Schismatics at war: Philaret consecrates 2 bishops, Epiphany suspends them; OCU seizes church from KP

Kiev, June 24, 2019

Philaret and Joasaph of Belgorod “consecrate” Andrei Marutsak as “Bishop” of Vasilkovsky. Photo: Faceboook Philaret and Joasaph of Belgorod “consecrate” Andrei Marutsak as “Bishop” of Vasilkovsky. Photo: Faceboook     

Philaret Denisenko and his “Kiev Patriarchate” (KP), which he has led for nearly 30 years, were busy this weekend, consecrating two new “bishops” who had just been elected at Thursdays’ KP Local Council.

The “Honorary Patriarch” had been saying ever since the Patriarchate of Constantinople gave the “Orthodox Church of Ukraine” (OCU) a tomos of autocephaly in January that, in fact, the KP still existed. He even declared that the there is no new church—the tomos was given to the KP, although from Constantinople’s point of view, the KP was necessarily dissolved before the December “unification council.”

Philaret stepped up his rhetoric in the past month, expressing his great disappointment with the tomos, with his role in the OCU, and with the way he believes “Metropolitan” Epiphany Dumenko and ex-President Petro Poroshenko deceived him. In the end, it became clear that Philaret would not remain with the OCU, and on Thursday the KP was officially revived with the holding of a Local Council in Kiev.

It only took the new “church” that Constantinople created in December six months to spawn a new schism, albeit a numerically small one, with only three other hierarchs of the OCU remaining loyal to Philaret. Interestingly, the three bishops all reigned over dioceses outside of Ukraine, over parishes that according to the tomos were to be transferred to Constantinople, leaving them bishops without dioceses, were the conditions of the tomos to be fulfilled.

On Saturday, Philaret and “Archbishop” Joasaph of Belgorod and Oboyan “consecrated” Hieromonk Elijah Zelensky as the new “Bishop” of Kharkov and Bogodukhov, as Joasaph reported on his Facebook page.

And yesterday, Philaret and Joasaph celebrated another “consecration,” this time of Archimandrite Andrei Marutsak as “Bishop” of Vasilkovsky, as Joasaph again reported on Facebook. Both “consecrations” took place in St. Vladimir’s Cathedral in Kiev.

Following Thursdays’ council, Philaret promised that every province of Ukraine would have a bishop of the KP.

Meanwhile, the OCU wasted no time in suspending the given clergy from serving in the OCU, not recognizing their hierarchical consecrations. Epiphany Dumenko banned Andrei Marutsak on Saturday, even before his “consecration,” with the corresponding decree being published on the OCU’s official Facebook page.

The decree accuses Marutsak of activities aimed at splitting the church, including attempting to grasp the leadership of his monastery in Kiev, and bans him for three months, “calling him to complete and true repentance.”

Before Marutsak was “consecrated,” Philaret issued a decree releasing Makary Papish as abbot of St. Theodosius Monastery and replacing him with Marutsak because the brotherhood had petitioned to join the OCU, reports BBC.

Speaking with BBC, Marutsak accused the brotherhood of seizing the monastery, declaring that as the KP still exists, the monastery belongs to it. Conversely, Makary Papish declared that the KP does not exist anymore, and therefore any decrees issued on its behalf are illegitimate.

Moreover, “Bishop” Mitrophan of the Kharkov and Bogodukhov Diocese of the OCU published decrees regarding “Hieromonk” Elijah Zelensky, who became a KP bishop on Saturday, and “Priest” Vasily Lesik, who are thereby also banned from serving as OCU clergy.

And while the faithful of the canonical Ukrainian Church have suffered greatly at the hands of schismatics for years, with increased fervency since Constantinople’s interference in Ukraine in the past few months, the KP now knows the pain, as OCU activists seized a church of the KP while its rector was at Thursday’s council, reports Rivne Evening.

“Archpriest” Vitaly Druzyuk led his parish in the Rivne Diocese for more than 19 years, though he was suspended and his church was seized because he and his community remain loyal to Philaret.

Moreover, Druzyuk has said that the “Right Sector” activists took the keys to the church and changed the locks at the order of the local OCU hierarch, “Archbishop” Hilarion. Druzyuk appealed to Hilarion to protect his church, but his request went unheard and unanswered. The leaders of several nationalist-terrorist organizations previously met with Epiphany Dumenko, pledging their loyalty and support for him.

Meanwhile, Archpriest Nikolai Danilevich, the Deputy Chairman of the canonical Ukrainian Church’s Department for External Church Relations, noted that Philaret is only repeating the same scenario that he created in 1992 when he initially departed from Christ into schism after not being elected as the next patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Further, Philaret’s present activities and their parallels with his activities in the 1990s only show the justice of the defrocking, excommunication, and eventual anathema placed upon him by the Russian Orthodox Church, no matter how much Constantinople tries to claim that the sanctions were imposed for political reasons.

In October, the Patriarchate of Constantinople lifted the anathema against Philaret and accepted him into communion with itself. Last week, Philaret declared that if the anathema was lifted, that means he was truly under anathema before that, which means the majority of the episcopate of the OCU is illegitimate, as they were consecrated as bishops of the KP by Philaret himself during the time he would have been under anathema.

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