Nationalism and anti-Russian sentiment has gone too far in Ukraine. Egged on by American and European temptation, about half of Ukraine’s population has drunk deeply of the Western Kool-aid, and the results have been tragic: The disintegration of the Ukrainian economy, fratcide, and worst of all, ecclesiastical fighting.
In Ukraine there are three groups that call themselves the Orthodox Church in Ukraine. Only one of these is canonically recognized, that being the Ukraininan Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate.
Now, opinions can go where opinions go, but this is the status of things and no opinion can change that as a fact. The other two groups are considered schismatic – not just by Russia, but at this time, by the entire Orthodox Christian world. And this is not because of pressure from Russia as much as it is that the overall Orthodox Chrstian community moves extremely slowly when it comes to recognizing a local nation’s church as fully capable and “self-governing.” The last time this happened was in 1971 with the unilateral declaration of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA) as “autocephalous” by the Moscow Patriarchate. This declaration is now almost fifty years old, and it is not recognized by all 14 other jurisdictions of the Church. The process normally takes centuries.
So when the Ukrainians started to try to make their own national church, regardless of how noble the sentiment may be, this is not something that will be instantly accepted. And unfortunately, some of the history of the Ukrainian schismatic churches is very sad and chequered with incidents and people that are not about Christ, but about themselves or about the national status of Ukraine itself. And none of these issues can lead to a Church that survives and stands as the conscience of a nation. Such a group can only become the vassal of that nation’s whims, and we have already seen this with the Ukrainian schismatic groups.
A further development in this sad story was revealed today.
Believers from the many parishes of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate that have been seized by schismatics and nationalists will lead a procession along the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem on Holy Friday, praying for peace in their homeland, reports Interfax-Religion.
The Via Dolorosa is the 2,000-ft. path that Christ walked from the place of His trial before Pilate to the place of His Crucifixion, now within the territory of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
As His Eminence Metropolitan Anthony of Boryspil and Brovary, Chancellor of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, reported at a Tuesday press conference, it is estimated that around 300 people will leave from Gethsemane with a prayer for peace in Ukraine, enter the Old City, and proceed along the path that our Lord walked, bearing the Life-Giving Wood of the Cross on His back.
Orthodox faithful from various regions of Ukraine, including those whose parishes have been illegally seized over the past several years, will take part in the procession. The faithful from such parishes will lead the procession, bearing a large cross and icons of the parishes that have been seized. They will also carry a newly-painted icon of the Synaxis of New Martyrs of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church
The pilgrims will pray for God’s mercy and the protection of Ukraine from wars, strife, and divisions.
“It’s a very difficult situation in Ukraine right now; there’s real persecution against the Ukrainian Orthodox Church,” said Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and all Russia. “50 churches have been forcefully seized in recent times. There are constant attacks on churches and priests are beaten… There’s shots where a priest in vestments is covered in blood, and they’re calling him an occupier, but he’s a Ukrainian, born in Ukraine, and speaks only Ukrainian. They beat him only because he’s in the canonical Church, which the local authorities call an occupying Church,” the patriarch said in an interview with Bulgarian media. (emphasis mine)
The office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has also expressed its concern about the constant and systemic attacks against the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church, recognizing that the government has launched a campaign of intolerance against the Church.