Tbilisi, November 16, 2020
An apologetical book earlier issued by the Patriarchate of Constantinople and the “Orthodox Church of Ukraine,” aimed at justifying the creation and “autocephaly” of the schismatic Ukrainian structure is actively being translated into the languages of the Local Orthodox Churches and distributed en masse to clergy, teachers and students at religious schools, public figures close to the Church, and journalists.
The work, published by Pantocrator Monastery on Mt. Athos, goes so far as to accuse the Moscow Patriarchate of creating the schism in Ukraine in the early 1990s.
At the moment, the apology has already been issued in Georgian, and a large-scale advertising campaign has been launched in the Church sphere, reports the PravBlog Telegram channel, with reference to the Georgian Orthodox channel Labarum.
This news comes at the same time as the announcement of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s upcoming visit to His Holiness Catholicos-Patriarch Ilia II, just after a visit to Patriarch Bartholomew in Istanbul to discuss matters of “religious freedom.”
Constantinople and the schismatic OCU have attempted to frame the Ukrainian crisis as a matter of religious freedom—arguing that Ukrainians cannot be free if they worship in churches of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church under the Moscow Patriarchate, although Ukrainians have always had the ability to choose which church to belong to.
Former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, one of the main architects of the OCU, spoke of its creation as “a great victory of the God-loving Ukrainian people over the Moscow demons, the victory of Good over Evil, the victory of Light over Darkness.” He also claimed that Russians and Ukrainians worship a different God.
It is no secret that Pat. Bartholomew and the Ukrainian authorities under Poroshenko created the OCU with the active support of the U.S. State Department, as has been publicly admitted by hierarchs of the OCU themselves. And as Orthodox History has reported, the State Department itself has documented its history of cooperation with the Patriarch of Constantinople. See, for example, their articles, “Greek Archbishop to proto-CIA: ‘Your directions will be executed faithfully,’” “Secret 1950 State Dept Memo on Ecumenical Patriarch,” and “Patriarch Athenagoras’ Declarations of Loyalty to America.”
His Holiness Patriarch Ilia has expressed strong opposition to Constantinople’s OCU project in the past, but the Holy Synod of the Georgian Church has never taken a firm stance either way, instead calling for dialogue between the Churches of Russia and Constantinople.
At the same time, the Georgian Church expressed its indignation in January of last year at the pressure being placed upon it by both governmental and non-governmental forces to recognize the OCU. Playing on anti-Russian sentiments that exist in Georgia, those hierarchs who oppose the recognition of the OCU are slandered as having pro-Russian sentiments, the head of the Patriarchate’s press service Archpriest Andria Dzhagmaidze explained.
Just a week later, a delegation from Constantinople, headed by Metropolitan Emmanuel of Gaul, visited the Georgian Patriarchate to discuss the granting of a tomos of autocephaly to the OCU that occurred earlier that month. However, members of the Georgian Synod noted that the meeting had no particular influence on their position, and the Georgian Synod remains among those that have taken no firm position.
At the same time, there are at least a handful of Georgian bishops of an anti-Russian bent and who have publicly declared their support for the OCU, who favorably receive works like the new apologetical book, which directly accuses the Moscow Patriarchate of creating the schism in Ukraine:
In 1991, Ukraine became an independent state and, as a result, the Church of Ukraine asked the Moscow Patriarchate to take the necessary steps to grant it autocephaly. In 1992, the Ukrainian hierarchs unanimously signed an appeal on autocephaly. However, it was very difficult for the Russian Church to grant autocephaly to Ukraine because it would mean that it would lose territory and holy sites that are directly related to its history, and at the same time lose influence. Therefore, it decided that it is better to create a split within Ukraine than to agree to provide autocephaly.
Recall that Patriarch Bartholomew, in fact, signed an agreement with former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to grant autocephaly to the OCU in exchange for a number of Church properties in Ukraine.
According to the book, the schism in Ukraine “was arranged by the Russian Church, not the Ecumenical Patriarchate.”
Moreover, it asserts that Constantinople has opened the door to salvation for millions of Ukrainians who previously chose not to enter the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church under His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev and All Ukraine.