Over 300 UOC-MP priests accuse Metropolitan Anthony of unduly speaking on behalf of the Synod and Council

31.07.2023, 12:53
Over 300 UOC-MP priests accuse Metropolitan Anthony of unduly speaking on behalf of the Synod and Council - фото 1
Over 300 priests of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP) have expressed their concerns regarding Metropolitan Anthony (Pakanych), accusing him of assuming an overwhelming amount of authority, encompassing the Councils, the Synod, the Primate, and the Church Court.

These grave accusations were articulated in an official statement issued by the clergy.

Prior to this, the same priests had penned a letter urging the Primate of the UOC-MP to sever all ties with the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC).

In response to their letter, Metropolitan Antony personally addressed the matter, offering criticism of their ideas and categorizing the authors and signatories of the document as provocateurs and disrupters of church canons, even likening them to modernists.

The priests were astonished to have received a response from Metropolitan Antony, as their letter was initially intended for the Primate of the UOC-MP, Metropolitan Onufry.

In light of this, the clergy members have decided to provide a public response to these accusations.

Below is the full text of their response."


On July 28, 2023, the Chancellor of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (hereinafter referred to as the UOC), Metropolitan Anthony (Pakanich) of Boryspil and Brovary, published a video message on the Youtube platform, in which he, in particular, criticized the open letter of the UOC clergy to His Beatitude Onuphry, Metropolitan of Kyiv and All Ukraine. Since this appeal contains numerous accusations against the authors and signatories of the letter, we consider it necessary to give a public response to them.

First of all, it is noteworthy that Metropolitan Anthony, in his address, never even mentioned the Russian military aggression, war crimes of the Russian military, or the heroic struggle of the Ukrainian people against the occupiers. At the same time, the open letter of the UOC clergy was motivated by the fact of Russian military aggression and the support provided to the Russian criminal regime by Patriarch Kirill and other representatives of the Russian church's bishops and clergy. If we are not mistaken, in all these more than 500 days of war, Metropolitan Anthony has never directly condemned Russian military aggression in his numerous sermons and speeches. In his public speeches, he steadfastly avoids even the very phrase "Russian aggression." Apart from possible readings of the official texts adopted by the Holy Synod, he has not said anything publicly about it on his own behalf during the entire war! He usually uses only euphemisms: "dire times," "ordeals," "temptations," and so on. And the new video message of Metropolitan Anthony is again replete with similar phrases.

This cannot but cause growing discontent both within the UOC and in Ukrainian society. An obvious question arises: Isn't such a persistent disregard for the very fact of Russian aggression a moral crime against the long-suffering Ukrainian people?

The next question that arises when watching the video message is: to whom is it addressed? Who is Metropolitan Anthony reaching out to? He begins his address with eloquent words: "Brothers and sisters". He goes on to say: "At this time, all the faithful must unite..." These words suggest that the author is addressing the entire flock of the UOC. This is also indicated by the content of the address itself, in which Metropolitan Anthony essentially assesses the open letter of the clergy of various dioceses. Thus, the video address of Metropolitan Anthony claims to be a church-wide statement.
However, according to the current Statute of Governance of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, the UOC Council, the Council of Bishops, the Holy Synod of the UOC, and the Primate of the UOC have the right to address the all-Ukrainian flock (see, for example: Section IV, paragraph 7 i; Section V, paragraph 9 g). Metropolitan Anthony is neither a Council, nor a Synod, nor a Primate. He is the ruling bishop of the Boryspil Eparchy. As a diocesan bishop, he can address archpastoral messages only "to the clergy and laity within the eparchy" (Section VII.A, paragraph 16). Thus, according to the Statute, Metropolitan Anthony has the right to publish appeals only to the clergy and flock of the Boryspil Eparchy. However, in his video address, Metropolitan Anthony does not say that he is addressing only his diocese.

According to the UOC Statute, Metropolitan Anthony has no right to formulate and publish the official position of the entire Church. Therefore, all of his statements should be perceived only as a private opinion. Of course, Metropolitan Anthony (like every member of the Church) has the right to his own position. However, then it should be presented as his own. Instead, in Metropolitan Anthony's address, we do not hear any phrases at all: "In my opinion" or "I believe". Everything is presented in a peremptory tone. The video does not contain any descriptions or explanations that would indicate that these are simply personal reflections of the Metropolitan or his address to the flock of his diocese.

It is quite obvious that Metropolitan Anthony is trying to pass off his own thoughts as the position of the entire Church.

In his address, Metropolitan Antony resorts to open manipulation. He claims that the open letter from the clergy contained demands addressed to the leadership of the UOC. He then responds to these demands as if speaking on behalf of this abstract "UOC leadership." However, our letter was addressed not to some vague "UOC leadership" but specifically to His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphrius. This is how the letter was registered in the chancellery of the Kyiv Metropolia of the UOC. The priests also presented this document to Bishop Mark of Borodianka, an assistant to His Beatitude Onuphrius. Bishop Mark discussed the issues raised in the letter with the priests. Furthermore, the possibility of a personal meeting of the signatories of the letter with His Beatitude Onuphrius to seek answers to the questions raised was also discussed with Bishop Mark. However, it is essential to note that there were no demands in the open letter from the clergy to the Primate. The letter only contained requests and appeals, as one can verify by carefully reading the text of the letter. This once again demonstrates Metropolitan Antony's prejudice and bias regarding the canonical initiative of the clergy.

Therefore, both the content of the letter and the procedure of its submission did not anticipate any response from Metropolitan Antony. We did not address Metropolitan Antony! Obviously, His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphrius did not give Metropolitan Antony any authorization to respond to this letter (Metropolitan Antony does not mention any such authorization in his address). Therefore, Metropolitan Antony's public statement should not be considered a response to our open letter. The letter was addressed to a different person – His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphrius. We are confident that the Church Primate is capable of providing an answer to our questions.

Metropolitan Antony's attempt to substitute himself for the Primate, the Holy Synod, and the entire UOC leadership is evident in his manner of addressing the authors and signatories of the letter. In Metropolitan Antony's view, the intentions of the authors and signatories of the letter are "by no means to save the Church, but to completely destroy it." He labels them as "provocateurs" and claims that they express ideas "similar to those of modernists." He even "predicts" that soon the authors of the letter will start demanding a "new union" and "women's priesthood."

These are all extremely serious accusations. The open letter was signed by over 300 priests from different dioceses and even two metropolitans. Does this mean that all of them (in the opinion of Metropolitan Anthony) are deliberately seeking to destroy the Church? A simple question arises: on what basis was this conclusion drawn? Such statements can only be made on the basis of a verdict of the Church Court. However, the Church Court of the UOC has not opened any proceedings against the bishops and priests who signed the open letter to the Primate. None of them is on trial on charges of attempting to "destroy the Church" (by the way, this particular accusation sounds absurd and definitely falls outside the canonical tradition). Thus, Metropolitan Anthony considers himself not only the personification of the UOC leadership but also the church court. He can pass sentences on anyone at his own discretion without even explaining the grounds for such conclusions.

Metropolitan Anthony accuses us of violating the canons, but his appeal is a blatant attempt to destroy the entire canonical structure of our Church. Metropolitan Anthony's thesis that it is impossible to convene church councils in times of war is troubling, as all their decisions will be deliberately forced and, therefore, illegitimate. By this logic, should the decisions of the UOC Council in Feofaniya on May 27, 2022, also be recognized as illegitimate? Metropolitan Anthony does not say this directly, but it is not difficult to guess that this is his position. So, Councils cannot be convened during the war. And perhaps that is why Metropolitan Anthony "heroically" took over the powers of the Councils, the Synod, the Primate, and the Church Court. All this looks at least like an attempt to seize power in the Church.

A person who openly violates the UOC Statute and usurps power in the Church categorically accuses those who openly speak about the problems of the UOC of violating canonical norms. It sounds absurd, but it is true. We believe that the bishops, priests, and faithful of the UOC should take this threat very seriously.
An unbiased reader of our open letter can easily see that there are no renovationist ideas or calls for the destruction of the Church and its canonical system. On the contrary, we are acting in accordance with our pastoral conscience. We are trying to assess the criminal actions of the Russian state and church leadership in the light of Gospel morality. It is obvious to us that Patriarch Kirill is one of the inspirers and accomplices of Russian military aggression against Ukraine. And that is why it is unacceptable for us as Christians to have any communication with him.

Metropolitan Anthony believes that the key message of our open letter is a call to restore the Eucharistic communion of the UOC with the Ecumenical Patriarchate, as well as with the Patriarchate of Alexandria, the Churches of Cyprus and Greece. He rejects not only the possibility of restoring Eucharistic unity but even a dialogue with these Churches and the Orthodox Church of Ukraine. Metropolitan Anthony states that the mere fact of such a dialogue would mean that the UOC "would cease to exist as a canonical Church." This is an extremely strange statement. It is quite obvious that any church division can only be overcome through dialogue and mutual concessions. There is simply no other way to church unity. The Orthodox Church, for example, has been engaged in dialogues with the Catholic Church and the Churches of the Reformation for many years. And this does not mean that the Orthodox Church ceases to be a Church from the very fact of dialogue. Even more so! None of the Local Churches (except, of course, the Russian Orthodox Church) refused to communicate with those Churches that recognized the OCU, and after that, they did not cease to "exist as a canonical Church," according to the author of the video message. Such a fundamentalist view is typical only for certain marginalized groups that choose the path of self-isolation and gradually turn into schismatics themselves. Does Metropolitan Anthony believe that the UOC should follow this path? If so, this is a direct call for the destruction of the Church.

In conclusion, we must painfully acknowledge that Metropolitan Antony's video address signifies a serious internal threat to our Church. Not only is the address filled with baseless accusations, but it also contains something more significant. Metropolitan Antony is attempting to stifle the vibrant Synodal life of the Church. He is actively transforming the Ukrainian Orthodox Church into a closed structure, eliminating the possibility of dialogue with state authorities, other Autocephalous Churches, or other Christian denominations in Ukraine. In such a structure, there can be no Councils or open discussions. According to Metropolitan Antony's vision, the clergy of the UOC should become a silent and obedient crowd blindly following the instructions of the "UOC leadership".

However, this is not how our Lord Jesus Christ envisioned His Church. It is not how the Holy Fathers saw the Church. It is not the ecclesiastical order envisioned by canonical norms. Today, our entire Ukrainian Orthodox Church must demonstrate its strength. We cannot allow the living Synodal Church to be transformed into a closed sect where freedom is suppressed and harsh dictate replaces love.