Religious studies scholar, religious journalists, co-founder of Cerkvarium, Director of Religious Security Centre
The official delegation of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate visited the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I. The delegation included Metropolitan Agafangel of Odesa, Metropolitan Hilarion of Donetsk, Metropolitan Feodor of Kamyanets-Podilsky and Metropolitan Anthony of Boryspil. The hierarchs were accompanied by Fr Mykola Danylevych and MP Vadim Novynsky. Without going into the details of the visit, its topics and positions of the parties, I will focus on the external, and, I would say, the symbolic part of this voyage.
As it can be seen from the official photo, Metropolitans Hilarion and Agafangel hold the crosiers in their hands. The head of the Odessa Diocese also wears two panagias on his chest. These are certainly the elements of episcopal vestment, but these elements convey a message. The point is that the use of all these items is regulated in great detail by ecclesiastical rules.
For example, according to the Regulations on Awards of the Russian Orthodox Church, paragraph 2.7.2, only a diocesan bishop to whom the Patriarch arrives with a visit is entitled to carry a crosier in the presence of the Patriarch. In the rest of cases, hierarchs should not carry a crosier in the Patriarch’s presence. It is noteworthy that the Regulation does not stipulate it should be exclusively the Patriarch of Moscow, and therefore this rule applies to any Patriarch. Moreover, in terms of tact and ethics – the use of the crosier by lower-ranking hierarch within the diocese of the higher-ranking one is an indicator of disrespect and non-compliance with the hierarchical subordination.
This is also the case with Metropolitan Agafangel’s second panagia. In accordance with the said Regulation, paragraph 2.2.5, a metropolitan is entitled to wear a second panagia within the borders of their canonical territory. That is, a hierarch, who was granted the right to wear the second panagia, shall wear it exclusively within the limits of his diocese. Generally, the right to wear the second panagia is the exclusive prerogative of the Primates of the Churches and, in some cases, of a Metropolitan who is vested with this right for certain merits. Wearing the second panagia outside of their diocese, in the presence of the superior hierarch, and even in the territory under his jurisdiction, is mauvais ton, to say the least.
So, to get all doubts cleared that the Metropolitans of the UOC (MP) have violated the rules of their own church, I would note that the Regulations on Awards of the Russian Orthodox Churchwere adopted by the last Bishops’ Council of the Russian Orthodox Church, which continued from November 29 to December 2, 2017. And to forestall manipulation that it concerns the episcopate of the Russian Orthodox Church, not those of the UOC (MP), I would mention that, in accordance with the Charter of the Russian Orthodox Church (part X, paragraph 10), “the decisions of the Local Council and Bishops' Councils are binding on the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.”
P.S. The ongoing situation is really weird. Certain hierarchs come to the Ecumenical Patriarch asking not to recognize autocephaly of the Orthodox Church in Ukraine. They come with a request and do not behave with humility, as it suits a true minister of Christ, but as lords, breaking the etiquette and regulations of their own Church. At the same time, they refer to the canons and call on His All Holiness not to disobey them (although he did not intend to). All this resembles the famous saying by Don Corleone from “The Godfather”: “But uh, now you come to me and you say – 'Don Corleone, give me justice.' But you don't ask with respect.”