Met Athanasios of Limassol’s Full Interview About Ukraine

The original Greek audio of the interview can be found here.


INTERVIEWER: Good afternoon, geronda. Your blessing.

MET ATHANASIOS: Good afternoon. God’s blessing

INTERVIEWER: I would like to ask you a question in regard to the patriarchal concelebration the day before last on the feast day of St. John the Merciful.


INTERVIEWER: I heard Epifanios commemorated as the Metropolitan of Kiev.


INTERVIEWER: We all know that the church of Cyprus doesn’t acknowledge him as Metropolitan, and I would like, as was surely sorely scandalized by this, to hear your view regarding this issue, if you can enlighten us as to why this happened, so we are not scandalized like this for no reason.

MET ATHANASIOS: Yes. Thank you very much. Thank you.

INTERVIEWER: No, thank YOU, geronda.

MET ATHANASIOS: It’s a difficult question, and the answer causes a bit of pain, but we must tell things as they are, so there aren’t things left hanging, and there aren’t things that cause our brothers’ consciences to be scandalized. First off, let me say that our metropolis, with much love and with much honor and respect received the visit of His Holiness the Patriarch of Alexandria, our beloved brother and our personal friend from our childhood years, or rather our student years, let me say, and it was a great blessing and a great honor that His Beatitude came to us to bring joyous light with his presence, the celebrations of St. John the Merciful to celebrate 1400 years since his blessed repose, as a successor of the Patriarch of Alexandria, St. John the Merciful.

We invited the Patriarch of Alexandria to visit us over a year and a half ago, far before there were issues concerning Ukraine and autocephaly and the rest of it. And because we were scheduling the celebrations far in advance, and we had to invite His Beatitude far ahead of time, we communicated amongst ourselves, and we sent a written request very early, so the patriarch could make his own schedule as well, and make plans to be with us, which happened, and we thank him especially. In the meantime, this issue of Ukraine came up, which is, unfortunately, a thorny issue for our church and for Orthodoxy in general. The Church of Greece and the Church of Alexandria recognized Epifanios as Metropolitan of Kiev and now commemorate– both the primate of Greece and the primate of Alexandria– Epifanios, as Metropolitan of Kiev.

The church of Cyprus, according to the order of the synod, expressed by our archbishop Chrysostomos, has aligned itself with the position that it will not recognize, at least for the time being, Epifanios, and will not move towards any act of commemorating him until it sees things better, and therefore, the Church of Cyprus has not yet commemorated Epifanios as Metropolitan of Kiev. And my position is, and I have stated it both in writing and officially, that my personal view is that the canonical metropolitan of Kiev is Onoufrios and the holy and sacred synod around him, which we all recognized until recently, the whole Orthodox Church, and there had not been an issue doubting the recognition of the Metropolitan of Kiev, Onoufrios, and for many and different reasons I had not placed myself in a position supporting Epifanios as metropolitan of Kiev, and both then and now I recognize and accept Onoufrios and the hierarchy around him, which consists of the hierarchs of Metropolitan Onoufrios, as the canonical Metropolitan of Kiev and All Ukraine.

When the Patriarch of Alexandria came, he had already, in the meantime, commemorated, in Alexandria, Metropolitan Epifanios as the Metropolitan of Kiev. He had commemorated him officially and he had also published an official announcement, the Patriarch of Alexandria. We have no reason to question or doubt His Holiness of Alexandria, and we respect his views and his judgment, and we love him and respect him specially. When His Beatitude the Patriarch of Alexandria came to Cyprus, then certainly we had a certain anxiety about what would happen now with the commemoration of Epifanios. However, when he came to us in Cyprus, one of the representatives of the Archdiocese of Cyprus, of the bishops there of the Holy Archdiocese, assured me that he had spoken with His Beatitude the Patriarch of Alexandria, and received the promise and the assurance that the Patriarch of Alexandria would not commemorate Epifanios during the Divine Liturgy, but he would only commemorate, as is normal, the archbishop of Cyprus and the local metropolitan, so, me, and he would not commemorate anyone else, precisely so no problem would be created. I was told the same thing by the attendants of His Beatitude the Patriarch of Alexandria. They assured me that Epifanios would not be commemorated as metropolitan of Kiev. Despite that, however, without my knowing beforehand, without anything having been said to me, His Beatitude the Patriarch of Alexandria judged that, at that moment, he should commemorate Epifanios as metropolitan of Kiev. The first I heard of it was at that moment of the Great Entrance during the Divine Liturgy, and naturally I judged that I could not react at that moment, and therefore the thing happened, and I was silent, praying and considering what should be done now, and where this heartbreaking situation would lead our Orthodox Church, believing wholeheartedly, of course, that our Good God, our Lord Jesus Christ, the Founder of the church, will not let His Church be tempted, but will lead her to the true way of truth, and He will give what is right and what is appropriate to the hearts of the primates of the Church.

It is a fact that the Patriarch of Alexandria as well is very troubled, from what he told me himself as well, this issue occupies him. He is not happy about this situation which is happening in the Orthodox Church today. He is a person who knows reality very well, but as you can understand, he is a patriarch, second in the order of Orthodoxy, and he expresses the Patriarchate of Alexandria. We cannot impose our views upon him, and we can’t tell him who he will commemorate and whom he won’t. He is a primate of an ancient patriarchate. What I will say, in conclusion, however, is that the commemoration of Epifanios as metropolitan of Kiev, even if it happened in the Church of Cyprus and more specifically in the Holy Metropolis of Limassol, this does not express either the Holy Metropolis of Limassol, or me as metropolitan of Limassol, or the Church of Cyprus.

The Church of Cyprus is expressed by the Synod of the Church of Cyprus through her holy archbishop, His Eminence Chrysostomos alone, and as for me, I am expressed through what I say only, and I remain in what I expressed in writing, which was published on many pages and webpages, that for me, the metropolitan of Kiev is only Onoufrios and his accompanying holy and sacred synod. That is my own position. I respect the primates of our Church, I respect their holy synods, and their views, but we must have our own views, and I believe that a Pan-Orthodox gathering or synod or conference of the primates of the Church must give a solution and an end to this thorny problem, which, with a little good will and prayer and patience, I believe the right solution can be found. And I am certain that the primates of our Orthodox Church and our Ecumenical Patriarch, whom we love and respect, and all the primates have worry about the church and have love for the church and have the good concern and are occupied by this issue, and I personally know that both alone and amongst themselves they assemble and they discuss the whole situation in Orthodoxy.

And we must pray, my brothers, that God gives a good end and a good solution to this problem, which, fortunately, is not a dogmatic problem or a problem of faith, but is primarily an issue of order and governance in our Church. Despite that, I stick to what I declared publicly and the commemoration of Epifanios as the metropolitan of Kiev by his Holiness the Patriarch of Alexandria neither represents nor binds me to anything at all. Whom [i.e., the Patriarch of Alexandria], may I reiterate, I love and respect and honor as an old classmate, and second-in-honor patriarch of the Orthodox Church. This, I believe, is what I have to say about the subject.

See also
Patriarch of Alexandria broke promise that he wouldn’t commemorate Epiphany Dumenko in Cyprus Patriarch of Alexandria broke promise that he wouldn’t commemorate Epiphany Dumenko in Cyprus Patriarch of Alexandria broke promise that he wouldn’t commemorate Epiphany Dumenko in Cyprus Patriarch of Alexandria broke promise that he wouldn’t commemorate Epiphany Dumenko in Cyprus
During the broadcast, Met. Athanasios stressed that the bishops of the Patriarchate of Alexandria who were traveling with Pat. Theodoros assured him from the moment they arrived that the Patriarch had promised not to commemorate Epiphany Dumenko. Further, the Patriarch himself did not warn Met. Athanasios during the Liturgy that he intended to commemorate the schismatic.
Archbishop of Cyprus: We disagree with actions of Constantinople and Athens, disagree with Moscow’s response Archbishop of Cyprus: We disagree with actions of Constantinople and Athens, disagree with Moscow’s response Archbishop of Cyprus: We disagree with actions of Constantinople and Athens, disagree with Moscow’s response Archbishop of Cyprus: We disagree with actions of Constantinople and Athens, disagree with Moscow’s response
The Cypriot Church continues to stand against the anti-canonical actions of the Patriarchate of Constantinople in Ukraine, and it does not agree with Archbishop Ieronymos of Athen’s decision to recognize the Ukrainian schismatics, though it also does not agree with the Moscow Patriarchate’s decision to break communion with the Patriarchate of Constantinople and with the Greek primate.
I Admire How Metropolitan Onuphry Has Handled This Crisis I Admire How Metropolitan Onuphry Has Handled This Crisis
Met. Athanasios of Limassol
I Admire How Metropolitan Onuphry Has Handled This Crisis I Admire How Metropolitan Onuphry Has Handled This Crisis
Metropolitan Athanasios of Limassol
Every day we say to Christ: “Thy will be done.” We must seek it and it should be the purpose of our life. And this approach should be seen on the level of the primates of the Churches all the moreso.
David12/5/2019 10:36 am
Sister Cornelia, There is much suffering in Ukraine, not just from the UOC-MP. The wounds of the Soviet period run very deep. Blood feuds are the worst kind. My refusal to accept only half the story is not a dismissal of their suffering. I used the Divorce analogy deliberately. Nobody wins in that scenario. The reason I bring up the UOC-USA is because there is a precedent for "fixing this." I also wish HAH had done it in a more conciliar fashion. I believe recognition of the OCU was the right thing to do, even if I don't like how it was done. They are fighting, and we need to stop the fighting. That isn't going to happen by gaslighting OCU people for their feelings against the MP, which are for a myriad or reasons, and not just because they "hate Russians." There are former Uniates who remember the Soviet repression of the Greek Catholics (with MP complicity), or the cooperation of the MP with the KGB. The MP of today is not like that, but trust has been broken and the wounds of that period are deep. It isn't helpful to dismiss that. It is also not helpful for the OCU to dismiss every member of the UOC-MP as a Russian agent. Emotions are high in a lot of places (in other places, the two Churches coexist uneasily). I acknowledge the nuance here. OCU people have their own stories, just as the UOC-MP people do. They aren't all "Fascists." There are millions of people in OCU parishes who for one reason or another, cannot be a part of the UOC-MP. I think a beginning would be for each Church to acknowledge the other in some way, rather than both fighting for dominance as THE Church of Ukraine. May you have a Blessed Nativity Fast. Forgive me for any offense I may have caused.
David12/5/2019 9:51 am
David, really, as I said before, your logic is very strange. So because an anti-canonical reception of unconsecrated bishops was perpetrated in North America by the EP, and although the Russian Church was against it it went on, that means somehow that now the MP should accept the OCU? Maybe it's time to stop the lawlessness? And until you go to Ukraine and talk to the people who are suffering from all of this I have no more to say to you. The Ukrainians outside of Ukraine are in a sense the "wrong" ones, because they are not going through all this. By the way, I also know many Ukrainians who go to EP churches outside of Ukraine because they are the only ones nearby. Most of the ones I know do not agree with what the EP did in Ukraine.
Jeremiah Mourner12/5/2019 12:01 am
Dimitrios, no, it was not to your comment that I have replied, but to an insulting comment by a person under the pseudonym of AYIE MORFOU. Thankfully, the comment has been removed from the page, because it was improper and had no logic.
David12/4/2019 11:38 pm
Sister Cornelia, I have not had the pleasure to visit Ukraine (yet), but I do know Ukrainians from Ukraine (including a priest). They worship with us (the EP) though, so perhaps they are the "wrong" Ukrainians for this website. My whole point is that the UOC-USA/Canada is from the same "schism," with the same exact canonical issues. If the MP is ok with their recognition, how can they turn around and deny the OCU recognition? Why are the UOC-USA "OK" and the OCU is not? This is the answer that no MP partisan has not been able to give me. They just keep going on and on about Patriarch Bartholomew. If they are horrible schismatic Nazis, why were the UOC-USA/Canada given a pass? Being the North American "branch" of that schism should be irrelevant. If it isn't about that, what is it about then? The only other answer I can see is the MP's anger over the EP's violation of their canonical territory--I used the crude word "turf," but there it is. Ukraine is divided right now. The nasty court battles and fisticuffs happened in America too, sadly during the canonical nightmare of the 20th Century. Of course it is even more murky in traditional Orthodox countries where the village community itself owns the Church and angry neighbors are going at it. If the OCU's canonical issues are not an impediment for their reception (AND THEY ARE NOT, as the UOC-America demonstrates), then what is? Was it the Tomos itself? Here we are getting back to arguing over the authority of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. In other words, the same old argument we've been having for a century. I say this not to be dismissive of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, but to illustrate that it is sadly a pawn in a much larger conflict. Forgive me if my use of the word "turf" offended you. I am trying to cut through the fog of lies and politics that UOJ and RISU are weaving. If the UOC-USA can be received, so can the OCU. Perhaps it is the examination of the North American question that has caused hierarchs to be open to receiving the OCU, because their American and Canadian brothers and Sisters have been in the Canonical fold since the 90s.
Gary Cox12/4/2019 5:49 pm
Demitrios, you hit the nail on the head. It is about the Ukrainian takeover attempt of Constantinople, BUT it is MUCH MORE involved. There are serious moral or rather immoral issues that Constantinople is pushing onto the Church. Let's all pray for our Patriarchs!!! Gary
Gary Cox12/4/2019 5:43 pm
Nun Cornelia, AMEN. Gary
nun Cornelia12/4/2019 3:21 pm
David: Have you ever been to the Ukraine? Do you know anyone who lives there and is a member of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, part of a Church that has existed since the baptism of Rus'? Really, your logic is very flawed. What could the MP possibly do with an anomaly in North America? Don't you get the point that the whole UOC fiasco began with a cleric who was defrocked and anathematized by the Moscow Patriarchate? And your insistence on everything being a matter of "turf"--well I see there is really nothing more to say to you. But know, that there is God, and His Christ is the Head of our Church. He will not be mocked. He knows the truth, and it will prevail. May God help you see the truth--the spiritual truth and some nonsense about turf.
David12/4/2019 3:16 am
Sister Cornelia, The MP was ok with it, because they accepted it. Grudgingly, yes, but they accepted it. If it was such a canonical violation, why did the MP accept it? Could it be because it was in North America? The only difference between the UOC-USA and the OCU is geography. How is the former ok, but not the latter? This is the kind of stuff that has lead me to reject the MP's reasoning for what they are doing. If the Ukrainians in North America can be accepted (despite having the same canonical problems) then the OCU can be accepted as well. If they limited their break in Communion to protesting a violation of their canonical territory, they probably would have many more allies in the Greek Churches and be in a much better position. But they went further and made it about the OCU itself, and declared war on the Ecumenical Patriarchate. In so doing, they alienated the Greek Churches and ensured the OCU's reception. This is all really about the old argument of the EP's powers (or lack thereof) and geopolitics. The precedent for the reception of the OCU was set by the Moscow Patriarchate itself, when they allowed the UOC-USA to be received, when they accepted ROCOR wholesale by the stroke of a pen, without really dealing with their irregularities (uncanonical violations of other Church territories, the questionable communing with Old Calendarists, as well as their reception of defrocked and excommunicated clergy from other jurisdictions), and Finally, the reception of Roman Catholics in their orders and the declaration that their Mysteries are valid. All of the above is "Uncanonical." HOWEVER, it was the pastoral thing to do, and in keeping with the spirit of the Canons. I'm not judging them for that, I think it is a good thing. Why Akrevia now? The MP can't just unilaterally draw the line in the sand in such an arbitrary way and not expect other Churches to question it. This is really about the Ecumenical Patriarchate. That is why the other Churches have not broken Communion, because they see this. This is about Territory. The EP has violated the MP's Canonical Territory. They could have just left it that and have a stronger argument.
Dimitrios12/3/2019 6:43 pm
Jeremiah Mourner, if you are referring to my comment, I do apologise. I did not mean to come across a an attack on Metropolitan Athanasios. I have a great love for him as well as Metropolitan of Morfou Neophytos, whom I assume you are referring to. I did read the entire text and listened to the audio on YouTube. I did not disagree with anything except on the governance point, which I emotionally expounded on. This is a very sore point as I have been following the problem from the beginning, and felt pain for our brothers and sisters in Ukraine who have been physically attacked and had their parishes forcefully seized by militant schismatics. It has now come home to us under the Alexandria Patriarchate, who vocaly supported the canonical Church, only to change his position under pressure recently. Where does this leave the faithful in Ukraine and those in the Greek and Alexandrian Churches, when schismatics are commemorated in place of the canonical Metropolitan Onufry? I would like to see stronger opposition because of what is at stake. I apologise for any offence.
Jeremiah Mourner12/3/2019 3:33 pm
AYIE MORFOU: What are you talking about? Have you tried reading the interview of Metr. Athanasios before attacking him?? Could the following statement be any clearer than what it is?? What do you people want after all?? "And my position is, and I have stated it both in writing and officially, that my personal view is that the canonical metropolitan of Kiev is Onoufrios and the holy and sacred synod around him, which we all recognized until recently, the whole Orthodox Church, and there had not been an issue doubting the recognition of the Metropolitan of Kiev, Onoufrios, and for many and different reasons I had not placed myself in a position supporting Epifanios as metropolitan of Kiev, and both then and now I recognize and accept Onoufrios and the hierarchy around him, which consists of the hierarchs of Metropolitan Onoufrios, as the canonical Metropolitan of Kiev and All Ukraine."
nun Cornelia12/3/2019 2:08 pm
David, sigh... The MP was not okay with the EP accepting the Ukrainians in North America, but as usual, the EP did not care what the MP thinks. The MP protested, as they have for all of the EP's similar acceptance of schismatic groups. But now, the time has come for action. This simply can't go on any more. The EP is destroying Orthodoxy by these actions. And what canonical irregularities are you talking about with the ROCOR? They were canonically ordained, and did not depart from canonical tradition. They were in fact following the directions of Patriarch Tikhon of Moscow and All Russia. And please, an invasion into another Church's canonical territory is not about posturing and politics. It is a violation of Church canons. And it is leading to nothing good. And to talk about "turf" is, excuse the pun, very earthly. We are talking about spiritual things, theology, and Christ's Church. Furthermore, we are talking about people attacking others and stealing their churches. Obviously the time has come to sort things out and get back on the right track.
David12/3/2019 5:49 am
What is the difference between the Ukrainians in North America and the OCU in Ukraine? Both came from the same schism, and had the same canonical issues. Why was the MP ok with the former being received by the EP, and not the latter? I would take the MP's hardline stance more seriously if they had not already allowed the Ukrainian "schismatics" in North America to join the EP en masse, as well as their grandfathering in of the multiple canonical irregularities and problematic ordinations in ROCOR's history with the mere stroke of a pen (I'm not criticising them for that, I think it was the right thing to do---but their current application of Akrevia is selective considering the precedent they themselves set). What this really is about is the EP's arguably uncanonical intrusion into MP territory, and the dispute over the EP's claimed privileges. In other words, the same old arguments taken to the next level. More Church politics and geopolitical posturing. Same nonsense, different century. They are either the autocephalous OCU or the UOC-EP (uncanonically squatting and poaching). At the very least, Metropolitan Epiphany is an EP Bishop acting without the blessing of Metropolitan Onuphry, the "rightful" hierarch of Ukraine. So again, this comes down to Turf. The MP can't have their cake and eat it too---If the North American Ukrainians are not schismatics, then the OCU are not schismatic either.
Mary12/2/2019 9:17 pm
Well said, Dimitrios, thank you.
Dimitrios12/2/2019 1:34 pm
With Great love for the Metropolitan, I must disagree. The issue is not just about governance. It is an issue of dogma as well, since the schismatics teachings are not in line with the Orthodox teachings and this is evident by the words of the schismatic leader "Epipahy" who was "ordained" by the schismatic "Filaret". There is no apostolic succession. This is a dogmatic issue. He has also stated his views on homosexuality which is contrary to Orthodox teaching.  Their concelebration with the Papists is another point. The Nazi Ideology is yet another point. What has Christ to do with Nazi ideology? Entering into communion with schismatics is strictly forbidden by the Church canons, and prescribe that such a Bishop be deposed and Anathema. Schism is a grave sin, which as the Fathers tell us, cannot be washed away even by the blood of a Martyr. I understand that it is difficult to take a harsh stance, but it is exactly what is required by the Church canons. I am a Greek Cypriot, living in South Africa, under the Patriarchate of Alexandria. It is convenient for me to ignore this, out of love for my Patriarch, but my conscience will not allow this. I will not betray Christ for the Patriarch, or my ethnic roots. I believe that the canons must be adhered to no matter what, that Orthodoxy should be preserved without stain, even if it results in discomfort, oppression or even death.
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