Ukraine, April 12, 2022
More than 300 priests of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church have signed a petition to the primates of the Local Orthodox Churches, calling on them to review and evaluate the public statements of Patriarch Kirill of Moscow regarding the fratricidal war in Ukraine.
The appeal was written by Fr. Andriy Pinchuk, rector of the Church of the Archangel Michael in the village of Voloske, Dnipropetrovsk Province, and as of the time of writing of this article, has been signed by 324 clerics from more than 30 dioceses throughout Ukraine, with the majority coming from western Ukrainian dioceses. It was published in English by the Religious Information Service of Ukraine.
The statement accuses the Russian Patriarch of preaching the doctrine of the “Russian World,” “which deviates from the Orthodox teaching and should be condemned as heresy,” and of moral culpability for blessing and supporting the actions of Russian troops on Ukrainian territory.
There is a tradition of appealing to a Council of Eastern Patriarchs “in case of serious conflicts,” the petition reads, citing the example of Patriarch Nikon of Moscow, who was condemned by a Council of Eastern Patriarchs in 1666.
And as the fratricidal war in Ukraine continues, the priests “consider it [their] pastoral duty to appeal to the fullness of world Orthodoxy.”
On the very first day of the conflict, His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev and All Ukraine condemned what he termed the “fratricidal war” and called on Pat. Kirill to condemn it. Both Met. Onuphry personally and the Ukrainian Holy Synod have repeated this appeal, though the Patriarch has not condemned it, the petition notes, but has rather spoken in defense of it, although for many years he has spoken about the Ukrainian Orthodox as his flock.
Indignant, at least 15 dioceses of the UOC have officially announced that they have ceased commemorating the Patriarch in the services, and “We know that in many other dioceses, the ruling bishops gave oral permission to the clergy not to remember the name of Patriarch Kirill.”
However, the author and those who signed the present appeal feel that the cessation of commemoration isn’t enough. “We clearly state that we can’t continue to remain in any form of canonical subordination to the Moscow Patriarch. This is a command of our Christian conscience,” the statement reads, emphasizing support for the Ukrainian state authorities and Armed Forces.
The appeal continues, turning to the Basis of the Social Concept of the Russian Orthodox Church document, adopted by the Council of Bishops in 2000, which speaks of praiseworthy Christian patriotism, manifested when the patriot “defends his fatherland against an enemy” (II.3). Further, “the Church... does not prohibit her children from participating in hostilities if at stake is the security of their neighbours and the restoration of trampled justice” (VIII.2).
At the same time, the petitioners believe that Pat. Kirill and other Russian hierarchs who have made similar statements are in violation of the document, which states that the Church cannot support or cooperate with the state in “waging civil war or aggressive external war” (III.8).
The petition then addresses the idea of the “Russian World,” which it defines as the attempt to “to preserve the influence of the Russian Federation on the territory of the former Soviet Union after its inglorious collapse.” With reference to several of his statements over the years, the petition argues that “Patriarch Kirill is one of the main ideologists of the ‘Russian World’ doctrine.” As the petitioners feel that this “doctrine” rejects the right of Ukrainians to their own statehood, it thus contributes to the justification of the fratricidal war.
Moreover, the statement argues that Pat. Kirill ties the concept of the canonical territory of the Russian Church to the “Russian World,” and thus is guilty of ethnophyletism, and, “According to his logic, Churches in Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, and the Baltic states are literally doomed to remain part of the Moscow Patriarchate forever.”
The priests thus make four specific calls to the primates of the Local Churches:
To unambiguously condemn the war in Ukraine
To call on President Putin to immediately end the war and pull Russian forces out of Ukraine
To review and evaluate the public statements of Pat. Kirill on the basis of Scripture and Church Tradition
To evaluate the idea of the “Russian World” at the pan-Orthodox level. Should this “doctrine” be condemned, then the Patriarch should be removed from his primatial throne.