Odessa, November 26, 2018
His Eminence Archbishop Michael of Prague and the Czech Lands met with His Eminence Metropolitan Agafangel of Odessa on Saturday in a show of prayerful support for the much-suffering canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church, reports the site of the Odessa Diocese of the Ukrainian Church.
Greeting Met. Agafangel, Abp. Michael stressed that is “glad to be here, to share in the joy of worship and to sympathize with your situation. We have arrived to show our unity with you, as representatives of an autocephalous Church.”
The primate of the Czech Church, His Beatitude Metropolitan Rostislav, has also expressed his support for the canonical Ukrainian Church several times, as has His Beatitude Archbishop Joachim of Beroun.
The Czech hierarch also spoke about the history of Orthodoxy in the Czech Republic, including about St. Cyril the Equal-to-the-Apostles who brought the Gospel to the Czech lands. He also noted that one Pope of Rome recognized autonomy for the inhabitants of the land, while another abolished it, acting as the Patriarch of Constantinople is doing now.
Abp. Michael further stressed that Constantinople’s present course of action in Ukraine is impermissible and that all the Orthodox must therefore stand together:
We greatly sympathize with you and we tell the people that we are with you—the Czechs, and the Slovaks, and the Transcarpathians, and even the Orthodox Germans should be like one family. Your joy is our joy; your woes are our woes. We should support one another both in word and in prayer.
In our diocese, we read a prayer for peace in Ukraine and for the unity of the Church in every Liturgy. Let us pray, pray, and pray. Prayer is the most important thing. And we—the Orthodox—should be together.
In his turn, Met. Agafangel told Abp. Michael about his visit to Constantinople as the head of a delegation of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church that met with Patriarch Bartholomew and held hours-long negotiations on the fate of Orthodoxy in Ukraine. The Ukrainian hierarch expressed his regret that Pat. Bartholomew refused to listen to the opinion of the canonical Church in Ukraine but is instead pushing ahead with his agenda to grant autocephaly to schismatics who are recognized by no Church other than Constantinople.
At the end of the meeting, Met. Agafangel presented Abp. Michael with an icon of the Kasperov Mother of God, the Heavenly protectress of the Black Sea region.
His Eminence Metropolitan Alexei of Balta and Ananev of the Ukrainian Church also participated in the meeting.
The Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia has experienced its own troubles with the Patriarchate of Constantinople.
The Church originally received full and complete autocephaly from the Moscow Patriarchate in 1951. However, the Ecumenical Patriarchate, believing only it can grant autocephaly, never recognized this autocephaly. In 1989, after the fall of the communist regime, the Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia began to seek to mend its relationship with Constantinople and to achieve the recognition of its autocephaly. However, this search culminated, rather, in the granting of a new tomos of autocephaly from Constantinople.
This tomos stipulates, among other things, that ecclesiastical courts in the Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia are to be overseen by hierarchs from Constantinople, the Church is to receive its Chrism from Constantinople, and it is “obliged” to appeal to Constantinople in the event of any misconduct. Thus, the Church lost its full independence.
Despite the 1998 tomos from Constantinople, the Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia continued to celebrate its independence beginning with the 1951 tomos from Moscow. Thus, 50th anniversary celebrations were held in 2001, 55th in 2006, and 60th in 2011.
However, following the 60th anniversary celebrations, Pat. Bartholomew wrote to His Beatitude Metropolitan Christopher, the primate of the Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia at that time, and threatened to revoke the Church’s autocephaly if it ever celebrated the anniversary of the 1951 tomos again.
For more information on Constantinople’s role in the Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia, see the article “The Ecumenical Patriarchate’s Role in the Crisis Period of the Orthodox Church in the Czech Lands and Slovakia.”
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