Kiev, August 23, 2021
Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople arrived on Friday for his first trip to Ukraine since granting the so-called tomos of autocephaly to the schismatic “Orthodox Church of Ukraine” in January 2019.
The Patriarch concelebrated with “Metropolitan” Epiphany Dumenko, the schismatic primate, and other OCU hierarchs on the Turkish island of Imbros two weeks ago, and he served with them again several times over the weekend, having been invited by President Vladimir Zelensky to participate in the celebration of the 30th anniversary of Ukrainian independence.
Pat. Bartholomew arrived at Boryspil Airport in Kiev Friday night, where he was greeted by Dumenko and Prime Minister Denis Shmygal. He then went to meet with President Zelensky at the Presidential Palace, who informed him that Ukraine is a unique example of interconfessional peace, though he also argued that “the aggressor,” as the Ukrainian state refers to Russia, uses religion as a hybrid weapon against Ukraine.
The next morning, a Doxology service was celebrated at the OCU’s St. Michaels’ Golden-Domed Monastery in honor of Pat. Bartholomew’s visit, attended by the hierarchs of the OCU and those accompanying the Constantinople Patriarch.
Dumenko is a peacemaker whose name will be glorified in Ukraine generations from now, Pat. Bartholomew exclaimed. He also again reminded of the privileges possessed by the Patriarchate of Constantinople.
Afterwards, a meeting was held between the Ukrainians and those from Constantinople. Then the Patriarch went to the Ukrainian Parliament to meet with Speaker Dmitry Razumkov. Ukrainian media noted that the Patriarch entered and exited the Parliament building through a back entrance, avoiding the Orthodox faithful who had gathered outside to speak with him.
In the evening, the Patriarch celebrated Vespers at St. Andrew’s Church, which has served as the home church for Constantinople’s representation in Ukraine since it was transferred to the Patriarchate by the Ukrainian government. The service was mainly attended by clerics of Constantinople and the schismatic OCU and journalists.
On Sunday morning, the Patriarch concelebrated with Dumenko and other “hierarchs” of the OCU on the square outside the famous St. Sophia Cathedral. While the previous services attracted few parishioners, the Liturgy was attended by thousands of OCU parishioners from across Ukraine. As part of the celebrations, Dumenko awarded the Patriarch the Grand Cross of the Order of the Archangel Michael as a sign of respect.
During the service, Pat. Bartholomew called upon the hierarchs of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church to reconsider their position of not joining the OCU, and declared that Constantinople is “always ready to listen to problems, dispel doubts, heal anxiety, and heal the injuries of all our children by the grace of God, but within the sanctified Church tradition.”
However, Synods and hierarchs from around the Orthodox world have criticized Constantinople’s actions in Ukraine precisely for its unwillingness to listen or remain within traditional canonical boundaries.
Later on Sunday, the Patriarch met with children who have lost their fathers in the war in eastern Ukraine.