June 24, a meeting of the Synod of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine to be held - this would be a reciprocal step by Epifaniy, Metropolitan of newly-created Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU). The church leader is forced to react to the actions of his current opponent, honorable Patriarch Filaret, who organized a local church council on June 20. The meeting was little – all the present were hosted in the yard of St. Volodymyr Cathedral. But the decision made by the cathedral could not fail to spoil the mood of Epifaniy, after all, Filaret's people made their intention and proclaimed the restoration of the Kyiv Patriarchate. In other words, the unity of the OCU, which was created just six months ago, was put at risk.
Filaret would die in “renegadism”
June 20, honorable Patriarch Filaret convened a local church council. Only two bishops were present at this event. Plus a hundred believers who crowded under the Cathedral.
First, Filaret proclaims the restoration of Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Kyiv Patriarchate. Secondly, he still considers himself its leader. Thirdly, it claims the property and the temples that have passed to OCU. Fourth, it cancels the position of the Unification Council of Orthodox Church of Ukraine, which was held on December 15, 2018. Fifth, he accuses "the so-called OCU" of "serving the interests of the Greeks" and once again emphasizes that Tomos about the autocephaly of the Ukrainian church is an unprofitable church itself and an extremely erroneous step.
In other words, the patriarch remained faithful to the line with which he has followed the past month and a half. As for his relationship with the so-called OCU, Filaret is categorical: all the decrees and definitions of the new church, including the decisions of the Synod, which will be held on Monday, are no longer a decree to him. And personal contact with Metropolitan Epifaniy depends on him, Filaret emphasized. The 90-year-old patriarch undoubtedly expects the “junior colleague” to “put up” with him, but it is quite obvious that Epifaniy will not do this.
Especially, considering the fact that not a single solid cohort of like-minded people stands behind Filaret. The entire support group of the patriarch consisted on June 20 of the Metropolitan of Belgorod and Oboyan Joasaph (Valentyn Shybaev) and his vicar bishop Petro (Moskalev). It is noteworthy that both have come from Russia, where their parishes are located. The rest of the invitees ignored the call of Filaret to come to the cathedral. Among those who did not respond was Metropolitan Macarius, the former head of the UAOC and the hierarch of OCU.
Recall that the Ukrainian autocephaly, together with the Orthodox Kyiv Patriarchate were to be the foundation of the OCU. At the same time, both churches — the UOC-KP and the UAOC — were to cease to exist from December 15, 2018. Metropolitan Macarius has so far refrained from removing the Ukrainian Autocephalous Church from the register of the Ministry of Justice, but he did not become a schismatic at the same time. And strongly condemned the actions of Filaret, who was also not in a hurry with the legal liquidation of the UOC-KP.
“Why should we revive the Kyiv Patriarchate? If it legally exists, live in the Kyiv Patriarchate. But the conscious hierarchs of the UAOC and the KP realized that we came out of isolation and have recognition. Now I don’t know if there is a full-fledged Ukrainian bishop who would go along with Filaret in isolation. He wants to rule," Macarius commented on the situation.
And he added that instead of convening churches, Filaret should have "removed the patriarchal cockle, put on a hood and become a good adviser, the first adviser to Epifaniy, OCU head."
“Let him build and restore the Kyiv Patriarchat, he already possesses St. Volodymyr Cathedral. And we will not even talk about it, because any disagreement harms the church. And when he leaves and the schism re-forms, Filaret will die in this renegadism,” predicted Macarius.
However, no one is going to die. Patriarch Filaret is determined to defend the recent status quo. In the meantime, OCU representatives note: a meeting with participation of honorable Patriarch Filaret can in no way be recognized as a local church council. And the decisions of these meetings are void in legal and canonical terms. In a word, such assemblies do not generate legal consequences and are not subject to implementation, Metropolis of Kyiv OCU emphasized. Archbishop Yevstratiy Zorya of the National Central Election Office notes that the two present at the meeting of Bishops Filaret were in a certain way motivated. In other words, the holy fathers were tempted to higher positions than those they now have.
In addition to the fact that Filaret’s local council has no legal consequences for the OCU, the Orthodox Church of Ukraine recognizes that the actions of the patriarch harm Ukraine’s newly-created church.
What then will OCU do next? First of all, emphasis will be placed on the fact that Filaret’s statements regarding the convening of the local council are an excess of the authority of the bishop, which today, according to canonical status, is an honorary patriarch. Therefore, the behavior of the latter may be the subject of separate consideration of the synod and the bishops' council of the OCU.
According to Yevstratiy Zorya, the main goal for the OCU is to demonstrate unity. "We are not taking any action regarding Metropolitan Onufriy or the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Kirill. We have no relation to them. I understand that everyone would like to hear harsh statements, and also to start pulling each other by the beard. But our task is to show the unity of the church," he notes.
Constantinople: regretful but calm
Zorya has also commented on the fate of Tomos. “As far as I know, Constantinople intends to express regret over the actions of Filaret. But we have shown that OCU does not support such actions,” the archbishop says in an interview with the media. "But speaking about Constantinople, there will obviously be no things that would worsen the situation of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine... From the side of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, the provided document (Tomos on the autocephaly) will not be withdrawn," Evstratiy Zorya assures.
And he adds: Constantinople can "express disappointment over the situation around the OCU." At the same time, Evstratiy emphasizes that the Ecumenical Patriarchate has no reason to apply “penalties” sanctions against the Ukrainian church. Because the following actually happened: a couple of bishops said they were moving away from the local Orthodox Church. This is their own business. At the same time, no conditions on which Tomos was granted were violated. So why then punish OCU?
Dmytro Gorevoy, director of the Center for Religious Security, notes: Filaret’s local council was illegal because OCU did not give him permission. In this case, however, fees will have consequences primarily for the patriarch himself, but not for the church as a whole. Therefore, regarding Filaret, OCU will simply declare that he has left its ranks and no longer belongs to its flock.
Gorevoy gives the following description to Filaret: the patriarch "wants to have power. He has got used to this drug of power for more than half a century, and it’s not easy to give up it. He sees no other place for himself in the church, except as a leader. Soviet period. Then the world was arranged so that if you were elected a leader, you could only be carried out with your legs from your post. Nobody went voluntarily from your posts."
Andriy Yurash, the director of the Department of Religious Affairs at Ukraine’s Ministry of Culture, emphasizes that the patriarch’s vanity plays into the hands of Moscow. “If there is a very local dissociation initiated by Patriarch Filaret, for other churches it can be evidence that the church is unstable. And the ideologists of Moscow canonicity will use it,” the expert says.
Perhaps Yurash is right, but the case has already been created. Now the ball is in Epifaniy’s ball, who will have to somehow resolve the situation in the church and urgently save its image.