One of the hot political issues in Ukraine is actually an element which ought never be involved in earthly politics, is the local Orthodox Church of that country. Ukraine has a very odd situation with respect to Church canons (laws), for instead of just one Orthodox Church, Ukraine has three groups. One group is canonical, and operates very independently while yet under the oversight of the Russian Orthodox Church.
The other two groups are separated from communion with this and the other 14 canonically recognized Orthodox Churches worldwide. At the present time, Ukraine’s president, Petro Poroshenko, and many in the Kyiv government have been trying to force a legitimate status to be bestowed on a group called “The Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate“, whose leader, Filaret Denisenko, is a self-styled “patriarch” but who has made increasingly any-Christian statements and even called for death upon the Ukrainian people living in the breakaway regions of Donetsk and Lugansk.
His group is chosen by Poroshenko to be the real pawn of the Ukrainian state, in an imitation of legitimacy that, amazingly enough has carried the matter far enough that there is concern that the Church authorities in Constantinople (Istanbul) might actually break with many centuries of canonical tradition and grant this legitimacy to the schismatic and false church. To that end, canonical hierarchs from many other local churches had something to say:
A press briefing was held on July 23 before the Divine Liturgy at the Kiev Caves Lavra with several representatives of various Local Orthodox Churches, who had arrived to honor the memory of St. Anthony of the Kiev Caves, the founder of monasticism in Rus’, in which the bishops spoke out in support of the persecuted canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP), reports the Information-Education Department of the UOC.
UOC chancellor Metropolitan Anthony of Boryspil and Brovary took part in the press conference, along with bishops of the Local Churches of Jerusalem, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece, and Poland. The foreign bishops all spoke with words of greeting and of support for the canonical Church in Ukraine, which is within the jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate.
In particular, Metropolitan Timothy of Bostroi (Jerusalem) said, “We understand that hard times have arrived for Ukraine. We pray for Ukraine’s prosperity and for the union of the people. The Orthodox autonomous Church of Ukraine under the headship of Metropolitan Onuphry is a symbol of the people’s unity.”
Metropolitan Nahum of Ruse spoke of when the Bulgarian Church also suffered its own schism, which was overcome with prayer and God’s help. “Our Church has always supported the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and its primate His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry, and all of the bishops. We lift up our prayers before the altar to protect and strengthen the primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, the hierarchs, clergy and faithful of the Ukrainian people,” Met. Nahum assured.
In his words, Metropolitan Isaiah of Tamassos and Orinis (Cyprus) drew attention to the subject of the Church’s unity in Christ: “The Body of Christ is one, and whoever is connected with the body of Christ, is connected with Him. I have to say—whoever is in union and unity with the Ukrainian Orthodox Church is in union with us. This is the only canonical Church in Ukraine.”
In turn, Metropolitan George of Kitros, Katerini, and Platamon (Greece) noted, “Our presence here is symbolic. During the Liturgy which we will serve today, together with representatives of other local Orthodox Churches and bishops of the UOC, our pan-Orthodox unity around the Chalice of Christ and in the Holy Spirit will be testified to,” and he continued, “The Greek Orthodox Church and all other Orthodox Churches of the world recognize only one canonical Church of Ukraine—the Ukrainian Orthodox Church headed by His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry.”
Archbishop George of Bratslav and Szczecinek (Poland) also expressed his support for the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and its primate: “I would like to encourage all of us to intensify our prayers for the unity of Holy Orthodoxy, that the Lord would give much strength, spiritual support and grace to His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry and all the bishops to stand in the canonicity of Holy Orthodoxy, followed by the grace of the Holy spirit, without which there is no Church.”
A number of Orthodox hierarchs throughout the world have been speaking out in support of the Ukrainian Church recently, against the continuing seizure of churches by schismatics and nationalists, and against damaging parliamentary draft bills that would severely hamper the activities of the Ukrainian Church, including His Holiness Patriarch Neofit and Metropolitan Gabriel of Lovech (Bulgarian), His Beatitude Patriarch John X of Antioch, Patriarch Theodoros II of Alexandria, Metropolitan Rostislav of the Czech Lands and Slovakia, and His Beatitude Patriarch Theophilos of Jerusalem.