Volos, Greece, August 5, 2019
Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople welcomed a group of students from the theological seminaries and academies of the “Orthodox Church of Ukraine” (OCU) at the Patriarchal Cathedral of St. George in Istanbul on Sunday, July 14.
The students were accompanied by Metropolitan Ignatius of Demetrias and Almyros of the Greek Orthodox Church, having completed a training program at his Metropolis’ Academy of Theological Studies in Volos that was developed specifically for them, reports the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.
The Greek archimandrite, Epiphanius (Dimitrou), who joined the Ukrainian schismatics and was consecrated as a bishop for them in May, came from the Metropolis of Demetrias and Almyros. A hierarch of the schismatic church commented at the time that Fr. Epiphanius had received a canonical release from Met. Ignatius. OrthoChristian sent several emails to the Metropolis to confirm this information but received no reply.
However, Met. Ignatius’ attitude towards the schismatics, expressed in his address to Pat. Bartholomew following the Liturgy on July 14, in addition to the fact that he developed a theological program for them, would seem to confirm the schismatic hierarch’s report. The Metropolitan’s speech can be viewed on YouTube.
He began by explaining how the idea for the training program came about:
Your All-Holiness, as you know, in our Local Church, the holy Metropolis of Demetrias, we have the Volos Academy for theological studies. In the framework of the academy we have many opportunities of encounter at an inter-religious, inter-Christian, and pan-Orthodox level. After your great and very wise decision to grant autocephaly to the Ukrainian people, as it was your right, we had the thought and we discussed it with the board and director of the Volos Academy to create conditions for encounter with the Ukrainian brothers of the new autocephalous church, because we fervently believe that this could help to make much more essential the communion in the one chalice.
Met. Ignatius also remarked that they wanted the students to travel to Istanbul after the 15-day course to get the Patriarch’s blessing, regarding “this effort as a contribution to pan-Orthodox unity.”
“Please pray that this effort becomes successful so that we can repeat similar efforts in order to strengthen the unity with the autocephalous church of the Ukraine,” the Greek metropolitan entreated the Patriarch.
He also noted that sponsorship for the program came from the Greek Ministry for Education.
While the Greek Orthodox Church as a whole has not resolved to recognize the OCU as true Orthodox church, it seems to have a number of loose cannons in its midst, besides Met. Ignatius.
In December, the retired Metropolitan Chrysostomos of Zakynthos sowed confusion among the faithful when he altered the text of the Liturgy to commemorate “Metropolitan” Epiphany Dumenko as the primate of the OCU, despite the fact that, as noted, the Greek Church is not in communion with the OCU, and despite the fact that only primates commemorate other primates.
And recently, Metropolitan Ioannis of Langadas traveled to Kiev to concelebrate with the schismatics on the feast of St. Vladimir and the Baptism of Rus’ on July 28. Following the concelebration, Epiphany Dumenko declared that the Greek Church had de-facto recognized the OCU, forcing the Metropolis of Langadas to issue a statement in response, claiming that Met. Ioannis had chosen to serve in his “academic capacity” as a professor of theology in Uzhgorod University in Western Ukraine.
Canonically, a bishop cannot serve with hierarchs with whom he is not in communion, regardless of any academic posts held, although the case with Met. Ioannis is more complicated, as his diocese is part of the New Lands, or New Territories, that are practically administered as part of the Greek Orthodox Church but are also under the jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Constantinople.
Although it was initially expected that the Greek Council of Bishops would discuss the Ukrainian issue at its upcoming October session, it is not on the agenda at this time.