Romania and Bulgaria, December 2, 2019
Faithful from the Rivne and Sarna Dioceses of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, including parishioners persecuted by the church seizures of activists of the schismatic “Orthodox Church of Ukraine,” headed by His Grace Bishop Pimen of Dubna, vicar of the Rivne Diocese, began a 5-day pilgrimage to the holy sites of Romania and Bulgaria on November 24.
As previously reported, the pilgrims were warmly received by Metropolitan Theophan (Savu) of Iași and Moldova and Bukhovina in Romania, who assured them of his support for the canonical Ukrainian Church headed by His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev and All Ukraine.
As they continued their trip, the pilgrims had the opportunity to visit many holy sites and to meet with other hierarchs of both the Romanian and Bulgarian Churches who also expressed their support for the canonical Church. The Ukrainian delegation also had the opportunity to tell the hierarchs about the violent clashes in Ukraine caused by the nationalist-schismatic activists, reports the Union of Orthodox Journalists.
On November 27, the pilgrims were received by the Patriarchal vicar, Secretary of the Holy Synod, and Chairman of the Romanian Church’s Department for External Church Relations His Grace Bishop Varlaam, who showed great interest in the situation in Ukraine, especially talking for a long time with those who were eyewitnesses to violent church seizures.
He also expressed his regret for how the issue is developing in the Church. “We know your problem. Undoubtedly, the OCU is a big political act, and it is sad that it was confirmed by some Church people. The echo of trouble was felt in Romania. We also have problems,” he said, noting that “Patriarch” Philaret Denisenko at one time sent pseudo-priests into Romania.
“We welcome the position of the Albanian and Jerusalem Churches. The Romanian Church supports it and believes that the current problem of Ukraine should have been solved at the pan-Orthodox level even before the provision of the tomos. We pray that the Lord will give you courage and patience to defend the Church,” Bp. Varlaam said.
Both His Beatitude Patriarch Theophilos of Jerusalem and His Beatitude Archbishop Anastasios of Albania have recently spoken of the need for a pan-Orthodox council as soon as possible. Pat. Theophilos even invited his brother primates to convene in Jordan to find a solution to the problem of Church unity, but Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens immediately announced that he would boycott such a council.
The next day, the pilgrims met with the abbot of St. John of Rila Monastery in Rila, Bulgaria, His Grace Bishop Evlogy, who warmly welcomed them and promised his prayerful support.
Pilgrims from the Rivne Province also visited the Veliko Tarnovo Diocese of the Bulgarian Church, where they were met by His Grace Bishop Gregory, who, according to the Ukrainian faithful, was shocked to hear stories of the extreme actions of OCU activists who attack clergy and old women and violently seize churches.
“We pray for our Orthodox brothers in Ukraine. I know what such a schism is like; we also experienced this; it is the work of the devil. I do not know any other Church than that headed by Metropolitan Onuphry. Stand with your primate and his priests,” Bp. Gregory encouraged the suffering Ukrainian faithful.
Also on November 28, the feast of the St. Paisius Velichkovsky, a delegation from the Romanian Church, headed by Archimandrite Benedict, abbot of Neamț Monastery, where the great saint served as abbot, concelebrated at the Divine Liturgy in Poltava, Ukraine, the birthplace of the saint.