church dates back to the revolution. In 1921, they gathered for the first time and declared themselves independent, autocephalous.
Who are their bishops? These bishops are laypeople who dressed up in sacred vestments. And their first so-called “Metropolitan” Vasily Lipkovsky! Who ordained him? He was ordained by laymen in St. Sophia’s Cathedral. But how can a layman produce a bishop? And what Sacraments can they celebrate?
Now take the current bishops of the UAOC. Who is Mstislav Skrypnyk, who declared himself the Patriarch of all Ukraine? This is a false patriarch, whom the world Orthodox Churches also do not recognize as a bishop. He has no contact with the universal Orthodox Church. Not a single Eastern Patriarch recognizes this Mstyslav Skrypnyk. And John Bondarchuk, the former Bishop of Zhytomyr—he was stripped of his status as a bishop, priest and monk by a local Council of the Russian Orthodox Church! In reality, he is just a layman, because he's been stripped of everything because of the schism that he caused in the Church. What guided our Church to do this? The sacred canons.
But the autocephalites say they don't need canons, that they have their own.
They reject the Apostolic canons, the Apostolic laws and say that now is a new era, and different canons are needed. What? Here in 1921 they invented canons, that a bishop can be married and that priests may marry twice and thrice, that the Church is not run not by the hierarchy, but by the laity, just like the Protestants. They violated the thousand-year-old structure of the canons of the Church. Therefore, all the Sacraments they celebrate are without grace. They have no holy Chrism. And if there is no holy Chrism, the grace of the Holy spirit is not given at Baptism.
And the autocephalites can’t release sins. Because a layman can't do it — only a priest or a bishop. Their Sacrament of Communion is also invalid. It is not the Body and Blood of the Savior, but simple bread and wine. So no one should be tempted by this autocephaly. And in general, this Church was created not for the salvation of human souls, but to fight, to be a political tool against Moscow. And [Simon Vasilyevich] Petliura, who proclaimed the autocephaly of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in 1919, said that we need a Church that we could use at a certain time to fight Moscow. That's what they need an “autocephalized” church for!
You may have heard some deputies3 saying that we need a national Church. Okay. Our Church is national: the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. But we are in unity with the entire family of Orthodox churches, we are in unity with the Moscow Patriarchate, and with the Constantinople [Patriarchate], and with the Bulgarian [Patriarchate], and with the Romanian [Patriarchate], and with the Georgian [Patriarchate], and with all of them we are in prayerful canonical communion, because we believe in the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. And anyone who breaks away from this Body, like the autocephalites, is like a branch that broke off from a tree and sooner or later will dry out, because there are no life-giving juices in it. The Lord said, by their fruits you shall know them, and the fruits of this autocephalous church are without grace. And anyone who unites with it will be a schismatic.