Kiev, May 23, 2019
“We managed to unite three branches of Ukrainian Orthodoxy into one Local Orthodox church,” Epiphany Dumenko boldly declared on December 15 following the creation of the “Orthodox Church of Ukraine” (OCU) at the Constantinople-led “unification council” and his own election as primate of the new structure. Former President Poroshenko declared the same.
Such statements were fantastic from the start, and have only proven moreso over time. Only 2 of the then-90 hierarchs of the canonical Ukrainian Church attended the “council” and can in no way be said to make up a third branch. Moreover, it was later revealed that the two defectors, Simeon Shostatsky and Alexander Drabinko, had in fact been received into the Patriarchate of Constantinople on the eve of the “council” and thus can in no way be said to even have represented the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
Since the creation of the OCU, Philaret Denisenko has continually declared his “Kiev Patriarchate” (KP) jurisdiction still exists, and the Ministry of Justice recently confirmed that it does indeed still legally exist.
Whereas before the “unification council” there were the schismatic KP and the schismatic “Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church” (UAOC), now there are instead the OCU and the KP.
And, according to Makary Maletich, the head of the UAOC, in a new interview with Apostrophe, the UAOC still exists, and will continue to do so until Philaret dissolves the KP.
Thus, while Epiphany and Poroshenko declared that three became one, in fact, three became four: the canonical Church and three schismatic jurisdictions.
“Some government officials spoke incorrectly when they publicly declared that the Kiev Patriarchate was liquidated,” Maletich said, explaining that Philaret submitted only copies of documents, not the necessary originals in order to liquidate the KP. “When I was asked to hand over the documents for liquidation, I replied that until I see the originals from the other side, I will not turn in mine.”
He also stressed that he firmly believes in the OCU and will continue to “do everything for the unity and development of the Church.” Denisenko, whose personal ambitions threaten to tear apart the OCU, made the same assurance to Metropolitan Emmanuel of the Patriarchate of Constantinople yesterday.
Further, Makary explained that he had foreseen such difficulties, as had most external observers, and therefore refused to be awarded the Order of Yaroslav the Wise together with Denisenko by Poroshenko in January. The same month he also refused to accept the title of honorary citizen of Lvov together with Denisenko.
He repeatedly voiced his doubts about the prospects of unifying in the run-up to the “unification council,” precisely because of the self-interested Philaret Denisekno.
Had Poroshenko asked his advice, Makary says, he would have advised the former president not to bestow the title of “Hero of Ukraine” upon Philaret Denisenko until he submitted the original documents for the dissolution of the KP.
In his opinion, the Synod of the OCU needs to respond to Philaret’s dissension in some way or, rather, to appeal to Constantinople solve the issue (as stipulated by the OCU’s tomos of autocephaly), to avoid the further humiliation of the OCU, which is unrecognized in the Orthodox world. Otherwise, if Philaret is allowed to continue in the same spirit as now, there will be a real threat of losing the tomos of autocephaly.
Maletich said that Philaret can fantasize all he wants about being the Patriarch of Ukraine, but there will be no patriarchate in reality until the majority of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church [the canonical Church—O.C.] joins the OCU. “I think then that both the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Local Churches (except Moscow, of course) will not object to it,” he said.
Otherwise, if the current mess continues, with certain politicians supporting Philaret and the primate Epiphany Dumenko remaining passive, there will be a real chance that the tomos of autocephaly will be rescinded by Constantinople, Maletich believes.
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