Akhalkalaki, Georgia, January 10, 2019
In considering Patriarch Bartholomew’s request to recognize the results of December 15’s “unification council” and to commemorate “Metropolitan” Epiphany Dumenko as the head of the so-called “Orthodox Church of Ukraine,” it is first necessary to establish the canonicity of the clergy of the new nationalist church and to carefully study the text of the tomos they received on January 6, believes Metropolitan Nikoloz (Pachuashvili) of Akhalkalaki, Kumurdo and Kari of the Georgian Orthodox Church.
“How can we serve with such bishops? We can’t recognize such bishops,” Met. Nikoloz said in a recent interview with InterPressNews, noting that some of the bishops involved in the new structure have been anathematized from the Church and others are merely self-proclaimed hierarchs.
The Georgian Holy Synod has repeatedly said that it would wait to see how things develop regarding Ukraine before taking a position. Most recently, it announced in December that it would make a statement sometime this month about it.
As Met. Nikoloz told InterPressNews, he sees nothing unusual or harmful if the new Ukrainian structure would have to wait a while for recognition from the Georgian Church. In his opinion, the Churches in the hierarchy above Georgia should make their opinions known first, and it is necessary to study the tomos of the Ukrainian nationalist church in the original Greek.
In this regard, the metropolitan noted that “as a whole, the Georgian Orthodox Church supports the right of the Ukrainian state to have an autocephalous Church… But we must take into account the conditions under which this autocephaly is applied.”
In this, Met. Nikoloz echoes the position stated by His Beatitude Metropolitan Sawa of Warsaw and All Poland who said that, in principle, he supports Ukraine’s right to have an autocephalous Church, but that the situation has been handled very poorly and uncanonically. He also notes that the hierarchs of the new Ukrainian structure are not true hierarchs.
“In particular,” Met. Nikoloz says, “who should stand at the head of the Church of Ukraine, who should be the other clergy. It’s very important to establish their canonicity. Several of them were previously anathematized, which all the Orthodox Churches, including Constantinople, recognized. Several of them, it turns out, are self-proclaimed bishops. How can we serve with such bishops? We can’t recognize such bishops.”
Pat. Bartholomew previously confessed that the Russian Church had “exclusive competence” to deal with the Ukrainian schismatics. It remains unclear when and how that exclusive competence was transferred to Constantinople.
The Georgian hierarch also drew attention to some, in his opinion, dangerous wording in the letter that the Georgian Church received from Constantinople.
“At the Synod we discussed the letter received from the Patriarchate of Constantinople on the recognition of the autocephaly of the Church of Ukraine. It contains a very dangerous phrase about how the Patriarchate of Constantinople has the exclusive right to interfere in the internal affairs of any Local Church. For me personally, that is unacceptable and could cause many difficulties in the future.”
Pat. Bartholomew elsewhere recently wrote that Constantinople “by the Church’s providence indisputably has the responsibility to judge ecclesiastical matters everywhere and to give them a final conclusion.”
“If the Church of Ukraine waits a little, there’s nothing unusual or harmful in that. The Georgian Orthodox Church restored its autocephaly in 1917, the Russian Orthodox Church recognized it only in 1943, and Constantinople in 1990. The process of recognition is slow and complex,” Met. Nikoloz concluded.
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