Istanbul, December 18, 2020
In October, Patriarch Bartholomew wrote that, “in a spirit of pastoral sensitivity,” he and the Church of Constantinople “temporarily tolerate” the ministry of the hierarchs of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Ukraine, considering them “merely as titular or residing hierarchs in Ukraine.”
Thus, he recognizes that His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev and All Ukraine and the more than 100 bishops of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church are canonical Orthodox hierarchs, but, in his opinion, they are occupying other bishops’ canonical territory.
However, the Patriarch’s patience and pastoral sensitivity may be running out, according to media information.
In a recent interview with His Eminence Metropolitan Anthony of Boryspil and Brovary, the Chancellor of the canonical UOC, a Russian 24 journalist spoke of information they have about Constantinople’s upcoming plans:
“According to our information, at the end of January, they’re planning to hold a session of the Holy Synod of the Church of Constantinople, where they’re planning to recognize the OCU as the only canonical Church in Ukraine. Accordingly, the UOC and its hierarchs and priests will be suspended [literally: “under a ban”—OC].”
Pat. Bartholomew has been stepping up his rhetoric against the UOC, and such a Synodal decision would represent a serious shift in publicly-stated policy, though it would be a logical consequence of the Patriarch’s ambitions against the Russian Church and its canonical Ukrainian Church.
On December 9, the Holy Synod of the Ukrainian Church responded to Pat. Bartholomew’s belittling attitude towards Met. Onuphry and the UOC, saying: “Such a declaration is a threat for the preservation of religious peace in Ukraine and deepens the crisis in world Orthodoxy… The Patriarch of Constantinople has no grounds to make any statements about the primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.”
Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev), the Chairman of the Russian Church’s Department for External Church Relations, commented that the Patriarch’s statement about tolerating the UOC is “absurd and insane,” and Archbishop Alexiy of Voznesensk commented that it only shows the Patriarch’s moral blindness.
The UOC is already expecting increased pressure and persecution from the state and the schismatics leading up to Pat. Bartholomew’s visit to Ukraine next summer, and such a Synodal decision would greatly aggravate the situation, giving the violent Ukrainian nationalists of the schismatic “Orthodox Church of Ukraine” more firepower against the canonical Ukrainian Church.
When Constantinople rehabilitated the Ukrainian schismatics in October 2018, it called for a cessation of violent church seizures in Ukraine, but in the intervening 2 years, neither Pat. Bartholomew nor the Holy Synod of Constantinople have said a word about the numerous violent attacks against the clergy, faithful, and churches of the Ukrainian Church.