Odessa, Ukraine, February 7, 2019
His Eminence Metropolitan Agafangel of Odessa and Izmail, the longest-serving hierarch of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church, sent a letter to Archimandrite Alexios, the abbot of the Athonite monastery of Xenophontos, entreating him not to participate in the enthronement of “Metropolitan” Epiphany Dumenko, the primate of the Ukrainian schismatic church.
The letter, published by Romfea, is dated February 1. Fr. Alexios did not heed Met. Agafangel’s warning but concelebrated in the enthronement Liturgy on February 3 in Kiev. Romfea reported on January 31 that Abbot Alexios and Abbot Ephraim of Vatopedi were to participate in the enthronement as part of the delegation of the Patriarchate of Constantinople.
In his lengthy letter, the Ukrainian hierarch drew attention to the fact that one who serves and communes with schismatics becomes, according to the canons, a schismatic. Thus, Vladyka Agafangel urged Abbot Alexios to abandon his support of the so-called “Orthodox Church of Ukraine” and to not engage in relations with those who are persecuting the canonical Ukrainian Church today.
Met. Agafangel explains in his letter that due to the actions of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, numerous persecutions have fallen upon the Ukrainian Church, which is recognized by the entire Orthodox world. Only one Local Church—Constantinople—sent a delegation to Epiphany Dumenko’s enthronement as “Metropolitan of Kiev and All Ukraine.” On the other hand, 13 Local Churches were represented at the enthronement of His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev and All Ukraine in August 2014.
In this regard, Met. Agafangel entreated Fr. Alexios to raise his voice against the Ukrainian schismatics, as he has in the past, and to stand up for Orthodox unity, though the abbot did not heed this call.
The Sacred Community of Mt. Athos, consisting of one representative of each of the 20 ruling monasteries, also voted against sending a delegation to Epiphany’s enthronement, after which Patriarch Bartholomew enlisted the two abbots.
In the end, three Athonites attended—Abbot Alexios, Hieromonk Maximos of Vatopedi, and Hieromonk Chrysostomos of the St. Panteleimon’s Skete of Koutloumousiou Monastery. Fr. Ephraim suffered a heart attack soon after arriving in Kiev and thus did not attend.
Abbot Alexios had 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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