Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 04.11.2018
The Ukrainians and the Ecumenical Patriarchate are handling the restoration of the Orthodox Church centred in Kyiv masterfully. Russo-centric news media that focus instead on the bluster of Kremlin propagandists about some kind of a ‘split’ in Orthodoxy miss what is going on entirely.
After a break of 332 years, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church will choose its head priest, the Metropolitan of Kyiv, independently. This is called autocephaly. The Ecumenical Patriarch, the Archbishop of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, will be granting a book or letter called a tomos, which indicates that the church in Ukraine is choosing its own head canonically – legally.
After years of careful work, a breakthrough announcement was made on October 11. The Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarch said that autocephaly for the Ukrainian Orthodox Church would go ahead; lifted the excommunication of Patriarch Filaret and Archbishop Maletych and their followers; proposed a Stavropegion (religious institution) be established in Kyiv that would be directly under the authority of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Constantinople; and revoked the legal standing of the Synodal Letter of the year 1686 which started the whole awful mess with the Moscow church in the first place.
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew already has his Stavropegion. The Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine is granting St. Andrew’s Church in Kyiv to the exclusive use of the Archbishop of Constantinople. St. Andrew’s Church is a prominent landmark in the capital, sitting on a hill overlooking the place along the Dnipro River where legend has it the Baptism of Rus’ took place in the year 988.
Now the Moscow ‘church’ created by Stalin in 1943 is raising a fuss. The Moscow Patriarchate has been a weapon of the Kremlin disguised as a religious institution. But it is now in its death throes, raging against Kyiv and Constantinople as it fades from the scene. The Moscow-bureaux Western press is easily gulled by talk of the “greatest schism of the Church since 1054.” Ukrainians know better. Autocephaly is a reunification of a church that has existed in Kyiv and its surrounding lands since the year 988. Moscow did not exist at that time. The ‘church’ that calls itself the Moscow Patriarchate has a lineage going back only to Stalin and the NKVD in 1943 and has no connection to Kyivan Rus’.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko was in Istanbul on November 3, and met with the Ecumenical Patriarch, Bartholomew I. The two signed an agreement to prepare the way for a reunification council. Writing on Twitter, President Poroshenko said (translated): “The agreement on the establishment of an independent Ukrainian Church settles all conditions for the process of preparing for the Council, the process of giving Tomos was brought to strict conformity with the canons of the Orthodox Church. November 3 is a historic day for the Ukrainian Church!”
The Moscow Patriarchate no longer exists in Ukraine. The Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate has abolished it. There is to be a Russian Orthodox Church in Ukraine, and any Ukrainian is free to join or not join it. Ukraine has religious freedom enshrined it its constitution, and no state religion. But an organ of Russian influence can no longer hide under the name “Ukrainian.” Heritage stolen from Ukraine will no longer sustain Muscovy.
The announcement of the Synod of October 11 also appealed to all sides to “keep the peace of Christ.” Patriarch Filaret, the head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate, says that there will be no forced seizures of Moscow Patriarchate churches. There is no church law or law of Ukraine that says that any church or shrine in Ukraine belongs as property to the Moscow Patriarchate. Nevertheless, the Ukrainians will tread carefully, and not allow the Muscovites – who are currently invading Ukraine in Crimea and Donbas – a propaganda victory. Any provocation about church property in Ukraine will be on the Putin regime’s head.
The steady stream of prudent statements and actions by Patriarch Filaret, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, and President Poroshenko shows that Kyiv and Constantinople control the agenda. What is happening is a resumption of the normal state of religious affairs that has existed in Ukraine for one thousand and thirty years.