New York, May 1, 2018
The Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR) has released a strongly worded and heartfelt statement in support of His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry and the other hierarchs, clergy, and faithful of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP), which is again under attack by Ukrainian politicians and nationalist-radicals.
The Permanent Conference of Ukrainian Orthodox Bishops Beyond the Borders of Ukraine has released its own statement, taking instead a position in favor of Ukrainian schismatics and politicians.
The ROCOR bishops plainly state the truth that the political machinations of Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, with the backing of the nation’s parliament and schismatic and non-canonical hierarchs, stand to further turn Ukrainians against one another with increased enmity, and to create further schisms in Ukrainian Orthodoxy. The president recently appealed to the His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to grant a tomos of autocephaly to a unified Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
There are currently two schismatic “Orthodox” jurisdictions operating in Ukraine—the “Kiev Patriarchate” and the “Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church,” which exist as supports for Ukrainian nationalism, fueled by anti-Russian sentiments.
“We … behold with pained soul that in the sacred territory of Kievan Rus’, our beloved land of Ukraine, treacherous political aspirations arise once again—as has happened before in history—under the guise of religious activities but with the evident purpose of inciting enmity and discord amongst the Orthodox people, with the intention of inciting a schism in the Church,” the bishops write to open their statement.
The Synod further notes that this latest attempt to create an autocephalous Ukrainian Church apart from the canonical Church that remains faithful to Christ and holy Orthodoxy is a mere political ploy, considering the fact that the canonical Ukrainian Church has already been self-governing since 1990. The November-December 2017 Russian Council of Bishops resolved to amend the constitution of the Russian Church to further reflect the reality of the Ukrainian Church’s autonomy.
As true pastors, the ROCOR hierarchs look for the abating of the sinful passions at play in Ukraine: “We pray to Almighty God that the passions and troubles stirred up by the efforts of those who are alien to the spirit and grace-filled order of the Church might vanish like smoke.”
They also emphasize their support for Met. Onuphry and all the canonical Ukrainian hierarchs, and “with love [they] bow before their confessor-like struggles.” They also note that changes to Church life cannot be dictated by secular authorities—a point also made by the Ukrainian Church itself and a segment of opposition deputies from the Ukrainian parliament, and many others.
His Eminence Metropolitan Ioanafan of Tulchinsk and Bratslavsk then sent a personal note of thanks to the ROCOR Holy Synod for taking a stand, stating “The clarity and specificity of the Statement by the Synod of Bishops reveals the anti-canonical scheme of the enemies of the Holy Church in Ukraine, and with words of Truth dismantles their wickedly treacherous, insidious and cunning distortions.”
In contrast, the Permanent Conference of Ukrainian Orthodox Bishops Beyond the Borders of Ukraine has released a statement of full support for Poroshenko’s encroachment into ecclesiastical affairs, reflecting the anti-Russian attitude that drives Ukrainian politicians and radicals to persecute the Orthodox Church of Christ.
The Ukrainian bishops write: “The Permanent Conference of Ukrainian Orthodox Bishops Beyond the Borders of Ukraine has written a strong letter of support for the actions being taken by His All-Holiness and the Holy Synod of Constantinople regarding the possible granting of a Tomos of Autocephaly to the Ukrainian Church.”
Ignoring the historical and brotherly ties of the Russian and Ukrainian peoples, the Ukrainian Conference of Bishops writes that the Church in Ukraine “has for 1030 years been the canonical territory of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, since 988 when our nation was baptized and confirmed into the Holy Orthodox Faith.”
Addressing the Ukrainian Church’s status as a canonical jurisdiction of the Russian Orthodox Church, the bishops write about their Russian brothers in Christ: “Not even under 332 years of non-canonical and often tortuous subjugation to a foreign Orthodox patriarchate could the faithful of Ukraine be convinced that they did not belong to the authority of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.”
The hierarchs of the Ukrainian Church in the USA have long had friendly relations with the anathematized Philaret. They received him in 2016 at their St. Sophia’s Seminary in South Bound Brook, New Jersey, discussing “the issue of the recognition of the Local Ukrainian Orthodox Church’s autocephaly by the Ecumenical Patriarchate… in the course of the warm and amicable conversation.”
The same two Ukrainian hierarchs visited the KP in Ukraine in 2015 as well, without the blessing of the local canonical hierarchs. The canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church subsequently called on the Ecumenical Patriarchate not to allow his hierarchs to interfere in Ukrainian Church matters and to make hierarchical visits without the blessing of the relevant ruling hierarchs.
On June 2, 2018, the Ukrainian Church in the USA is also celebrating a panikhida and holding a memorial luncheon for “Patriarch” Mystyslav (Skrypnyk), whom they identify as “the first Patriarch of the reborn Orthodox Church in Ukraine,” despite that he was never the patriarch of any canonical Church, instead being enthroned on November 6, 1991 as “patriarch” of the schismatic “Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church.”
For his part, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew received Poroshenko’s appeal, and the Holy Synod of Constantinople has announced that it will communicate with the other Local Orthodox Churches about the Ukrainian issue.
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