It is Unacceptable to Have Eucharistic Communion with Unordained Schismatics

Commentary on the Ukrainian Issue for the Cypriot Holy Synod

The Holy Synod of the Church of Cyprus issued a very diplomatic statement on the Ukrainian issue yesterday, though it was not signed by every bishop on the Synod. Without directly placing any blame, the statement is hard on the Russian Church while not criticizing any of the actions of the Patriarchate of Constantinople. Nevertheless, the Cypriot Synod did not recognize the so-called “Orthodox Church of Ukraine” as a legitimate church and has not entered into Eucharistic communion with them.

A translation of the Synodal statement is available on Orthodox Synaxis.

After the Synod’s statement was released, a personal statement from His Eminence Metropolitan Nikiforos of Kykkos was published on the Greek site Romfea, which speaks much more directly about the errors of the Patriarchate of Constantinople’s actions in Ukraine and the impossibility of having communion with the Ukrainian schismatics.

Photo: alphanews.live Photo: alphanews.live
    

From the moment that the question of the autocephaly of the Ukrainian Church first arose, we have openly spoken in its favor. In communication with various people—both Church and secular—I have insisted that, in essence, the practice that a politically independent country has its own autocephalous Church prevails in Orthodoxy today.

However, I had hoped that this—certainly desirable—autocephalous Orthodox Ukrainian Church would be established not in haste and in a rush, but gradually, with great attention and in agreement with Orthodox tradition, the sacred canons, and generally the totality of the Church-canonical law of our holy Orthodox Church.

Unfortunately, the entire process of proclaiming and recognizing the autocephaly of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church did not proceed by the democratic Orthodox conciliar process; it was not democratic and conciliar sentiments and tendencies that triumphed in it, but, as sad as it is to admit, authoritarian and autocratic.

Although His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople acknowledged and confirmed by his letter more than twenty years ago the deposition and excommunication of Metropolitan Philaret and his followers as schismatics from the Russian Orthodox Church and in general from the Body of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church; although three years ago, at the Synaxis of Primates in 2016, as His Beatitude Patriarch Kirill of Moscow reports in his open letter, the Patriarch of Constantinople promised that he wouldn’t do this, that he wouldn’t unilaterally grant autocephalous status to the Ukrainian Church and especially to schismatics—despite all of this, he completely without any reason began the process of granting autocephaly to the above-mentioned church. Moreover, what’s even sadder, after twenty years, and his own written agreement with the reprisals imposed on Philaret notwithstanding, he nevertheless restored the above-mentioned condemned person, contradicting himself and restoring those deposed and condemned by the Russian Orthodox Church.

In my humble opinion, this action is anti-canonical from the point of view of the sacred canons, which say that any reproach, deposition, and excommunication can be removed only by that body which imposed it and only under the condition of the repentance of those condemned. Therefore, only the Orthodox Moscow Patriarchate had the right to restore Philaret and the canonical jurisdiction to return him to the bosom of the Orthodox Church.

The biggest mistake made by the Ecumenical Patriarch, from my humble point of view, is the contemptuous disregard for Metropolitan Onuphry, the Metropolitan of the only Ukrainian Orthodox Church having general canonical recognition, and also the recognition, instead of him, of Epiphany, having no canonical ordination, as Metropolitan of Kiev and All Ukraine, and also the handing of a tomos of autocephaly to him while concelebrating with him.

Most blessed and most holy brothers!

I can draw only one conclusion. Sadly enough, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew’s granting of autocephalous status to the schismatic community of Philaret and Epiphany not only did not heal the existing schism in Ukraine, but on the contrary, aggravated it. Now, after the granting of the tomos, we see a tragic reality: In Ukraine there exists a canonical Church under Metropolitan Onuphry and a schismatic community under the leadership of the defrocked Philaret and Epiphany. Obviously, there is a danger that after three years of military confrontation, the Ukrainian people will now be divided by a religious confrontation. Even greater is another danger: The unhealed Ukrainian schism could affect, as many have already said, the entire Body of universal Orthodoxy, with which, alas, it proved to be connected.

Thus, I believe that we, the Holy Synod of the Cypriot Church, cannot recognize the schismatic Epiphany, having no canonical ordination, as the canonical Metropolitan of Kiev and All Ukraine. It is even more unacceptable for us to have Eucharistic communion with unordained schismatics.

Thus, my humble proposals are as follows:

1. Our Holy Synod should not side with either the Moscow Patriarch or the Ecumenical, so as not to damage the mediation efforts of the Church of Cyprus to achieve a canonical solution to the problem.

I also express the fear that the worst would happen—that the Slavic Churches would side with the Moscow Patriarchate and the Greeks with the Ecumenical Patriarchate. That would make it a long-lasting schism (to the great joy of the enemies of universal Orthodox).

2. Our Holy Synod should support the proposal of His Beatitude Patriarch John of Antioch to soon convene a pan-Orthodox council or (if it is difficult or even impossible) a Synaxis of the primates, where the Ukrainian issue can be discussed and a canonical resolution will be found in agreement with the sacred canons and Tradition of the Orthodox Church.

3. I believe that the Cypriot Church, having received autocephaly at the Third Ecumenical Council, endowed with authority and crowned with the light of the Eastern Church, can and should play a decisive mediating role in the implementation of the above proposals and the resolution of the problem situation.

Metropolitan Nikiforos of Kykkos
Translated by Jesse Dominick

VK.com

2/20/2019

See also
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It kind of makes sense now why Constantinople did it and why they wouldn’t listen to any pleas from other Churches not to do it. It was a low-hanging fruit, so “pleasing to the eye” and so easy for picking.
Comments
Panayotis3/9/2019 10:45 pm
Constantinople, together with the Patriarchates of Romania, Antioch and Alexandria have dialogued with the NCs and issued (ambitious, shall we say) joint statements and proposals but the two sides have reached an impasse due to their Christological differences.
Panayotis3/9/2019 10:41 pm
It’s simply not the the case that the EP has entered into communion with the non-Chalcedonians. The anathemas against the heretics Dioscoros and Severus have not even been lifted, so how could there be communion? But don’t take my word for it, search through your own site and see if you can find evidence of official communion.
Editor3/8/2019 11:35 am
Panayotis, you are saying that the Patriarchate of Constantinople is being singled out, but in fact they singled themselves out. A book review is not an official entrance into communion with Monophysites, and the other patriarchate (which you didn't name) is cited as "threatening" to do so in a encyclical. First of all, the word "threatening" sounds very strange in matters of ecclesiology, like a punishment--but for what? But mainly you are ignoring the fact that the Constantinople Patriarchate took action and, without consulting any other Churches, up and unilaterally entered officially into communion. And they act as though this is what everyone is supposed to do. This is a problem.
Panayotis3/7/2019 5:25 pm
Right on the very website of the Department for External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate there is a review of a book written by Metropolitan Hilarion that raises questions as to the nature and necessity of our divisions with the Nestorians and non-Chalcedonians. The review concludes that the book places a “gentle question mark...over some of our certainties” concerning Orthodox ecclesiology.

Furthermore, another Patriarchate had threatened in the past in one of its encyclicals that it would proceed into a union with the non-Chalcedonians that would be binding for the entire Church.

So to single out the Patriarchate of Constantinople would be unfair and even slanderous.
Editor3/6/2019 10:48 am
Pospsy: Thank you, we weren't aware of that detail. I suppose we are speaking in general terms--the fullness of Orthodoxy has not accepted communion with the Copts. Of course everyone would like very much to be in brotherly communion with them, because they are close to us in spirit and have not caused us such trouble as have, for example, Roman Catholics. But of course we can't accept the monophysite heresy.
Popsy3/5/2019 12:16 pm
Editor,
Sadly, I have to correct you on the affirmation that "the other churches don't accept".
As far as I know, the Romanian Orthodox Church, in 1994, ratified an agreement with the Orthodox Oriental "Churches" that would prepare the way to full communion. It looks like the Oriental "Churches" were not very happy with the terms and I have no idea what happened next.
However, I just wanted to highlight the fact that Constantinople is not the only see with ecumenical tendencies and desires.
On the same note, The Romanian Orthodox delegation at the Kolimbary "Synod" (Crete)is the only patriarchal delegation that signed 100% in favor of all the decisions on all the documents presented to them.
Editor2/21/2019 7:50 pm
Gary Cox: Being in communion with the Copts was also an ecumenical project by Constantinople, which the other Churches don't accept. However, Copts can more easily be received (individually) into the Orthodox Church because they are closer to us in many ways. But they have to renounce the heresy of Monophysitism first.
Popsy2/21/2019 1:41 pm
@Gary Cox,

As far as I know, the Coptics have always been and remain heretics as monophysites / monothelites / miaphysites. If "some people" in the Church have come to the conclusion that the Coptics share the same faith as us, they're -most probably- ecumenists.

As a general comment, I'm wondering how long before the bishops of our Church will rise (will they ever?) and defrock patriarch Bartholomew for the infinite number of times when he ignored the Holy Canons established by the Holy Fathers of our Church? Or we'll be waiting for him to die, as was done with some of his predecessors (Meletius Metaxakis, Athenagoras I)?

May God help us!
R-monk Anthony2/20/2019 5:12 pm
Anthony,

Met. Onufry heads an AUTONOMOUS church, but NOT an autocephalous one. So the Cypriot Bishop is correct saying he thinks it's generally good principle to have an autocephalous Church as there currently is not one. The funny part is moreso how the autonomous Church headed by Met. Onufry has MORE freedoms and rights than most of the new autocephalous Churches granted by the EP (and way more than the schismatic group under Epiphany).
anthony2/20/2019 3:24 pm
"From the moment that the question of the autocephaly of the Ukrainian Church first arose, we have openly spoken in its favor." Mister Bishop! I greet you! Since when is it your/our business to interfere in the affairs of another local Church. Ukraine already has an autocephalous church under Mitr. Onuphry so what else is it that you were expecting??? What you support Mister Bishop has now come to pass through Patrik I Bartolomeos. You are therefore either konfused or lacking in knowledge about the Ukraine or speaking with double standards. We have enough troubles in our own country Mr Bishop. Lets not interfere in others.
Gary Cox2/20/2019 2:30 pm
Are we near the end times with a general falling away from the Church? Will our Patriarchs give in to Turk bart and corrupt the faithful? I pray to God that he give our Patriarchs the strength to hold to the truth. It's not easy on them or us. We all want Church unity but not at the expense of truth in unity. If I understand it right ( and I need to check further into it ) the Church has came to the conclusion that the Coptic Church shares the same faith as us and have valid sacraments. IF so and IF our Church falls away from the true faith then there may be a mass exodus to the Coptic Church. Again, may God help us all.
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