Kiev, October 26, 2020
The decision of Archbishop Chrysostomos of Cyprus to recognize the schismatic “Orthodox Church of Ukraine” (OCU) and to begin commemorating its primate Epiphany Dumenko at the Divine Liturgy on Saturday cannot “serve Orthodoxy,” as the Archbishop claims, because it was made not in the spirit of love and conciliarity, but for the sake of defending his own interests, commented His Grace Bishop Viktor of Baryshevka, the head of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church’s Representation to European International Organizations.
Following the Divine Liturgy on Saturday, Abp. Chrysostomos contended that his decision “will serve Orthodoxy and the Church of Cyprus.” While it may seem like his decision is aimed against certain people, he is “only interested in Orthodoxy,” the Archbishop maintains. His comment are published on the official site of the Church of Cyprus.
He also states that he had actually made his decision and wrote an email to Patriarch Bartholomew about it already two months ago, although he did not send it until Friday, the day before publicly commemorating the schismatic primate.
In fact, the Archbishop’s decision has already caused problems within his own Cypriot Church, Bp. Viktor writes in a new post on Ya Korrespondent, pointing to the letter of protest written by four bishops on the same day that the schismatic Dumenko was first commemorated.
“It is obvious that such an act … will lead to a deepening of the existing crisis in the family of the Orthodox Churches of the world,” Bp. Viktor writes.
The interests of the Church cannot depend on the personal convictions of individual persons, the Ukrainian hierarch writes, as the Orthodox Church has a conciliar character, “such that in the Church all crucial decisions are made by the conciliar mind, that is, jointly, and not alone.”
Abp. Chrysostomos openly acknowledges that whereas he previously preached the necessity of conciliarity on the Ukrainian issue, he commemorated Epiphany Dumenko against the decisions of his own Holy Synod.
In February 2019, the Cypriot Holy Synod declared that the OCU failed to achieve the hoped-for unity in Ukraine and that a Church cannot be built upon the foundation of unordained schismatics. The issue of recognizing the schismatics was broached at a Synod meeting again in September, though after the objections of several metropolitans, it was then decided to table the issue until a later session. The Synod met again on Friday, the same day that Abp. Chrysostomos informed Pat. Bartholomew of his decision, though, according to Abp. Chrysostomos’ own admission, he told none of his brother bishops about his decision.
Last year, Patriarch Theodoros of Alexandria also began to recognize the schismatics without bringing the matter before the Patriarchate’s Holy Synod, and the year before, the Patriarchate of Constantinople had resolved to create the OCU without consulting any of its fraternal Local Orthodox Churches.
When the love and unity of the children of God are sacrificed for the sake of one’s own, often erroneous ideas, “one cannot claim that such actions ‘serve’ God and His Church,” Bp. Viktor said.
Inter-Orthodox relations are experiencing perhaps their greatest challenge since the Great Schism of 1054, and the Church is also therefore impaired in its ability to speak to the problems of the world, he continued.
“We can only hope that the Church of Cyprus will find the strength to remedy the crisis situation that has developed as a result of the unilateral decision of its primate. We pray for this, because we know that that which is out of man’s hands is in God’s hands,” Bp. Viktor concluded.
Following the Liturgy on Saturday, Abp. Chrysostomos said that he would be willing to hold a Synod meeting on the issue now, because he is sure a majority of the bishops will stand by his decision. Bishop Pankratios of Arsinoe was consecrated to the episcopacy during the same Liturgy on Saturday, and it has been suggested that he was chosen in order to give the Archbishop the majority he is seeking.
In his comments, Abp. Chrysostomos also recalled that he had previously tried to maintain a neutral stance, though there were already signs of which way he was leaning. In December, he harshly criticized three of his own bishops for violating neutrality by holding a monastic conference with representatives of the Russian Church, though when a Cypriot bishop actually concelebrated with a schismatic bishop in Istanbul, he received no public censure from the Archbishop.
The Cypriot primate met with several of his brother primates, urging them not to make any unilateral decisions on the Ukrainian issue, but he eventually had to stop his visits. In his most recent comments, he says his health forced him to stop, though at the time he admitted that he stopped his mediatory work because it roused the anger of Pat. Bartholomew.
Abp. Chrysostomos also claims that all of the primates except His Holiness Patriarch Kirill agree with his decision to recognize the OCU, whether they are willing to admit it or not.
Several primates, including His Beatitude Theophilos of Jerusalem, His Beatitude Patriarch John of Antioch, His Holiness Patriarch Irinej of Serbia, His Beatitude Archbishop Anastasios of Albania, His Beatitude Metropolitan Sawa of Poland, and His Beatitude Metropolitan Rastislav of the Czech Lands and Slovakia have strongly spoken against Constantinople’s interference in Ukraine and against the recognition of the OCU, though the actions of Pat. Theodoros of Alexandria last year and now those of Abp. Chrysostomos demonstrate that primates are also susceptible to contradicting their own previously held stances.
According to a report on Romfea, in the summer of 2018, Abp. Chrysostomos sent a letter to Pat. Kirill on the occasion of the 1,030th anniversary of the Baptism of Rus’, in which he wrote that “Kiev should never be ecclesiastically separated from Moscow.”
Metropolitan Georgios of Paphos personally attended the celebrations in Moscow that year, where he told Pat. Kirill: “I convey the words of His Beatitude [Abp. Chrysostomos], who assures that the Orthodox Church of Cyprus will always support the position of your Church regarding the granting of autocephaly in Ukraine.”
As His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion, the head of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations, commented in an interview with RIA-Novosti, it is no secret that Abp. Chrysostomos is under pressure from Pat. Bartholomew, and it is likely that Pat. Theodoros’ recent trip to Cyprus was aimed at swaying certain hierarchs to Constantinople’s side.