Lay people sound the alarm: Canonical status of Orthodox Church of Ukraine must be protected
On May 9, the community of laity and clergy known as Ten Theses for the Orthodox Church of Ukraine published on social media the “Appeal to protect the canonical status of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine!”, which expresses concern about the situation among the leadership of the OCU.
“The joy of receipt of the Tomos gave somebody a false impression that it was an end and an indulgence of all sins. But the Tomos was just the beginning of a great path to build a new Orthodox Church in Ukraine, a gift and an advance, which the OCU must implement in life,” goes the preface to the Appeal. “Instead, the old problems of the Church of Ukraine did not go away, including both the system of governance and more general challenges that the initiative group “Ten Theses for the Orthodox Church of Ukraine” listed in January this year.”
The lay activists are concerned about the public and behind-the-scenes processes that have recently taken place in the OCU and which, in their opinion, are “threats to the formation of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine.”
“First of all, we are referring to several interviews of the former patriarch of the UOC-KP, Filaret, and some statements of his associates who do not hide their categorical rejection of both the status of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine recognized by the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the procedure for the formation of its governing bodies,” the statement reads. “From various sources, we are receiving information that His Holiness Filaret intends to gather the hierarchs of the OCU in the near future (he already sent out the corresponding letters of invitation) and to encourage them to make radical changes to the Charter of the OCU and to actually transform the leadership of the OCU into the duomvirate with participation of himself and the Metropolitan of Kyiv and all Ukraine.”
Therefore, the participants of the Initiative “Ten Theses for the Orthodox Church of Ukraine”, which, besides the laity, has some clergymen among its members, decided to turn to the hierarchs and clergymen of the OCU urging them to stand in defense of those basic values and the spiritual and canonical principles, on which the OCU was founded at the Unification Council on 15 December 2018.
“We call on everyone to work together for the development of the one local Orthodox Church of Ukraine in the spirit of the Gospel.”
Appeal to the Episcopate and the clergy of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine
Reverend bishops, dear fathers!
Certain public and non-public processes taking place recently in our Church which, in our opinion, are threatening the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, are the reason for this appeal.
As we all know, the recognition of Ukrainian autocephaly and the reception of the Tomos occurred under very difficult conditions, both internally and externally. Negotiations regarding the creation of the OCU and the format of the Unification Council were difficult. We all hoped that after the OCU received the Tomos of autocephaly from the Ecumenical Patriarch, all passions would subside and the hard work of building a new church would start.
But immediately after this solemn and joyful event began strange and incomprehensible to us processes. We associate them with the unacceptable authority and ambitions of some hierarchs of the church. We have no doubt that any upheavals in the Orthodox Church of Ukraine will be used by external and internal forces which are hostile to its rights and freedoms provided by the Tomos and to the future of Ukrainian Orthodoxy. This may lead to the restoration of Moscow church traditions, which are unacceptable today in Ukraine, and, as a consequence, to church and state degradation.
Therefore, we consider silence as a crime, and we are compelled to publicly defend our Church and Ukraine. We know that one way or another, the thoughts that we are expressing here are shared not only by the laity, but also by the priests and bishops of the OCU. The latter, however, often find it difficult to state their position, given the possible moral and administrative pressure. Hopefully, this appeal will help them to refrain from temptations and fatal decisions.
The reason for our concern is that, not immediately after the reception of the Tomos, some bishops and church leaders began to make statements that in effect discredit the significance of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine to the Patriarchal and Synodal Tomos in the interests of their lust for power and ambitions. These statements promote the need for reformatting the conditions of the existence of the OCU which were agreed with the Ecumenical Patriarchate (this is explained by references to the previous history of the existence of unrecognized Orthodox Churches), as well as inflame enmity against the "wicked Greeks" who allegedly have "deceived us." Thus, the future of the Kyiv Metropoly, as well as the reputation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, are put under question.
First of all, there are several interviews of the former patriarch of the UOC (Kyiv Patriarchate) Filaret and some statements of his associates who do not conceal their categorical rejection of the status of the OCU, which is recognized by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, and the procedure of forming its governing bodies. From various sources, we receive information that Filaret intends to gather the bishopric of the OCU in the near future (the corresponding invitations have already been sent) and encourage them to make radical changes to the Charter of the OCU and to actually transform the leadership of the OCU into a duumvirate with the participation of him and Metropolitan of Kyiv and all of Ukraine.
We would like to note that the intentions of Vladyka Filaret to overturn the principles of democratic governance of the OCU specified in the Tomos, and to revive the practice of 12 permanent members of the Synod copy the authoritarian model of leadership of the Russian Church. It is very strange to hear such appeals to rehabilitate the de facto "Moscow" authoritarian experience of the Church's administration from Bishop Filaret. In his time, he himself admitted that the absence of the institute of permanent members of the Synod "is more in line with the traditions of the Kyiv Metropolis and allows fuller involvement of bishops in the administration of the Church."
Recognizing the merits of Vladyka Filaret in the past, we must remind and emphasize that the provided Tomos has connected the OCU to the family of equal autocephalous Churches, overcoming the canonical isolation and rightlessness of the Ukrainian Church. Therefore, any attempt to discredit the Tomos, to change the Statute approved by the Unification Council, and to revive the patriarchate (and declare himself a patriarch) destroy the achievements of the age-old struggle of the Orthodox people of Ukraine for autocephaly (in particular, that of Bishop Filaret, who fought for this recognition for a long time) ) But above all, this leads to a renewed isolation of the OCU, to the revenge of pro-Russian forces in Ukraine, and threatens the very existence of the Ukrainian Church and the State of Ukraine.
We are convinced that the Tomos is a great gift of the Mother Church, which, for the sake of the spiritual liberation of Ukraine, was compelled to confront the ambitious and cynical Moscow Patriarchate and the Russian state. Therefore, we stress that the present provocative statements of Bishop Filaret concerning the future development of the CPC encroach upon the canonical reputation of the Ecumenical Patriarch and open the way for a large-scale pro-Russian revanche.
We remind the dear bishops that if they support (voluntarily or forcibly) the revision of the conditions of the Tomos, the collegially elected metropolitan of Kyiv will actually lose his presiding status, and their own titles and titles will be annulled in the eyes of world Orthodoxy in terms of canonicity.
Therefore we call upon our honored bishops, priests, and monks to resist temptations and to hold fast to the Ecumenical Orthodox Single Catholic and Apostolic Church, of which the Orthodox Church in Ukraine is a canonical part. If one of the bishops cannot resist the temptation to play his own game against the OCU - let him publicly announce his intentions.
We want to emphasize that any church "Game of Thrones" or incompatible with the letter and spirit of the Gospel or the teachings of the Orthodox Church "Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them… But it shall not be so among you" (Matthew 20: 25-26). We believe that the OCU has a unique opportunity not only to unite the Orthodox Ukrainians but also be a good example of departing from old formats of management for all world's Orthodoxy. But that happens if it shepherds show an example of service to each other and curbing personal ambitions for the good of the whole Church.
We urge the God-loving shepherds to preserve the model of leadership of the Church, laid down in the Tomos of autocephaly as an inalienable fundamental principle of our church system. First of all, this concerns the composition of the Synod, which provides for the rotation of all its members (except for three permanent ones - during the transition period). The famous "metropolitan bureau" as an authoritarian-clan structure for manual control of the Church must remain a sad feature of totalitarian times. We also call to respect the efforts of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Ukrainian authorities, and the Ukrainian people, and to make the principles of the church system set forth in the Tomos the only true guide, without trying to add, subtract or reformat anything.
The reverend bishops and faithful fathers themselves can verify that the conditions of church life under the new Statute are much more protective of their rights and open up new opportunities for them to build up the Church.
We know about the sincere desire of His Beatitude Metropolitan Epiphany to gradually reform Ukrainian Orthodoxy and revive and renew parish life, and support these good intentions.
All of us, in action, word, and prayer, must do everything in order for our Church to be recognized in the world Orthodoxy as soon as possible. After all, autocephaly of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine is not a strange historical incident or a temporary political project, but the will of the Holy Spirit.