Our Sad Church Affairs

26.07.2004, 15:06
There is probably not a single conscious Ukrainian indifferent to the matters of Ukrainian Orthodoxy, no matter what faith he adheres to. Evidence of this are frequent calls to the editorial office of The Day from not only Ukrainians, but even Canadians, Italians, and even Australians, asking, "What is going on there? Any progress? Any hope of a unification?" All in vain! To all appearances, Verkhovna Rada will unite sooner than our Orthodoxy. Because, if anything, the situation concerning the three churches shows no changes for the better.

There is probably not a single conscious Ukrainian indifferent to the matters of Ukrainian Orthodoxy, no matter what faith he adheres to. Evidence of this are frequent calls to the editorial office of The Day from not only Ukrainians, but even Canadians, Italians, and even Australians, asking, "What is going on there? Any progress? Any hope of a unification?" All in vain! To all appearances, Verkhovna Rada will unite sooner than our Orthodoxy. Because, if anything, the situation concerning the three churches shows no changes for the better.

By Klara Gudzyk
The Day Weekly Digest
Ukrainian News In English
Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, March 25, 2003

The Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate is frantically amassing parishes and church buildings. Its numerous Ukrainian bishops are closemouthed, trying to climb the hierarchical ladder in Russian churches. Russian - often openly anti-Ukrainian - church literature floods its churches, monasteries, shops, and kiosks. This church resorts to forceful seizures of its former property, regardless of its value and public opinion, as if in a conquered foreign land. A graphic example of the latter is the affair in the Botanical Garden.

In fact, the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAOC) does not exist today. Following the death of Patriarch Dymytry it disintegrated from within, entangled in intrigues, secret ploys, revelations, longwinded declarations, and accusations of financial fraud. The strife within the UAOC seems to have reached its apogee. However, this is a misleading impression, because the situation is aggravated with each passing day, much to the delight of those opposed to autocephaly.

For some time, the squabbles among UAOC hierarchs were hidden from public view. Now they have been laid bare and reached a stage close to mutual anathemas. Recently, Metropolitan Mefody (Kudriakov) has banned the communion with Archbishop Ihor (Isichenko), turning to the episcopate with a statement: "By his actions Archbishop Ihor causes strife and schismatic sentiments within the church, violates the resolutions of Ecumenical Councils and the UAOC Charter." He further insisted that Archbishop Ihor publicly repent.

On his part, Archbishop Ihor accused the Metropolitan of disregarding the authority of American Metropolitan Kostiantyn, assuming the title of His Most Holiness, calling unauthorized uncanonical assemblies, etc. These violations "have placed Metropolitan Mefody outside the UAOC." The names of the Metropolitan and a few other bishops who follow him are no longer mentioned during divine services (though it is not clear who will now be remembered in UAOC churches, since all high clergymen have been condemned by one side or the other).

Strange as it may sound, the church games of high UAOC priests have also involved the notorious Melnychenko tapes. Thus the All-Ukrainian Fraternity of the Apostle Andrew of the UAOC made a quite interesting conclusion based on the conversation between Metropolitan Kiril of the Russian Orthodox Church and President Kuchma allegedly recorded in the president's office. It turns out that Moscow Metropolitan Kiril was behind the non-recognition by the Ukrainian government of American Metropolitan Kostiantyn as Metropolitan of the UAOC.

Meanwhile, there is no need to refer to the Melnychenko tapes to find out about the Moscow Patriarchate's stand on this issue. After all, the views of Metropolitan Kiril on the problems of Ukrainian Orthodoxy are common knowledge. As for the subordination of the UAOC to the American Metropolitan demanded by some hotheaded bishops of this church, it is hard to disagree with the Moscow Metropolitan. Ukrainians have enough problems with the Russian Patriarch - why would they want yet another metropolitan?

But the main thing is different. How could the church become implicated in this dirty business? Why has it been tempted to play on anti- presidential sentiments and thus attempt to secure support of the opposition against the American Metropolitan, instead of making its purifying and moral influence felt?

What is even more amazing in the story with American Metropolitan Kostiantyn is the almost childish naivete of certain metropolitans who sincerely believe that very soon, regardless of the situation in the Orthodox Church and the obvious disintegration of the UAOC, the ecumenical patriarch will one way or another take this church under his wing.

Let us go back two or three years to the time when it seemed the UAOC and UOC of the Kyiv Patriarchate were ready to unite. There was every recondition for unification. The two churches were not divided over anything, with each devoted to the idea of autocephaly of Ukrainian Orthodoxy, each conducting divine services in Ukrainian, each with a patriotic mindset. There seemed to be no reason why they should not unite for the sake of the country and Orthodox people. It turned out, however, that all of the above reasons for a unification were of secondary importance. Personal ambitions, antipathies, fear of making the wrong choice, and the inability to come to an understanding in a civilized manner, prevailed.

Hence the antagonism between the two autocephalous churches probably surpasses even that between the UOC of the Moscow Patriarchate and each of them taken separately. Thus recently the St Andrew Fraternity (UAOC) repeated the thesis of the Moscow Patriarchate, stating that it does not recognize the canonicity of Filaret-Denysenko and his bishops and refuses to communicate with him (so much for negotiations and agreements). In this case, the brothers forget an important precedent, namely that representatives of the Ecumenical Patriarchate do not consider it impossible to meet with bishops of the UOC KP and discuss church matters.