Filaret became a pawn and a useful idiot in the Kremlin’s big game against the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
It’s June, 2019, and it’s been six months since an autocephalous Orthodox Church of Ukraine has been created after it received “tomos” from the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. But the atmosphere remains tense in its camp, caused by the destructive efforts of one single person, the honorary patriarch of the OCU, Filaret (Denysenko).
Filaret’s unfulfilled “expectations”
Throughout 2018, Filaret took the most pro-active part in creating a new church structure and even claimed leadership in it. The fact is that Filaret was awarded the title of honorary patriarch, a permanent member of the Synod, and chief of the Kyiv Diocese in the parishes and monasteries of Kyiv, indicates his high place in the UOC hierarchy. But this did not satisfy the cleric, who, instead of consolidating efforts to strengthen the newborn church structure, began to pursue a policy of weakening it, setting up confrontation with Metropolitan Epifaniy, who, in fact, is considered Filaret’s “alter ego”.
Following the presidential election in Ukraine, the ambitions of the honorable patriarch surfaced in a public plane. By his actions, he began to destroy the unity of Ukrainian Orthodoxy. Filaret had hoped to manage the life of the new church in its entirety. However, his expectations were never justified. Despite the fact that, according to the Statute of the OCU, adopted at the Unification Council on December 15, Filaret’s powers, as the head of the Kyiv Patriarchate, expired on January 30, 2019, he continued to call himself the Patriarch of Kyiv and All Rus, and send out letters on the blanks of Kyiv Patriarchate (UOC-KP), and later took steps aimed at restoring the disbanded Kyiv Patriarchate.
At the same time, Filaret began to disseminate messages that are fully in line with the narratives Russia’s anti-Ukrainian propaganda. In particular, he said that the unification of Orthodoxy in Ukraine “followed the path of untruth”, and that the unifying council of Orthodox churches of Ukraine was, in his words, “not ours, but Constantinople’s.”
In the middle of May, an appeal was published on the UOC-KP website and on Filaret’s Facebook page, announcing that Filaret is the “operating hierarch” and the UOC-KP continues to legally exist. Filaret accused the UOC Primate, Metropolitan Epifaniy, of violating the agreements reached during the Unification Council, which, according to Filaret, included the following: “Primate Epifaniy shall represent the church in the Orthodox world because the UOC has the status of a metropolis, and he will also help the patriarch in governing the church, but the leadership of the church remains with Patriarch Filaret.” He added that his refusal to nominate himself for the top post in the new OCU was a condition for granting Kyiv autocephaly, which was put forward by the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
The head of the OCU, Epifaniy, refuted Filaret’s accusations, stressing that the Unification Council did not make any promises to him, and returning to the previous management system would contradict the very charter of the OCU and tomos received from the Patriarchate of Constantinople. On May 24, a meeting of the Synod of the OCU was convened, where the situation with the imminent split within the organization was discussed. However, the clerics failed to talk Filaret out of stating that the UOC-KP continued to exist. On May 29, the decree of Metropolitan Epifaniy, head of the OCU, was released on the church’s website, declaring that all documents and orders issued on behalf of the UOC-KP after January 30, 2019, were were invalid and not enforceable.
Course toward split
Filaret, in turn, pursued with his course toward a split, stating that he was not aware of the contents of tomos, “which in fact made the UOC dependent on the Constantinople Patriarchate, while autocephaly is fictitious.” The main provision of tomos “restricting” the rights of the new church is to prohibit independent preparation of chrism and to ban dioceses and parishes beyond Ukraine’s borders.
It is not surprising that the message on the subordinate role of the OCU was immediately picked up by the enemy. The pro-Russian forces in Ukraine rejoice. “Filaret splits the OCU” … “The story with tomos collapses” … “Filaret does not recognize tomos and puts forward ultimatums to Metropolitan Epifaniy” … These and other similar headlines are dazzling on Youtube channels of revanchists and in articles on pro-Kremlin media. In turn, Metropolitan of the Moscow Patriarchate Anthony said “there was a public acknowledgment that the OCU is not an independent church and is under the control of Fener [Constantinople]. Moreover, as he puts it, Ukrainians were deceived with tomos because it “never granted autocephaly.” He added: “The situation has demonstrated the presence of a large number of contradictions and various camps of influence in the OCU. This creates prerequisites for new divisions and splits, which puts the prospects for the future activity of the said structure under great doubts,” pointing out in this connection the words of Metropolitan Makariy that he will not legally eliminate the UAOC until Filaret does so with the UOC-KP … It turns out that by its criticism of tomos, Filaret simply starts a chain reaction of splits.
It is important to emphasize the point why Filaret so vehemently criticizes the ban on foreign dioceses. No wonder, because it’s the Russia-based bishops of the UOC-KP, the very toxins that are being removed from the body of the UOC, are pushing Filaret to his schismatic steps. It’s about Metropolitan of Belgorod and Oboyan Ioasaf, Bishop of Valuisk Peter, Metropolitan of Bogorodsk Adrian, and Archbishop of Simferopol and Crimea Klement. Their dioceses and parishes are located in Russia, and these “comrades” are also citizens of the occupier state. These pro-Russian hierarchs recommend that Filaret take certain steps, arguing that he was “offended”, deprived of attention that he needed to get what he rightfully deserved. In general, they skillfully play his sick ambitions. These individuals from the high clergy are closely affiliated with and controlled by the FSB, which deftly manipulates their weaknesses.
Puppet in hands of FSB-linked “hierarchy”
It was with such “wonderful allies” that the dissenting patriarch Filaret, who has long lost respect in Ukrainian society, held the “Local Council of the UOC-KP” in Kyiv on June 20. During this, so to say, Sabbath, a notorious decision was made stating that the abolition of the UOC-KP was “unlawful”. The document, in particular, states that the Local Council repeals the decision on the liquidation of the UOC-KP to the demand of the Ecumenical Constantinople Patriarch Bartholomew. It claims that tomos of autocephaly for the UOC does not correspond to the status of autocephalous churches, and therefore makes it dependent on Constantinople.
Also, representatives of the UOC-KP are not satisfied with its content. It is emphasized that without the liquidation of the Kyiv Patriarchate, a Unification Council could not have been held, and neither could have emerged the provision about autocephaly. Also important are the points claiming that Patriarch Filaret remains head of the UOC-KP, as he had been elected to this post “for life”. Thus, advised by the FSB-controlled Russian hierarchs, Filaret canceled the efforts, so crucial for Ukraine, to setting up own local church. To the joy of the Kremlin, he himself declared the existence of three Orthodox churches in the country at once: “Ukraine will already have the Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, the Orthodox Church of Ukraine which has tomos, and there will be a third independent church – the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate”.
The issue of property rights was also raised, namely, the idea that the UOC-KP remains the owner of all the funds and all property acquired earlier at its own expense: it’s monasteries: St. Michael’s Golden-domed, Feodosiyivsky, Vydubytsky St. Michael’s, as well as Mykolayivsky Bohuslavsky, like all the parishes of Kyiv, belong to the management of the Kyiv Patriarchate, as well as the Kyiv Orthodox Theological Academy, founded by Filaret.
So Filaret seeks to deprive the OCU of its property infrastructure and has already gone to deepen the split, drawing the Ukrainian Ministry of Internal Affairs into the confrontation orbit. We are talking about Filaret appealing to Interior Minister Arsen Avakov with a request “to protect the believers and the property of the Kyiv Patriarchate from the illegal actions of the OCU.” Representatives of the OCU allegedly seized the premises of the Feodosiyivsky Monastery in Kyiv, and in this connection, Filaret asks the head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs to evaluate such actions and to do everything so that no one interferes with the activities of the UOC of the Kyiv Patriarchate. This is absolute nonsense, since from January 30, the UOC-KP ceased to exist, and Filaret’s accusations are absolutely unsubstantiated, while being the sweetest tune to the ears of the Russian propaganda machine. Greed is further corroding the elderly Filaret, who does not think about the unity of the Ukrainians, but only sets an example of the exaltation of his mercantile interest, so far from divine service.
Just the same is the core nature of Filaret’s entourage. The point is that on June 22, “Patriarch” Filaret, in co-service with his guests from Russia, Metropolitan of Belgorod Ioasaph and Bishop Peter of Valuysk, ordained Hieromonk Ilya (Zelensky) to the rank of bishops of the Kharkiv Diocese. Filaret also seeks to flirt with revanche-seekers from the Opposition Bloc. He appointed priest Vitaly Senik, father of the regional council deputy from OppoBloc, Roman Senik, “Rector” of the Odesa Christmas Cathedral.
What is particularly disturbing is that Filaret plays his game alongside the Russian Orthodox Church because they jointly undermine the OCU, not only in the inrormation and political field, but also on the legal front. Literally on the eve of the “Sabbath Cathedral”, the Kyiv District Administrative Court opened proceedings on the claim of the Moscow Exarchate requesting that the state registration of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU) be recognized illegal. While the “Filaret Cathedral” creates a picture of a “split” for the media, especially for those affiliated with the Kremlin and the religious branch of the FSB, the Lubyanka branch represented by the Russian Orthodox Church in Ukraine is launching litigation to deregister the OCU through one of the most corrupt courts.
Destruction of OCU and attack on Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew
Filaret’s subversive activities are blocking the process of the OCU recognition at the level of Local Orthodox Churches. After all, a split in the OCU destroys its reputation in the eyes of other representatives of world Orthodoxy. Although the Russians themselves admit that the outflow of parishes and believers from the OCU to the “restored UOC-KP” will be minimal, the very fact of defragmentation of the church structure undermines trust in it.
Finally, it is important to understand that the current processes around the OCU, and Filaret’s efforts to destroy it in the interests of the Russian intelligence, are only one of the stages of a broader Russian plan, the purpose of which is to overthrow Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. Being far from genuine canonicity, the ROC is fighting for leadership in the Orthodox world, wanting to turn it into an exceptionally gray “Russian world” without any other shades. The stage of the Kremlin’s operation with the “split” of the OCU is an instrument of massive propaganda pressure on Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. The demonstration of the insolvency of the UOC is hitting his authority, because instead of restoring the unity of Ukrainian Orthodoxy, on the contrary, its division is going to worsen. For example, head of the Moscow Patriarchate’s media relations department, Vladimir Legoyda, has already spoken on this issue: “The decision to separate the structure of Filaret Denysenko from the ‘new church’ of Ukraine testifies to the ‘multiplication of schism’ in this country, as well as the failure of the Constantinople Patriarchate’s attempts to single-handedly lead the world of Orthodoxy.”
Under this pretext, the ROC and its curators from the FSB are lobbying the holding of the Pan-Orthodox Conference, where Local Churches are to work out a decision to condemn Constantinople’s “interference” in Ukrainian church affairs. The idea is being spun actively at various platforms claiming that it is necessary to save UOC-MP parishioners who are being “persecuted”.
The Russians are waging a real war against the Ecumenical Patriarchate in order to regain control over the spiritual life of the Ukrainian Orthodox. From Moscow’s perspective, the convocation of the Pan-Orthodox Conference should completely level the position of Bartholomew, because the “Ukraine issue” will be decided collectively by the primates of all Orthodox churches, who will thus overthrow the dominance of Constantinople. In this case, the head of the new “UOC” will have to become someone under the control of Russian curators. Thus, Moscow will not only be able to organize a “spiritual occupation” of Ukraine, but also consolidate the FSB dominance at the helm of global Orthodoxy.
Information Resistance OSINT Group, Section Bravo