New York, August 26, 2019
The Archons, the Patriarchate of Constantinople’s Order of St. Andrew the Apostle, recently announced that the next recipient of their annual Athenagoras Human Rights Award will be “Metropolitan” Epiphany Dumenko, the primate of the schismatic “Orthodox Church of Ukraine” (OCU) that the Patriarchate of Constantinople created together with former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in December.
The Athenagoras Human Rights Award, named for the highly controversial Patriarch Athenagoras I of Constantinople, is awarded every year “to a person or organization that has consistently exemplified by action, purpose and dedication, concern for the basic rights and religious freedom of all people.”
Epiphany will thus join an interesting cast of characters.
The Archons’ statement notes that former recipients include a number of Church and political figures, including Archbishops Iakovos and Demetrios of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, Mother Theresa, Presidents Jimmy Carter and George H. W. Bush, Vice President Joseph Biden, former USSR head Mikhail Gorbachev, and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, among others.
The report does not mention, however, that in 2010, the award was given to Cardinal Theodore Edgar McCarrick of the Roman Catholic church. McCarrick served as a bishop from 1977 until he retired in 2006. He was known as an opponent of abortion and same-sex marriage, but has also been accused of many counts of engaging in sexual conduct with adult male seminarians over the course of decades. Accusations involving minors became known in June 2018, and McCarrick was laicized in February of this year.
McCarrick was also an honored guest and speaker at the 2007 Archon Grand Banquet. According to the Archons’ website, Patriarch Bartholomew led a prayer for the environment with Cardinal McCarrick during an environmental summit in Greenland in the summer of 2007.
The Archons’ website currently does not have any article about the banquet when McCarrick received the award.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo was given the award in 2016, despite being an open advocate of abortion and transgenderism, for facilitating the rebuilding of the Greek Archdiocese’s St. Nicholas Church that was destroyed on 9/11. Earlier this year, Cuomo proudly signed a bill expanding and solidifying “abortion rights” in New York, blasting the Catholic church and other institutions and individuals who stand for the human rights of babies.
Ex-Cardinal McCarrick has also been a supporter of the Patriarchate of Constantinople. In 2005, McCarrick testified before the U.S. Helsinki Commission where he recalled appealing to the U.S. government to urge the reopening of Halki Seminary in Turkey, which he called the “West Point of Orthodox seminaries.” McCarrick was then included in a list of supporters who have “raised their voices to support the rights of the Ecumenical Patriarch in Istanbul, Turkey,” after a bill regarding the Patriarchate’s situation in Turkey passed through the House International Relations Committee.
Epiphany Dumenko’s qualifications
Thus, while the award is officially for those who have a “concern for the basic rights and religious freedom of all people,” the focus is often on what the person has done for the Patriarchate of Constantinople.
According to Archbishop Elpidophoros, Epiphany Dumenko is also receiving the award for his support of the Patriarchate: “His Beatitude Metropolitan Epiphanios has been a staunch defender of the religious freedom of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, even as its prerogatives have been challenged and even rejected outright by some, and as it has been placed under tremendous pressure from others.”
The Greek Archbishop also praised Dumenko for his work in Ukraine: “In Ukraine he has already provided the Solomon-like wisdom that was needed to reunify the Church, return to Eucharistic unity, and establish it as an integral member of the group of autocephalous Orthodox Churches worldwide.”
Unfortunately, however, Orthodoxy in Ukraine remains deeply divided, with the majority of Orthodox Ukrainians remaining faithful to the canonical Church headed by His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev and All Ukraine. The canonical Church under Met. Onuphry and the OCU under Dumenko do not, in fact, enjoy Eucharistic unity, and the OCU cannot be said to be an “integral member” of the autocephalous Churches, as only one of the world’s 15 Local Orthodox Churches recognizes its existence, let alone its autocephaly.
National Archon Commander Dr. Anthony J. Limberakis also focused on Dumenko’s stance towards Constantinople, noting that he called Patriarch Bartholomew after his election as primate of the OCU to ask his blessing on his ministry. “This epitomized His Beatitude’s understanding of the canonical position of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in the Church, and his deep respect and love for His All-Holiness,” Limberakis said.
The choice to bestow a human rights award upon Epiphany Dumenko is also curious in that his OCU openly cooperates with radical nationalists and terrorist groups in Ukraine. With the help of such supporters, the OCU has grown in the months since it received a tomos of autocephaly from Ukraine mainly through the violent seizure of church buildings and/or their illegal reregistration in the state records.
Moreover, Dumenko has openly declared that he is a proud follower of Stepan Bandera, who he considers a “genius, creating the Ukrainian nation and spirit.”
Bandera was the head of a militant wing of the Ukrainian independence movement and a leader of the terrorist activity of Ukrainian nationalists. He is widely venerated in Ukraine today, with statues and museums in his honor all throughout the country, though he is also widely considered to have been a Nazi collaborationist and war criminal, responsible for multiple genocides. The Ukrainian Parliament recently voted to make his birthday a national holiday.
The OCU is known to have been created by the Ukrainian state and the Patriarchate of Constantinople in a spirit of Russophobia and the same Ukrainian nationalism that fueled Bandera’s activities.
In June, Epiphany awarded Radical Party Parliamentarian Oleg Lyashko for his work “for the good of the Orthodox Church in Ukraine.” In 2014, Lyashko claimed responsibility for the “battalion” that stormed a government building in Torez and killed one pro-Russian separatist and critically wounded another. Both Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have condemned this group and Amnesty pointed to Lyashko as a “particularly errant Deputy.”
Epiphany also met with several nationalist leaders in June, including from the Svoboda (Freedom) terrorist organization, who pledged their support for him and the OCU.
On August 21, Dumenko, along with the Svyatoslav Shevchuk, the head of the Ukrainian Uniate church, consecrated a memorial to the heroes of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalist-Ukrainian Insurgent Army at a Jewish cemetery in Sambir. While the event occurred at a Jewish cemetery, in the presence of a Rabbi, it caused quite an outcry from the Jewish community.
“The monument is dedicated to the people who in July 1941 organized a Jewish pogrom in Sambir, during which about 100 people were killed. Then these people, in the ranks of the Ukrainian auxiliary police, participated in the mass murder of 1,200 Jews of Sambir, who were buried in this very cemetery,” wrote Edward Dolinsky, the Director of the Ukrainian Jewish Committee.
Of course, Epiphany is not alone in the OCU in terms of his cozy relations with nationalists, radicals, and even terrorists. Various “clergymen” of his “church” are known to openly glorify Nazis.
On July 28, “Priest” Vasily Sagan served the reburial of 29 members of the Nazi SS Galicia division, which fought with Hitler in WW2. These soldiers, Sagan is sure, are among the saints.
Earlier, on October 12 of last year, the day after he was given the stamp of approval by the Patriarchate of Constantinople and received as a bishop despite having been canonically deposed and anathematized in the 1990s, “Patriarch” Philaret Denisenko blessed a nationalist “icon” full of Nazi symbolism.
Pat. Bartholomew himself has been known to award such people, such as “Father” Alexander Dedyukhin, who believes the only way to “forgive” an enemy is to kill him and who thanked God for the tragic death of Russians in a 2017 subway bombing. Other “clergy” received by Constantinople, such as Hieromonk” Bogdan Kostyuk, openly support Hitler and disseminate his speeches.
An affront to the canonical Ukrainian Church
Of course, to give such an award to Epiphany Dumenko is nothing short of a slap in the face to the long-suffering canonical Ukrainian Church under Met. Onuphry. The Patriarchate of Constantinople recognized this Church as the only canonical Church of Ukraine until last year, when it decided to recognize the schismatics instead, and to begin acting as if the UOC does not exist. Hundreds of its churches and people have been attacked, but Constantinople has remained silent.
Archpriest Nikolai Danilevich, the Deputy Head of the canonical Ukrainian Church’s Department for External Church Relations responded: “Members and supporters of the religious organization, which is headed by this man, created about 500 conflict points throughout Ukraine, where religious freedoms were violated. Rewarding this person with the phrase ‘for caring about religious freedoms’ is the same as rewarding a pike for caring about the rights of carps.”
Fr. Alipiy Svetlichny of Kiev writes: “It look quite demonic! Especially against the background of the continuing seizure of churches and property of the Orthodox Church on the Ukrainian land; against the background of brazen outrage and violence against people, against the freedom of conscience and religious rights!”
“After all, all this lawlessness and abuse is happening under his command!” Fr. Alipiy emphasizes.
Epiphany Dumenko will travel to New York to receive the award on October 19.