Chernigov, Ukraine, October 17, 2019
The schismatic “Orthodox Church of Ukraine” (OCU), the creation of Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, caused yet another scandal when images of a recent church consecration, celebrated by the primate “Metropolitan” Epiphany Dumenko, appeared on the group’s official website, revealing that a Catholic priest was not only present at the service, but prayed in the altar with the “Orthodox” clergy.
His presence in the altar is, of course, a flagrant violation of the holy canons of the Orthodox Church.
The OCU is made up of two groups that wandered in schism for 30 years but which were anti-canonically combined into one new group last December and granted a tomos of autocephaly by Constantinople in January. The group is now recognized by the Patriarchate of Constantinople but is desperately fighting to gain the recognition of the other Local Churches, making its ecumenistic activities with Catholics and other schismatics all the more problematic.
And the incident did not fail to catch the attention of hierarchs of other Local Churches. Having seen a report about the incident on the Greek outlet Romfea, His Eminence Metropolitan Seraphim of Piraeus of the Greek Orthodox Church noted their disregard for the norms of holy Orthodoxy and called for the OCU not to be recognized by the Greek Church: “These people are not only unholy, they are heretical and lacking the fear of God. Therefore, to ask the autocephalous Orthodox Churches to recognize them is at least outrageous.”
Having caused a scandal and drawn negative attention to itself, the photos showing the Catholic priest were removed from the OCU website.
However, OrthoChristian took screenshots of the photos, including the address bar while they were still on the site:
Further, it is curious that, on one hand, the photos were removed, while on the other hand, the incident was publicly addressed by the OCU’s Speaker “Archbishop” Evstraty Zorya. Zorya became a “bishop” in the “Kiev Patriarchate” (which joined the OCU) and was known as “Patriarch” Philaret Denisenko’s faithful companion.
Having joined the OCU and having forsaken his former mentor, Zorya now labors as the OCU’s bumbling lead apologist. A few months ago he was dispatched to Montenegro to apologize to His Eminence Metropolitan Amfilohije of Montenegro of the Serbian Orthodox Church for the incident in which a number of OCU and Constantinople hierarchs served with a Montenegrin schismatic.
Zorya wrote on his Facebook page that the Catholic priest was in the altar, “dressed in vestments that the Roman Catholic Church uses during worship,” out of his own respect for the OCU community and “in the spirit of love that should be enjoyed by all Christians.”
Zorya complains that some outlets reported that the priest concelebrated, or even shared in the Eucharist with the OCU clergy. OrthoChristian was careful to note that the pictures did not indicate that the Catholic priest had served in any way, but that it is still improper and disrespectful to the canons of the Church to pray with any non-Orthodox person or clergy, and especially to allow them into the altar.
And, as is typical for the OCU, rather than taking responsibility for its own ill-advised and non-Orthodox actions, Zorya then tries to blame the Moscow Patriarchate for attempting to show the OCU as “betraying Orthodoxy.”
In another recent incident, an OCU “bishop” celebrated a memorial service with a Uniate “bishop” and a Catholic priest, and in August, a cleric of the OCU also concelebrated with a cleric of the schismatic “Belarusian Orthodox Church.”
Thus, since receiving a tomos of autocephaly from Constantinople, the OCU has concelebrated with Uniates, Roman Catholics, Montenegrin schismatics, and Belarusian schismatics.