Russian-Belarus war against Ukraine: UOC-MP Dilemma.
Mastering the idea of independence by the Orthodox Church of Ukraine OCU), as well as activities of individuals and organizations, that are closely affiliated with Russian chauvinists, contributed to a significant loss of faithful by the UOC-MP, partial departure of numerous parishes and priests, and significant loss of authority in the community.
Thus, after Russia’s assault on February 24th, UOC-MP website reported several aggressive acts against their churches in Mariupol, Hola Prystan, confrontation with OCU etc. Furthermore, UOC-MP revealed its official resources and appeals of its leaders. In this manner, metropolitan Antony (Pananych), administrator of Boryspil and Brovar, announced on February 24th that: “During the most dramatic and terrifying events, we must remember, first of all, that we are Christians. All our thoughts must precede about God. The main weapon of a Christian is – the prayer. And the more the challenge the more intense our prayer. Today the church remains with her people and nation in prayer for peace. Prayer for people, prayer for peace – is most important right now. I repeat, what we were recently preaching: help the weak, frightened, defenseless. Let us unite in prayer for our nation”.
It is especially noticeable, that this address by the hierarch, a native of Zakarpatia region, does not even hint that it is a Russian attack on Ukraine, neither does it mention that “our nation” - is Ukrainian, but simply “our”.
Also, the appeal to the faithful and community by His Beatitude metropolitan Onufriy on February 24th: “There is trouble. Most regrettably, Russia initiated military action against Ukraine and I urge you, in this fateful time, not to panic, be courageous and show your love for homeland and to each other. First of all, I urge you to intensify repentant prayers for Ukraine, for our military and our people, please forget about mutual quarrels and misunderstanding and let us unite with the love of God for our homeland. In this tragic time, lets express our special love and support to our soldiers, who stand guard to protect and defend our land, our nation. May the good Lord bless and protect them! Defending and upholding Ukraine’s sovereignty and integrity. We also appeal to Russia’s President and request immediate stop to the fratricidal war. Ukrainian and Russian nations emerged Christians from Dnipro’s baptizing bath, thus war between these nations becomes repetition of Cain’s sin, who killed his own brother out of envy. Such a war is neither justifiable by God nor by people”.
Primate of UOC-MP called to resolve the problem through dialogue. The same day metropolitan Onufkiy, native of Bukovyna, also educated in western Ukraine, addressed his faithful through a video. In view of these statements, it was possible to detect, as if metropolitan Onufiy went against patriarch Kirill line. But, with lack of information, it is not possible to come to a definite conclusion, inasmuch as these generalized theses correspond reality.
In time, UOC-MP announced a marathon collection of blood, about prayers for peace in all eparchies (again without mentioning Russia aggression) about correcting reports of a priest hiding weapons in the village church Urhyniv, Volyn region; that a priest of this confession is a Russian saboteur in the town of Bucha near Kyiv; that a priest in the Riasnyky village, Rivne oblast, refused to bury the dead Ukrainian soldier; that churches in Vinnycia territory are hiding weapons for saboteurs. On the background of executing pastor and chaplain Rev. Maksym Kozachyn of OCU, in the village Rozvazhiv, Kyiv region by Russian aggressors, that his mutilated body could not be buried until March 1st. All these statements by the UOC-MP were received by the community as belated justifications and supported by “Russian World”. Excuses were also heard, that on February 28th Russian saboteurs tried to penetrate golden dome Mykhailiv monastery in Kyiv – they were detained and neutralized. Presumably their goal could have been the head of OCU His Betitude Primate, Metropolitan Epifaniy.
At the same time, the UOC-MP emphasized their involvement of providing help for refugees and suffering individuals, providing room in church basements in Kyiv and other cities, as well as shelter during bombings and shelling. Based on geographic location of this confession, it is absolutely correct, after all, through the fault of many of their followers of “Russian World”, found themselves directly in the combat zone. On February 26th it was reported that the UOC-MP church in the village of Lysychansk, Luhansk region was damaged, as results of Russian attack; February 27-28th UOC-MP churches in towns of Schastia, Luhansk region, Nizhen, Chernihiv region, Kyiv, village Oleksandrivka, Donetsk region. Faithful of Moscow patriarchate, including priests, are dying in significant numbers from bullets, explosives and rockets and is witnessed by priests of this confession, who for decades have been translating ideological thesis of “Russian World” for the Ukrainians … These faithful, priests and bishops, can now see how Moscow’s patriarch ignores death and wounds.
It is overwhelmingly clear, that by choosing to ignore the war, which Russia instigated, patriarch Kirill raises an existential question of the UOC-MP among faithful, priests and bishops. Furthermore, the cruel shelling of civilian infrastructure in Sumy, Okhtyrk and other cities of Sumy region, the UOC-MP Sumy eparchial website placed an announcement and signed by 30 clerics: “UOC-MP of Sumy eparchy discontinues commemorating Moscow patriarchate”. This document harshly criticizes patriarch Kirill for ignoring the war. Having analyzed patriarch latest activities, the conclusion was, that: “Moscow patriarchate fully supports forcing Ukraine to give up national sovereignty and forcefully join Russian structure”. Furthermore, “Today we don’t see any attempt, on his part, to protect suffering Ukrainian nation”. The undersigned assure that they support the victims of Russian aggression, yet discontinuing commemorating Moscow patriarchate does not mean exiting UOC-MP. The announcement on the eparchial website is marked as “Official”, at the same time, the likewise formatted announcement to the remainder of clergy and bishop of Sumy and Okhtyrsk, Yevlohia (Hutchenko) is confusing. This style of address creates dissonance in its perception.
Facebook announcement of February 2nd Lviv eparchy UOC-MP informs that liturgical commemorating Moscow patriarchate will be omitted and will be replaced with the following wording: “o God-protecting long-suffering nation, our Ukraine”. In addition, a photograph is included, as evidence, of the order by metropolitan of Lviv and Halychyna, Filaret UOC-MP (Kucherov). But in reality, stopping commemoration – is a simple method of informing the faithful that they remain in the jurisdiction of ROC.
A concise and laconic explanation of these events provides theologian rev. Cyril Hovorun: “Now came a wave of refusal to commemorate patriarch Kirill. If the undersigned clergy hope that commemorating only metropolitan Onufriy will somehow affect canonical contact with patriarchate, its complete illusion. No point in deceiving oneself and people, that as long as Onyfiy commemorates Kirill, all commemorations of Onufriy – are subordinate to Kirill. That’s the canonical law. I understand that many do not want to get into canonical discussion with ROC, because many illiterate Danylevychs told them a fable about “breakup”, “ingratitude” etc. Discard these fantasies. The only canonical road – is to return to the full-fledged contact with World Orthodoxy, including Constantinople, Alexandria and all other churches, together with OCU. The alternative to this – is a continued transformation to a sect, now already dangerous to human life. Return to interaction can be discussed. My suggestion – call a new united council, a soon as condition allow. Just don’t let your bishops be frightened or bribed. They already wasted one chance to unite Ukrainian orthodoxy. We may not get another chance”.
Obviously, the problem with such a process, as “discontinuing commemoration”, will awaken many in the UOC-MP, but many did not dare taking this step as of March 1st. Thus, neighboring eparchy of Sumy and Okhtyrsk, Romensk and Burynsk UOC-MP eparchies stood cleansed off news and any messages, they were erased, for no apparent reason. Along this line, a vivid testimony of events in this eparchy, as result of Russian shelling, became the announcement by pastor Dmytro Dolhyi of UOC-MP, with the words: “I renounce patriarch Kirill and Moscow’s Patriarchate”.
In the wake of that, a video of March 1st appeared with priests of UOC-MP, with an appeal to His Beatitude Onufiy, to tear down the contact with Moscow’s patriarchate. That video also contains an appeal to patriarch Kirill, in Ukrainian and Russian languages: “I discontinue commemorating your name during services in our church. This is my response to your silence during the Russian war against Ukraine and complete support of president Putin that led to this war. We considered you as a father, but you are worse than a stepfather. May God be your judge”; “I don’t commemorate you since 2014, because my priestly consciousness does not allow me to do so. Now I want to tell you the following: I don’t want anything to do with you and therefore appeal to my superior Metropolitan Onufiy, asking him to convene a Council of Ukrainian Orthodox Churches, where the question of having any type of interaction with the Moscow patriarchate will be raised”; “Already several days as I stopped commemorating patriarch Kirill, who with his criminal silence, silently blesses all this horror, which is happening in my beloved Ukraine. With his silence he is blessing Putin’s Russian aggression against my country. At this very moment, they are killing our children, our peaceful citizens, shelling our peaceful towns. And he is silent” etc. Furthermore, the priests request that the UOC-MP authority initiate a council to exit ROC and to obtain UOC-MP autonomy.
In the evening of March 1st, an announcement on the “Volodymyr eparchy website” informed the very same day, that “during the eparchial council’s meeting, metropolitan Volodymyr, responsible for Volodoymyr-Volynsk eparchy, listened and fully supported the request of active districts, monastery mentors, cathedral mentors and vice-rectors of spiritual schools about urgent appeal to His Beatitude Onufriy, regarding long overdue question in acquiring autonomy by the Ukrainian Orthodox Church”.
Characteristically, all these appeals reveal a continuous vivid ignoring of the fact of an existing autocephalous OCU in Ukraine. In fact, convening a council by the mentioned clerics of the UOC-MP, in essence creates another parallel autonomous orthodox church. But some faithful of UOC-MP fully understand unrealistic multiplying of autonomous churches, thus a new wave of direct communal transition began.
Something happened in Kolomyia, Ivano-Frankivsk region and in the village Khotivka, Ternopil region. Information received from these regions, that as of March 1st, under the pressure of local community, the parish of the UOC-MP stopped all activities on Markiv Hora in the Holovy village. One can note, with certainty, that as the result of the past several decades, activities of representatives and leaders of UOC-MP, became hostages of current situation and must again justify themselves.
Being the source in spreading ideas of “Russian World” in Ukraine, in peace and also after the beginning of the war in Luhansk and Donetsk regions, after attacking Crimea and after the attack of February 24th 2022, have exposed themselves to numerous suspicions, that they themselves systemically created. And yet, numerous statements by hierarchs and clergy of UOC-MP continue to be ambiguous and half steps – that truly don’t carry the same meaning as their accompanying rhetoric.