“Kiev Patriarchate” outmaneuvers Constantinople at “unification council”

Kiev, December 16, 2018

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Yesterday’s “unification council” in Kiev, put on by the Patriarchate of Constantinople to create an autocephalous nationalist church in Ukraine, was delayed by several hours, which led to speculation that the gathered hierarchs were waiting for Patriarch Bartholomew himself to arrive.

Though this turned out to not be the case, the gathering was delayed because it was already clear beforehand that it was not going to go the way Constantinople intended, Orthodoxie reports with reference to its correspondent in Kiev.

“From our correspondent in Kyiv, we learned that the opening of the council had been delayed, because of major problems. President Poroshenko had promised Patriarch Bartholomew that 10 to 15 bishops of the canonical Ukrainian Church would participate,” however, as OrthoChristian reported yesterday, only two—Metropolitan Simeon of Vinnitsa and Metropolitan Alexander of Pereyaslav-Khmelnitsky—actually showed up.

The “Kiev Patriarchate” was represented by 40 “bishops” and the “Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church” by 12, thus making the canonical Church’s representation negligible.

Orthodoxie continues: “The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) took 10 to 12 bishops of the Canonical Church to Kyiv and forced them to sign letters, in which they would give their votes to Metropolitan Simeon. The latter brought these letters to the council, but that did not please the representatives of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, who demanded that the bishops of the Canonical Church come in person.”

The Ukrianian site Strana.ua reports that 15 bishops were forced to sign their vote over to Met. Simeon.

OrthoChristain reported on Friday about His Eminence Metropolitan Agapit of Mogilev-Podolsky and Shargorod who was taken to Kiev under false pretenses by the Security Service of Ukraine to force him to participate in the “council.” With the help of the People’s Deputies Andrei Derkach and Vadim Novinsky, Met. Agapit was able to get to safety in the Kiev Caves Lavra.

The Union of Orthodox Journalists also reported yesterday morning about the attempt to force His Eminence Metropolitan Bartholomew of Rivne and Ostrog to attend the “council.”

The hierarch, suffering from serious health problems, was at Kiev’s Boryspil Airport to travel abroad for planned treatment when employees of the border service detained him, wondering why he would leave at “such an important time for the creation of a Local Church.” The border guards pressured Met. Bartholomew for a long time to go to the “council,” but he stood firm, and they released him only 20 minutes before his plane was to take off.

Orthodoxie also reports that, at Constantinople’s “request,” President Poroshenko tried to pressure those gathered at the “council” to vote for Met. Simeon of Vinnitsa as the primate of the new church.

Now that a new church in Ukraine has been created, Constantinople needs to persuade the other Local Churches to accept it. To this end, Patriarch Bartholomew convinced Philaret Denisenko and Makary Maletich, the leaders of the Ukrainian schismatic groups, to promise not to nominate themselves for the primacy, as this would diminish the legitimacy of the new church. Denisenko was canonically defrocked and anathematized by the Russian Orthodox Church and is known to be a highly problematic figure, while Maletich never received a canonical episcopal consecration as he became a bishop only once already in schism.

Both the Serbian and Polish Churches cited these concerns when rejecting Constantinople’s rehabilitation of Denisenko and Maletich and their groups.

It is widely speculated that Constantinople thus backed the bid for the primacy from Met. Simeon, who abandoned the Orthodox Church in hopes of becoming the leader of the new structure, as he had been canonically consecrated as a bishop and would thus be more palatable to the Orthodox world.

However, the representatives from the “Kiev Patriarchate” outmaneuvered Constantinople and Poroshenko, garnering enough support to vote in one of their own—“Metropolitan” Epiphany Dumenko, a loyal protégé of Denisenko.

As the BBC Ukraine reports, in addition to Met. Simeon and Met. Epiphany, the third candidate was “Metropolitan” Michael Zinkevich, also from the “Kiev Patriarchate.” However, before the final vote, Met. Michael withdrew his candidacy, allowing Met. Epiphany to win over Met. Simeon by 20 votes.

Constantinople intends to hand a tomos of autocephaly to Epiphany, proclaimed the “Metropolitan of Kiev and All Ukraine”—a position that the entire Orthodox world currently recognizes as belonging to His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry of the canonical Church—on January 6 in Constantinople.

The Patriarchate now faces the task of “selling” Epiphany to the rest of the Orthodox world.

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