Attempts being made in UOC-MP to remove Metropolitan Volodymyr from power
The illness of the head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate (UOC) Metropolitan Volodymyr exacerbated the struggle for power in the UOC. Analysts have long paid attention to the confrontation in the episcopate of the UOC, in particular to alternative centers of influence – Metropolitan Hilarion of Donetsk and Agafangel of Odesa. However, the situation prevailing today is not only opposition, not only the struggle for influence or succession, but a kind of “revolution” – the actual attempt to remove Metropolitan Volodymyr from power.
The decision of the Holy Synod of January 28, 2012, was reminiscent of two historical events of 1991 and 1992, namely, the attempt to seize power in the USSR by the State Committee on the State of Emergency (in Russian GKCP) and the removal of Patriarch Mstyslav from power in the UAOC. With the GKCP of Synodal “putschers” unites the way to get power – conspiracy and usurpation of power in a pseudo-legal way. The events of the church “June Coup” in 1992 are similar to the events of the Synodal “majority” in their model.
In both cases the head of the church was actually removed from power, and the course of the church was radically changed. In 1992 the episcopate of the UAOC, without the blessing of its Primate, teamed up with Metropolitan Filaret. In 2012, almost twenty years later, the Primate of the UOC-MP has the same sad fate.
At its meeting, the Holy Synod of the UOC-MP on December 23, 2011, allegedly produced some rules of compromise at the time of Metropolitan Volodymyr’s illness. The interim presidency of the Holy Synod (according to the status of the UOC) went to the most senior by date of enthronement member of the Synod Metropolitan Agafangel. In return, management of the Kyiv Eparchy was entrusted to a friend of the Kyiv vicars under the chairmanship of Archbishop Oleksandr – the personal secretary and closest aide of Metropolitan Volodymyr, that is, the eparch who would make the most effort to coordinate all his actions with the primate.
But at the next meeting, the situation radically changes. Metropolitan Pavlo joins the group of the Bishops Agafangel and Hilarion, and the Synod makes a number of decisions which, formally appearing as “technical,” are essentially directed to dismiss Metropolitan Volodymyr from leading the church.
As a reward for betraying the ill Metropolitan Volodymyr, Bishop Pavlo receives the position of manager of the Kyiv Eparchy at the time the primate’s illness. Why would Metropolitan Pavlo want this position? First, this position could help him learn the financial flows of the Kyiv Metropolitanate, and second, according to statutory provisions of the UOC, a candidate interested in the position of the Primate must have experience in independently ruling the eparchy. It is noteworthy that immediately after Metropolitan Pavlo was appointed as manager the Kyiv Eparchy, the channel Ukrayina, entirely in the spirit of pre-election advertising, hastened to inform the public that Metropolitan Volodymyr is hopelessly ill and now the Eparchy of Kyiv is governed by a “hot favorite of the believers,” the superior of the Kyiv Cave Monastery.
No less scandalous was another decision of the Holy Synod, namely, the removal of Archbishop Oleksandr from the position of superior of the Church of All Saints of the Holy Resurrection Cathedral, and proto-hierarch Heorhiy Kovalenko, His Beatitude’s press secretary, from the post of steward and chairman of the Parish Council Cathedral. Today Bishop Oleksandr is Metropolitan Volodymyr’s right-hand man and closest assistant. Together with Father Heorhii, for many years he belonged to Metropolitan Volodymyr’s inner circle. However, as already noted by experts, Bishop Oleksandr has never carried out his own policy (for which, by the way, he has been repeatedly publicly criticized by supporters of a strong line of development for the UOC). Bishop Oleksandr’s only policy is the embodiment of the church line, which was framed by Metropolitan Volodymyr. Therefore, those who are trying today to remove Bishop Oleksandr from leadership really want to take not his power but the Primate’s power.
Despite Metropolitan Volodymyr’s proposal, the new Synodal “majority” refused to hold a session of the Synod with his participation and chairmanship, arguing that a hospital is not the best venue for the meeting and that participating in the meeting could adversely affect the Primate’s health. I would like to ask those hierarchs if they thought about how their treason and coup would affect the Primate’s health.
I carefully read the official commentary on the decisions of the Holy Synod, which was published by Archbishop Mitrofan, the person managing the affairs of the UOC. Bishop Mitrofan is a very pleasant man and conscientious church hierarch and I wish him success in his work for the good of the Ukrainian Church in the future. Some of Bishop Mitrofan’s claims, however, have surprised me. Bishop Mitrofan says that on the eve of the meeting of the Synod, he and Archbishop Oleksandr met with the Primate and “discussed all the issues that were to be raised at the Synod.” But anyone who knows Metropolitan Volodymyr will find it hard to believe that he agreed to have the control of the Kyiv Eparchy transferred to Metropolitan Pavlo and his closest collaborators removed from positions associated with the construction of the cathedral.
It also looks doubtful that Metropolitan Volodymyr would have liked the personnel of the commission, which will consider amendments to the Charter of the UOC. If we analyze the composition of the commission, it seems that the UOC has only two points of view – “Odesa-Donetsk,” which treats with suspicion the adjective “Ukrainian” in the name of the UOC, and the personal opinions of Metropolitan Sofronii of Cherkasy. It is not at all like this, however, because most bishops of the UOC share neither Metropolitan Agafangel’s Russian nationalism nor Metropolitan Sofronii’s radical independence. In other words, the commission does not reflect the real situation in the UOC, and therefore there are serious doubts that this commission will be able to prepare high quality documents.
Therefore, the UOC is in a crisis situation, and one can only hope that the painful events will end with inner healing, which would imply a real love for one’s Primate during his difficult days. Even Peter the Apostle expressed anguish and denied Jesus at a difficult moment, but he came back and gave his life for the Savior. A difficult moment in the history of the UOC has to end with a complete return to the individual, business and covenants of His Beatitude Volodymyr’s.
Any other way will destroy the identity of the UOC will make it lose its status of a nationwide Ukrainian church. There are already comments about restoring the unity of the Russian people and the “leading” member of the Synod of the UOC acts as a Russian hierarch and a citizen of the neighboring state. All his thoughts are of a reunion of Russians in Ukraine with their blood-related brothers in Russia. This Russian “political Orthodoxy” can destroy all prospects of canonical Orthodoxy in Ukraine, turn away all conscious Ukrainians from the UOC.
Therefore, whatever the personal views of members of the Synod may be, they should find the strength to not destroy the UOC and its future but follow the path the Primate has opened for the church. A path endured and adjusted by the only criterion – the teaching of Christ, which the Holy Orthodox Church accurately conveys. To be a faithful teacher not only in times of peace and celebration but also in times of suffering and torment is the most important virtue of all Christians and ministers of the church, who are responsible not only for themselves but for the flock. To find understanding with the head – whatever his current condition – is the Christian and pastoral duty of the Synod. The Synod would be free from such an obligation of understanding only under one circumstance – if Metropolitan Volodymyr deviated into heresy or schism. But this not the case, so whatever his condition, one must be in compliance with the Primate, as is stated in the canons of the holy Church.