On January 6th, 2019 a large crowd was gathered, presumably near a site of the newly established “Ukrainian Orthodox Church”, a hodgepodge assembly of Ukrainian hyper-nationalists, neo-Nazis and probably a lot of Orthodox Christians who do not understand, or wish to understand what is being done against their faith. The crowd, represented by at least two priests, accosted a young man who was evidently part of this new glorious community and asked him one or two simple questions: “Do you know the Lord’s Prayer?”, “Do you know the Creed?”
The young man did not know.
But he did know he was with the Right Sector, a neo-Nazi aligned group in Ukraine. He did know that he was a member of the Ukrainian national church that was just fabricated by a todos given by Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople. However, his alignment with Christ was not to be observed, for he knew nothing of the very basics of the Orthodox Christian faith and prayer life, which is actually remarkable.
At the end of the video, we can hear a low level of singing from the crowd. They are singing “O Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us sinners” over and over again.
This confrontation was completely non-violent on both sides. But it was nevertheless a strong piece of evidence supporting the claim that the creation of the Ukrainian national church is completely illegitimate, an act of will to break the Orthodox Church by powers in the West, and most notably, an attempt to isolate the Russian Orthodox Church in some way.
The Tomos, a document that grants a particular church complete self-rule, was presented on January 6th from the Patriarch of Constantinople to Epiphany, the “Metropolitan” of this new community. Patriarch Bartholomew sent letters to the heads of all local Orthodox Churches (all 14 of the other self-ruling churches that are in communion together and with the Ecumenical Patriarchate), asking them to recognize this new church as autocephalous. So far, Poland and Serbia have vehemently said “absolutely not!”
A new report from the Orthodox Church of Greece said that the Holy Synod refused to acknowledge the new community, but that they referred this decision to a holy Council of their hierarchy when it meets. There is no indication as to which way this church will go, but it is possibly significant that the Holy Synod was unable to endorse the new “church.”
A further report indicates some dirty press on the part of Ukraine, because their press stated that the ruling hierarch of the Church of Cyprus did endorse the new church. However, Archbishop Chrysostom II repeatedly denied this:
His Beatitude Archbishop of New Justinian and All Cyprus said that the information of Ukrainian diplomats about his support for the OCU was not true.
The head of the Church of Cyprus for the second time denied the statements of Ambassador of Ukraine to the Republic of Cyprus Boris Gumeniuk, calling them false, the UOC Information and Education Department reports.
The information that during the meeting held on January 9, 2019, Archbishop Chrysostom II of Cyprus supported the provision of the Tomos on autocephaly of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine was published by the press service of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine.
“The head of the Cyprus Orthodox Church confirmed his position on the right of Ukraine to have its own independent autocephalous Church, wished the Ukrainian people peace and good,” the Foreign Ministry said.
The Archbishop of Cyprus called false the statements about his “latest” support for the autocephalous Church in Ukraine. His Beatitude stressed that “every state has the right to autocephaly, and it depends on the Ukrainian people”. “But at the moment, however, I see that the Ukrainian people has not awakened to such actions,” he said.
His Beatitude Chrysostom II noted: “It is not yet of paramount importance to grant autocephaly, it is important that there be no division of Orthodoxy.”
In conclusion, the Primate of the Church of Cyprus said that he was proposed to receive in Cyprus the head of the OCU Metropolitan Epiphany, but he rejected the proposal, stressing that he did not mention him during the Divine Liturgy and would not do it.
As UOJ reported, in October 2018, the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry published distorted information on the content of negotiations with the Cyprus Church. The version of the Ukrainian embassy that the Orthodox Church of Cyprus advocated for Ukraine’s autocephaly differed from what was said on the official website of the Church.
It is as yet uncertain how this will play out. While the shouts of “Glory to Ukraine! Glory to the Heroes” and the awarding of the Hero of Ukraine award to Filaret Denisenko indicate a political and secular “revolution” in Ukraine, the lack of praise to God, and the presence of lamentation as shown in the video clip, shows anything but a glorious event in Orthodoxy.
However, the hour seems to belong to the powers driving this series of events. It may turn out to be the biggest geopolitical schism in 1,000 years for the Christian East, or it may turn out to be a huge joke. No one really knows. But Filaret and the Ecumenical Patriarch both seem very confident that the whole Orthodox world will accede to what they have done.
If they do, Russia will be standing alone.