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Ukrainian Challenges for Patriarch Bartholomew

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Message Jelena Rakocevic

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The plan of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew for uniting the orthodoxy in Ukraine is being successfully implemented. Within less than a year a new church appeared - the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU), which, as Constantinople assumes, must put an end to the long-lasting conflict between the faithful. Elected was its primate - Metropolitan Epiphanius (Dumenko) of Kyiv and all Ukraine who received the Tomos of autocephaly and sent letters to other local churches expecting their recognition.

39-year-old Epiphanius seems to be an ideal candidate: 1) he has never been a member of the Moscow patriarchate and didn't initiate the schism; 2) didn't have a crow to pluck with MP hierarchs and is ready to start the OCU history from scratch; 3) studied at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens (he partly spoke in Greek on January 6 at the Church of St. George).

However, it's not all rosy.

First, the OCU primate-elect depends on the Kyivan patriarchate's head Filaret (Denysenko) (despite his promise to Patriarch Bartholomew, Filaret still hasn't abolished the UOC-KP legal entity: he maintains control over all of his hierarchs who constitute a majority in the OCU).

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Second, Epiphanius is strongly dependent on Petro Poroshenko (during his campaign trail across the country's regions he has to accompany the president and openly support him; if Poroshenko loses the elections, Epiphanius would face difficulties in building relations with the new leaders).

These are not Epiphanius' worst problems. He wasn't ordained canonically - as all the UOC-KP hierarchs of "the second generation" after Filaret was anathematized.

It is notable that during the 2001-2003 negotiations with the Russian Orthodox Church on the Ukrainian issue, many hierarchs ordained in the UOC-KP didn't really believe that they were bishops. As a source at the Fanar says, when addressing the ROC with penance, they asked to accept them not as "bishops" but in the status they had before the schism (a priest, deacon or layman). Then, the Russians showed quite a number of such letters from the UOC-KP hierarchs.

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Several years ago, a Ukrainian bishop of the Moscow patriarchate who visited Greece claimed that many UOC-KP bishops and priests wearing civil clothes were seen at the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra on Epiphany Day: having sanctified the water in their temples, they secretly came to the Lavra to drink the "real" holy water.

When the two exarchs of the patriarchate were appointed to Ukraine, both Kyiv and Moscow were sure that these two bishops would secretly reordain all the OCU hierarchs and restore its canonical hierarchy. "Secret reordination" is organized by the ecumenical patriarchate when an uncanonical diocese needs to be accepted in communion without any humiliation in the eyes of the faithful. Hereby such a procedure was carried out for the hierarchs of the UOC of the USA and Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada who hadn't been canonically ordained.

However, the patriarch didn't restore the canonicity of the OCU's hierarchy. This happened because of haste and Petro Poroshenko's pressure as he had to unite the OCU and obtain the tomos before the electoral campaign's start.

For the first time in Constantinople's history, there was such a haste that the tomos was bestowed without the Holy Synod members' signatures - on January 6, Patriarch Bartholomew presented the document signed with just two words: "ratified by B." ("ἀποφαίνεται Β."). After that, the famous theologian Archimandrite Cyril (Hovorun) declared the tomos invalid, so several days later it returned to the Phanar to be "finalized" by the Synod.

Maybe the OCU's hierarchy will be "finalized" the same way? Now, however, its uncanonicity causes confusion in the other local churches.

Patriarch Bartholomew's plan is said to have been different. He insisted on Filaret being barred from the elections of the new church's primate. The OCU was to be headed by canonical Metropolitan Simeon of Vinnytsia of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP). The Ukrainian president promised several times to the patriarch that from 10 to 25 UOC-MP hierarchs would attend the Sobor in December. He even handed over the list of them, which is rumored to have been seen only by Patriarch Bartholomew. Nevertheless, the hierarchs of the Moscow patriarchate ignored the Sobor: Simeon received few votes and Filaret's candidate was elected.

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No matter how intensely the former Metropolitan Filaret of Kyiv asked Patriarch Barthlomew to hold a joint divine service on January 6 at the Church of St. George, he refused. But the patriarch held it with Epiphanius, Filaret's prote'ge'. However, when the patriarch visits Ukraine, he won't be able to deny a joint service with Filaret since there he is a respected religious leader, church's head and "patriarch", unlike Epiphanius. After a fruitless struggle, even Constantinople had to confirm his status of "patriarch".

The ambiguity of Filaret's role, Epiphanius' weakness and the questionable legitimacy of the OCU's hierarchy can slow down the process of its recognition by local churches. As Archbishop Daniel of Pamphylia said in his interview to Romfea, the Church of Greece would recognize the OCU "within a month or so". Meanwhile Greek Orthodox autocephalous churches are still in doubts:

 

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Jelena Rakocevic Social Media Pages: Facebook page url on login Profile not filled in       Twitter page url on login Profile not filled in       Linkedin page url on login Profile not filled in       Instagram page url on login Profile not filled in

I graduated from University of Montenegro in 2013 with a Master in International Relations degree. Currently I live in Podgorica, Montenegro and work for the National Tourism Organisation of Montenegro. My writings were published by Delfi, (more...)
 
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