Kiev, April 19, 2018
President Petro Poroshenko is again actively championing the cause of an autocephalous Ukrainian Orthodox Church, beseeching His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople to bless its creation, report The Union of Orthodox Journalists.
Poroshenko believes that Ukraine is closer than ever to getting a canonical autocephalous Church. Ukrainian presidents, including Poroshenko, politicians, and schismatic clergymen have repeatedly looked to Constantinople to legitimize their unrecognized bodies.
The head of state has drafted an official plea to the Ecumenical Patriarchate, with the united support of Ukraine’s two competing schismatic bodies, the “Kiev Patriarchate” and the “Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church.” He also asked the Ukrainian parliament to support the petition, although the Ukrainian constitution calls for a separation of Church and state.
The Verkhovna Rada voted today to support the president’s appeal.
“Ukraine, as an independent state not only has the right, but is simply obliged to create this Church. As President, I made a decision to appeal to the Ecumenical Patriarch with a request to provide a tomos to the local Ukrainian Autocephalous Church, and I would ask you, my colleagues, to support this appeal, and to do so as soon as possible,” Poroshenko said a Tuesday meeting with parliament faction heads before the vote.
He also expressed his hope that a decision would be made before the 1,030th anniversary of the Baptism of Rus’ on July 28. He intends to send the appeal to the Ecumenical Patriarch following the Verkhovna Rada’s decision.
The president’s letter has been published in Ukrainian media, the text of which reads:
The President of Ukraine to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew on the granting of a tomos of autocephaly for the Orthodox Church in Ukraine
Christ is Risen!
I am appealing to Your Holiness, the Ecumenical Patriarch and leader of the Orthodox world.
As the head of state of Ukraine, representing its citizens, including those who belong to the Ukrainian Orthodox community, who, thanks to the Baptism, received from the Mother Church of Constantinople 1,030 years ago, confess the Orthodox Christian faith, I entreat you to grant a tomos of autocephaly for the Orthodox Church in Ukraine.
This long-awaited document will become not only a triumph of Orthodoxy, but also an act of deep historical justice, because it was precisely from Constantinople that the light of the Christian faith was shed upon our blessed land.
This document will elevate the authority of the Ecumenical Patriarch among Ukrainians to new heights.
You, Your Holiness, are the only person in the world who has the canonical right legitimate authority to resolve such matters.
Our entire nation looks to you with reverence and hope, because it is precisely within your power to grant us the unity, peace, and harmony that we are so in need of, and which we have been deprived of for so long.
Your blessing, as well as a gramota granted to our Ukrainian Church would complete the confirmation of the independence and autonomy of Ukraine in the spiritual dimension.
And again, as before, we are grateful to our Mother Church and to you personally, Your Holiness.
I hope and believe that you, a wise and just shepherd, will not refuse this blessing and long-awaited benevolence to your spiritual children, the Ukrainians, faithful to our Mother Church.
And I personally remain fully of deep respect for you personally, and of fidelity to Orthodoxy and devotion to the Mother Church.
President of Ukraine
At his meeting with parliamentary leaders, Poroshenko also showed the signatures of the diocesan bishops of the “Kiev Patriarchate” and the “Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church” agreeing to the creation of a united Ukrainian Church, telling the legislators that he believed the agreement of the hierarchy was a necessary precondition for autocephaly to be granted to the Ukrainian Church. He did not produce the signatures of any bishops from the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church that the entire Orthodox world recognizes.
Poroshenko’s appeal comes on the heels of his latest visit to the Phanar, where he personally spoke to the Patriarch about the issue. The matter has become complicated, as some media is reporting that the Ecumenical Patriarch has given his support to the idea, despite the fact that he has refrained from formally giving it his blessing in the past.
Moreover, certain parliamentary factions have already announced that they will not support the president’s appeal, which is set to be discussed in the Ukrainian parliament today. Yuti Boiko, the “Opposition Bloc” Chairman, considers the president’s actions to be interference in Church affairs. For his part, Deputy Prime Minister Pavel Rozenko has stated that only “pro-Moscow agents” would object to the state stepping into ecclesiastical affairs. “Opposition Bloc” Deputy Vadim Novinsky believes the move is merely a means for Poroshenko to shore up support a year before the next elections—an analysis with which political scientists agree. He also does not believe that His All Holiness will support Poroshenko’s initiative.
Conversely, People’s Deputy Viktor Yelensky has stated his certainty that the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate will solve the “Ukrainian issue.”
Archbishop Job (Getcha) of Telmessos of the Ecumenical Patriarchate has earlier made clear: “Constantinople cannot grant autocephaly. It should be added that in order to grant autocephaly, there must be consent and appeals from the Church from which some part wants to receive autocephaly.”
In other words, the hierarch continued, “If Ukraine wants to receive autocephaly, Constantinople cannot provide it by itself; it is necessary that there be an appeal from the Russian Orthodox Church, since Ukraine is currently in its bosom.”
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