Africa, December 26, 2019
Last week, an open letter from 27 African Orthodox priests from Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia was published in which the signatories express their disagreement with their Patriarch’s decision to recognize the schismatic “Orthodox Church of Ukraine” and to commemorate its primate, Epiphany Dumenko.
The priests also note that the decision to recognize the schismatics was made without consulting the African clergy and laity, although they make up the majority of the Church.
The clerics write with respect and restraint: “We would like to express our opinion and say that we do not agree with the above decision. We respect our Patriarch and obey our bishops, but, just as many priests and even bishops in the Church of Greece expressed their disagreement with a similar decision on the recognition of Ukrainian schismatics, we believe that we have no less of a right to express our opinion.”
The day after the letter was published, OrthoChristian was informed by Fr. George Maximov, a missionary priest who is in contact with several African priests, that the priests were already facing threats of sanctions from their hierarchs, including the cutting off of their salaries, suspension in their priestly ministries, and excommunication.
A few days later, OrthoChristian was informed by one of the signatories that they were already suspended from serving. However, this priest, and others on social media, have stated that they will continue to stand with the canonical Church in Ukraine despite any threats or punishments.
In a video published on Tuesday, December 24, Fr. George specifies that the Greek hierarchs Metropolitan Makarios of Kenya, Metropolitan Dimitrios of Irinoupolis (Tanzania), and Metropolitan Agathonikos of Arusha and Central Tanzania immediately began to move against their priests who signed the open letter, demanding that they sign a statement in support of the “Orthodox Church of Ukraine.”
“When they refused, they were suspended from serving and threatened with defrocking,” Fr. George reports.
Fr. George also notes that just last summer, Met. Dimitrios of Irinoupolis traveled to Kiev in honor of the 1,030th anniversary of the Baptism of Rus’, where he expressed support for the canonical Ukrainian Church and its primate His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev and All Ukraine. Patriarch Theodoros of Alexandria also voiced his strong support for the canonical Ukrainian Church last year.
Further, Fr. George states that, as far as he knows, there have been no sanctions or threats from His Eminence Archbishop Jonah of Kampala (Uganda), one of the few African hierarchs of the Alexandrian Patriarchate, against his priests who signed the open letter.
In a Telegram post from December 19, Fr. George noted that many priests in the Greek Orthodox Church offered much stronger disagreement and criticism of the recognition of the Ukrainian schismatics but have faced no sanctions.
And the fact that African priests are being thrown out of the Church for a very soft and polite letter really shows the double standards of the Greek bishops, who treat their African clerics as second-class people. Of course, these defrockings are not canonical, because these fathers did not do anything with their letter for which they should be defrocked. They did not stop commemorating Patriarch Theodoros, they did not refuse to obey their bishops; they just expressed their personal opinion. But, according to the Greek bishops, the Africans do not even have the right to do this.