Warsaw, September 24, 2018
The primates of the Alexandrian and Polish Orthodox Churches have released a joint statement, calling for the relevant authorities to do whatever necessary to ensure peace in Ukraine over the issue of the possibility of creating a united autocephalous Church, reports Romfea.
His Beatitude Patriarch Theodoros II of Alexandria and All Africa arrived in Warsaw on September 19 for a 5-day visit.
It was expected that the primates would address the Ukrainian issue as both Pat. Theodoros and the Polish Holy Synod have already been vocal about the ecclesiastical conflict there.
Their appeal has been published in Polish, Greek, and English. The full text of their appeal reads:
We, the Heads of two Local Churches - who meet on the Polish territory and are conscious of the responsibility for the life of the Holy Orthodoxy in the contemporary world, its peace, unity, and maintaining the dogmatic and canonical order, facing the experience that the Orthodoxy in Ukraine lives nowadays - in the spirit of brotherly love, we appeal to all on whom depends the elimination of the church misunderstandings regarding the acquisition of autocephaly by the Ukrainian Church; please, do whatever is within your might to stave off the conflict concerning the question in order to install the church order on the Ukrainian territory.
Celebrating the Divine Liturgy on the feast of the Nativity of the Most Holy Virgin Mary we pray for the unity and peace of the Ukrainian nation. At the same time we send our brotherly greetings to the Heads of the Local Orthodox Churches and the whole plenitude of the Holy Orthodoxy.
+Pope and Patriarch Theodore II
Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa
Orthodox Metropolitan of Poland and All Poland
Warsaw - Bielsk Podlaski, 21.09.2018
Unfortunately, various Ukrainian media outlets have misrepresented the primates’ statement as support for the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s plans to create an autocephalous Church in Ukraine, which is the canonical territory of the Moscow Patriarchate.
“I would like to emphasize that the primates … call ‘to stave off the conflict concerning [this] question,’ and not, as some Ukrainian media are trying to reinterpret, ‘to establish peace in Ukraine through autocephaly,” commented Fr. Nikolai Danilevich, the deputy head of the Ukrainian Church’s Department for External Church Relations, on his Facebook page.
Fr. Nikolai continued, “Such texts, as this statement from the two Primates, give no recommendations, make no assessments, there is no condemnation or support of any party, and this is understandable. They only note the presence of the problem and the fact that it should be solved with the aim ‘to stave off the conflict concerning the question.’ This is a call to solve the problem. The conflict is brewing, and it must be resolved. You could say that their appeal is a response to Russian Orthodox Church’s call to move the discussion of this question to the general Orthodox level.”
Although, as Fr. Nikolai notes, this recent statement from the Alexandrian and Polish primates takes a neutral stance on the question of autocephaly, the Alexandrian and Polish Churches have made their opinions known in the past.
In early July, Pat. Theodoros conveyed his view to His Eminence Metropolitan Luke of Zaporozhye and Melitopol as the two concelebrated in the Greek city of Veria: “Let us pray to God, Who does all for our good, that He would instruct us all for a solution to these problems. If the schismatic Denisenko wants to return to the bosom of the Church, then he must turn to where he left from. That which has fallen away must return to where it fell from. God is merciful to those who repent, and the Church forgives and receives in its motherly embrace all who repent.”
The patriarch then referred to the Ukrainian politicians, headed by President Petro Poroshenko, who are trying to get a tomos of autocephaly from the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Constantinople, saying modern politicians are more likely to harm the Church than to help it.
The Alexandrian primate expressed his support for the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church again later in July, during the celebrations for the Baptism of Rus’: “The Church should be governed according to the sacred canons. Politicians have their own ideas, instructions, and orders, but politicians come and go; the Church has been unshakable for 2,000 years. In this sense, the Patriarchate of Alexandria agrees with the view of the Russian Church that political pressure should not be allowed. When States are divided, and then the Church—this is wrong.”
The Holy Synod of the Polish Orthodox Church expressed its view in May:
We express the clear position of the Polish Orthodox Church, namely that the ecclesiastical life of the canonical Orthodox Church should be based on the principles of dogma and the holy canons of the Orthodox Church. Violation of this principle leads to chaos in the life of the Church.
There are certain schismatic groups in Ukraine which must first repent and return to the canonical Church. Only then can we discuss the issue of providing autocephaly… We must not be led by the political climate in questions of dogma and the canons.
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