Kiev, February 2, 2019
“Metropolitan” Epiphany Dumenko, the head of the Ukrainian schismatic group, visited Archimandrite Ephraim, the abbot of Vatopedi Monastery on Mt. Athos who suffered a heart attack yesterday, in a private clinic in Kiev today, reports the Ukrainian site lb.ua, which was there to take photographs.
Fr. Ephraim arrived to participate in tomorrow’s enthronement of Epiphany as the primate of the so-called “Orthodox Church of Ukraine” as part of the delegation from the Patriarchate of Constantinople. He began to feel poorly soon after arriving and soon suffered a heart attack. He has suffered heart attacks before and even recently underwent a heart stent operation.
The Holy Community of Mt. Athos voted on January 28 not to send a delegation to the enthronement. Though 5 monasteries voted in favor of going, Vatopedi was not among them. Nevertheless, Patriarch Bartholomew enlisted Fr. Ephraim and also Abbot Alexios of Xenophontos Monastery—Fr. Alexios willingly but Fr. Ephraim by an ultimatum—go to Kiev or be suspended from the priesthood.
Interestingly, Pat. Bartholomew will not be attending the enthronement, as the Patriarchate told the Greek site Romfea that he never participates in the enthronement of Orthodox primates. He did, however, attend the papal inauguration of Pope Francis in 2013.
Epiphany, who is fluent in Greek, expressed his joy at meeting with the abbot of the famous Athonite monastery and his worry about his health, wishing him a speedy recovery and many years.
According to lb.ua, Archimandrite Ephraim then congratulated Epiphany on his election and upcoming enthronement and wished him a successful ministry as primate of the “Orthodox Church of Ukraine.
Recall that Fr. Ephraim has spoken out in defense of the canonical Ukrainian Church several times in the past and has visited Ukrainian holy sites many times, bringing holy relics with him to bless the faithful of the Ukrainian Church.
In March 2015, when His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev and All Ukraine, the primate of the canonical Ukrainian Church, was visiting Mt. Athos, Fr. Ephraim stated: “With a heavy heart I am anxious about the present state of Ukraine and from Holy Mount Athos I am asking the Ukrainian people to remain faithful to the canonical Church, the canonical primate and the canonical Synod. We want Ukrainian residents to support the canonical Church. It is important for one’s salvation to obey the canonical Church.”
And in an address to the Ukrainian people in 2017, Fr. Ephraim noted that the issue affects all of Mt. Athos, saying the Holy Mountain is very grieved about the schism in the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. According to the abbot, the schism cuts like scissors, and he who went into schism must understand that he is outside of the fold of the Church. “If someone is outside of the Church … he cannot attain holiness,” he said.
“Therefore, we entreat all of our brothers who have left the canonical Church, we appeal and we entreat that they would return to the womb of the canonical Orthodox Church,” the abbot said.
Abbot Alexios has also shown himself a friend of the canonical Ukrainian Church in the past. In 2013, he visited Ukraine with the precious hand of St. George the Victorious, and again in 2017 to venerate the saints of the Kiev Caves Lavra, reports the Union of Orthodox Journalists.
Also in 2017, a delegation from the Ukrainian Church attended the celebration of Fr. Alexios’ 50th anniversary as a priest. The delegation was led by His Eminence Archbishop Philaret of Lvov and Galicia and His Grace Bishop Barsanuphius of Borodianka, who is now the ruling hierarch of the Vinnitsa Diocese, which is under heavy attack from the Ukrainian schismatics, given that the former hierarch Simeon Shostatsky was one of two bishops of the canonical Church to defect to the schismatic group.
Archimandrite Alexios gave several interviews answering questions about Ukraine. He has stated: “Today we are seeing a return of paganism or the onset of sects, the flowering of the heresy of ethnophyletism in the Ukrainian land. All of this says only that Ukrainians themselves are making the choice—to fall away from Christianity, to turn away from Christ, from the only canonical Church—the Ukrainian Orthodox Church… That means that Ukrainians are choosing not salvation, but destruction, surrendering to the power of their sins, passions, and weaknesses. It is very bad.”
He also continually called the schismatics the “enemies of the Church” and warned that “the schismatics and those who want to damage the Ukrainian Orthodox Church will never have the blessing of God.”
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