Kiev, October 30, 2019
Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens’ position regarding the schismatic “Orthodox Church of Ukraine” was finally clarified yesterday with the publication of his irenic letter to Epiphany Dumenko, the primate of the OCU, in which he recognizes the structure and Epiphany as its head.
The Greek Church thus became the second Local Church after Constantinople to recognize and enter into communion with the schismatics.
On October 17, the Russian Holy Synod authorized His Holiness Patriarch Kirill to remove Abp. Ieronymos’ name from the diptychs of the Russian Church in the event that he officially recognizes Epiphany and the OCU. Abp. Ieronymos sent his letter to Epiphany Dumenko four days later on October 21, thus fully aware of the harm his decision would cause in relations between the Russian and Greek Churches.
Recall that Metropolitan Hierotheos (Vlachos) also showed such indifference, speaking at the press conference following the Bishops’ Council of October 12: “We do not think about reactions; we did our duty to ensure unity. Anyone who wants to create a schism takes the responsibility.”
The much-suffering canonical Ukrainian Church also responded yesterday, calling Abp. Ieronymos’ decision a “stab in the back.”
The Ukrainian Church also laments that Hellenism carries more weight among the hierarchs of the Greek Church today than the Church’s canonical norms, and notes that the final decision regarding Eucharistic communion and concelebrations with the clergy of the Greek Church will be made by the Ukrainian Holy Synod.
The Ukrainian Church’s Department for External Church Relations’ letter reads in full (lightly edited by OrthoChristian.com):
We regret this decision, which contradicts the sacred canons and traditions of the Church, and which is a grave error that harms both Orthodoxy in Ukraine and Pan-Orthodox unity as well. The said decision is a knife in the back of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC), which has suffered much as a result of the Church schism over the years, and which continues to suffer at the hands of schismatics today—in its attempts to uphold the canonical order in the Church.
The Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) has repeatedly conveyed its position to the primate and episcopate of the Orthodox Church of Greece about the true situation that exists in the Church environment of Ukraine. Unfortunately, the Orthodox Church of Greece has instead illustrated its solidarity with the erroneous actions of the Patriarchate of Constantinople.
It is, indeed, most unfortunate that the interests of this Greek solidarity, which today are in fact manifestations of ethnophyletism, have outweighed the interests of world Orthodoxy as a whole. It is a pity that geopolitical and political factors have taken precedence in the Orthodox Church of Greece, which was subjected to external pressure.
At the same time, we express our heartfelt gratitude to those stalwart hierarchs, priests, monks and laymen of the Orthodox Church of Greece who have spoken out boldly and valiantly in defense of Christ’s truth and the canonical order in the Church, urging Archbishop Ieronymos II and the rest of the hierarchy of the Greek Church to refrain from acting hastily.
Throughout the long history of the Orthodox Church, especially in the era of the Ecumenical Councils, but not only, there have been many instances when adherents of heresies and schisms have gained temporary victories over the Church. However, sooner or later the time came when the truth of Christ prevailed. We have no doubt that this will be the case this time as well, even if we have to wait a very long while.
It is unfortunate that by its actions in recognizing the schism, and entering into liturgical communion with people who have not been canonically ordained, the Greek Church has raised concerns about the future of our further Eucharistic communion with it.
The final decision regarding the possibility of continuing to be in Eucharistic communion with and concelebrating alongside the clergy of the Orthodox Church of Greece will be made by the Holy Synod of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC).