How Patriarch Bartholomew is Healing the Schism and Restoring Church Unity

A Tomos of Schism instead of a Tomos of Unification

The author of this analysis, Alexei Smirnov, is a leading religion columnist in Ukraine. Mr. Smirnov writes for top Ukrainian media such as Vesti, and the 112 TV channel. He is also an expert in religious studies for NewsOne TV channel.

Photo: Photo:     

In his interview with the Bulgarian news agency BGNES, Patriarch Bartholomew said, “The decisive factor that motivated the Ecumenical Patriarchate to grant autocephaly to Ukraine was its desire to heal the existing schism and restore Church unity in that country.” According to Bartholomew, it was for this good purpose that he took advantage of his privilege to accept appeals against the decisions of other Local Orthodox Churches and to provide autocephaly, without taking anyone else’s opinion into account.

Bartholomew’s words about restoring Church unity sound pretty on the outside. However, his actions are far from being in accordance with the canons adopted in Orthodoxy, according to which the Patriarch of Constantinople is only “the first among equals” (primus inter pares) and does not have direct authority and special decision-making powers over and beyond those exercised by the other Primates. Most importantly, his actions have directly led to the completely opposite result—instead of unification, they have caused an even greater schism in Ukrainian Orthodoxy.

Here are the latest facts.

On June 20, 2019, at the St. Volodymyr [Vladimir] Cathedral in Kyiv, the Honorary Patriarch of “OCU” Philaret convoked a “Local Council of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate” where he proclaimed the full resumption of UOC-KP activities.

The participants of the “Local Council” adopted a summary resolution of ten clauses, in which they withdrew their signatures from the decision made at the Unification Council of December 15, 2018 concerning the liquidation of the UOC-KP and the creation of the “OCU”, instead proclaiming that the Kyiv Patriarchate will be resuming its activities under the lifelong leadership of “Patriarch” Philaret. They also declared their exclusive rights to manage monasteries, and Ukrainian and foreign dioceses that were formerly part of the UOC-KP. In addition to this, Philaret and the members of his “Council” refused to recognise those conditions of the Tomos that “deprived the Ukrainian Church of its foreign parishes and made it completely dependent upon the Patriarchate of Constantinople.”

Philaret, disillusioned by the insignificant support shown by his former hierarchs of the Kyiv Patriarchate, ordained two new bishops, blessing them to take their places in the newly formed UOC-KP Synod, which had resumed its work. He reminded everyone present that the Primate of the “OCU” and most of its bishops had been ordained by him without any support or recognition by the Patriarchate of Constantinople and the other Local Orthodox Churches.

In response to the actions of Philaret, the Extraordinary Synod of the “OCU”, held on June 24, stripped the Honorary Patriarch of his status as administrator of the Kyiv Diocese, expelled his closest supporters from its episcopate and announced that Kyivan churches and monasteries will be placed under the jurisdiction of “Metropolitan” Epiphany.

Thus, after a period of only six months, Ukrainian Orthodoxy now finds itself in the same predicament that it was in prior to the creation of the so-called “OCU” and the granting of the Tomos of Autocephaly by Patriarch Bartholomew. Only now, instead of the schismatic UAOC (along with the canonical UOC and the schismatic UOC-KP), there is now a newly created Constantinople-controlled, so-called “OCU” in operation. And Church disputes have been replaced by raider seizures as well as by attacks on churches, all happening with the active participation of government officials and armed radical ‘activists’. Until recently, the main victims of these illegal actions were clergymen and parishioners of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC). Now, literally a day after the “Council” of the UOC-KP, Philaret and the clergy who support him have begun complaining about insults and threats levelled against them as well as the forcible seizures of churches formerly belonging to the UOC-Kyiv Patriarchate.

The true Goals of Patriarch Bartholomew

The facts of a deepening schism in Ukrainian Orthodoxy are so eloquently stated that Bartholomew who “aspires to restore Church unity” should immediately if not revoke the Tomos granted to the “OCU” (as he did in November 2018 regarding the Western European Exarchate of Russian parishes), then at the very least convene a Pan-Orthodox Synaxis to discuss the situation in Ukraine and appeal to the Ukrainian authorities, who are supporting one of the church organisations, to stop interfering in the affairs of the Orthodox Church.

However, the Patriarch of Constantinople isn’t doing anything of the kind and doesn’t intend to do so. The reason for this has got nothing to do with Bartholomew’s self confidence and belief in his own canonical correctness nor, indeed, in his desire to save face. The true reason is that the calculated actions of Bartholomew in Ukraine fully fit into the long-term strategy of the Phanar which is aimed at strengthening the position of the Constantinople Patriarchate and establishing its authority over the other Local Orthodox Churches. According to the logic of this strategy, Local Orthodox Churches should recognize the unconditional primacy of the Patriarch of Constantinople (analogous to the primacy of the Pope in the Catholic Church), his privilege to be the sole and supreme arbiter in all Church disputes, as well as his right to make individual decisions and establish Stavropegy in the territories of all Local Orthodox Churches. In addition to this, and according to this strategy, in the future Local Orthodox Churches should limit their activities exclusively to national borders and abandon their foreign dioceses in favour of The Phanar.

Bartholomew indicatively included all of his goals in the text of the Tomos of Autocephaly that was granted to the “OCU”. According to this Tomos, “The ‘Orthodox Church of Ukraine’ (‘OCU’) recognizes: 1) the Ecumenical Throne as its head, as supposedly do all the other Patriarchs and Primates”; 2) the “inalienable right of the Ecumenical Throne to establish Stavropegy everywhere”; 3) the “canonical responsibility of the Ecumenical Throne to make peremptory judicial decisions for all of the Local Orthodox Churches and; 4) that it [OCU] “cannot appoint bishops and establish parishes outside its state boundaries and must renounce its existing parishes in favor of the Ecumenical throne, which has canonical powers in the diaspora.” It is this very text that Bartholomew proposes all the Local Orthodox Churches recognize; thereby, confirming his special and unlimited powers in the Orthodox world.

By the way, Ukraine is not the only victim of the aggressive strategy of The Phanar. Over the past thirty years alone, the Patriarchate of Constantinople first swallowed up the American Exarchate of the Alexandrian Church, then established an autonomous Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church on foreign canonical territory, and then transferred the American parishes of the Greek Orthodox Church of Jerusalem to its own jurisdiction. And in the interval between these seizures, it also forced the Greek Orthodox Church to hand over thirty-six parishes in the so-called “new Greek territories” to its control. After Ukraine, the next offensive actions of The Phanar may be aimed at: recognizing the Macedonian and Montenegrin Churches (these are in the canonical territory of the Serbian Orthodox Church), the Abkhazian Church (located on the canonical territory of the Georgian Orthodox Church), as well as swallowing up other dioceses and parishes belonging to the Antiochian, Russian, Romanian and the Bulgarian Orthodox Churches in Western Europe, Australia and North America (which the Patriarchate of Constantinople is particularly interested in).

If in the course of Phanar’s realization of its long-term strategy, the Primates and Councils of the Local Orthodox Churches do not act against it collectively, then World Orthodoxy may change in the most radical way, and the Patriarch of Constantinople from the “first among equals” (primus inter pares) will be transformed into a new Eastern Pope (primus sine paribus) with unlimited powers throughout the Orthodox world. The result of such a transformation could indeed be a dystopian restoration of Church unity under the dictates of the Ecumenical Throne and the complete eradication of Orthodox conciliarity. This may even lead to a new global union, following the Lyon and Florentine unions, between the Pope of Rome and the Patriarch of Constantinople.

Alexei Smirnov


See also
The Two-headed Hydra of the Ukrainian Schism and World Orthodoxy The Two-headed Hydra of the Ukrainian Schism and World Orthodoxy
Met. Hilarion (Alfeyev)
The Two-headed Hydra of the Ukrainian Schism and World Orthodoxy The Two-headed Hydra of the Ukrainian Schism and World Orthodoxy
Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev)
For the past four months not a single Local Orthodox Church has recognized the act committed by Patriarch Bartholomew in flagrant violation of Church canons. A number of Churches officially expressed their disagreement with this act, as well as their non-recognition of the legalization of the schismatics, and expressed their support for the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church led by Metropolitan Onuphry. Other Churches took time to examine the situation. None of them has supported the lawlessness. Why?
The Return of the “New Rome” The Return of the “New Rome”
Fr. Patrick Burke
The Return of the “New Rome” The Return of the “New Rome”
Fr. Patrick Burke
Constantinople’s resurrection as the New Rome leads inexorably to its bowing in obedience to the Old.
Greek Theologian: Patriarch Bartholomew is a Threat for the Orthodox East! Greek Theologian: Patriarch Bartholomew is a Threat for the Orthodox East!
Demetrios Anagnostou
Greek Theologian: Patriarch Bartholomew is a Threat for the Orthodox East! Greek Theologian: Patriarch Bartholomew is a Threat for the Orthodox East!
Demetrios Anagnostou
An article from the latest issue of the Greek Orthodox gazette “Orthodox Tipos.” The author is a well-known theologian and publicist.
Comments on the Archons’ Town Hall Meeting on Ukrainian Autocephaly Comments on the Archons’ Town Hall Meeting on Ukrainian Autocephaly
Jesse Dominick
Comments on the Archons’ Town Hall Meeting on Ukrainian Autocephaly Comments on the Archons’ Town Hall Meeting on Ukrainian Autocephaly
Jesse Dominick
The Archons are Patriarch Bartholomew’s PR arm and fundraisers and few expected anything new from this meeting—the right of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to intervene in any Church situation anywhere, any time would be asserted again with little real engagement of the serious issues involved in every aspect of the current Church crisis in Ukraine and Constantinople’s role in it.
A Canonical Crisis in the Orthodox Church A Canonical Crisis in the Orthodox Church
Met. Jonah (Paffhausen)
A Canonical Crisis in the Orthodox Church A Canonical Crisis in the Orthodox Church
Primacy, Conciliarity and the Ecumenical Patriarchate
Metropolitan Jonah (Paffhausen)
The actions of the Patriarchate of Constantinople (EP) in its process of granting a Tomos of autocephaly to the schismatic groups in Ukraine have created a canonical crisis.
Primacy and Identity. A Response to ‘First Without Equals’ and the Tragedy of Deficient Ecclesiology Primacy and Identity. A Response to ‘First Without Equals’ and the Tragedy of Deficient Ecclesiology
Bp. Irenei (Steenberg)
Primacy and Identity. A Response to ‘First Without Equals’ and the Tragedy of Deficient Ecclesiology Primacy and Identity
A Response to ‘First Without Equals’ and the Tragedy of Deficient Ecclesiology
Bishop Irenei (Steenberg)
We are witnessing, at the present moment, a fuller realisation of the disastrous theological and ecclesiological positions outlined in the text below, which were already nascent three years ago (and indeed further back).
Samuel2/4/2020 3:12 am
As someone who has been enquiring Orthodoxy for many months now (over a year) this division is troubling to see. Politics is being mixed with Religious affairs and shows how low the Ecumenical patriarchy has fallen since WW1. They will do anything to unite their church with the Roman Catholic one in a few years I am sure. This makes it plain to me that whichever church chooses to follow the Phanar has already lost its course. One need only listen or read the speech provided by Bartholomew at this year's World Economic Forum to get a sense of where he wishes to take the church. Really sad and dark times.
Editor10/13/2019 2:39 pm
Michael Lacy: We're grateful for your insights. We would only like to make sure that you distinguish between the schismatics/nationalists in the Ukraine and the normal, faithful children of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church under Met. Onuphry, who are very steadfast and longsuffering in their stand for the truth.
Michael Lacy10/13/2019 2:16 pm
Ukraine, in it's political selfishness, has brought Schism to the Holy Orthodox Church. The Ukrainians should be put on notice: Most American Orthodox Christians reject you, and the EP today. Not every American is ignorant and selfish. The Orthodox Church is the fastest growing Church in America, particularly among US military veterans. Her Orthodox citizens see you as lapdogs to the evil of Freemasonry philosophy ruling America from it's inception. We see you wanting to become America-like, and that's an abhoration. That said....the EP was blackmailed by the US State Department. As one of the few Americans ever to prove a corporate conspiracy to a jury, in a US Court of Law.... I know of which I speak. ----------------------- In order to obtain the necessary results in Ukraine and to sever the cultural and religious ties between the Southeast of Ukraine and Russia as much as possible, the US began to use the Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople in the same way as they usually work with drug traffickers or small politicians of the Third World countries. Washington using blackmail actively presses on the ecumenical patriarch Bartholomew. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo coordinates this activity. When the Americans noticed that the Patriarchate of Constantinople is too sluggish about the demands of the ripping of Filaret-Denisenko and President Petro Poroshenko, they decided to remind Bartholomew of a number of points. In the last days of July 2018, Mike Pompeo held a meeting with the head of the American-Ukrainian Diocese of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, Dimitri Trakatellis. At the meeting, Mike Pompeo reported that Washington is aware of the theft in 2017-2018 of a large amount of money (about 10 million US dollars) from the budget for the construction of the Orthodox Church of St. Nicholas in New York. Mike Pompeo noted separately for the Patriarchate of Constantinople that the US Attorney's Office has documentary evidence confirming the withdrawal of these funds abroad on the orders of the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. Mike Pompeo suggested to the Patriarchate of Constantinople that he would "close his eyes" to this theft in exchange for the realization on the part of the Patriarchate of Constantinople of the idea to provide the Ukrainian Church with autocephaly. After this "American kindness" and "closing eyes", the Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew acted in the accelerated mode in the interests of Filaret-Denisenko. The Patriarchate of Constantinople sent two exarchs to "... help the construction of a local independent church. The two exarchs are called to pave the way for autocephaly. It should be noted that in this case the process is no less important than the goal. In fact, thanks to this process, the various branches of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church can be brought together, "said Metropolitan Emmanuel of Gaul, the Locum Tenens of the Western European Exarchate of Constantinople. According to Metropolitan Emmanuel, Patriarch Bartholomew intends to defend the Ukrainian church, for which he "is responsible, since the metropolitan of Kiev canonically depends on the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, despite the fact that in 1686 the Moscow Patriarchate was granted the right to ordain Metropolitan of Kiev." -------------
Lydia7/20/2019 6:40 pm
How do you “restore unity” by stepping out of your jurisdictional bounds and create two church’s along side one another. Ukraine set up a state church with the help of USA and Bartholomew to make their own kingdom then they blame Russia for doing that. Seriously
Gary Cox7/20/2019 12:54 pm
Constantinople in complete control and full authority? We can then all use the newly invented calendar, have communion with Catholics, protestants, Hindus, Muslims and anyone. Also we can then send money to Constantinople and we can have gay sex. What a warm, fuzzy and wonderful world. MAJOR SARCASM INTENDED. Seriously, I believe our honest and true patriarchs and bishops are under tremendous pressure. Keep the prayers going that GOD guides them and us all through this precarious situation. Gary Cox
Here you can leave your comment on the present article, not exceeding 4000 characters. All comments will be read by the editors of OrthoChristian.Com.
Enter through FaceBook
Your name:
Your e-mail:
Enter the digits, seen on picture:

Characters remaining: 4000

to our mailing list

* indicates required