Thessaloniki, October 21, 2019
The hierarchs of the Greek Orthodox Church gathered on October 12 to discuss the issue of recognizing the schismatic “Orthodox Church of Ukraine” (OCU), after which reports quickly spread that they had resolved to recognize. However, two metropolitans later refuted these reports, emphasizing that no vote had been taken on the matter.
On Saturday, October 19, Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens, the president of the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church of Greece, celebrated the Divine Liturgy in Thessaloniki with Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople. The name of “Metropolitan” Epiphany Dumenko, the primate of the OCU, was commemorated by Pat. Bartholomew during the service, and he thanked Abp. Ieronymos for entering Epiphany’s name into the diptychs—a list of the names of the primates of every autocephalous Orthodox Church.
The Russian Holy Synod had announced a few days prior that it authorized Patriarch Kirill of Moscow to remove Abp. Ieronymos’ name from the diptychs if he began to commemorate or otherwise indicate his recognition of Epiphany and the OCU.
However, the situation was again not so clear as it was made to seem.
Fr. Nikolai Balashov, the Deputy Chairman of the Russian Church’s Department for External Church Relations, spoke with RIA-Novosti on Saturday after Abp. Ieronymos and Pat. Bartholomew concelebrated, emphasizing that the commemoration of Epiphany at the Liturgy does not necessarily mean that Abp. Ieronymos recognizes Epiphany, because Pat. Bartholomew commemorates Epiphany regardless of who he is serving with.
Abp. Ieronymos himself did not commemorate Epiphany at any Liturgy following the Bishops’ Council on October 12 up until the Liturgy with Pat. Bartholomew.
As Fr. Nikolai emphasized, the issue will become clear if Abp. Ieronymos commemorates Epiphany at a Liturgy that he serves himself. Interestingly, OrthoChristian has been unable to find any reports as to whether Abp. Ieronymos commemorated Epiphany yesterday, the day after he served with Pat. Bartholomew.
Supporting Fr. Nikolai’s words, a source within the Greek Church also told RIA-Novosti that Pat. Bartholomew was mistaken in thanking Abp. Ieronymos for supposedly adding Epiphany’s name to the Greek Church’s diptychs.
The source emphasized that it was Pat. Bartholomew who commemorated Epiphany at the joint Liturgy, and added: “No, of course [Abp. Ieronymos] did not enter Epiphany into the diptychs.”
“The Patriarch is thus pushing the Greek Church in this direction, to recognize the OCU,” the source commented.
Abp. Ieronymos remained silent when Pat. Bartholomew thanked him for adding Epiphany’s name.
The source also noted that it’s possible that a three-day session of the Bishops’ Council could be convened to deal with the Ukrainian issue again, as certain hierarchs have called for.
For Epiphany to be added to the diptychs, the proper order must be followed, the source stressed. “This requires a clear decision of the Bishops’ Council. There has been no such decision. It must also be confirmed by the Permanent Synod, and then the name will be added to the diptychs by the Synodal Commission… Changes will be made to the diptychs only if there are decisions of the Council and the Synod,” he explained.
It is perhaps telling that neither Archbishop Elpidophoros nor Epiphany Dumenko made any reference to the Greek Church’s supposed recognition of the OCU in their speeches at Saturday’s banquet of the Order of St. Andrew the Apostle in New York City.
Meanwhile, Orthodox Times, the English version of the Greek outlet Romfea, reported yesterday that Metropolitan Stephan of Tallinn celebrated the Liturgy in Volos, Greece on Sunday with Metropolitan Ignatius of Demetrias of the Greek Church and Bishop Epiphanius of Olvia of the schismatic OCU. Thereby, the outlet writes, “The Church of Greece spells the end of the issue regarding the recognition of the Church of Ukraine.”
“It concerns the first Co-Liturgy performed by a Metropolitan of the Church of Greece and a Bishop of the Church of Ukraine, after the official decision on the matter of the Hierarchy of the Church of Greece last Saturday,” Orthodox Times writes.
However, as we have written, the situation is not so clear. Such concelebrations between Greek hierarchs and OCU hierarchs, in fact, already happened several times even before the Bishops’ Council on October 12, which were cause for concern, but were not seen as official recognition of the OCU by the Greek Church.
The situation remains unclear, and the Greek Church has not offered any clarifications on the matter.