Ukrainian autocephaly: a sensible point of view prevailed over the irritated position

What happens in the granting of the Tomos of autocephaly of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church? Which negotiations are conducted? What are the chances of the UOC autocephaly to? Talking about this with a Church historian, theologian, Vladislav parsley.

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Last weekend in Istanbul was held meeting of the delegation of the Holy Synod and Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, which discussed the issue of granting autocephaly to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

According to Metropolitan Anthony of Boryspil and Brovary, the participants discussed the ways of solving the problem of a split. He also said that Patriarch Bartholomew is “not willing to intervene in the situation, but wants to help to solve a very complex issue.”

– What’s going on?

Vladislav Parsley

– The theme of granting autocephaly to the UOC occurs not for the first time. Every time it is a continuation of the political struggle, tolerated in the Church sphere.

Historically, that every time he attempts to create the Ukrainian Autocephalous Church were made when trying to create an independent Ukrainian state. For the first time this took place after the 1917 revolution. To a lesser extent, this also applies to 1942, when the German occupation authorities sanctioned the formation of so-called “Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church.” Though then Ukrainian nationalists hoped to use to create the independent Ukrainian state. Naturally, these attempts intensified after Ukraine gained independence after the collapse of the Soviet Union. But legally to constitute the Autocephalous Church whenever it was not possible, primarily because most of the believers in Ukraine against this.

How would the political upheavals of recent years, no quarrel us with the Ukrainians, the real believers, not nationalists, trying to use the Church theme in their own interests, are opposed to autocephaly. The Orthodox in Ukraine in the majority of autocephaly are not looking, and seek to preserve canonical unity with the Russian Orthodox Church. This was just announced at the meeting of the UOC episcopate. At this meeting it was said that the existing status of the UOC is all quite satisfied, because the Ukrainian Church is really independent, although retains canonical unity with the Moscow Patriarchate. The unity is expressed, first, in commemoration of the Patriarch of Moscow (and not everywhere in Ukraine, this happens), and secondly, that the Patriarch of Moscow blessing of Metropolitan of Kiev, which, in turn, is elected by the Cathedral most of the Ukrainian Church.

People who are not satisfied with this status?

– He is not only politicians who understand that the unity of our common Church is the last brace, which today continues to combine Ukraine and Russia even in the conditions of confrontation, which emerged after the so-called Maidan 2014. Ukraine to power in a coup came to anti-Russian regime, which has consistently sought to completely sever all ties with Russia, ties between the Russian and Ukrainian peoples. This aspiration to a complete break falls on the life of the Church. The idea of autocephaly, which was formerly perceived as an attribute of state independence, in the current situation of confrontation with Russia is connected also with the fierce desire to break past relations with Russia, in this case, even those that exist at the Church level.

It is not necessary to dismiss and a personal interest in the granting of autocephaly of the Ukrainian Church on the part of President Poroshenko, whose rating fell today to the lowest mark. So he’s obviously trying to make extra money political capital. And of course, in the unwinding of the topic of autocephaly very interested the global enemies of Russia, which now, including conducting a political process in Ukraine, and that use of any, even the seemingly fantastic stories (for example, Skripal and other similar episodes), taking the total ideological war against Russia. So this “suddenly” arisen the question of granting autocephaly to the Ukrainian Church and converge the interests of Ukrainian nationalist politicians, and Poroshenko personally, and those of our partners, says President Putin who seek thus to harm Russia, including — and through the Church factor. Finally, there is the interest of the Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople and the Patriarchate.

– What is the interest Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople and the Patriarchate of the autocephaly?

– Over the past century the Constantinople Patriarchate deliberately seeks to form some semblance of an Oriental papacy and of “first among equals” to make the Patriarch of Constantinople the Orthodox analogue of the Pope, which gives the right to autocephaly, claims to be the judge and arbiter of inter-Church disputes and generally acts as a pan-Orthodox leader.

It is not necessary to exclude the subjective factor — I mean offense Patriarch Bartholomew to the Russian Orthodox Church for its participation in the Cretan Church. This Cathedral was conceived by him as his own triumph, as the event, which was supposed to give it weight and to strengthen its status as the undisputed leader of the entire Orthodox world. Actually, the Cathedral, in fact, was “empty exhaust”, since not decided any of the really problematic issues facing the world Orthodoxy. Dissatisfaction with the position of the Russian Church in the Cretan Cathedral is quite clearly outlined in Constantinople. Judging by the statements of individual bishops of Constantinople, they believe the Russian Orthodox Church is guilty of disrupting the Cretan Cathedral. So Panaram raised the question of Ukrainian autocephaly to a certain extent, was a response to the position of the Russian Church in the Cretan Church.

Of course, Constantinople sees in the Russian Church its main rival in the struggle for hegemony in the Orthodox world. ROC – the largest and most influential Local Orthodox Church, a historical tradition which is largely shaped in close connection with the idea of Moscow — the Third Rome, with the Imperial status of the Russian statehood, which she had in the past. All the attributes that parallel the symbolism of the New Rome — Constantinople, which actually was once built by the primacy of the Department of Constantinople in the Orthodox world. Of course, Fanar is trying to weaken the Russian Church, including through the separation from her Ukrainian Church. If this can be achieved, the entire Orthodox world will have to recognize the Constantinople is not so much the status of the championship of honor, how many championship power.

– Do You have an understanding of what are the prospects of granting autocephaly? What such a move can result?

– The prospect of a deepening split.


At least because of the autocephaly of the Ukrainian Church requires the Ukrainian state, which in itself is a nonsense in all respects, a violation of the Constitution of Ukraine, where the separation of Church and state, and a violation of Church canons, which do not provide such order of the dispensation of the Church life.

We are seeing something very abnormal: the Patriarchate of Constantinople heed the request of the secular Ukrainian state, condescends to her, discussing the problem and initiates a process, thereby Progresa against the canons. All this is done instead of having to declare the representatives of the Ukrainian authorities that they have no right to interfere in the Affairs of the Church.

The result is a completely ridiculous situation. Canonical Church in Ukraine has not asked for autocephaly neither Constantinople nor in Moscow. But Constantinople somehow discussing the possibility of providing it. Question: who is she then will be given if the UOC were not asked about it? The dissenters, who declare that they are ready to become an Autocephalous Church? But this is impossible, because the dissenters are not going to repent. To grant them autocephaly need to take them to the Church, to legalize. But this is possible only under condition of their repentance.

In canonical terms, the situation is very strange. And if Constantinople will go the way of granting autocephaly Churches in Ukraine, first he will have to create a certain jurisdiction of the canonical Church structure, which later will provide the autocephaly. But in this case, the emergence in Ukraine of another jurisdiction (in addition to the current canonical UOC and two schismatic “churches”) will only exacerbate the problem of Church division in Ukraine, and does not obrazuet split.

But, judging by the optimistic statements of Metropolitan Anthony of Boryspil by results of a recent meeting of Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople with the hierarchs of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, it is possible that the Constantinople Patriarchate has finally realized what is fraught with the granting of autocephaly to any one Church group in Ukraine. It will not heal, but the extension division.

– It is unlikely that the Patriarch of Constantinople acts alone, he probably has support, can be among representatives of other local Churches? What keeps the cards in his pocket Patriarch Bartholomew?

– First of all these trumps political. For Constantinople is a huge Greek Diaspora in the United States, many of whose members integrated into the American establishment, occupy high positions. They largely set the course of the Constantinople Patriarchate, which in fact contain a and funded.

As for the local Churches, the Greek Churches are always very consolidated. By default they recognise the unconditional primacy of the Patriarch of Constantinople in relation to the other primates of the Greek Churches. Jerusalem, Alexandria, and the Greek Church of Cyprus with high probability, the Patriarch of Constantinople support. And conversely, does NOT the Greek Church are likely to be dissatisfied with this position and policies of Patriarch Bartholomew.

– Why?

– Including the fact that many local Churches have their own jurisdictional problems. The situation of the UOC and other Local Churches can extrapolate for themselves. For example, the Serbian Church the actual problem of the Macedonian schism of the Georgian Church problems in Abkhazia, in which Constantinople has tried to create an independent jurisdiction, so it complicated the situation in North Ossetia, where there are Greek schismatics-the old Calendarists. In this regard, other Local Churches, I think, will tend to align itself with the position of the ROC. Not to mention the fact that the Georgian, Serbian, Bulgarian Churches from the Orthodox Church, there are strong brotherly relations.

In other words, if Constantinople will go the way of the granting of the Tomos of the UOC, it is still unknown what the consequences will give rise to this step. Because it can create massive division within the entire family of Orthodox families. Clearly, such actions will entail the Eucharistic communion, as it was twenty years ago, when Constantinople likewise interfered in ecclesiastical life in Estonia. But now is the extent of jurisdictional conflict quite different. Ukraine is not Estonia, and intervention Fanara Church life in Ukraine will affect the Church’s unity much more dramatically.

Saturday’s meeting took the sharpness of the conflict?

Rather she showed more. Constantinople, which a month ago was quite strong, according to separate statements and publications, in which they talked about the very tough position of Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople (for example, father Kirill (Govorun) argued that Tomos is already written, and he even knows someone) now, it seems, retreated somewhat in this matter.

The meeting on Saturday is important because it identified the position of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which demonstrated Fanaru that she didn’t ask any of the Tomos of autocephaly. I think Constantinople will have to reckon with the opinion of the largest religious groups in Ukraine, which was announced at the official level.

Of course, the change in position Fanara, if it occurred, was the result not only of the fact that the UOC has clearly stated their position, but those negotiations that Fanar held with other local Churches. I do not exclude that in Constantinople then became more clearly aware of the negative impact of the Orthodox world, which would entail the granting of autocephaly of the Ukrainian Church. I want to believe that a more sensible point of view ultimately prevailed over initial irritated position of Patriarch Bartholomew.

It is obvious that at the level of Church diplomacy is a process, which we do not know and which is not observed. But the negotiations with the representatives of the local Churches certainly have a place. We see that the Polish Synod discusses this topic, the Georgian, it sounds in Bulgaria. With representatives Fanara someone always talks. Something subconsciously happening, but the changes in this issue are indicated by a dotted line, when there are statements, such as this Saturday.

– Do you know what makes this situation the Russian Orthodox Church?

It does not matter to me, of course, but the Department for external Church relations. But, judging by the fact that Metropolitan Hilarion has repeatedly made statements on this issue, obviously, the ROC is not. Finally, in terms of geography of trips of Metropolitan Hilarion clear that not only Fanar, but Moscow is discussing with the other local Churches the situation in Ukraine. Another thing is that not all you hear, not all as advertised. And rightly so. When all the I put, it is difficult to win back a situation back, to find a compromise. And here, as we have seen, is Vovinam induce Constantinople to some measures already don’t look as brutal as it was back in late April – may

– Deepening the political conflict between Russia and Ukraine and its transition even in the ecclesiastical sphere, what this means for ROC?

I’ve already mentioned the situation with Estonia, which happened twenty years ago. Then it looked scary. Remember how I attended the service at which Patriarch Alexy (and the Patriarch’s service to commemorate the primates of all local Churches) suddenly started not with the commemoration of the Patriarch of Constantinople, and the name of the Patriarch of Alexandria. And it was like a blow of the ax head. The Eucharistic communion was recorded on a liturgical level, and it was a very scary feeling. Now imagine that in the case of the provision of the UOC autocephaly will stop Eucharistic communion between Moscow and Constantinople, such a return cannot be ruled out. What’s next?

In Estonia, then somehow was able to separate the two jurisdictions, to heal the wound. In Ukraine, I’m afraid it will only lead to a new wave of violence. We now see that the dissenters seize churches of the UOC. After the events on the Maidan. this process was again intensified. Constantly going on the violent seizure of churches. Unilateral action of Constantinople in the direction of the granting of autocephaly repeatedly activate this process. And it will not just the Eucharistic communion, but the escalation of the conflict, increase in violence, the consequences of which can be easily overcome will not work.

I would not want in this case to be a prophet, but you can remember the events connected with the Great Schism of 1054. Then the gap is not perceived as final, and it seemed ridiculous game ambitions. But in the end the gap between the Christian East and West has become a wound, which for almost a thousand years and not Obrucheva.

It makes you think about how unpredictable are the consequences of ecclesiastical contentions, including on jurisdictional grounds, how many tragedies can turn every wrong word, step and gesture, which are able radically to “plow” the entire Orthodox Ecumene, and how it suddenly can split the family of the Orthodox Churches. Just scary to imagine what may ultimately lead to the current situation with the granting of autocephaly of the Ukrainian Church. But still I want to believe that the Constantinople Patriarchate will understand and will refrain from irreversible steps.

Interviewed By Daria Rowena

President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko asked of Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople to grant autocephaly to the Ukrainian Church in April of this year. The heads of the local Orthodox Churches opposed the idea of granting autocephaly churches in Ukraine. UOC sees the possibility of “granting of the Tomos of autocephaly of the Orthodox Church in Ukraine” a threat to national security and unity of the Church.

In may, the Ecumenical Patriarchate received 60 thousand signatures of the believers of the UOC, who opposed the idea of creating an Autocephalous Church in Ukraine.

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