Philaret forced leading candidate to step down for weaker Epiphany to win primacy, says he will still rule the Ukrainian Church

“The Patriarch remains for life and controls the Ukrainian Orthodox Church together with the primate,” Denisenko said.

Kiev, December 18, 2018

Philaret Denisenko (right), new primate Epiphany Dumenko (far left). Photo: Philaret Denisenko (right), new primate Epiphany Dumenko (far left). Photo:

OrthoChristian reported on Monday that Philaret Denisenko and his “Kiev Patriarchate” (KP) managed to outnumber and outmaneuver the Patriarchate of Constantinople at Saturday’s “unification council,” getting Philaret’s protégé Epiphany Dumenko elected as the primate of the new nationalist church, despite Constantinople’s and Poroshenko’s best efforts to see Simeon Shostasky, the former Metropolitan of Vinnitsa for the canonical Ukrainian Church, ascend the primatial throne.

Simeon of Vinnitsa was consecrated by the canonical Church, whereas Epiphany was ordained and consecrated only within the schismatic KP, and thus it would have been easier for Constantinople to convince the other Local Orthodox Churches to accept a church headed by him.

As of the previous report it was known that “Metropolitan” Michael Zinkevich, also from the KP, was the third candidate for the primacy, though he withdrew his candidacy before the final vote, allowing Epiphany to win over Simeon by 20 votes.

Further, according to new reports from the Ukrainian site Konkurent and the Greek site Romfea, Zinkevich withdrew his candidacy under pressure from Philaret Denisenko, who wanted to ensure that Epiphany, whom Denisenko can more easily control, would win.

According to Volyn Regional Deputy Nikolai Buliga, “Met.” Michael of Lutsk and Volyn was, in fact, the unconditional favorite for the primatial throne and would have gained an absolute majority of votes. However, Michael is a stronger bishop, having done much to develop the Volyn Diocese of the KP, and a stronger personality than Epiphany—which was not pleasing to Denisenko.

Though Denisenko had promised not to nominate himself for the primacy, in his letter to Pat. Bartholomew he had requested to be named the “honorary Patriarch,” and after the “council,” Epiphany announced that Philaret is the honorary spiritual father for life of the new church. Just as Denisenko once ruled the KP as its “Deputy Patriarch,” with “Patriarch” Vladimir Romaniuk as its figurehead, he now intends to continue ruling from behind the throne in the new Ukrainian church.

According to the Deputy, Denisenko delayed the “unification council” on Saturday by three hours because he refused to sign an act dissolving the KP until Michael withdrew his candidacy. Michael asked why he should withdraw, considering that the “council” hadn’t even started yet and thus he hadn’t even been nominated yet, but Philaret told him they knew he would win and insisted: “I will not a sign a decree of dissolution of the Kiev Patriarchate until Michael renounces.”

Philaret had previously stated that if the conditions of the “council” were not pleasing to him and his group, they simply wouldn’t vote, but instead, he found a way to make the conditions pleasing.

“Philaret was blackmailing the President,” Deputy Buliga commented, adding that the KP representatives therefore put forward Epiphany—the weakest candidate who could be manipulated.

In the end, despite his withdrawal, Michael still received 30 votes, while Simeon Shostasky came in second, and Epiphany Dumenko took the throne.

“Philaret blackmail the President and the clergy managed to put in the 39-year-old ‘youth’ as the primate of the new Church. He showed himself as a politician. The President showed himself as a statesman, because he could not lose the Tomos for Ukraine. The President was forced to persuade Vladyka Michael to renounce. And Vladyka showed courage and a state approach and withdrew his candidacy so that Ukraine wouldn’t lose the Tomos. The state has always been involved in processes of this level. The President of Ukraine played the most important role in obtaining the Tomos. And Philaret ‘used’ them all, roughly speaking,” Buliga summarized.

As Romfea reports, the delay on Saturday was also due to Philaret’s refusal to accept that the primate of the new church be a metropolitan rather than a patriarch, though he did acquiesce in the end.

However, the next day, Philaret appeared at St. Vladimir’s Cathedral in Kiev to serve the Divine Liturgy wearing the patriarchal kukol. “I will be a Patriarch until death,” Philaret said a week before the “council.”

Philaret, still wearing his patriarchal kukol on Sunday. Photo: Romfea Philaret, still wearing his patriarchal kukol on Sunday. Photo: Romfea

Moreover, following his first Liturgy as primate, in which he refused to commemorate His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia, “Met.” Epiphany proclaimed that “Patriarch Philaret will continue to carry out his ministry” at St. Vladimir’s.

“Did the Ecumenical Patriarchate not hear these statements of Epiphany? Does a tenth Patriarch exist in Orthodoxy, or does he know nothing about it?” Romfea asks.

And further, a new report from the Union of Orthodox Journalists came out during the writing of this article, showing that Denisenko himself has plainly stated that he will continue to rule the church.

“The Patriarch remains for life and controls the Ukrainian Orthodox Church together with the primate,” Denisenko said during his Sunday sermon at St. Vladimir’s Cathedral in Kiev.

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