Kiev, November 27, 2020
A week ago, Patriarch Bartholomew insulted millions of Ukrainians with his letter to the Ukrainian outlet Cerkvarium in which he brazenly declared that His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev and All Ukraine and the hierarchs with him are not canonical bishops of Ukraine, but merely hierarchs residing in Ukraine. Constantinople only “temporarily tolerates” the existence of these hierarchs in their own homeland, the Patriarch declared.
Several hierarchs of the Ukrainian Church have commented on the Patriarch’s incendiary words.
His Eminence Metropolitan Anthony of Boryspil and Brovary, the Chancellor of the Ukrainian Church, emphasized that, “It is difficult to comment on such statements, because they go beyond common sense and the reality in which we live.”
Moreover, the Patriarch’s words are completely lacking in love, but only show “irritation and even a certain impotence,” he said.
“We understand that Patriarch Bartholomew considers himself the Ecumenical Patriarch … although the Ecumenical Patriarchate assumed, first of all, the existence of the Byzantine Empire, which ceased to exist long ago,” His Eminence stated.
Such a departure from reality is, first of all, sad for Pat. Bartholomew, Met. Anthony said, because “the Ukrainian Orthodox Church is not a phantom, not a mirage, but real people.”
If the Patriarch merely “tolerates” the hierarchs of the UOC, the same necessarily goes for the millions of Orthodox Christians who follow them, Met. Anthony commented. “This statement is quite dangerous just for the human mentality,” the hierarch reflected.
The Patriarch understands the failure of his OCU project which has only deepened the schism in Ukraine and created more schisms in the Orthodox Church, and his letter indicates that he is waiting for a new turn in the political tide, when the battle against the UOC will be rekindled with zeal, Met. Anthony believes.
But fighting against the Church means fighting against God, and the one who fights against God will always lose, the Ukrainian hierarch concluded.
For his part, His Eminence Metropolitan Augustine of Belaya Tserkov said the Patriarch’s letter reminds him of a line from St. Nestor the Chronicler’s 12th-century history of Rus’, The Primary Chronicle: “The Greeks have been deceitful to this day.”
“The contents of the Ecumenical Patriarchate did not reveal anything new to me, but it is a shame that he showed such an attitude towards His Beatitude [Met. Onuphry],” Met. Augustine commented for the Union of Orthodox Journalists.
Met. Augustine also emphasized how Pat. Bartholomew did a complete about-face and has abandoned all the positions he once held regarding Ukraine. This stance of doing whatever it wants without any foundation casts a shadow on anything good that remains in Byzantium.
“It’s difficult to express the relevance of the famous expression of the monk Nestor the Chronicler—’The Greeks have been deceitful to this day.’ I didn’t think that kind of mentality could live that long. It’s sad...” Met. Augustine concluded.
His Eminence Archbishop Alexiy of Voznesensk also commented on the Patriarch’s letter for the Union of Orthodox Journalists, saying his words indicate nothing but moral blindness on the part of the Patriarch.
The Patriarch also violated the canons that stipulate that there can only be one bishop per city. And worse yet, he chose to recognize “hierarchs” who have never been ordained, the Archbishop said. Conversely, Met. Onuphry and the other hierarchs of the UOC committed no canonical crimes. And in any case, if Pat. Bartholomew tries to seize the authority to decide matters in other Local Churches, he is behaving just as once did Rome, Archbishop Alexiy emphasized.
Further the union of the Kiev Metropolia with the Russian Orthodox Church has been undisputed for 330 years, and Constantinople has had absolutely nothing to do with the great growth—monasteries, churches, theological schools, Sunday schools, etc.—of the Ukrainian Church.
“And the fact that Patriarch Bartholomew announced the return of all this to the Church of Constantinople is a violation of one of God’s main commandments, not to steal,” the Ukrainian hierarch commented.
And concerning the Patriarch’s words about temporarily tolerating UOC bishops, “who, together with their flock, during the 30 years that have passed since the atheistic soviet power, have revived the Church, resumed monastic life in hundreds of monasteries, rebuilt thousands of churches, and brought millions of people to Christ, it is difficult to call them anything but moral blindness.”
“For some reason, Pat. Bartholomew called these bishops titular, but he recognized as ‘real’ those who patronize the seizure of churches, violence against believers, and other lawless acts. You need to be truly blind not to see the huge difference in the moral guise of the ministers of the UOC and those people whom Pat. Bartholomew took under his wing,” Abp. Alexiy added.
The bishops of Constantinople are in need of pray, the Archbishop said. It is impossible to serve two masters, but one thing can be said: “The UOC has served the Lord Jesus Christ and the God-saved Ukrainian people, and will continue do so,” His Eminence emphasized.