A number of Ukrainian dioceses call for question of autocephaly to be raised

Ukraine, March 2, 2022

Metropolitan Vladimir of the Vladimir-Volyn Diocese, who supports the call for Metropolitan Onuphry to start the process of requesting autocephaly for the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. Photo: Facebook Metropolitan Vladimir of the Vladimir-Volyn Diocese, who supports the call for Metropolitan Onuphry to start the process of requesting autocephaly for the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. Photo: Facebook     

Since the beginning of Russia’s invasion into Ukraine on February 24, His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev and All Ukraine and other hierarchs of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church have called on the governments of both Ukraine and Russia to cease the fratricidal war.

The Holy Synod itself also recently issued a statement, again calling on Pres. Putin, as well as Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky, and Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia to do everything possible to bring an end to the war.

Recall that especially in western Ukrainian dioceses, where the OCU and Uniate churches are more numerous than the UOC and Ukrainian nationalism is stronger and more violent, clergy are under great pressure to separate themselves from the Moscow Patriarchate.

There are also requests from several dioceses for Met. Onuphry to begin the process for requesting autocephaly, and number of dioceses have ceased commemorating Patriarch Kirill

According to the statutes of the Russian Orthodox Church, neither the Holy Synod nor even the broader Council of Bishops have the authority to grant autocephaly, but only a Local Council, which consists of bishops plus clerical, monastic, and lay representatives.

At the same time, there are voices within the Ukrainian Church calling for clergy to first pray, rather than succumb to emotion and get involved in such discussions on social media, including His Eminence Metropolitan Luke of Zaporozhye.

Perhaps the first to announce its decision to cease commemoration of Patriarch Kirill was the Sumy Diocese. A number of clerics from the diocese informed His Eminence Metropolitan Evlogy of their decision, and he in turn published the statement on Monday morning. It reads:

Already on the first day of the war, His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev and All Ukraine published an appeal to the flock, and also recorded a video message in which he unequivocally condemned the aggressive actions of the Russian Federation, fully supported the Armed Forces of Ukraine and called on the Russian leadership to stop this bloody madness. We are in full solidarity with His Beatitude and sincerely thank him for these important addresses filled with pastoral wisdom and responsibility.

At the same time, we are forced to admit with special sorrow that during these terrible days, His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia did not condemn the aggressive actions of the Russian authorities in any way. In his address of February 24, 2022, Patriarch Kirill only called on “all parties to the conflict to do everything possible to avoid civilian casualties.” Thus, the war itself is not condemned here. The treacherous invasion of the Russian army into Ukraine is not only not condemned, but not even named. On Sunday, February 27, during the Divine service in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior, Patriarch Kirill read a prayer for Ukraine, in which he called what is happening in our country internal “strife and disorder.” And in the word after the Liturgy, Patriarch Kirill literally said: “God forbid that the current political situation in fraternal Ukraine, which is close to us, should be aimed at ensuring that the evil forces that have always fought against the unity of Russia and the Russian Church prevail.” Again, these words do not condemn the act of aggression committed against our motherland. Moreover, these words give reason to think that the Patriarch fully approves of forcing Ukraine to renounce state sovereignty and forcibly incorporate it into Russia.

“In this difficult situation, guided by the dictates of our pastoral conscience, we decided to stop commemorating the Patriarch of Moscow at the Divine services. This decision is also dictated by the demands of our flock, which, alas, no longer wants to hear the name of Patriarch Kirill in our churches,” the statement reads.

It goes on to explain that this is not an act of schism or canonical violation, as the canons only oblige a cleric to commemorate his local ruling bishop. “We remain part of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church,” the clergy write, also noting that some priests already stopped commemorating Pat. Kirill years ago, though they remain firmly within the Ukrainian Church.

When published, the statement was signed by 28 priests and deacons.

Additionally, His Eminence Metropolitan Theodore of Mukachevo wrote concisely: “The Mukachevo Diocese of the UOC ceases commemoration of Patriarch Kirill at all Divine services.”

The same was announced by the Zhytomyr, Rivne, Vladimir-Volyn, Khmelnitsky, Lvov, and Volyn Dioceses—all located in western Ukraine. The Vinnitsa Diocese, also in western Ukraine, published news that the clergy have requested to stop commemorating Pat. Kirill, though Met. Barsanuphius’ response isn’t explicitly indicated.

According to comments from Met. Evlogy of Sumy, the clergy of the Tulchin Diocese are also blessed to not commemorate Pat. Kirill.

Moreover, the clerics of several dioceses are calling for the question of autocephaly for the Ukrainian Church to be raised.

The statement from the deaneries, clergy, and monastics of the Rivne Diocese to their bishop, published on the diocesan site, appeals to Met. Onuphry to convene the Ukrainian Synod to appeal to Pat. Kirill to grant autocephaly to the Ukrainian Church. The clergy of the Volyn Diocese also call upon their hierarch to raise the issue of autocephaly.

In the Vladimir-Volyn Diocese, the Diocesan Council called upon His Eminence Metropolitan Vladimir to in turn call for a session of the Ukrainian Synod to appeal for autocephaly, and their request was posted on the diocesan page with the hierarch’s support for their request.

In a video address, clergy of the Kiev Diocese also announce that they have stopped commemorating Pat. Kirill and they call upon Met. Onuphry to call a council and raise the issue of autocephaly.

However, not everyone in the Ukrainian Church is in favor of such calls. In a Telegram post yesterday, His Eminence Metropolitan Luke of Zaporozhye reminds clergy that their duty is to pray, and that now is the not the time to be having such discussions on social media.

He writes:

Dear to my heart, the Zaporozhye flock! Today we are going through a difficult and sorrowful time for everyone. More than ever, now we must be one with God and with each other. The enemy of the human race seeks to do everything possible to divide and tear us apart. He did this with the help of the so-called “tomos,” then during the epidemic he sowed enmity between supporters and opponents of vaccination. Now he divides us by the hands of those pastors who bring confusion into the one flock of Christ.

There are different traditions in the Church. In some Local Churches, the clergy commemorate only the ruling bishop, somewhere they commemorate the primates of the Churches together with him. The point is not that, but that right now, when we must all pray together for the speedy establishment of peace in our long-suffering homeland, some clergymen, succumbing to emotions and proud passion, sow division. Is today the right time to have discussions on social networks about this or that? Is this our first concern at such a terrible time? Any war is the work of the devil. For me, not only as a bishop, but also as an Orthodox person, the most terrible thing is that people who came out of the same font, whose mothers pray in the same Church, on whose breasts the same crosses hang, kill each other. Both of them read the same prayers before the battle and turn to the same God. The heart of the Mother of God is rent, seeing all this madness of Her children! I call upon and ask the clergy of the Zaporozhye diocese: Stop sowing confusion among our flock; do not follow the devil’s lead. Remember, you will have to answer for every word before God! Today, more than ever, you must live up to your vocation—to show the image of Christ in this world: to pity everyone, to show mercy to everyone, to show sacrificial love, and not to get carried away with political games.

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Ioann4/14/2022 4:47 pm
According to Serhiy Bortnyk, a theologian at the Kyiv Theological Academy of the UOC-MP, the liturgical non-commemoration is not as significant as it might seem. “In the 1990s, Patriarch Alexy II [Kirill’s predecessor] said that if the mention of his name in the liturgy interferes with the existence of the Church in Ukraine, it can be avoided,” Bortynyk explained. “That is why there are parishes in Ukraine where the patriarch has not been commemorated for 30 years. Now the bishops are worried about their power, so they decided to take such a step.” https://www.pillarcatholic.com/p/split-from-kirill-is-coming-say-ukrainian?s=r
Marcus3/5/2022 8:52 pm
They stopped commemorating Patriarch Kyrill? They should thank God that they are not under P. B. The last group of monks and priests who would not commemorate him are now sitting in prison! He actually had the Greek military sent into Mount Athos to destroy and forcibly remove the monks and priests who were not commemorating him, and he then went on to replace the “non-commemorators” with “obedient” monks!
Leonid3/5/2022 8:24 pm
I see that there are a lot of snakes in this comment area and a lot of Patriarchete Bartholomew trolls. This is not an invasion but a liberation, and the fact that orthodox Christians are so blinded by main stream media narrative is beyond me. For the past eight years over 14,000 of your fellow brothers and sisters in eastern Ukraine were being bombed and murdered by their own Ukrainian military forces, and you said nothing! As a matter fact you were completely silent, and now because it suits the narrative of the Westin globalist elites you start to come onto this website and shed crocodile tears for the Ukrainian people??? Did you shed tears when your governments were bombing and murdering people in Syria? Where were your tears when your brothers and sisters in the Antiochian Orthodox Church were being murdered by Westen backed “freedom fighters“, which were in fact Isis murderers? Instead of attacking your brother in Christ Vladimir Putin, maybe you should be praying for him and asking God to help him defeat the globalists and the neo-Nazis that have conquered Ukraine. Maybe you should take some time and read news that is outside the main stream, and then you will learn of the bio labs, the underground pedophilia and sex trafficking that goes on in Ukraine, the orphanages with our orthodox Christian children being raped and molested by Westen bureaucrats and politicians! Even the Huffington post reported about this in 2016! Your governments that are forcing your children to become transgender, while shoving homosexual propaganda down their throat’s are the same people that are claiming that Vladimir Putin is a terrorist and an aggressor. I would think that my orthodox brothers and sisters were smarter and wiser, but it appears that they are just as easily manipulated as the unbelievers in the western countries! God help us all!
Philippe 3/3/2022 2:15 pm
Even if this war was to stop tomorrow, things will never be the same between the MP and the UOC, the damage is done. The same parishioners who were protecting their churches from seizure only weeks ago from the OCU are now being bombed by the Russians (blessed by their own Patriarch), a monk, starost and a priests’ father killed to take some examples. How can the MP ever look those parishioners in the eyes again ! In all wars, people only ever remember one thing; WHO bombed them and killed their loved ones! The UOC-MP will either join the OCU or else seek autocephaly, which the MP may never grant but this will push them into the arms of the CP. Either way many parishioners will jump ship, this will result in the largest migration and support towards the OCU since its creation both internally in Ukraine and externally by other orthodox churches, to the delight of the CP. Even if Russia wins this war hands down, the population, the parishioners and clergy will never want to be part of the MP ever again. Shame on the MP and the Rocor, they would never have written such a statement prior to 2007! The recent issues surrounding the Rocor/Archdiocese/MP has concluded by the MP taking sides with Rocor and punishing the Archdiocese but this was purely a political move; the MP knowing what was coming needed the backing of the US run church. Now we are entering lent, the Russian church needs to repent of their sins! Lord have Mercy!
Alex3/3/2022 6:47 am
Yes, autocephaly for the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church should have been granted by now. Russia's incursion into Ukraine, although not totally unwarranted, has been a total disaster. Now the schismatics will have more pretext to cause even more mayhem and to seize more churches. It will surely happen. Did Putin even think this one out? Does he even care? And, all of those priests in Africa...what are they thinking now...was it wise to move to the newly created Russian Exarchate? What bad timing. What bad decision making on Putin's part. What a headache.
John3/3/2022 1:20 am
How can a Christian heart discuss Church politics as people die? Everyone who does even a little bit of honest research knows that the situation is very complicated. Russia was practically threatened with nuclear weapons days before the invasion and Russians have been killed in the thousands for 8 years in Eastern Ukraine by literal nazis. God sees everything, He knows whether someone would support their government under similar conditions but takes this as an opportunity to self righteously condemn the Russian government’s decision. Metropolitan Luke is absolutely correct.
Dmitri3/2/2022 7:37 pm
I think this is the right decision. The unity between Russians and Ukrainians is shattered (even amongst previously pro-Russian Ukrainians). The Ukrainian Church needs full autocephaly. As a member of the Russian Church in the diaspora I am ashamed that our hierarchy say and do nothing in defence of the Ukrainian people. After years of being told the Church of Constantinople is captivated by American interests, so it would seem the Church of Russia has allowed itself to be totally controlled by the Kremlin. Patriarch Kirill has legitimised the same old policies from the Romanov and Soviet eras, total and unerring submission to the Russian state. Anaxios!
Aaron M Verghese3/2/2022 6:10 pm
It is about time this concern was raised and I hope vladyka onuphry moves on with the request of the autocephaly
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