Schismatic Synod calls for state to separate canonical Ukrainian and Russian Churches

Kiev, May 17, 2022

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The Synod of Bishops of the schismatic “Orthodox Church of Ukraine” (OCU) issued a statement yesterday in which it strongly attacks the Holy Synod of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church for its own recent statements, which the OCU assesses as not being adequately condemnatory of Russia.

Thus, the schismatic Synod calls upon local and state authorities to take concrete steps to separate the Ukrainian and Russian Churches and promote the process of “Church unity” within Ukraine. Recall that several bills have already been submitted to the national Parliament to completely ban the canonical Church, and city and provincial authorities throughout Ukraine have enacted local bans on the Church.

A few days ago, Nikita Poturaev, the Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada Committee on Humanitarian and Information Policy, announced that his committee will soon hold a hearing on the role of the canonical Ukrainian Church and will make “clear recommendations” about the Church for the executive and legislative branches and law enforcement.

The Holy Synod of the canonical Ukrainian Church, under His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev and All Ukraine, met on May 12, and issued a statement consisting of three main sections:

  1. a clear condemnation of “the military aggression of the Russian Federation against Ukraine” and a reaffirmation of the Church’s full support for the Ukrainian army;

  2. an appeal to President Zelensky to stop the persecution against the Church on the part of both secular authorities and the schismatic OCU, which are serious contributing factors to the present war;

  3. an announcement that the UOC will gather its “bishops, priests, monastics, and laity … to discuss the problems of Church life that arose as a result of the war.”

Despite the clear condemnation of the war and support for Ukraine, the schismatic Synod met the Church’s statements “with sadness and disappointment,” arguing that the canonical Church painted the schismatic church as its main enemy.

The OCU then laments that the canonical Church bears the title of “Ukrainian Orthodox Church,” and accuses its clergy of promoting “the ideology of the ‘Russian World’—the foundation and key justification for Russian aggression against our state.” The OCU believes this is a “fascist-type” ideology that aims to destroy Ukrainian statehood “and the very identity of the Ukrainian people.” The schismatic church views Patriarch Kirill as a major “propagandist” of this ideology.

But the hierarchs of the canonical Ukrainian Church haven’t publicly condemned the Russian World ideology or Patriarch Kirill, the OCU Synod writes. Rather, the Church under Met. Onuphry prefers to talk more about how the war negatively affects people and how the Church can help them, the schismatic hierarchs write.

The canonical hierarchs are to blame for the war, for pushing Russian World ideology, the OCU accuses. “Russia’s open war against Ukraine began on February 20, 2014,” the OCU argues.

The schismatic Synod alleges that canonical priests are collaborating with the Russian army, and reproaches the canonical Synod for not condemning these alleged collaborators. It also blames the UOC Synod for not giving a proper assessment to the “purposeful destruction of churches by the Russian invaders” or the statements of Russian bishops concerning the war.

Note that the official site of the Ukrainian Church’s Information-Education Department publishes reports about damaged churches almost daily.

Interestingly, the OCU Synod asks: “Did you respond to calls from your own clergy and laity to condemn the position of the head of the Russian Orthodox Church and start the process of complete separation from the Moscow Patriarchate? None of this was done!”

Instead of convening any authorized governing bodies, the UOC intends to “convene something like a round table or conference in the future, where it’s only necessary to discuss the current state of the UOC, but where it won’t be possible to make any specific decision.” “Thus, the leaders of the MP in Ukraine confirmed that they don’t want to change anything.”

Note, however, that in the Moscow Patriarchate, a Local Council, which consists of hierarchs, clergy, monastics, and laity is, in fact, the highest governing body, above even the Holy Synod and Council of Bishops. Further, the Church’s statement doesn’t stipulate that no decisions can be made at the upcoming meeting, or that the meeting won’t lead to any further gatherings that could make decisions based on the discussion at the upcoming meeting.

Certain communities and believers have joined the OCU, the schismatic Synod continues, because the canonical Church doesn’t condemn Russia harshly enough, the schismatic Synod alleges, and thus it calls on the canonical bishops to “finally recover from the Moscow dope,” and calls on any canonical members who may be open to the OCU’s stance to join them.

“There is no canonical alternative to the unity of the Orthodox in the bosom of the OCU, which is confirmed by the tomos of autocephaly,” the OCU Synod asserts. Any vows or canonical obligations to the Moscow Patriarchate have no force in Ukraine, because Constantinople’s tomos to the OCU turned the UOC from a canonical Church into a canonical anomaly, the OCU Synod declares.

“Taking into account the special importance of Church issues for the security of Ukraine,” the OCU appeals to authorities of all levels to “make decisions, not vague promises” to “promote the process of achieving Church unity” and fully separate the UOC from the Moscow Patriarchate, so it can no longer be an alleged “instrument of hybrid aggression.”

And despite the calls for secular authorities handle jurisdictional matters, the OCU Synod concludes by affirming its commitment to allowing individuals to determine their own jurisdiction.

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