The granting of autocephaly to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople will not help eliminate the current split in the Orthodox Christian community in Ukraine and, on the contrary, will only deepen it further, believes Metropolitan Antony of Borispol and Brovary, the chief of administrative directorate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church reporting to Moscow Patriarchate.
He said it in an interview with the Greek news agency Romfea. The Ukrainian Church’s department for information and education uploaded the transcript of the interview on to its official homepage.
«Persistent and stubborn striving by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople to heal the split in Ukraine through granting autocephaly produces venom, not remedy, for the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church and for the entire global Orthodoxy,» His Eminence Antony said.
«A canonical Archbishop – Metropolitan Onuphry – holds the see in Kiev, but someone is seeking to set up a parallel hierarchy and grant an autocephalous status to it, and this aggrandizes the split,» he went on.
«The setting up and existence of a parallel hierarchy is a graphic characteristic of a schism,» Metropolitan Antony went on. «We’ve already gone through it. We saw Filaret [the head of the schismatic Ukrainian Orthodox Church reporting to the so-called Kiev Patriarchate] do it.»
He said Ukrainian politicians, who were drawing on support from schismatic religious groups in their homeland and from the Constantinople Patriarchate, were pressing forward to make the canonical Church lose its legitimate status.
«With the assistance from the schismatic factions, politicians would like to rename us into the Russian Church in Ukraine from the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which we are in essence,» His Eminence Antony said. «They want to turn us into an alien force, to put the situation head over heals, when the canonical Church becomes a schismatic one and a stranger for its people, while the dissenting factions grow over into the mainstream.»
«The Ecumenical Patriarch sides with the foes of our Church in this case and this is hurting us,» Metropolitan Antony said.
«Our Church will not recognize this motion [the ruling of the Synod of the Ecumenical Church to start the procedures for instituting an autocephalous Church in Ukraine – TASS] and will never co-officiate with the newly established ‘Church’,» he said, adding the Constantinople’s move would entail the most deplorable aftermaths in Ukraine.
«Conflicts will flare up in the Ukrainians’ families, our churches will again undergo assaults, and brothers will rise up against brothers,» His Eminence Antony said. «We went through all of this at the beginning of the 1990’s when the split occurred.»
At present, Ukraine is part of the canonical territory of the Russian Orthodox Church, and the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which has the recognition of the global community of Eastern Orthodox Christian Churches, reports to Moscow Patriarchate. It is a self-governing religious organization with broad administrative powers.
The canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church has more than 12,000 parishes and 200 monasteries within its realm at present.
Simultaneously, Ukraine has another two organizations referring to themselves as Orthodox Churches – the Ukrainian Orthodox Church reporting to the so-called Kiev patriarchate and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church that abides by the ideology and practices of a religious movement, which reformist nationalistic Ukrainian priest set up in the first half of the 20th century.
Authorities in post-Soviet Ukraine have been making the attempts to create a Church unrelated to Moscow Patriarchate ever since the declaration of independence by Ukraine in 1991.
In April 2018, President Pyotr Poroshenko sent a petition to the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I asking him to authorize the emergence of an independent united Orthodox Church in Ukraine. Officials of the two schismatic Churches hailed his motion while the canonical Church reporting to Moscow Patriarchate did not make any requests on its part.
The secretariat of the Holy and Sacred Synod of the Ecumenical Church of Constantinople published a communique las Friday, September 7, informing on the appointment of Bishop Daniel of Pamphilon and Bishop Ilarion of Edmonton as exarchs of the Ecumenical Patriarch to Ukraine as a step towards preparations for granting autocephaly to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
The Holy Synod of the Russian Church issued a protest on Saturday saying Constantinople’s decision was driving relations between the two Patriarchates into an impasse.
«These steps drive the relationship between the Russian Church and the Church of Constantinople into a deadlock and pose a tangible threat to the unity of the global Orthodox Christian community,» the statement said. «The Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church has the power to state that Patriarch Bartholomew and the bishops of the Church of Constantinople supporting these anti-canonical steps will bear the full brunt of responsibility for them.»
«To justify its interference in the affairs of another local [national] Church, the Constantinople Patriarchate cites false interpretations of historical facts and the exclusive powers, which is allegedly has but which it has never had in reality,» the Synod said.
Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, the chief of Moscow Patriarchate’s department for external Church relations has made a warning on a possible severing of relations between the Russian Church and the Church of Constantinople if the latter legitimizes the Ukrainian schism.