Boryspil, Ukraine, January 21, 2019
His Eminence Archbishop Abel of Lublin and Chelm celebrated the Divine Liturgy on Sunday in Boryspil, Ukraine with His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev and All Ukraine and several other hierarchs of the canonical Ukrainian Church.
The Polish Church has continually showed itself to be a fervent supporter of Orthodoxy and the canonical Ukrainian Church throughout the present crisis, and Abp. Abel took the opportunity following the Divine Liturgy and in an interview with the Church’s Information-Education Department to reiterate the Polish Church’s strong stand against Constantinople’s unilateral interference in Ukraine.
“The Lord brought me unexpectedly today in His own way to be a participant with you in the Divine Liturgy, celebrated by His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry, the primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church,” Abp. Abel said. “I have the great honor of knowing you, Your Beatitude, for more than 30 years, since the Holy Dormition-Pochaev Lavra.”
The Polish hierarch also conveyed the greetings and support of His Beatitude Metropolitan Sawa of Warsaw and All Poland, and added: “Throughout its history, the Orthodox Church in Poland has experienced much neglect and many difficult pages in its history. And today, for these sufferings there stands a synaxis of holy martyrs from my diocese at the throne of God, the hieromartyrs of the Chelm and Lublin land. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church’s situation today is perhaps most understandable for us.”
His Eminence also emphasized that the Polish Church’s stance against the Ukrainian schismatics and the interference of Constantinople is firmly based on dogmatic and canonical truths. Met. Sawa expressed the same conviction in a recent interview, as has His Holiness Patriarch Irinej of Serbia.
In his interview after the Liturgy, Abp. Abel added the conviction that “what happened in recent weeks we call a great tragedy and great sorrow for world Orthodoxy.”
He continues in the interview: “The Orthodox Church cannot approve of these schismatics who seem to have found themselves in canonical communion… Without repentance, the schismatics cannot be united to the mystical Body of Christ of the holy Church of Christ. And our position on these principles of Church discipline will always be unchanging.”
In his address following the Liturgy, Abp. Abel also emphasized the need for repentance and fasting and the great help that comes from Met. Onuphry’s prayers: “We will always say everywhere that the schism can be overcome only through repentance and fasting. We deeply believe that the great and deep prayer of the primate of the UOC, His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry, will be profitable and that always after patience, after suffering, comes the Paschal triumph.”
“And we in Poland will be praying that this joy, the victory of the Paschal joy might soon be triumphant in our hearts,” Abp. Abel assured the Ukrainian hierarchs and faithful. He also emphasized that this joy would not be limited to the Ukrainian Church but would, in fact, be the joy of the entire Orthodox Church.
While the Polish Church has clearly stated through its primate and other hierarchs that its stance is unwavering, based in truth, in a recent BBC interview Archbishop Daniel, a Constantinople Exarch to Kiev, expressed the belief that the Polish Church will soon change its position and come to recognize the Ukrainian schismatics and its own place “in the bosom of the Church of Christ and Constantinople.”
Abp. Abel responded: “We do not take these words seriously, because the principles, as I answered the first question, of canonical and dogmatic discipline in no way give us the opportunity to change our position. Once again, we loudly and everywhere emphasize that the schism cannot be united to the Local Churches of world Orthodoxy without repentance.”
The Patriarchate of Constantinople revoked the 1686 document that transferred the Kiev Metropolia to the Russian Church. As the interviewer notes, the Metropolia at that time included territories that are now the canonical territory of the Polish Church, and Constantinople has made no statement that they will limit their activity to modern-day Ukraine. Thus, he asks: “Does your Local Church consider such actions of Patriarch Bartholomew as an annexation of the canonical territory of the Polish Church and an encroachment on its autocephalous status?”
Noting that state and Church boundaries have often changed throughout history, Abp. Abel says: “It’s just a human historical philosophy… It is impossible to philosophize historically about these periods of historical life, because they are changeable and they are determined by every Church in relation to the circumstances in which the Church conducts its mission and nourishes its spiritual children.”
In concluding his address following the Liturgy, the Polish hierarch called for the protection of the Mother of God to be over all of her children.
In May, the Synod of the Polish Church stressed the need for repentance from the Ukrainian schismatics before admitting them back into the Church and for a pan-Orthodox discussion on the provision of autocephaly (neither of which happened); in late September, Met. Sawa personally renewed the call for Pat. Bartholomew to convene a pan-Orthodox council to resolve the Ukrainian crisis, as have many several Synods, primates, and hierarchs; on November 16, the Bishops’ Council of the Polish Church adopted a resolution by which Polish clergy are forbidden to have liturgical or prayerful communion with representatives of the schismatic “Kiev Patriarchate” or the schismatic “Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church”—the two groups that united into the new schismatic “Orthodox Church of Ukraine” on December 15; Met. Sawa wrote a personal letter of support to Met. Onuphry in mid-December following the scandalous “unification council,” which, in the eyes of Constantinople, removed Met. Onuphry as the canonical Metropolitan of Kiev; and finally, Met. Sawa specifically rejected Pat. Bartholomew's request that he recognize the new Ukrainian structure and commemorate its primate, “Metropolitan” Epiphany Dumenko, at the Divine Liturgy, saying that Pat. Bartholomew has acted uncanonically and that the Ukrainian schismatics have no grace of ordination.
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