“You’re not a good shepherd”—Zaporozhye faithful address to Patriarch Bartholomew

Zaporozhye, March 31, 2023

Photo: hramzp.ua Photo: hramzp.ua     

The clergy and the faithful of the Zaporozhye Diocese of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church have some choice words for Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople.

Having gathered yesterday for the Sacraments of Confession, Communion, and Unction, the people had the opportunity to discuss what is happening in their country, and “we decided to openly appeal to the creator of the current troubles for our Ukrainian Orthodox Mother Church,” His Eminence Metropolitan Luke of Zaporozhye writes, introducing the appeal on his Telegram channel.

His Holiness Catholicos-Patriarch Ilia of Georgia has also addressed Pat. Bartholomew, calling on him to intercede for the persecuted Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

However, unlike Pat. Ilia, the faithful of Zaporozhye are not asking for or expecting any help from Pat. Bartholomew, but only expressing their opinion about him.

Their hierarch, Met. Luke is known as perhaps the most outspoken hierarch of the UOC. In 2018, he wrote to Pat. Bartholomew about the creation of the schismatic “Orthodox Church of Ukraine,” addressing him as “Dear loyal subject of the Turkish Republic, Mr. Bartholomew.”

The appeal of the Zaporozhye faithful reads in full:

Open appeal of the faithful of the Zaporozhye Diocese of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church to Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople

Our Church has been openly persecuted for the past few years. Hundreds of churches have been seized, tens of thousands of their parishioners have been deprived of normal Church life. Many of them were beaten bloody by the raiders, and some were physically injured, even to the point that among them there are those who even became disabled, because during the seizures they suffered irreparable harm to their health. There are even some, such as Fr. Leonid Delikatny, rector of the Church of the Archangel Michael in the village of Zadubrovka, Chernivtsi Province, who died defending his temple. These radicals don’t hesitate to desecrate our churches and try to set them on fire.

You, as Patriarch of Constantinople, are directly responsible for all of this! After all, it was according to your decision that the “Holy Church of Ukraine” was created from various non-canonical structures, but calling itself the “Orthodox Church of Ukraine,” whose clerics and supporters are engaged in the above-mentioned outrages and banditry.

The death of a priest and the blood and tears of our believers who are being expelled from the churches where their grandfathers and great-grandfathers prayed is on your hands!

You’re so fond of talking about paternal care for “your” flock in Ukraine. And how does it manifest itself? In support for the raider policy of the structure affiliated with you? After all, this is not care, but the most real hypocrisy and vileness not only before men, but also before God.

Unfortunately, you weren’t informed about what the representatives of the structure you oversee did during the recent seizure of the Church of the Nativity of Christ in Ivano-Frankivsk. You’re not aware that your supporters used nerve gas against the parishioners of this church! However, this isn’t even shocking. In the captured church, your loyal subjects in cassocks hypocritically, on camera, staged a prayer, at the same time allowing women to freely enter the altar, and masked militants to shout offensive slogans against our Ukrainian Orthodox Mother Church. It all looked like a manifestation of real Satanism!

Since 2018, you’ve never spoken out against the commission of such lawlessness. Just as you haven’t called on your children to stop the seizure of churches and commit other crimes against the faithful children of the UOC.

You’re silent even now, when the authorities are trying to take away our Church’s holy site—the Kiev Caves Lavra, and desecrate the relics of the venerable fathers of the Kiev Caves, turning them into “museum exhibits.” With such actions you condemn yourself! With your silence about the Lavra, you support those who claim that the Turkish authorities had every right to make a mosque out of Hagia Sophia, the spiritual center of the entire Orthodox world.

However, your position is clear—no matter how you try to hide this goal, you’re doing everything to finally destroy canonical Orthodoxy in Ukraine, trying to remove the only serious obstacle from the path of creating a new union on our land—between your supporters and Ukrainian Greek Catholics—and this obstacle is us, the faithful children of the UOC.

In this regard, we don’t appeal to you and don’t ask for anything, but we express our attitude to your position, making efforts to make the believers of other Local Churches aware of this.

Our voice is the voice of ordinary people, not high-level government officials, from whose lips you receive pleasant information that is divorced from the realities of Church life. Our voice is the voice of a deeply believing people, firmly standing on a canonical basis, which means it is the voice of the truth, which is, unfortunately, extremely unpleasant for you.

You’re not a good shepherd. For the sheep of our flock have suffered and are suffering from the consequences of your decisions on Ukraine, as well as ignoring and even inciting the atrocities of your adherents.

According to the canons of the Church in the generally accepted interpretation, you had and have no right to interfere in the Church affairs of Ukraine.

We are firmly convinced that the root of our Church’s troubles lies in your desire to become a pope for the Orthodox world.

We know from the Holy Scriptures that neither power, nor trust in the princes of men, nor great conceit can ever put a person above God. After all, our destinies and our future are in his hands alone.

We hope that you remember the words of the Gospel: Woe to that man by whom the offence cometh! (Mt. 18:7), as well as the fact that God’s punishment is inevitable.

Therefore, trusting in the mercy of God, we’re waiting for the day when a Pan-Orthodox Council will condemn both the concept of the “first without equals” (Eastern pope) and the schism you created in the Orthodox Church.

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