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The Ukrainian Orthodox Church–Kyivan Patriarchate Finally Clearly States its Position

15.06.2007, 16:19
Natalia RYBASOVA, a journalist from Kyiv, shares her impressions after the forum “For a National Ukrainian Orthodox Church” which took place on 12 June 2007 in Kyiv.

Natalia RYBASOVA, a journalist from Kyiv, shares her impressions after the forum “For a National Ukrainian Orthodox Church” which took place on 12 June 2007 in Kyiv.

The 2nd All-Ukrainian Church-Civic Forum “For a National Ukrainian Orthodox Church,” which took place on 12 June in Kyiv, had fairly wide resonance in the secular mass media. Various newspapers had various attitudes towards it. “Night Kharkiv” was totally negative in writing about the forum, “Komersant”(“Merchant”) was ironical and judgmental, “Economic News” was neutral and calm, and “Day” was positive.

After reviewing all the publications, there is a feeling that journalists saw this as a political event, which is why they did not highlight some interesting details of church life. So, I thought it would be good to share my own impressions after the forum.

My impressions are positive overall. The organization and representation were on an appropriate level. The concert hall was full, people were even standing in the aisles. Representatives of all eparchies of the UOC-KP [Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Kyivan Patriarchate] were present at the forum. Among them were bishops, priests, and lay people. Of course, the forum could not omit politics, because of the upcoming elections. Even politicians took part in the event. Mr. Medvedev, of the parliamentary fraction Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc listened to the first two speeches and then left two girls from “Oboz” (“Military train”). to record with dictaphone. Employees from television channels like 5, 1+1, Inter, and ICTV filmed the event.

At registration, all the delegates received the program of the forum and drafts of the statements that were later passed at the forum.

There is no sense in retelling the content of the speeches because the mass media talked and wrote about them in detail. I would like to make some general conclusions, though. They came to me after the whole forum and as a result of communicating with participants after the forum.

The main conclusions are:

1. A clear statement of the UOC-KP as the existing in reality Ukrainian national Orthodox church, not acknowledged yet by world Orthodoxy, took place.

2. The “Historical-Canonical Declaration” disproved accusations about the UOC-KP as “uncanonical” and “lacking divine grace.” This is very important for the priests and faithful of this church. The issue about the UOC-KP “lacking divine grace” provokes many lay persons who were faithful to a Ukrainian church to choose in favor of the UOC-MP [Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate], all in all pro-Russian but a church said to be “with divine grace.”

3. The informational position of the UOC-KP regarding relations with society and the secular mass media is gradually being formed. Firstly, the Kyivan Patriarchate realized the need to inform many people who do not go to church about their position. Secondly, now there are priests who state the position of the UOC-KP and adequately communicate with the mass media. Among them is Archimandrite Yevstratii Zoria.

Oleksa Hudyma, head of the Brotherhood of St. Andrew the First-called of the UOC-KP, talked about the situation with a church in the village of Kamianske in the Odesa Region. The village community passed a decision to transfer the church to the UOC-KP after UOC-MP Metropolitan Ahafanhel of Odesa demanded the transfer of the church from the village community to the Odesa Eparchy of the UOC-MP. Followers of [Valerii] Kaurov [leader of the Union of Orthodox Citizens of Ukraine] and [Natalia] Vitrenko [leader of the Progressive Socialist Party of Ukraine] picketed the church. Police help was needed to prevent a conflict from arising. Hudyma called priests to communicate actively with the mass media, mentioning the example of this situation. In his opinion, the prevention of unlawful events was possible thanks to the coverage of these events in the mass media.

4. The forum demonstrated that the number of clergy of the UOC-KP is increasing and developing in quality. During the “first generation” of clergy of the UOC-KP, there were some cases of transition of priests with discipline violations from various denominations and questions about their behavior, and so on Now young priests, many of whom were present at the forum, seem to be educated, patriotic, and in general those who consciously choose the UOC-KP because it is a Ukrainian church.

5. All speakers from the UOC-KP spoke tolerantly and with respect about the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, priests and parishes of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church, and the UOC-MP. They aim at unification. They think that the reason for the separation of Orthodoxy in Ukraine is political. I also think so. Moscow will strangle us with gas prices. It never will agree to let the UOC-MP be a fully autocephalous church. It is a link in one imperial chain.

6. The most important point is that five years ago there was a feeling that [Patriarch] Filaret [Denysenko, head of the UOC-KP] would leave and the UOC-KP would disintegrate. Now there is no such feeling. There is a change. The Kyivan Patriarchate has been formed. The forum showed that the UOC-KP would persuade Ukrainians and world Orthodoxy of the need to acknowledge the national church of Ukraine.