Many hierarchs of Local Churches around the world, including well-known theologian-hierarchs of the Constantinople Patriarchate, have announced their disagreement with the Phanar’s actions. As Sergei Victorovich Shumilo, director of the International Institute of Athonite Heritage in Ukraine informed us as this publication was being prepared, the brothers of the Holy Mountain do not agree with Constantinople Patriarch’s initiative in Ukraine and pray for His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry and his flock, although the Holy Kinotes (governing body of Mt. Athos) has not made an official statement yet on the matter.
On December 15, from every Ukraine TV channel poured heady direct coverage from the St. Sophia Square, where almost entirely unreligious people “from all around”, encaged by government officials behind the locked gates of the St. Sophia Cathedral awaiting the election of a new schismatic, warmed themselves with songs, dancing, warm spiced wine and Maidan-style chants. The media, as is well known, was not allowed into the St. Sophia territory, and they could only guess what was going on there. And the author of these lines, weary of beholding these theatrical goings on, directed his steps toward the Kiev Caves Lavra. It was there that my smartphone informed me of the newly-elected schismatic leader...
In the Kiev Caves Lavra on that day
Having passed through the holy gates under the ancient (twelfth century) gate church of the Holy Trinity, I found myself on the snow-covered Lavra territory, where a kind of unearthly tranquility reigned... I walked along the snowy lanes of the ancient monastery founded by the Kiev Caves saints, and rejoiced in the grace-filled quiet.
On Sunday the next day...
On the next day, the 29th Sunday after Pentecost, the Church reading of the Gospel recalls Christ’s talk with the rich young man who had asked the Divine Teacher about the conditions for salvation. As we know, the Lord answered the young man that it is difficult for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven; and at the question, “How can one be saved?” He replied, “What is impossible for man is possible for God (Lk. 18:27). Talking about this Gospel story in his sermon, His Beatitude Onuphry directed the worshippers’ attention to the gift of salvation. “Many think that by fulfilling the commandments and living according to the rule we guarantee our salvation,” noted the metropolitan. “The scheme of conditions comes up: I fulfill, and You give. But this is not how it is. This is only the means for receiving this gift—salvation. Only the Lord can actually give it; we can’t “earn” it—it is God’s mercy. And we should ask the Lord for this mercy in humility.”
I admit that I would have liked His Beatitude to continue this thought and say that in the schismatic, pseudo-church it is impossible to ask for this gift, because there is no Christian humility in it; for any schism is built upon pride and separatism, in a break from the Christ of Christ, and that means from the Truth. However His Beatitude did not wish to talk about the schism on that fine Sunday. It must be noted that it is in general not characteristic of this Ukrainian archpastor to touch upon political matters and Church-state relations during the services, or to talk about the activities of other confessions, including schismatic structures. That is the schismatics’ prerogative and their eternal rhetoric with attacks against the canonical Church. His Beatitude always talks about the salvation of the soul; his homilies are simple, highly spiritual, and instructive. When people hear them they are strengthened in their faith and love for the Lord.
And your joy no man taketh from you (Jn. 16:22)
—I would advise everyone who came to the St. Sophia Square yesterday, and anyone who along with our president applauds the creation of a new religious formation to attentively read historical documents related to the period of 300 hundred years ago. It will then be perfectly clear that Istanbul has no real claim to our canonical territory and never can have. This is not only a crude violation of the canons, the Church canons, but also of secular, state laws. After all, this is nothing other than political raiding under the guise of religion. We know perfectly well, and the history of the last twenty-six years of Church schism testify to the fact that the Philaret group under the name of UOC KP has done nothing good, only robbery, seizure of churches and all kinds of provocations. Now we see a continuation of this shameful chronicle of schismatics: They have taken advantage of the current political regime, which, pursuing its own interests has managed to intrigue the Constantinople Patriarchate by presenting to him a distorted picture of religious life in Ukraine, where supposedly millions of people simply can’t live without their own national Church. Here all the lowest interests of three powers have come together: the pre-election campaign of our current president, the schismatics of the UOC KP, the UAOC, and the Phanar. The latter, as we know, is looking for any possible way to bring out its “ecumenical (universal)” powers, of which it has been deprived for many centuries now. So, yesterday’s “council” is no more than a new venture. We have a lawful Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which the whole Orthodox world recognizes; it has its own lawful primate, His Beatitude Onufry; there is a whole host of holy God-pleasers who have attained sanctity in this Church and who are now standing before the Throne of God and praying for us all, for Ukraine, and its God-loving people. So we have nothing to fear. God is with us.
—What do I think about yesterday’s crowd in St. Sophia of Kiev? I will answer in the words of the Psalmist King David: “Blessed in the man who hath not walked in the council of the ungodly.” They are trying to present to the people of this country a fake church instead of the Church of Christ. What do we need it for, when the lawful canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church headed by His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry acts and unites millions of people?! You know, I’ll tell you honestly: When I saw on the internet footage of the elections of the so-called “primate” of that new schism, and heard how he praised the president and the speaker of parliament, but not God, I thought: That is how they’ll elect the antichrist. After all, the Lord warns us in the Gospel: Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many (Matt: 24:4–5). We are seeing something similar to that today. We have to pray, as Metropolitan Onuphry and the Holy Church call us to do, so that we will not fall into temptation.
—As a parishioner of the Kiev Caves Lavra, I am a member of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church, and I cannot call the meeting in the St. Sophia Cathedral, now with the participation of our country’s president, anything other than a new schism. As a future lawyer I can say that according to section 35 of the Ukrainian constitution, the Church is separate from the state, and the state from the Church, and the participation of politicians, especially representatives of state structures, is inadmissible. It is just as inadmissible for the Patriarchate of another country to meddle in the life of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which is recognized by, works and prays with representatives of all the Local Churches of the world. I will also note that the nullification by Patriarch Bartholomew of the grammota to the Russian Orthodox Church on the joining to it of the Kiev Metropolia dated 300 years ago also contradicts elementary legal norms and rights, if only due to the fact that the Kiev Metropolia in that period consisted of no more than a few of the current provinces belonging to Ukraine. This is not to mention that it is a violation of dogmatic norms of ecclesiastical organization.
The government’s meddling in Church life will lead to nothing good. A “new church” cannot be created by political methods; our Church has its beginning in the times of the Baptism of Rus’, and this was even recognized during the era of the Soviet Union. May God grant that this new schism will exhaust itself, just as did many schisms in the history of Orthodoxy.
—We are very worried about what is happening! How can we relate to it? Only as to the work of the demons. We have a canonical Church. But our president has taken upon himself the function of Constantine the Great, sitting in the circle of “hierarchs”. And the people have already named this council the “Petro Poroshenko council”. Not one politician, not one man can meddle in the life of Christ’s Church, because the Church is His Body, and to encroach upon the Church’s order means encroaching on Christ Himself. We can only pray to Christ and ask for our salvation—the Lord will arrange all the rest. After all, the schismatics in their new structure are already laying claim to our holy sites. Couldn’t the initiators who created this pseudo-church have foreseen this? Our Kiev Caves Lavra is the portion of the Most Holy Mother of God, and the Heavenly Queen herself knows how to arrange all things. After all, how many persecutions have there been against the Church, against the holy Lavra. This is also by God’s allowance, so that we would wake up from the lulling, even-keeled church life. It means we aren’t praying well, not asking right...
Today the Lavra is filled to overflowing. The more they persecute us the more we feel grace in the Church. And today more people have started going to the churches. I think that it is their business to frighten us, and our business to save ourselves. What is there to fear?! My grandfather was a parishioner of the Lavra, my great-grandfather restored the Lavra’s churches, and my grandmother became a nun. We are native Kievans. And our close ones and parishioners, who have already gone to the Lord, pray for us and for our Church. With us are the God-pleasers of the Kiev Caves; the Lord is with us. What shall we fear?! “Understand O ye nations and submit yourselves, for God is with us!”...
—You know, this so-called “church” has no canonical force, it is without grace. Can someone just “create a church”? The Lord created it when He said to the apostle Peter: I shall build My Church (Matt. 16:18). Men can only create a false church or sect. I looked at this business on the internet, how that newly-proclaimed leader of the schism Epiphany thanked the politicians for “creating the church”, but he said nothing about God. The history of Christianity knows of many incidents when politicians used the Church to their own interests and schisms immediately arose. Whom has Patriarch Bartholomew recognized? The Schismatics of 1992 and the schismatics of the 1920s of the so-called “church of Vasil Lypkivsky”, which also arose on a political, nationalistic wave. The Church has already long ago condemned the heresy of ethnophyletism, when faith is determined according to nationality. The same thing is happening today. Our Ukrainian Orthodox Church has all the rights of autonomy and independence of governance, and its spectrum of rights is much broader than what was declared in the statutes of this EOC or whatever they called it... The millions of the faithful of the Orthodox Church of the Ukraine have never supported that schism. Perhaps there will be some deserters over into the ranks of the two former hierarchs of the UOC. But there is some rightness in this: the Church will be cleansed of the ballast of opportunists. We are with Christ; He is in our midst—He is and ever shall be!
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After the Sunday service the faithful as usual waited to receive a blessing rom His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry outside the church doors. He went out to his flock, as always, with a peaceful countenance and bright smile. To those who could not reach him he stretched out his hierarchical staff. And the people rejoiced that their beloved Primate is with them, and that Christ is in their midst—He is and ever shall be!