Kiev, June 29, 2019
While Patriarch Bartholomew and other representatives of the Patriarchate of Constantinople have repeatedly stated that politics played no part in the decision to create the “Orthodox Church of Ukraine” (OCU) and grant it a tomos of autocephaly, Makary Maletich, the head of one of the two schismatic bodies that united into the OCU, contradicts this assertion, confirming the decisive role played by the U.S. and other Western secular powers.
In a new interview with the Ukrainian outlet Channel 24, Makary Maletich states that were it not for the support of the U.S. along with Germany, France, and the UK, Pat. Bartholomew would never have dared to give the tomos.
Maletich was once a priest of the canonical Ukrainian Church but went into schism in the late 1980s, joining the so-called “Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church,” a group of self-consecrated “bishops” wholly lacking of any claim to Apostolic Succession, where he eventually became the presiding “metropolitan.”
He was received into the Patriarchate of Constantinople on October 11 as a preliminary step towards Constantinople’s creation of the OCU in December. At that time, the Synod declared that it was lifting the anathemas from Philaret Denisenko, the head of the “Kiev Patriarchate” (KP), and Maletich, although the latter had never been placed under anathema in the first place.
In the run-up to the creation of the OCU in December and the granting of the tomos in January, Makary several times voiced his doubts that the unification between the KP and the UAOC would happen, given Philaret Denisenko’s unwavering self-interest. In this latest interview, he also notes that he specifically warned the initiators of “Ukrainian autocephaly” that “the union of all the churches into one Local Church is risky business.”
As he notes, there were those supporters of a new Ukrainian church, but also many opponents. “Therefore, Poroshenko paid for it in the elections, when supporters of the Moscow Patriarchate voted against him,” Makary said.
Besides those Ukrainians who have remained loyal to the Orthodox Church, several Local Churches had already expressed their disapproval of Constantinople’s unilateral interference in Ukraine, even before the rehabilitation of Philaret and Makary and the creation of the OCU.
While Makary gives much credit to Poroshenko, he clarifies: “It is not only the merit of Poroshenko, but also the Verkhovna Rada, Ukrainians themselves, and the diplomats of the U.S.A., Great Britain, France, and Germany, who were interested in the church.”
Maletich is certain “that if the Ecumenical Patriarch had not seen the support in the leading states of the world, he wouldn’t have done this. Then neither Poroshenko, nor the Rada, nor Philaret, nor I would have done anything.”
He spoke of the influence of foreign diplomats in December, on the eve of the “unification council” as well, though at that time he mentioned only that they had spoken with him and Philaret to discern if they were ready to receive a tomos.
The new head of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, Archbishop Elpidophoros, received U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Religious Freedom Samuel Brownback in his office recently, thanking him for the U.S.’s support for the Patriarchate of Constantinople. Ambassador Brownback and Ambassador to Greece Geoffrey Pyatt (former Ambassador to Ukraine) have been actively meeting with religious figures in the Greek Orthodox world, trying to shore up support for the OCU, which is thus far entirely lacking in the Orthodox world.
As for Philaret and his recent actions—reviving the KP and rejecting the tomos—Makary stated: “Let him go, build and restore the Kiev Patriarchate… When he goes and again forms a schism, then Philaret will die in schism.”
The former UAOC head also repeats that both the KP and the UAOC continue to exist from a legal standpoint, “but in fact, they no longer exist because a single Orthodox Church of Ukraine has been created.”
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