Kiev, December 6, 2019
The Local Churches should not exercise their independence, but should “simply recognize” the Patriarchate of Constantinople’s actions in Ukraine, believes Epiphany Dumenko, the head of the schismatic “Orthodox Church of Ukraine” that was created by ex-President Petro Poroshenko and Patriarch Bartholomew last year.
Otherwise, the Local Churches put their own autocephalies at risk, Dumenko believes. Constantinople representatives themselves, such as Archbishop Job (Getcha), have voiced as much in the past, saying that Constantinople gave and Constantinople can take away autocephaly, thus attributing a de-facto jurisdiction over the other Local Churches to Constantinople.
In a recent interview with the BBC, Dumenko attributes the difficulty of the process of recognition of his OCU not to its canonical irregularity, being an amalgamation of two groups that willfully remained in schism for 30 years, but to pressure from the Russian state and Church: “The Russian state represented by the ROC was involved in the process of persistent opposition to the recognition of Ukrainian autocephaly by other local Orthodox Churches.”
The Synods of several Local Churches’ themselves have, on the other hand, pointed to the OCU’s lack of Apostolic Succession and lack of true ordinations as being among the reasons they cannot recognize the OCU, though Dumenko does not address that in his interview.
Despite the difficulties, “today there are many positive messages from other Local Orthodox Churches,” Dumenko asserts, referring to so-called “hybrid” recognitions, where hierarchs of Local Churches that do not recognize the OCU have taken it upon themselves to concelebrate with the schismatics.
On the feast of St. Vladimir in July, a hierarch of the Greek Church, Metropolitan Ioannis of Langadas, concelebrated with the schismatics, though the Greek Church had not yet recognized them. Dumenko immediately declared this was “de-facto recognition,” thus forcing the Metropolis to issue a statement denying this assertion. However, for Dumenko, the Metropolis’ statement came because the Russian Church “raised a fuss.”
He also points to the recent incident in which Bishop Isaiah of Šumperk of the Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia concelebrated with the schismatics as an example of “hybrid recognition,” though he does not note that Bp. Isaiah was specifically warned by his own primate, His Beatitude Metropolitan Rostislav, that he will face canonical sanctions from the Synod if he concelebrates.
He also notes that a Cypriot hierarch recently concelebrated with the schismatics in Constantinople, and that two Bulgarian bishops reportedly celebrated at a Divine Liturgy in Langadas, Greece, where the name of Epiphany Dumenko was commemorated.
However, there are serious questions about the news regarding the Bulgarian bishops, as the story traces to Archimandrite Romanos (Anastasiadis), a known Constantinople propagandist, and according to Orthodox liturgics, regular hierarchs commemorate the local primate, while only primates commemorate the other primates, showing with whom they share Eucharistic communion.
Thus, if the primates, including Epiphany Dumenko were commemorated, it was an example of liturgical abuse, and Fr. Romanos offers no evidence that the Bulgarian hierarchs were aware and consented to such commemorations.
It is true, however, that Greek hierarchs have altered the liturgical order of their own accord in the past in order to show support for the Ukrainian schismatic. The retired Metropolitan Chrysostomos of Zakynthos of the Greek Orthodox had his deacon commemorate the primates, including Dumenko, in December 2018.
“I think that in the future they will definitely make a positive decision on the recognition of our autocephalous status… We see that the ROC is trying to put pressure on the hierarchy, and therefore the representatives of the Local Churches are now waiting to a certain extent, do not speak publicly, and then only finally announce the decision. I think that will be the case with many Local Churches that will give us good news and recognition early next year,” Dumenko said.
He also stressed that the other Local Churches should not question the actions of the Patriarchate of Constantinople in Ukraine, since, “historically, he has the right to make such decisions.”
As Dumenko believes, a Local Church cannot exercise its independence and express its own view without endangering itself: “Other Churches should simply recognize this act, which was committed by the Ecumenical Patriarch, not question it. For if this or that Local Orthodox Church questions the decision of the Ecumenical Patriarch, it also puts its autocephaly at risk. Therefore, the Ecumenical Patriarch now communicates with other primates, his representatives convey a clear position and persuade them that other Churches should support the decision of Constantinople,” Epiphany concluded.
Last October, Patriarch Bartholomew also declared that the Russian Church has no choice but to accept Constantinople’s actions, dismissing the historical, canonical, and dogmatic arguments against them as “black propaganda.”