Zaporozhye, Ukraine, April 6, 2022
On March 30, His Eminence Metropolitan Luke of Zaporozhye, one of the most outspoken and authoritative hierarchs of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church spoke with the BBC about the Church’s life under the conditions of the fratricidal war.
Causes and solutions to war
Asked how he explains the war, the Metropolitan answered unequivocally: “The reason is sin. All this is driven by sin—pride, the desire to rule.” When men walk away from God, then He allows such things, His Eminence explained.
“We want to measure by our own human standards, but we never think about the spiritual. You want to hear political and social assessments, but I want us to see spiritual assessments,” he said.
Asked how to stop the war, he quoted the words of the Lord: Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. At the same time, Met. Luke is clear that the Church blesses its people to defend their homeland when necessary.
Accompanying a humanitarian convoy
In an earlier interview, the hierarch spoke about accompanying a humanitarian convoy that was never able to reach its destination of Mariupol. Asked why it was unable, he responded: “When people start shooting at each other, no promises are kept… War is the highest degree of madness… I can't judge who gave the orders to whom. I know only that I was told: ‘No, your convoy won’t get through.’”
Statements of the Patriarch and the Metropolitan of Kiev
Asked to comment on the various statements of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill, as compared to those of His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev and All Ukraine, Met. Luke said:
Being responsible for the words of others, giving an assessment—I don’t think this is correct. We don’t know their context. We don’t know what they were thinking. I know one thing: that our people are dying, Ukrainians are dying. Russian soldiers are also being killed. But our cities are collapsing. Therefore, I clearly take the position of my primate, His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry.
The question of autocephaly and Church unity
Asked about those hierarchs and clerics who have stopped commemorating the Patriarch, Met. Luke emphasized that he commemorates not the civilian Vladimir Gundyaev, but the Patriarch of Moscow. The charter of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church says that it has communion with the fullness of Orthodoxy through the Russian Church, and it says who should be commemorated, the Metropolitan noted.
Only a Council can decide the future fate of the Ukrainian Church, he emphasized, because the bishops are not independent princes sitting on their thrones.
Responding to loud comments on social media about the future of the Church, Met. Luke remarked: “Instead of repenting of your sins, you want to collect more likes and write posts in social networks, all sorts of nasty things, dirty words, and so on. And they think they’re saving Orthodoxy, saving the Church.”
Politicians don’t listen to hierarchs anyways, His Eminence emphasized. UOC hierarchs have been speaking out about Donbass for the past eight years, “but who listened to us?” he asked.
“I'm not protecting anyone... I just want to say: Will they hear it? Or maybe [the Patriarch’s] shouting there, maybe he’s banging his head against the wall?” Met. Luke proposed.
Turning to the question of autocephaly for the UOC, the BBC asked for Met. Luke’s response to the fact that in some dioceses clerical signatures are being collected to call for a Council to ask for autocephaly. “With these statements, we add fuel to the fire,” His Eminence replied.
Becoming autocephalous wouldn’t suddenly solve all problems, the Metropolitan continued:
We need to find a middle ground. Even this autocephaly—will it solve the issue or not? Mr. Archondonis, who has fallen away from the Orthodox Church and calls himself Patriarch Bartholomew, who concelebrated with schismatics—how will he give us autocephaly? He’ll say: “I’ve already given you a tomos, go there.”
I ask you not to judge the Church by secular standards. It’s not like you went to the tax service, they gave you an entrepreneur’s certificate, and you became one. The grace of the Holy Spirit works in the Church, and what contradicts this grace, what violates the transmission of grace, is graceless. Everything that has fallen away from the Church must return to the Church. Who will recognize this autocephaly? What will it give us?
“You won’t be spiritually united to a Church that blesses the war in Ukraine,” the reporter replied, to which the Metropolitan responded: “But we’d be like a torn sleeve… What has fallen away from the Church isn’t the Church. Now the goal of the enemies of Orthodoxy is to break Orthodoxy up into little pieces.”
Therefore, only a Council can resolve the issue, Met. Luke repeated.
The “Russian world”
And turning to the hot-button issue of the “Russian world,” the hierarch of Zaporozhey states: “You can call me a supporter of the ‘Russian world,’ but it’s not true. I don’t know what the ‘Russian world’ is. I know what the Orthodox world is. And the Orthodox world extends not only to Russia, Ukraine or Greece—it’s the fullness of the world, and I’ve seen it everywhere, even in Africa.”
The interview continues:
BBC: But when Patriarch Kirill talks in his official speeches about the “Russian World,” which is spreading wherever there is a Russian Church and the Russian language, do you support this concept?
Met. Luke: I say again: I am an Orthodox person, I don’t know such a concept as the “Russian world” at all.
BBC: Patriarch Kirill knows.
Met. Luke: This is a theory, not a dogma.
In conclusion, Met. Luke states that he agrees with Met. Onuphry that Russia and Ukraine are two fraternal peoples, with their own histories and own states.
“And the worst thing is that those who came out of the same font kill each other.”