Kiev, May 28, 2019
The “Orthodox Church of Ukraine” (OCU) began as a collaboration between the Ukrainian government and the schismatic hierarchy of the “Kiev Patriarchate” and the “Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church.” And, according to the decision of the OCU Synod of Bishops at its session on May 24, this collaboration will continue, in a new form.
While the canonical Tradition of the Orthodox Church forbids hierarchs and clergy from taking up political posts or actively supporting the work of any particular political party, the hierarchs of the OCU have blessed their “clergy” to run for local office.
“At the local level, with the blessing of this or that hierarch, the clergy have the right to participate in elections to city councils, or village or territorial communities. That is, they can, with the blessing of their hierarch, hold only non-permanent positions,” OCU primate “Metropolitan” Epiphany Dumenko said in a post-Synod interview with TSN.
OCU clergy are not able to become deputies of the national parliament, Dumenko noted.
In the same interview, Dumenko explained that the Synod resolved to guide itself by Sacred Scripture and the Sacred Tradition of the Orthodox Church.
The OCU’s report on the Synod session states:
RESOLVED: 1. Taking into account the previous generally positive experience of participation of bishops and clergy in the work of local councils (rural, town, city, district and regional), to bless the canonical economia and furthermore, bishops and clergy, where it seems appropriate, to run for local councils and participate in their work as deputies. At the same time, it should be noted that in general, it is better for clergy to refrain from running for local councils and agree to this only if there is a special pastoral expediency and at the insistence of the local territorial community.
Apostolic Canon 81 reads: “It does not befit a bishop or a presbyter to go into the affairs of the people’s government, but to be always engaged in the affairs of the Church.” Canon 83 further states: “If any Bishop, or Presbyter, or Deacon is engaged in military matters, and wishes to hold both a Roman (i.e., civil) and a sacerdotal office, let him be deposed. For (render) unto Caesar the things which are Caesars; and unto God the things that are God’s (Matt. 22:21).”
Canon 7 of the Fourth Ecumenical Council reads: “We have decreed that those who have once been enrolled among the clergy, or have been made monks, shall accept neither a military charge nor any secular dignity; and if they shall presume to do so and not repent in such wise as to turn again to that which they had first chosen for the love of God, they shall be anathematized.”
The resolution of the OCU Synod quotes the Apostolic Canons, but argues that the prohibitions are only against clergy holding permanent positions. Any cleric of the OCU who gets elected to a permanent position must resign immediately or will be suspended from his clerical office until he does.
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