Lately patriarch Filaret (Denysenko) brought confusion into the activities of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU). The hierarch announced a completely unexpected proposal, which has not only shaken the throne of the head of the OCU, Metropolite Epiphanius (Dumenko), but shook the whole foundation of the new church. "Apostrophe" tells, what is happening in the OCU and whether there is a risk of losing tomos for autocephaly.
Does UOC-KP even exist?
It is known that on January 6 Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew provided tomos for autocephaly of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine. The Apostle of the Orthodox Church, Metropolite Epiphanius, elected at the Unification council of the Orthodox churches of Ukraine, received the historical document from the hands of the patriarch. And on the eve of the Unification Council in December last year there was a big "corporate" merger: the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate, as well as the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAOC) were legally liquidated, and Orthodox Church of Ukraine became their successor. But according to Filaret, there was no liquidation of the UOC-KP.
"The fact is that the Kyiv Patriarchate has not been liquidated. It is presented like it is liquidated. Only the one that created it can liquidate the Kyiv Patriarchate," Filaret said in an interview to the media.
Undoubtedly, Filaret, as the head of the UOC-KP, is a person who made great efforts to ensure that the Ukrainian Church received tomos for autocephaly.
After such a statement, the Ministry of Culture issued a refutation, saying that by the resolution of the local Council of the UOC-KP of December 15, 2018, the activity of the UOC-KP was stopped. At the same time, the religious organization "Kyiv Patriarchate of the UOC-KP", which was the religious administrative center and the central executive and administrative body of the UOC-KP, was liquidated.
However, the "Kyiv Patriarchate of the UOC-KP" is still listed in the Unified state register of legal entities, natural persons-entrepreneurs and public formations, which is kept by the Ministry of Justice, and Patriarch Filaret is listed as a person who manages this legal entity.
Moreover, the website of the UOC-KP still operates and is updated almost daily, while after the Unification Council on December 6, the information resource of the UAOC ceased to be updated.
Filaret is a person who made great efforts to ensure that the Ukrainian Church received tomos for autocephaly
By the way, at the end of January the UOC of the Moscow Patriarchate assured that its parishes, which decided to change jurisdiction and go under the wing of the OCU, changed their legal registration for that of the UOC-KP.
The existence of the UOC-KP is evidenced by the fact that on May 10 Patriarch Filaret invited Metropolite Epiphany to honor the memory of the Holy Martyr Makariy (there was also a conflict around this story) and the invitation was printed on the form of the UOC-KP. A scanned copy of the document was published on the website of the UOC-KP.
But the Head of the Department of the Ministry of Culture on the matters of religions and nationalities Andrii Yurash insists that the Church of the UOC-KP no longer exists.
"There is no Church structure in Ukraine called the UOC-KP. In accordance with the decision of the Council, it automatically ceased to exist after the creation of the OCU, - said Yurash to "Apostrophe". – But in Ukraine, specific religious organizations have legal status, and there are about 7,000 of them in the OCU. That is, not the Church as a structure has a registration, but a specific religious organization, for example, a parish or a monastery. And "Kyiv Patriarchate of the UOC-KP" is one of them. Of course, it has a special status, and we understand that this is not just a parish, but legally it is one of 7,000 organizations. Now, if there is a desire to liquidate a particular organization or change its name, the church itself should begin this process. As a matter of fact, the church is not a legal entity. In our country, every religious organization determines its own subordination. That is, there is no structure of the UOC-KP, but there is one legal unit and it is the Church's business what to do with it."
But if Filaret officially manages the legal entity "Kyiv Patriarchate of the UOC-KP", then it is really difficult to argue with his statement that "the one who created it can liquidate the Kyiv Patriarchate". And if so, why does Filaret hold on to the "Kyiv Patriarchate"?
New charter and personal scores
The answer to this question follows from the loud statement of the Patriarch. According to Filaret, the Charter of OCU needs to be changed. "We should hold a meeting at the next Local Council and adopt the charter of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine. It should be not the charter of the Kyiv metropolitan within the Patriarchate of Constantinople, because we now use this charter, the Greek charter. Being an autocephalous church, we need to have our own Ukrainian charter," Filaret said in an interview to the media.
By the way, according to Filaret, the Unification Council held on December 15 was not quite a Ukrainian one. "It was not our Council, but the one of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, because I did not dominate it as a Patriarch, but as a representative of the Ecumenical Patriarch did it," Filaret said, and assured that he has the authority to convene a new Council.
Finally, the Patriarch hinted that there is a personal conflict between him and Epiphanius: after the election of Epiphanius to be the head of the OCU he has never concelebrated with the Filaret in the liturgy, and the communication of the Patriarch with Metropolite is very rare.
Filaret hinted that there is also a personal conflict between him and Epiphanius
"Four or five times in five months. Is it that kind of communication when every day you have to run the church? So there's no communication. Due to the fact that there is no communication, and there should be, the church was divided. Therefore, now my task being a Patriarch is to preserve the Ukrainian church," Filaret noted.
Causes and consequences of the conflict
Filaret's harsh words about changing the charter of the OCU, holding a new Council, of course, could be attributed to the personal ambitions of the Patriarch. Experts interviewed by "Apostrophe", argue that partly it is really so.
"It was quite predictable, - religious scholar Ihor Kozlovskyi said to "Apostrophe". – One of the conditions for granting tomos and removing anathema from Filaret was the condition that he distances himself from the process and will not apply for the position of apostle. Filaret is a respected person and has done a lot for the development of Autocephalous Orthodoxy in Ukraine, but we know the Patriarch, on the other hand, as a very ambitious person. He is categorical, thetical".
"But do not forget that thanks to these ambitions Ukraine received tomos and Autocephalous Church, - religious scholar Liudmyla Filipovych commented to "Apostrophe". – Besides, Filaret took an incredible risk back in his days. In the early 1990s, he actually lost everything and created the Church from scratch, which is now the 15th in the diptych (list of Orthodox Autocephalous churches, – "Apostrophe").
However, the personal ambition of the Patriarch is only one side of the coin. The fact is that almost from the very beginning of the existence of the OCU, Filaret repeatedly in his interviews and statements noted that he was not satisfied with the status of the Church, which was "imposed" on Ukraine by Constantinople – the metropolitan within the Patriarchate of Constantinople, and not the Patriarchate.
"Patriarch Filaret really would like to see the OCU under the Patriarchal authority," Victor Yelenskyi, Deputy Head of the Parliamentary Committee on culture and spirituality explains to “Apostrophe”. – He believes that Ukrainians are used to the fact that the Autocephalous Church should be headed by a Patriarch. But, for example, Romanians, Serbs, Bulgarians, when they received their tomos, it was provided to the Metropolite, and then only under certain conditions the Church received the Patriarchal completion. But there is also the Cyprus Orthodox Church, which has no tomos and has become autocephalous in the days of the undivided church. It is led by its Archbishop, but this does not make it less important. But if the Patriarchal structure is so important for us, the whole Church should unite so that there are no parallel jurisdictions in Ukraine and some time should pass. But it is not advisable to raise this issue right now."
The logic of Patriarch Filaret can be understood: firstly, if there was no no UOC-KP, there would be no tomos, and secondly, autocephalous churches, which have much fewer parishes than the OCU, for example, Bulgarian or Serbian, are governed by patriarchs. Why can't it be the same in the Ukrainian Church?
"In order for the Ukrainian Church to receive such a document (become Patriarchal Church, - "Apostrophe"), it is necessary to unite most of the Orthodox Christians in one structure," Kozlovskyш adds.
It is necessary to unite most of the Christians in one structure
For instance, in Romania, where the Church is governed by the Patriarch, 86% of the total population of the country belongs to this religious structure, according to the last census of 2011. And in Ukraine, the greater the number of parishes belongs to UOC-MP and not to OCU: 12 thousand against 7 thousand.
However, according to experts, it is not really so important who will manage the OCU – Patriarch or Metropolite.
"There is no fundamental difference. It's more like the rank of Lieutenant General and Major General. They're all generals anyway. And there was the 15th place in the diptych, so there will be the 15th place," Ihor Kozlovskyi said.
"Simply in the traditional sense, this is the final stage in the formation of an independent Church. But fundamentally nothing in the life of the Church is changed," Filipovych adds.
Another thing is that Moscow can take advantage of a new round of Church turmoil in Ukraine. In the Russian media there is already the version that tomos can be withdrawn from Ukraine.
"This is exaggerated. No one will take away the tomos. The Ecumenical Patriarch foresaw such a course of events. This is the process of formation of the Church, because a lot of different people united," Kozlovsky sums up.
But if no problems with tomos are expected (all the experts interviewed by “Apostrophe” spoke about it), the situation with the recognition of the PCU by other local orthodox churches becomes even more tense. Even the Metropolite Epiphanius called the Filaret’s rhetoric to be the return path and isolation.
"Other churches want us to have a stable structure with which we can confidently build relations. And the unification was the condition of Constantinople, but by now the unity has not really been formed. Different orthodox traditions came to the new Church, which existed absolutely separately for 25 years on the territory of Ukraine: the UOC-KP, which was still governed according to the Soviet model, the UAOC, which was absolutely anarchic and a part of the UOC-MP. Therefore, now everyone is trying to evaluate if PCU is a reliable investment of "resource" or not."