The Orthodox Church of Ukraine is in the final stretch of receiving from Constantinople a long-sought tomos of autocephaly, that is, a decree granting canonical autonomy. Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew on the eve of the New Year reiterated his unswerving intention to hand the tomos to a newly-elected Metropolitan Epifaniy during the solemn service at Phanar on January 6, 2019, leaving the ROC and its satellites furious with these developments.
The Russian Orthodox Church and its Ukrainian subsidiary formerly known as the Moscow Patriarchate have been insistently claiming that Ukrainian authorities are forcing their clerics and laity to switch to the new church. Moreover, they voice sinister warnings that this physical violence and an actual war could flare up in the process of creating and forming the newly established Orthodox Church of Ukraine.
It should be noted that such statements have nothing to do with reality, since there are numerous facts indicating the opposite, i.e. MP exerting pressure on its priests and parishioners to prevent their transition into the newly established OCU. Besides, the rhetoric of top Russian officials regarding the tomos for Ukraine shows their extremely aggressiveness and belligerence. Speaker of the Federation Council, Valentina Matvienko, went as far as branding the creation of a unified local church in Ukraine a “crime,” repeating the thesis that this “could lead to war.” Calling white what’s black and vice versa is a long-time favorite practice of Russian leaders, which not only borders with frank cynicism and hypocrisy but also goes in conflict with common sense.
In this regard, it’s important to recall that the process of transition of parishes to the OCU remains voluntary and that it will be held in accordance with long-established church canons and norms. Every day, more and more parishes turn under the jurisdiction of the newly established Orthodox Church of Ukraine, and this process is already irreversible. Russian leaders, and now the ROC too, have been stepping on the same rakes of failing to realize such irreversibility, as well as the reasons that led to this. Moreover, they keep trying to somehow hinder the process.
Patriarch Kirill is on a spree of complaining to various international institutions, as well as heads of churches and leaders of individual states, sending letters and urging them to boycott and prevent the handing of the tomos to Ukraine, which only confirms the idea mentioned above. After all, top Russian leadership has always had problems with identifying causality.
Just a few days before the tomos will be granted to Ukraine, Patriarch Kirill wrote to Bartholomew, once again urging him to reverse his intentions on Ukraine, and also threatened His Holiness he would lose primacy in the Orthodox world. This is nothing but the ROC exceeding its authority, disrespecting the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and being unwilling to stop the escalation of tensions in Ukrainian and global Orthodoxy.
As regards setting up provocations and sparking violence, Russia and its security agencies have developed a whole mechanism, including the methods of their promotion in media. Therefore, no one will have any doubts about the artificial nature of possible provocations and clashes, as well as Russia directly profiting from such incidents.
Russia’s main argument against Constantinople granting the Orthodox Church of Ukraine autocephaly is worth dissecting separately. Russian clerics have been constantly claiming that the Ecumenical Patriarchate allegedly lacks the rights to grant the tomos to the OCU. Such statements are groundless, politically biased and simply ignorant. At the same time, it should not be forgotten that there are certain questions regarding the legitimacy of the very ROC.
At the Pan-Orthodox Council in Crete on June 21, 2016, the Russian Orthodox Church was accused of heresy of ethnophyletism, i.e. conflation between Church and nation. The charges were voiced by Archbishop Chrysostomos II of Cyprus. Previously, allegations of ethnophyletism were heard at the Council of Constantinople back in 1872 in connection with the so-called “Bulgarian schism”, namely, the unilateral declaration by the Bulgarian clergy of autocephaly of their national Church, which was located within the Ottoman (Ottoman) Empire. The Bulgarian church then acted in the interests of the Kremlin, which in turn resorted to the heresy of ethnophyletism in the distant 1439. Then, Moscow illegally proclaimed its autocephaly, condemned Constantinople to anathema, and started building its own Orthodox Empire, the “Third Rome”. Thus, the Moscow Church became an instrument of state leaders, by refusing to recognize common Christian values and agreements, and remains so to this day.
In fact, from this point onwards, trends such as the “Third Rome” and “Russkiy Mir” (“Russian World”) emerged in the ROC circles. They began preaching a certain “special Russian path” and an idea was imposed on the public of some special “Russian God-bearing people”, its special purpose, “special Russian spirituality,” so on and so forth.
The ROC’s brazen moves could not remain unnoticed and see no reaction forever, so at the Pan-Orthodox Council of Churches in June 2016, Archbishop Job (Getcha) stated that the Patriarch of Constantinople could deprive the ROC of autocephaly received in the 16th century from Ecumenical Patriarch Jeremiah . “Ecumenical Councils have given the same privileges to the Throne of Rome and to that of Constantinople as second after it. If we do not recognize that, it means we do not recognize the teaching of the Ecumenical Councils, and we fall away from Orthodoxy,” the archbishop said in a November interview with the BBC, commenting on the authority of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
The statements of the Russian Orthodox Church and its Ukrainian branch of the MP that only the canonical part of a Church can ask for autocephaly, and all that is “legalization of schism” cannot be criticized by religious experts and non-appointed clerics, since all modern autocephaly arose solely by detaching from the Patriarchate of Constantinople and this process was also not easy. In addition, the Orthodox Church itself in Russia has never received Tomos about autocephaly as such and according to the established procedure.
When studying the history of the Orthodox Church from texts and documents, rather than from invented myths, stereotypes and fake historiography preached by the ROC, it becomes obvious that all modern autocephaly decrees were granted exclusively by the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
At the same time, Muscovy in 1448 went for a self-proclamation of autocephaly for their Orthodox Church, when they elected Metropolitan Ion independently, without the permission of the Ecumenical Patriarchate! Thus, the ROC never actually received the tomos of autocephaly as required by the Holy law and in fact is non-canonical, itself. In 1589-1590, Ecumenical Patriarch Jeremiah II simply stabilized the situation, raising this entity to the level of patriarchy, on condition that the Moscow bishop was allowed to “call himself” patriarch, and that he was obliged to mention the Ecumenical Patriarch in liturgies and consider him “as his head and a first one,” as the letter wrote.
Late autocephaly decrees in the 19th and 20th centuries were all granted by the Ecumenical Patriarchate: the one for the Orthodox Church in Greece (1850), Serbia (1879, raised to the level of patriarchate in 1922), Romania (1885, raised to patriarchate in 1925), Poland (1924), Georgia (1990), as well as the Czech Republic and Slovakia (1998). All mentioned proclamations were associated with a political factor, where autocephaly was granted as a way to ensure the unity of the Church within each of these states, as well as the very unity between Local Churches.
The current complicated state of the “divided” Ukrainian Orthodoxy is a result of the ROC ignoring the appeal of the UOC Bishops’ Council of 1991 about autocephaly.
Had the autocephaly been proclaimed for the Ukrainian Church immediately after the country regained independence in 1991, the “split” that began in 1989 could have been avoided. And this was the position shared by the entire episcopate of the UOC MP, which immediately after the declaration of independence of Ukraine, at its Council of November 1991, decided the following: “… the Council believes that the granting of autocephaly ro the Ukrainian Orthodox Church will help strengthen the unity of Orthodoxy in Ukraine and eliminate the autocephalous schism that has arisen, counteract the Uniate and Catholic expansion, promote reconciliation and the establishment of harmony between the religions that are now in conflict, unification of all peoples living in Ukraine, and thus contribute to strengthening the unity of the entire Ukrainian nation.” The resolution was signed off by all bishops of the UOC-MP, including Bishop of Chernivtsi and Bukovyna Onufriy.
The ROC has accused Constantinople of the “Heresy of Papism”, while the concept of “Third Rome” remains very popular with the Moscow Patriarchate, according to which the ROC itself must lead the Diptych, which is a flagrant violation of the very teachings and ecclesiastical rules of the Ecumenical and Local Councils.
In this regard, it is worth recalling that the theory of Moscow being a “Third Rome” is neither an ecclesiological doctrine, nor the prerogative of canonical (church) law. This myth was invented by the Pskov elder Filofey in early 16th century. The history of the Orthodox Church does not know either the “first” or the “second” Rome. It’s only the “Old” (Rome) and the “New” one (Constantinople). The third one will never happen. So no one among the Orthodox can claim a higher authority than the one that the Ecumenical Council has. During the confession of faith, each Orthodox bishop before the episcopal consecration promises to always adhere to not only the creeds, but also the church rules of the Ecumenical and local councils, which are binding to him.
There is an opinion that there is a certain unwritten Law of the Boomerang, according to which the all evil caused to someone shall come back and hit the one who caused it. The granting of tomos to Ukraine and the formation of its own autocephalous church is a matter of time, being the logical and natural course of things. Also, it is the triumph of historical justice. But apparently, Russia just doesn’t learn anything from history.
Section “Delta” of Information Resistance Group