Kiev, July 11, 2019
On May 25, “Metropolitan” Epiphany Dumenko, the primate of the schismatic “Orthodox Church of Ukraine” (OCU), led the celebration in honor of the 19th anniversary of the restoration of St. Michael’s Golden-domed Cathedral in Kiev. As previously reported, in addition to a multitude of hierarchs and clergy from the OCU, he was concelebrated by two hierarchs from the Patriarchate of Constantinople, and a cleric of the schismatic “Montenegrin Orthodox Church” (MOC) “Archimandrite” Boris Bojovic.
The MOC is currently headed by “Metropolitan” Mihailo Dedeić, who was defrocked, excommunicated, and anathematized while serving as a priest of the Patriarchate of Constantinople in Italy. The tiny, unrecognized structure is a schism from the Serbian Orthodox Church, which is the majority religion in Montenegro.
While the press service of the Kiev Metropolia of the OCU initially attempted to downplay the seriousness of the situation, arguing that concelebrating and sharing communion with a member of the MOC indicates only good relations, and not official, shared communion, Epiphany Dumenko later apologized to His Eminence Metropolitan Amfilohije of Montenegro of the Serbian Orthodox Church, on whose canonical territory the MOC schismatically operates.
On June 24, the schismatic primate sent a letter of apology to Met. Amfilohije for serving with the unrecognized cleric of the MOC, who has since become a “bishop” reports the Metropolis of Montenegro of the Serbian Church.
In the letter, Epiphany laments that he served with the MOC cleric, telling Met. Amfilohije that it happened “unintentionally,” while also including a peculiar view on the current status of the OCU.
“With full understanding, I assure you that it happened unintentionally, and only because in the past, before the restoration of our communion with His All-Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch and the other Local Churches, we developed relations with the citizens of your country who are unrecognized by the fullness of Orthodoxy,” Epiphany explained.
It remains unclear who invited “Archimandrite” Boris and how his presence went unnoticed, given the past good relations between the MOC and the schismatic “Kiev Patriarchate” (KP), many of whose hierarchs are now in the OCU and served with the MOC cleric on May 25. Epiphany, however, writes that what happened was simply negligence, attributing it to the large number of concelebrants.
Epiphany also writes of the “restoration of communion” with Constantinople although the OCU is newly-created and his former confession, the KP, also never had communion with Constantinople. Moreover, the OCU is not in communion with any other Local Church, despite his assertion.
Among the Local Churches, the Serbian Church has taken the strongest stance against the OCU and Constantinople’s interference in Ukraine, and Met. Amfilohije himself has been among the most vocal of the bishops.
“I understand that this event upset you,” Epiphany writes, assuring Met. Amfilohije that his OCU only has communion with Constantinople and those with whom Constantinople has communion, asking him to accept this step “as one of the first steps of our young Local Church, as a member of the family of the holy autocephalous Churches of God.”
The letter was personally delivered by “Archbishop” Evstraty Zorya, the once loyal devotee of “Patriarch” Philaret Denisenko who claims dementia has turned him into a servant of the Kremlin now that Philaret has left the OCU to revive his KP.
According the official site of the OCU, Zorya, the Deputy Head of the OCU’s Department for External Church Relations, had a long meeting with Met. Amfilohije at his residence at the Montenegro-Littoral Metropolis center, discussing issues of inter-Orthodox relations in the aftermath of Constantinople’s creation of and granting of a tomos of autocephaly to the OCU.
The OCU reports that both hierarchs “agreed that everyone should look for ways to confirm the unity of Orthodoxy as the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church,” though Met. Amfilohije and the Serbian Church as a whole has been clear that the path to unity is to support and recognize only the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church headed by His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev and All Ukraine.
And delivering Epiphany’s letter, Evstraty also assured Met. Amfilohije that the OCU only has communion with the canonical Local Churches, though it should be again noted that they have communion only with the Patriarchate of Constantinople.
The full text of the letter is published on the OCU site, showing that Epiphany also wrote to Met. Amfilohije that the Patriarch of Constantinople has the universal right of appeals, which is why he was able to create the OCU. However, Met. Amfilohije himself earlier refuted this precise claim, saying: “First of all, this right concerns the metropolises under the canonical administration of the Patriarch of Constantinople. It did not apply to the whole Church.”
His Eminence also speaks of Constantinople’s interference in Ukraine as catastrophic: “The decisions of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew and his Synod concerning the Ukrainian issue, are, in my opinion catastrophic, both for the Patriarchate of Constantinople, and for resolving the Church question in Ukraine, as well as for the unity of the Orthodox Church. We in our Church are simply shocked at how the Ecumenical Patriarch—an expert on the canons—made such a decision, which is without a doubt uncanonical.”
He has also attributed Patriarch Bartholomew’s catastrophic actions to his “love of power.”
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