The Department of External Relations of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) reported that on April 19, 2018, the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, by Resolution No. 8284, supported the appeal of the President of Ukraine P. O. Poroshenko to His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I regarding the “granting of a Tomos of Autocephaly to the Orthodox Church in Ukraine”.
This means that the government of a nation asked for a religious authority to recognize a State Church.
In the Protestant and somewhat libertine or agnostic West, this may not seem like anything important as news. Since most constitutional governments make use of the notion of separation between Church and State (inaccurately attributing this separation to that of the United States’ Constitution), it seems crazy from our point of view to see a State government petition a Church hierarch for recognition of a “State Church.”
Thankfully, the Russian government and the Russian Orthodox Church’s Ukrainian Exarchate recognize this fact even more clearly than the West does.
In accordance with Article 35 of the Constitution of Ukraine, the Church is separate from the state, and therefore the Church decides on issues of Church life independently. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which has canonical relations with Ecumenical Orthodoxy, did not appeal to Patriarch Bartholomew I to grant autocephaly to the Orthodox Church in Ukraine nor did it authorise the President or deputies of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine to do so. In connection to the above-mentioned initiatives, the government is overstepping its constitutional boundaries and interfering in Church affairs.
Such actions by the Ukrainian state in the religious sphere could be justified only if the Church in Ukraine had a legally established state status, as it was in the history of many states and still remains in certain states of the world. However, since the Church in Ukraine today does not have government status and is separate from the state, then the state authorities have absolutely no grounds whatsoever to meddle in Church affairs.
The Ukrainian government is playing a gamble with the Ecumenical Patriarch through using what the Western, and non-Orthodox countries in the world, may not know.
The Eastern Orthodox Church is the oldest body of Christendom in the world (yes, 1000 years older than the Roman Catholic Church, when viewed in terms of unchanging doctrine – Rome made changes that were not part of the Early Church’s dogma.)
And following the ancient model of the Church, there are presently fourteen or fifteen national jurisdictions of the Orthodox Church in the world, with each one being a national church for the nation in which it resides.
But Ukraine has THREE groups calling themselves Orthodox Churches, and two of them are considered “non-canonical”, that is, they are not recognized by the rest of the Orthodox world. The reasons for these two bodies’ lack of canonicity vary, but it is also noteworthy that the two noncanonical groups are also not even in communion with one another.
The comments above, then, come from the one universally recognized Orthodox Christian Church in Ukraine, and it just so happens that this body is the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate. This is a nice long name, but what it means is simply that this Church is a branch, or exarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church, and as such it is aligned with and in obedience to, Kirill I, Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia.
And for a Ukrainian who is inculcated to believe that all things Russia are evil, this is a distasteful situation.
The issue here, then is that the government of Ukraine, under the authority of its president, Petro Poroshenko, made an appeal to Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople, to certify the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Kyiv Patriarchate (referred to as the “UOC-KP” in documents), as the sole “canonical” Orthodox jurisdiction in Ukraine. Patriarch Bartholomew is considered the “highest in honor” among the Orthodox Patriarchs, a position that used to be held by Rome before the Roman Catholic Church went its own way in 1054. While Patriarch Bartholomew has no authority over any other bishop, he THINKS he does sometimes, and the Poroshenko government is trying to make use of that to force this certification to happen.
Further, the civil government of Ukraine has no legal authority to petition Patriarch Bartholomew in this way. This is because the constitution of Ukraine does NOT have accomodation for an official State Church. Their constitution in fact specifically separates the Church from matters of State control, so the request is null and void right from the start.
Here, the Moscow Patriarchate is being extremely methodical about the application of both civil and Church laws as they apply in this situation.
The Moscow Church goes on to state the reality of the situation:
The issue of granting of Church autocephaly (falls within the competence of canon law, and not to the competence of state laws. Autocephaly is granted to the Church, and not to the state, and therefore the Church, and not the state, should initiate or ask for this status.
At the same time, it is a matter of concern that the granting of autocephaly (defined as complete self-rule, in communion with all canonical Orthodox Christian jurisdictions but under hierarchical obedience to none of them) to the Orthodox Church in Ukraine is viewed as an issue not only of religion, but also of geopolitics. We believe that the sphere of religious life should not become the subject of political manipulation. We should not confuse Church and politics, and even more so geopolitical issues. In this regard, we consider it unacceptable that autocephaly should be viewed from a geopolitical point of view. For the Church, autocephaly is not a political issue, but an ecclesiological one, that is, with regards to the life and nature of the Church as the Body of Christ (cf. Eph. 1: 22-23)
In other words, what President Poroshenko and the Verkhovna Rada have done here is illegal and just utterly invalid. By rights, Patriarch Bartholomew should be bound to disregard this request completely.
Further, the Moscow-based Church notes that this issue is not one of real importance to anything religious, but is really about geopolitics. Western Ukraine has many people in it who want a national Church that is totally independent of Moscow simply because they don’t like Moscow, Putin, or Russia in general. This is not a legitimate reason to petition for autocephaly!
The main concern expressed by the Moscow Patriarchate, that autocephaly is an ecclesiological issue, having to do with the life and nature of the Church as the Body of Christ, is extremely important.
The leader of the UOC-KP is a self-styled “Patriarch” named Filaret. He used to be a high-ranking bishop under the Moscow Patriarchate, but he somehow acceded to the notion of Ukrainian nationalism “no matter what” and now works to try to create this body of believers that essentially is a religious adornment to the civil government. In this effort he is supported broadly by American senators such as John McCain (R-AZ) (sound familiar?) and others who do not know a thing about Orthodox Christianity or the Church, but who DO know that they want Ukraine in the fold of the West so as to harass Russia and continue to fence her off from the rest of the world.
In the rush to embrace the West, Filaret has given tacit approval by virtue of his presence at some very unsavory and unChristian activites, such as “blessing” the Eurovision contest in exchange for evicting the other non-canonical group, the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAOC) from some buildings at St Michael’s Monastery. That blessing involved giving tacit approval to Conchita Wurst, a transvestite and perverted individual, as host of the contest and concert event.
A group claiming the title of Church should never bless something that is so absolutely antithetical to Christianity.
This is true no matter what one’s personal opinion of Christianity is. This is not a bigoted statement. It is simply the fact that Christianity has very specific things to say about sexual perversion of various types, and to go against this is to go against the faith. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Kyiv Patriarchate sold its soul for a few rooms in a monastery, and threw Christ, it’s supposed Master, completely under the heels of Conchita Wurst’s perversion.
This is not the action of a body of believers that wishes to serve its Lord. It is something else.
And the tragedy is compounded by the fact that the United States has taken this side of the issue, rather than one that supports religious groups who stay true to their God.
A Church should never submit itself to worldly political whims. It ought to be the conscience that guides those who would do damaging things to not do them. And here, there is none of that.
May God help bring these people to their senses. But don’t expect any help from the West, because they want this insanity so as to isolate Russia, which is increasingly becoming visible as the last bastion of Christianity in the world.
It seems that in the West, the way to manage insanity is to press for it as strongly as possible, in hopes that trying really hard to do something that is wrong will somehow make it right. This is extremely true with Ukraine, the mother country of Russia itself.
And, yes, this is a strong statement and it will probably be taken as an offense by many dedicated Western Ukrainians and those who support them.
The only problem is that the plight of Ukraine now exists BECAUSE the people and leadership of this country have been fooled by the American and European dazzle, and they continue to believe it even as their economy crumbles under their feet. And along with the economy, and more importantly, the souls of a great people are being cast into the darkness.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Duran.