“Nothing has changed for ROC”
A new split is taking place in Ukrainian Orthodoxy. This time, inside the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP), its Council at the end of May did not agree with Patriarch Kirill in its assessment of the Russian military operation and adopted changes to the Charter.
We are talking about the “confirmation of the full independence and independence of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church” from the Russian Orthodox Church, and “provisions on the resumption of world-building in the Ukrainian Orthodox Church”, where there are only autocephalous, that is, independent churches. to have the right.
A number of UOC’s dioceses have expressed their disagreement with the new course.
So, in the Rovenkiv and Sverdlovsk diocese of the UOC located on the territory of the LPR, they said that they would remain under the omophorion of Patriarch Kirill and stopped commemorating the Kyiv Metropolitan Onufry. Representatives of the Rovenky diocese also noted that its presiding bishop, Archbishop Arkady, voted against the decisions of the UOC Council.
The same position is held in the Simferopol and Crimea, Feodosia, Donetsk, Kherson, Gorlovka and Slavic dioceses of the UOC.
The last of these, Metropolitan Mitrofan, said that he would continue to commemorate Onufry. “I this [решение Собора УПЦ] I do not support or approve, but I will not do anything to harm our brothers and sisters. We respectfully commemorate both His Excellency Metropolitan Onufry and His Beatitude the Patriarch.”
Officially, the Council itself allowed this: for the period of martial law, the diocesan bishops were given the right to independently decide on matters related to the life of the diocese.
High Priest Igor Yakimchuk, Secretary of the Foreign Church Relations Department of the Moscow Patriarchate, told socialbites.ca that after the meeting of the UOC Council, a resolution of the Holy Synod expressing its position was issued. To the decisions of ROC on Ukraine.
“The question of what will happen next was answered by the Synod decision, which concluded that nothing has changed in our relations,” Yakimchuk said. Said.
In the document in question, the Synod expressed “all-round support and understanding for the archpriests, priests, monasteries and secularists of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, who are subjected to unprecedented pressure from representatives of schismic structures, local authorities, the media and extremist organizations”. and the nationalist-minded part of the population.”
Judging by the Synod’s statement, the UOC’s status for the ROC does not really change in any way: His Holiness Patriarch II of October 27, 1990. It is determined by the All-Russian Diploma of Alexy and Moscow. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church was given the right to independence and self-rule.
It is still referred to in the UOC, which may indicate a complete reluctance to take a break – for example, Metropolitan Kliment, head of the UOC’s Department of Synodal and Education, noted that changes to the Charter were fundamentally made. .
“As for the refusal of a number of bishops to follow the decisions of the UOC Council, they do so quite legally, since the same UOC Council gave diocesan bishops the right to act on a case-by-case basis. Here they are,” Yakimchuk explained.
independence or schismatic
On May 27, 2022, the UOC Council, the highest governing body of the church, held in Kiev, discussed church life in the context of the Russian special operation in Ukraine. Military action “God’s ‘Thou shalt not kill!’ and the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia did not agree with Kirill’s assessments. Patriarch Kirill, in particular, described the military operations in Ukraine as an attempt by “different forces” to turn brothers against each other and reminded the soldiers of their loyalty to the oath. At the same time, he did everything to stop the bloodshed. urged to do.
The UOC Council adopted additions and amendments to the Statute of the UOC administration, “which speaks for the full independence and independence of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.” Pastor Andrey Pinchuk (UOC-MP) stated that “everything that connects the UOC with the MP” has been removed.
In addition, the Kyiv Metropolitanate announced the restoration of Christianity, a de facto sign of an autocephalous church. Miro (specially prepared and consecrated aromatic oil used in christian liturgy) was brewed in Kiev until the end of the 13th century – the beginning of the 14th century, after which the metropolitans moved to Vladimir. The ROC did not comment on this decision of the UOC.
The UOC Council also called on the Russian and Ukrainian authorities “to continue the negotiation process and to seek a strong and reasonable word that could stop the bloodshed”.
Two days later, on May 29, during the liturgical celebration in the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra on May 29, Metropolitan Onupry celebrated the commemoration of Patriarch Kirill according to the diptych, after the patriarchs of Antioch and Jerusalem, which is also typical. The practice of autocephalous primates of churches.
Roman Lunkin, head of the Research Center for Religious and Social Issues at the European Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, told socialbites.ca that the decisions taken at the UOC Council will have consequences in any case. will come, but it does not imply a complete break with the Moscow Patriarchate.
“The UOC Council has indeed put the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in a two-way position between autocephaly and being part of the Russian Orthodox Church, this link is still undeniable. However, I think that the UOC will not voluntarily strive for complete autocephaly and eventual departure from the ROC with no claims made. And all this gave the Holy Synod reason to say that nothing has changed. But at the same time, the dual position of the UOC really came to light, because in the Council they said that the control center of the Ukrainian church is in Kiev, ”the expert explained.
Lunkin believes that with his decisions, including allowing the UOC to act on a case-by-case basis, he seeks ways to preserve the unity of the church in the war zone of 13 dioceses and in conditions where three of them are wholly part of Russia. in Crimea.
Lunkin noted that the decision of the UOC-MP Council could also be associated with political pressure – for example, a bill was presented to the Verkhovna Rada on March 28, 2022 to ban the UOC in the country, Lunkin said. And in some areas, their activities have already been banned by decision of local governments.
Will the UOC and OCU talk?
Among other things, the UOC Council has expressed hope for resuming dialogue with the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (OCU) to overcome the divide. The OCU was formed at a unification council in Kiev at the end of 2018, at the beginning of 2019 Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople gave it an autocephalic tomos. At the same time, both ROC and the UOC do not recognize the Ukrainian Orthodox Church as divisive.
“Understanding the special responsibility before God, the Council expresses its deep regret at the lack of unity in Ukrainian Orthodoxy. The Council perceives the existence of a division as a deep and painful wound in the body of the Church,” says the message of the UOC-MP Council.
At the same time, a number of conditions were put forward to start a dialogue: for example, representatives of the OCU should “stop capturing the temples of the UOC” and “solve the problem of the canonicity of the OCU hierarchy” ” According to data published before the start of the Russian military operation, the UOC-MP There were about 12,000 congregations and OCU had about 7,000 congregations.
On May 26, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church appealed to Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople to demand the dethronement of Patriarch Kirill. Epiphanius, head of the OCU, accused the primate of the Russian Orthodox Church of supporting the military operation in Ukraine and spreading “heresy”.
Roman Lunkin believes the remarks about a possible dialogue between the UOC and the OCU are highly symbolic.
“The church was open to any kind of dialogue before. For example, Metropolitans Onufry and Epiphanius used to meet and communicate at events, in Ukraine this was not a problem. Now the situation, of course, has escalated – the OCU, together with the Greek Catholics, is attacking more and more, they want to take away part of the parishes and monasteries. And the aforementioned dialogue will not happen, because the UOC still schismatically recognizes the OCU. And the OCU, proud of its patriotic position, will certainly not repent,” Lunkin is sure.