Moscow, July 14, 2020
The schismatics of the “Orthodox Church of Ukraine” (OCU) are using the case of a “bishop” who left the OCU to return to Philaret Denisenko’s “Kiev Patriarchate” (KP) to start a fight and spoil relations between the Russian and Romanian Orthodox Churches, believes Vladimir Legoida, the head of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Synodal Department for Relations Between the Church, Society, and the Media.
On February 3, the official KP website announced the return of “Bishop” Philaret Panku of Fălești and East Moldova to Denisenko’s group from the OCU, after Denisenko himself abandoned the OCU to relaunch his KP the previous June. The next day, the Synod of the OCU “retired” Panku, though the KP considers that he is now under no obligation to obey the OCU Synod. Panku later accused the OCU of a number of deceptions.
Having learned that Philaret Panku secretly traveled to Kiev to visit “Patriarch” Philaret Denisenko and declared his refusal to obey the dictates of the OCU, the Synod of the OCU resolved to officially exclude Panku from the ranks of its hierarchs on July 9.
Moreover, the OCU Synod made the curious decision to give His Beatitude Patriarch Daniel of Romania the right to judge the further canonical status of Panku, as Moldova is included within the territory of the Romanian Orthodox Church.
Recall that the Romanian Orthodox Church has never recognized the OCU as an Orthodox Church and is not in communion with it. Furthermore, Philaret Panku has never been a clergyman of the Romanian Church and has no relationship to it.
“Several conclusions and questions flow from this step,” Vladimir Legoida commented on his Telegram channel.
Firstly, by expelling Panku for returning to the KP, the OCU thereby recognizes the existence of the KP, which it had previously refused to do, insisting that “Patriarch” Philaret Denisenko is still a hierarch of the OCU.
“Secondly, by entrusting the fate of Panku to the Romanian Patriarchate, Epiphany seems to be trying to somehow establish relations with the Romanian Church, which has not yet recognized the schismatic Church and doesn’t seem to be planning on it. Probably, the head of the OCU would like to aggravate relations between the Russian and Romanian Churches,” the Russian Church speaker stressed.
It will be interesting to see how the Romanian Church responds, Legoida writes.
“It’s not clear what the Romanian Church has to do with it at all,” he comments, noting that according to the tomos of autocephaly granted to the OCU by the Patriarchate of Constantinople, all parishes of the KP and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (the two churches that merged into the OCU) outside of Ukraine were to move to the jurisdiction of Constantinople.
“According to the ‘tomos,’ Panku should be handled by none other than Patriarch Bartholomew,” explains Legoida.
But Pat. Bartholomew either does not have the strength and authority, or Epiphany himself does not respect the Patriarch and the tomos granted by him, “which then raises the question of the termination of this document,” Legoida writes.
In any case, it is clear that Pat. Bartholomew failed to achieve his goal of uniting Ukrainian Orthodoxy, as before the tomos there was one canonical Church—the Ukrainian Orthodox Church under His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev and All Ukraine—and two schismatic churches, and the situation remains the same now after the granting of the tomos.