Holy wars: Head of Ukraine’s Orthodox Church of Kyiv Patriarchate Filaret vs. Constantinople
The attempt of Filaret, head of Ukraine’s Orthodox Church of Kyiv Patriarchate (UOC-KP), to enlist the support of the hierarchs of Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU) in order to convene the Local Council was unsuccessful.
On May 14 in the Volodymyr Cathedral, solemn prayer service was conducted to honor the day of the memory of Martyr Macarius; this event could start the revival of the power of the Kyiv Patriarchate, but only four OCU representatives came to Filaret, and only two of them had the right to vote. And this amount is clearly not enough to begin the process of amending the Statute of the chain-setting report, proposed by Filaret.
But the head of the UOC-KP is not going to give up his plans and continues to form the front of his supporters within the OCU.
The prayer celebration in honor of the Holy Martyr Macarius is one of the most important holidays for the Kyiv Patriarchate and its main church, Volodymyr Cathedral, where the relics of the martyr are kept. From year to year on this day, solemn services are ruled personally by UOC-KP patriarch Filaret. This year, Kyiv Patriarchate has sent invitations for 60 OCU bishops to hold a joint divine service at Volodymyr Cathedral. Only four of them responded. Two of them are important churchmen in OCU.
First is Archbishop of Simferopol and Crimea Klyment (Kusch), who now heads the parishes in Kherson. Another one is Metropolitan Joasaph (Shybaev), whose parish is in the Russian Belgorod. Peter, Vicar of Joasaph, was also present there, as well as another bishop, Adrian (Staryna), who governs the branch in Noginsk near Moscow.
This event was originally supposed to be a kind of “review of strength,” where Filaret himself could see his support.
Those who were going to appear at this invitation were openly called “separatists.”
“All the bishops understand that Filaret wants to restore the liquidated UOC (KP). They also understand that the restoration of the UOC (KP) is a split of the OCU. Therefore, only conscious “separatists” would arrive at the invitation of the honorary patriarch. Adrian Kulik-Bogdan, OCU Bishop, wrote on his Facebook page on May 8 (later, however, he deleted this message).
However, the tradition of publicizing this position served a disservice to the OCU itself. Some OCU representatives positively perceive Filaret’s ideas, but they are afraid to state this openly.
“The low public support of Filaret by OCU Bishops does not mean support of Epifaniy. OCU patriarchs are more oriented on Constantinople, not on Epifaniy, they want to have an opportunity to travel to Greece, Mount Athos,” political scientist Ruslan Bortnyk assures.
There are quite a few bishops of OCU, who want to create a truly independent local church, whose rights would be broader than the Metropolitan Constantinople Patriarchate established in Ukraine, the main apologist of which is Patriarch Filaret.
The changes to the OCU statutes proposed by Patriarch Filaret concern the autonomy of the newly established church. According to Filaret, this should be a church, which would not dependent on Constantinople. But such provisions are in direct contradiction with the text of Tomos, and, therefore, jeopardize its action. The Patriarchate of Constantinople has repeatedly demonstrated that Tomos could be easily taken away. One of the latest examples – last fall, the Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate abolished the Archdiocese of Russian Orthodox churches in Europe, abolishing Patriarchal Tomos of 1999.
In Ukraine, the events are developing according to the Bulgarian scenario. In 1945, the Bulgarian Orthodox Church received Tomos and the status of a metropolis, and after a few years declared itself patriarchy, after which Constantinople withdrew Tomos.
Therefore, supporters of the OCU believe that the actions of Filaret might provoke a complication of the relationship between their newly established church and Constantinople.
But let us return to the dispositions of forces in the command post and the control system. So, according to the information of Strana.ua, the OCU hierarchs, loyal to him, can support Filaret’s proposals until the end of May.
The next important date is May 25, the day of the memory of Saint Epiphanius, in whose honor the head of the PCU, Metropolitan Epifaniy, was tonsured as a monk. On this day, a large number of OCU Bishops will flock to Kyiv, who might initiate the holding of the Council and there declare their claims to change the Charter in the direction of expanding the authority of the church.
In order to rewrite the OCU Statute, Filaret might find an ally in the person of Metropolitan Mykhail Lutsky (Zinkevich), who withdrew his candidacy during the election of the OCU head in December last year at the request of President Poroshenko and Filaret. Although Mykhail did not serve with Filaret in the Volodymyr Cathedral, he shares his position on changing the order of appointment of the members of the Synod of the OCU.
The Charter states that there are three members of the Synod. Filaret believes that there should be 12 of them, for the rest of the bishops to leave the opportunity to be alternately temporary members of the Synod. Mykhail himself believes that he should be a member of the Synod, according to the principle of seniority ordination, but when the first Synod passed, he was not even invited there, which is why he harbored a grudge.
On the other hand, active supporters of Epifaniy can crush the rebels of Filaret. However, even without Filaret, there is a lot of disagreement between OCU and Constantinople.
According to sources of Strana.ua in the church circles, Constantinople is dissatisfied with at least two points.
First, Ukraine has not yet transferred the foreign parishes of the UOC-KP to the administration of Constantinople (the bishops of the foreign parishes, including the three who responded to the invitation of Filaret, do not agree with these agreements and do not wish to go under the authority of the Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew).
Secondly, Constantinople opposed the adoption of laws in Ukraine that provoke religious strife. Including against the law, which obliges the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church to be renamed the Russian Orthodox Church in Ukraine (OCU itself believes there are no grounds for renaming and this requirement is disputed in the courts).
Another thing is that in this situation the echoes of Filaret’s revolt can finally bury the plans of the OUC to receive recognition in world Orthodoxy.
“Filaret can potentially reestablish the Kyiv Patriarchate, it will be a serious problem for the OUC,” political analyst Ruslan Bortnik believes. “Even if Bartholomew doesn’t recall Tomos, it’s still difficult for the OCU to be recognized in the world Orthodoxy.”
In any case, the contradictions within the OCU raise the question of the transition from the UOC under the banners of the new parishes. And earlier, this process was carried out mainly under pressure from the authorities. And at the end of the election campaign, when it Poroshenko’s defeat became obvious, everything has stopped. Under the conditions of the actual split within the new church, there is no need to think about its further expansion (especially, under conditions of neutrality of President Zelensky).