Public attention to Patriarch Kirill’s visits to Ukraine decreases
Patriarch Kirill’s visit aftermath
On 26-28 July, 2011, Patriarch Kirill (Gundiaev) of Moscow and All Russia visited Ukraine. During the visit, he met with Catholicos-Patriarch Ilia II of the Georgian Orthodox Church, participated in the celebratory services of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate on occasion of the Day of Baptism of the Kyivan Rus, held a session of the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) in the Kyiv Cave Monastery, attended the opening of the International Forum of Orthodox Women, met with the rectors of educational institutions of Ukraine, laid flowers at the grave of the Unknown soldier and the Monument to the victims of Holodomor. In addition, an informal meeting between Patriarch Kiril and Ukraine’s President was held in the Crimea and a meeting with Ukraine’s Premier was held in Kyiv.
One should note that public attention to the visits of the head of ROC to Ukraine tends to decrease with each year. To a certain extent, it is due to the fact that the more frequent visits of Patriarch Kiril are losing their exclusiveness, become ordinary, have an ideological background unacceptable for the vast majority of Ukrainians. At the same time, such visits give no impetus to establishing inter-Orthodox dialogue to overcome the divide of the Ukrainian Orthodoxy and also often are associated in the Ukrainian society with negative moments in the policy of the Russian Federation pursued with respect to Ukraine.
At the same time, for UOC-MP, the visit of Patriarch Kiril was of a pastoral and religious character as thousands of believers of that Church were able to attend services with his participation. In addition, this year’s visit was held at the background of the Council of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate which was held before the visit and which held a discussion regarding the status of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate and its relations with ROC.
During his next visit, Patriarch Kiril plans to visit Chernivtsi next September.
Council of UOC-MP and Holy Synod of ROC
To be more precise, the most resonant event before the visit of Patriarch Kiril to Ukraine was the mentioned Council of UOC-MP held on 8 July, 2011, at the Kyiv Cave Monastery. The decision to hold the council was made by Metropolitan Volodymyr (Sabodan) and supported by the Holy Synod of UOC-MP on 28 July, 2011.
The following questions were to be considered by the Council of UOC-MP:
- a report of the head of that Church on the development of Church life in the last 19 years
- approval of earlier resolutions of the Holy Synod and the Council of Bishops of UOC-MP
- making alterations to and amendments to the Statutes of Church government
- definition of future plans.
One should note that the last two goals of the Holy Synod of UOC-MP were not actually achieved.
Alterations and amendments to the Statutes of government of UOC-MO, which was approved by the Council of Bishops of UOC-MP in December, 2007 were aimed to fix the changes in the system of government of the Church made in connection with the decisions of the Holy Synod of UOC-MP made in June. These are: A. establishment of a Supreme Church Council of UOC-MP, B. Extension of the composition of the Holy Synod which exceeded the statutory limit.
The Moscow Patriarchate and part of UOC-MP expected that at the council, alterations may be made to the Statute which would increase the autonomous status of UOC-MP within ROC and would strengthen the positions of one of the intra-Church groups at the coming elections of the head of UOC-MP.
In view of the above, the planned amendments to the Statutes of government of the Church were not supported by the Council of Bishops of UOC-MP and therefore, were not submitted to the approval of the council. The Council of Bishops decided to set up a standing Inter-Council Committee headed by Metropolitan Ilarion of Donetsk and Mariupol in order to consider all the proposals received in this regard and voiced at the Council of Bishops. The bishops also decided to rename the Supreme Church Council of UOC-MP into the Coordination Committee which, according to its status, is to act as a consultative body under the Head of UOC-MP and to coordinate the activity of Synodal institutions.
In view of the above, the Council of UOC-MP approved all the actions and decisions of the Holy Synod and Council of Bishops of UOC-MP for the period from 1992 to 2011 but the Statutes of government of the Church was approved in the wording of December 2007.
After that, on 27 July, 2011, under the chairmanship of Patriarch Kiril, a session of the Holy Synod of ROC was held at the Kyiv Cave Monastery. One of the key questions on the agenda was the report of Metropolitan Volodymyr of Kyiv and All Ukraine on the Council of Bishops and Council of UOC-MP of 8 July. The Synod of ROC (Journal 65) took to consideration the report of the head of UOC-MP, expressed gratitude to him for the activity and strengthening of Church unity and also took into consideration “the decision of the Council of Bishops of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church on establishing of the Inter-Council committee which is in particular to finalize certain provisions of the Statutes of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church hoping that the committee will take into account the suggestions expressed during the Council of Bishops of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church as well as the suggestions received by the Council.”
According to the analysis of the events connected with the council of UOC-MP and results thereof, Moscow Patriarchate shows a concern over the decisions of the leadership of UOC-MP to use the rights and status granted to it by the Thomos of Patriarch Alexis II of ROC (1990) and approved by a decision of the local Council of ROC (2009).
Patriarch Kiril and Catholicos-Patriarch Ilia II
In 2011, Kyiv became the place of meeting between Patriarch Kiril of ROC and Catholicos-Patriarch Ilia II of the Georgian Orthodox Church. The reason for the meeting in a neutral territory were the relations between the Russian Federation and Georgia in view of the military conflict of 2008.
During the meeting, the parties noticed the rather intensive level of contacts between their Churches in the context of the complicated Russian-Georgian relations, discussed the Church situation in Abkhazia and South Osetia and questions of further cooperation. After the meeting, patriarch Kiril said that “it is absolutely obvious that that there exists a canonical jurisdiction of the Georgian Patriarchate in the territory of Abkhazia, South Osetia.” At the same time, the head of ROC stated that the parties agreed to continue the dialogue “to reach in future some solutions to help the two Churches in close cooperation to promote peace in the life of the Orthodox people in those places [Abkhazia and South Osetia], establishment of the canonical order and, most importantly, prevention of any schismatic actions…”
In his turn, Catholicos-Patriarch Ilia II expressed gratitude to Patriarch Kiril for “his repeated confirmation of the jurisdiction of the Georgian Orthodox Church over Abkhazia and Tskhinvali.” He expressed confidence that the residents of Abkhazia and South Osetia will return to the bosom of the Georgian Church and called separatism a “dangerous illness.” In addition, Catholicos-Patriarch Ilia II expressed an opinion that Ukrainian Orthodoxy can be united round Jesus Christ. “I hope that the Lord will unite Ukraine and there will be one flock here,” he said.
At the same time, the head of UOC-KP (Kyivan Patriarchate], Patriarch Filaret, on behalf of the Holy Synod of UOC of the Kyivan Patriarchate addressed Catholicos-Patriarch Ilia II with a letter expressing friendship and gratitude to the Georgian Orthodox Church and warning that “the present leadership of the Moscow Patriarchate acts insincerely in the inter-Church relations as it uses the canons as a shield for its political interests and violates the canons where it considers necessary.”
Patriarch Kiril and Representatives of the Ukrainian Authorities
Before his arrival in Kyiv, Patriarch Kiril held an informal meeting with Ukraine’s President, Viktor Yanukovych. One can only guess what the participants talked about as it is not known. In Kyiv, an informal meeting between Patriarch Kiril and Ukraine’s Premier Mykola Azarov about which there is almost no information.
At the Kyiv Airport, the head of ROC was met by Ukraine’s Vice-Premier Serhii Tyhipko, First Deputy Minister of Culture of Ukraine, Yurii Bohutskyi and some deputies. Later, the service on St. Volodymyr’s Hill was attended by such representatives of the authorities as the presidential advisor Anna Herman and a number of deputies and officials. The meeting of the patriarch with a group of rectors of educational institutions of Ukraine was attended by the Minister of Education and Science, Youth and Sports of Ukraine, Dmytro Tabachnyk. According to the web site of the Moscow Patriarchate, only Church figures saw Patriarch Kiril off at the Airport Boryspil.
An analysis of the character of the meetings, official events and the level representation of officials during the stay of Patriarch Kiril in Ukraine shows a tendency to a decrease of the attention of the Ukrainian authorities to such events. Moreover, it appears that the rate of response of the leadership of the Ukrainian State to the position and addresses of the head of UOC-MP is higher than its response to those of the head of ROC. However, one should not forget that in his addresses to the Orthodox believers of Ukraine, Patriarch Kiril continues to voice ideological-political theses which the experts increasingly often associate with geopolitical interests of Russia. Such actions cannot remain unnoticed in Ukraine in view of the national interests of the country.
UOC-KP and UOC-MP
At the time of the celebration of the Day of Baptism of the Kyivan Rus on 27 July, 2011, in Kyiv, under the chairmanship of Patriarch Filaret of Kyiv and All Rus-Ukraine, a session of the Holy Synod of UOC-Kyivan Patriarchate was held where an address of UOC-KP to Metropolitan Volodymyr, the bishops and parishioners of UOC-MP was passed. The address stressed readiness to the establishment of a dialogue and expectation of constructive actions of UOC-MP in this regard. According to UOC-KP, such a dialogue is the only right way to establishing church unity aimed to establish one local Orthodox Ukrainian Church centered round the Kyivan throne.
The Kyivan Patriarchate organized as part of the celebration of the Baptism of the Kyivan Rus a religious procession from St. Volodymyr’s cathedral to St. Volodymyr’s Hill including a prayer meeting in front of the Cathedral of the Holy Sophia. According to the web site of UOC-KP, nearly 20 thousand believers (according to other sources: 7 thousand) participated in the celebratory procession including 1.5 thousand priests.
One should note that the number of the participants and the level of organization of this event increases with each year. The procession showed again that the Kyivan Patriarchate enjoys a wide support of the Ukrainian society.
1. The frequent visits of Patriarch Kiril to Ukraine on one hand are aimed to increase the influence of himself and the Moscow Patriarchate on UOC-MP and, on the other hand, this position of ROC provokes alternative reactions in UOC-MP. As for the public interest to these visits to Ukraine, the attention of the citizens and the authorities to them drops significantly.
2. The Council of UOC-MP held in July showed that the Moscow Patriarchate reacts oversensitively to the efforts of UOC-MP to fill its status , granted to it within ROC, with real content.
3. By blocking in all ways the contacts and dialogue of UOC-MP with other Orthodox Churches in Ukraine (UOC-KP, UAOC), the Moscow Patriarchate actually shows that ROC is losing opportunities to positively influence the process of overcoming of the divide in the Ukrainian Orthodoxy.
4. In the context of the above, the Ukrainian authorities in their turn can show interest and support for the establishment of the inter-Orthodox dialogue in Ukraine. The precondition for this can be one of the obligations of Ukraine before the Council of Europe stipulating that Ukraine “will promote peaceful settlement of the existing conflicts between the Orthodox Churches provided that the Church is independent in its relations with the state,” which is impossible without a constructive inter-Orthodox and Church-State dialogue.
5. During his repeated visits to Ukraine, the head of ROC not even once proposed to meet with representatives of the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations (AUCCRO) of which UOC-MP is a member. On one hand, it may be due to the fact that AUCCRO includes also UOC-KP, UGCC, UAOC, with whom he does not want to meet. On the other hand, this position does not fit his image of a religious figure open to inter-denominational dialogue and can be viewed as a sign of disrespect for other denominations represented in Ukraine.
6 In conclusion, one should note that the questions raised by ROC at the international level as to the establishment and protection of the moral values in the society could become a good basis for future inter-Church and inter-denominational meetings of Patriarch Kiril in Ukraine.