Constantinople’s actions on eve of “council” invalidate claim that three branches of Ukrainian Orthodoxy were united

December 18, 2018

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“Today is truly an historic event. We managed to unite three branches of Ukrainian Orthodoxy into one Local Orthodox church, recalling the words our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, That they all may be one,” the newly-elected primate of the new Ukrainian church “Metropolitan” Epiphany declared at his speech on Sophia Square following his election at Saturday’s “unification council,” reports the Ukrainian site UNIAN.

“We have united three branches of Ukrainian Orthodoxy into a single Church. Now we must build this Church on the principles of love, mutual respect, and unity,” Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko declared on his Facebook page yesterday.

An important element in the success of Constantinople’s Ukrainian project is precisely the impression that the schism in Ukraine has been overcome, uniting all three Ukrainian Orthodox bodies—the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church, the schismatic “Kiev Patriarchate” (KP) and the schismatic “Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church” (UAOC).

The Patriarchate of Constantinople has justified its interference in the Ukrainian situation by pointing to the Russian Church’s inability to overcome the schisms for the past 30 years.

Archbishop Job Getcha of the Patriarchate Constantinople put forth this argument in an interview in September with the Religious Information Service of Ukraine, saying: “The Ecumenical Patriarchate does not propose autocephaly in Ukraine as a weapon for war, but as a medicine to mend the ecclesiastical schism, which has lasted for almost 30 years.”

Patriarch Bartholomew himself made the argument in his letter to His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev and All Ukraine from October 12.

However, while the entirety of the KP and UAOC united on Saturday, only two bishops and a handful of clergy formerly of the canonical Ukrainian Church attended the “council” and joined the new nationalist church. If out of the 90 hierarchs of the canonical Ukrainian Church only 2 defected, that represents 2.2% of the hierarchy, which hardly constitutes a third branch of Ukrainian Orthodoxy.

Moreover, actions on the part of Constantinople before the “council” have now come to light that yet further invalidate the claim of uniting three branches.

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Alexander Drabinko, the former Metropolitan of Pereyaslav-Khmelnitsky and Vishnev, one of the two hierarchs in question, published a letter from Pat. Bartholomew on his personal Facebook page, showing that on the eve of the “council,” he was, in fact, received into the jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Constantinople.

The letter is dated December 14 and the “council” was held December 15.

According to the Ukrainian site, Simeon Shostasky, the former Metropolitan of Vinnitsa, received the same letter.

The letter reads: “Your Eminence, Metropolitan of Pereyaslav-Khmelnitsky and Vishnev, we have come to a decision by means of this Patriarchal Gramota to receive you into the jurisdiction of our Holy, Apostolic, and Patriarchal Ecumenical Throne together with your immaculate clergy and pious people, freeing you from any responsibility or accusation, or any prohibition imposed upon you by any Church body.”

That is, in the end, not a single bishop representing the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church took part in the “unification council.” The bishops of the KP and UAOC had already been received by Constantinople on October 11, so what occurred on Saturday was a reconfiguration of several groups of Constantinople clergy.

Speaking of Saturday’s gathering, the Holy Synod of the canonical Ukrainian Church declared yesterday: “Thus, this meeting was the unification of schismatics and has no relation to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. For our Church, in fact, nothing has changed, inasmuch as the schismatics remain in schism, and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church remains the true Church of Christ in Ukraine.”

Thus, the schism was not overcome by the Constantinopolitan brand of diplomacy and its so-called “unification council.”

Drabinko also previously published the threatening and condescending letter of Pat. Bartholomew to Met. Onuphry, in which the former declared that, as of Saturday, the latter is no longer the Metropolitan of Kiev and All Ukraine.

Both Drabinko and Shostasky have already been suspended from their ministries and removed and replaced in the administration of their dioceses by the Holy Synod of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, though, according to the letter published by Drabinko, Constantinople preemptively negated these sanctions.

Note that Pat. Bartholomew presumptuously claims to have received all of Drabinko’s clergy and people as well.

Also note that Constantinople received two hierarchs of the Ukrainian Church without a canonical release. While the Moscow Patriarchate has broken communion with Constantinople and thus has received priests and at least one parish without from Constantinople without canonical releases, Constantinople has many times emphasized that it has not reciprocated the cessation of communion with Moscow. Thus, to receive hierarchs of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate is a negation of its own public stance.

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