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Where there is no law, but every man does what is right in his own eyes, there is the least of real liberty
Henry M. Robert

Under one dome?

A discussion on the creation of the Single Local Church in the framework of communication between the Church and Maidan
6 March, 2014 - 11:16
Photo by Mykola TYMCHENKO, The Day

Besides the consolidation of the Ukrainian society, Maidan has also become a platform for establishing an interconfessional dialog. The religious diversity of Ukrainians became the evidence of even greater unification in spirit. During the past few days mass media have been analyzing the news that relates to the changes in our political and economic life, but we also have processes that reflect the internal life of the Church. We had planned to dedicate this article to the discussion of Patriarch Filaret’s statement on the possibility of unification of the church he leads with the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church. However, a number of events worth mentioning happened later. In particular, on February 22, an appeal by the Holy Synod on the necessity of the urgent overcoming of division of the Orthodox Church in Ukraine appeared on the official website of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Kyiv Patriarchate).

The matter of creation of a Single Local Church within Ukrainian interconfessional space is not new. There were a few attempts to unify the churches which inherited St. Volodymyr’s christening in the case of the unity of churches with Kyivan tradition. These attempts had various degrees of success, while some of them were barbarically inappropriate. Let us recall president Viktor Yushchenko’s initiative to “unite” the Ukrainian Orthodox churches in 2008 by orders from the government, via their subordination to Constantinople. There was also an inclusive model of unification suggested by the head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church His Beatitude Liubomyr, which was categorically rejected by the Orthodox churches. Finally, we cannot forget that, after Yanukovych won the presidential elections, there were active attempts to “overcome the schism” through the state’s pressure and un-registering the “non-canonical” Orthodox.

The clergy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Kyiv Patriarchate) addressed certain bishops of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church with a similar appeal as well. However, there was no direct appeal towards Metropolitan Mefodii, since according to the Synod members, the Metropolitan personally has always opposed the idea of unification of the churches. A meeting of the Holy Synod of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) took place on February 24.

Will the unification of churches take place? Let us hear the participants of the discussion.


Hierodeacon Markian (KAIUMOV), press secretary, Lviv eparchy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate):

“We see that the meeting of the Holy Synod that took place in Kyiv on Monday [February 24. – Ed.] showed the readiness to continue the dialog on overcoming the schism. I would like to point out that the Synod did not agree to the dialog, but it showed that such a dialog already exists and it should be continued. And it was no surprise for me personally. The very statement made by the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Kyiv Patriarchate) on February 22 can be viewed from different perspectives. On the one hand, the emphasis on the activation of overcoming the schism can counteract religious provocations, which I personally hope for, especially since our Synod supported the initiative. On the other hand, such public statement can lead to a situation when politicians will try to interfere with the Church’s affairs in order to use this process in their election campaigns. That is why everyone must be cautious about it and do their best for the church issue to be settled in the church spirit, according to the church canons. I sincerely hope this process will be effective, but we must understand that in order to avoid a new schism, this process must be much slower than we would rather have it. So today everyone must consolidate and pray!”


Luka KARPIUK, press secretary, Lviv-Sokal eparchy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Kyiv Patriarchate):

“First of all, I would like to mention this is not just an independent appeal by our bishop alone. As the text says, His Holiness Patriarch speaks on behalf of the Holy Synod, of the whole Kyiv Patriarchate. And this is important, because it means the whole Church wants this union.

“At the same time it must be said that these appeals are of a formal nature, they testify, and remind the Ukrainian Orthodox community once more, that our Church feels the pain of separation of Ukrainian Orthodoxy and wants to overcome this separation. The Kyiv Patriarchate was not neutral in this matter, it did not oppose the unification, and suddenly it adopted such appeals. Methodical and consistent steps and calls for the unification of Orthodoxy have been made by His Holiness Patriarch Filaret and the Holy Synod of the Kyiv Patriarchate for many years.

“When it comes to reality, we see that it is quite hard to achieve. Complicated internal mechanisms rule the Church. God rules the Church. On the one hand, this allows to preserve church traditions, discipline, canons for many centuries, but on the other, like it is now, it impedes fast and easy reformatting.

“There are three participants of this process and dialog: the Kyiv Patriarchate, the Moscow Patriarchate, and the Autocephalous Church. Each of these parties has their position and is right in their own way while voicing certain theses. The problem of unification lies much deeper. It is not some prosaic issues of pseudo-canonicity or pseudo-non-canonicity, insults, ambitions, etc. It should be understood that there are three completely formed monolithic churches, and their rapid unification will not lead to anything good, it will just cause a collapse. This is not merely a matter of issuing pulpits to bishops. Each church has its own structure, departments, organized chain of social and civic activity and presence. It is impossible to just mix this all together. It is the same as taking three separate established countries and tell them: now you are one country. Long and thorough work is needed.

“The situation is simpler with the Autocephalous Church. We are divided only administratively, as it has been announced multiple times, and we slightly differ in our program of progress and development. It is more complicated with the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Moscow Patriarchate, but I must say that despite the prevailing opinion, there are no ardent Ukrainophobes or Russophiles among its followers (or at least, they do not compose the majority of it). There are absolutely normal peaceful people, Christians, who are capable of taking a sober view of things and assessing the situation. They are Ukrainians and I am convinced their hearts ache because of divided Orthodoxy. That is why the dialog with this church is possible, necessary, and can be fruitful.”


Pavlo SMYTSNIUK, postdoctoral student, Oxford University (Political Theology):

“I think that every sincere call for the unification of churches must be welcomed. As for the statement made on February 22, I am alerted by the fact it was published on the day of Yanukovych’s impeachment. Perhaps, I interpret the plans of the Kyiv Patriarchate Synod in a wrong way, but it seems to me it uses the following logic: the Ukrainian Orthodox Church [Moscow Patriarchate. – Ed.] played an important role in the state while there was a pro-Russian president, Yanukovych, but now that he is gone, it is time to break up with Russia. I think that such a combination or even coincidence of the church and political factors is fraught with danger. It can become a pretext for accusing the new government of pressurizing the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, as it happened under president Yushchenko. On the other hand, I was pleasantly surprised by the immediate and essentially positive reaction from the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (February 24), which stated its readiness for a dialog and formed a commission, the members of which are on the one hand capable of conducting a dialog, but on the other, cannot make independent decisions. It is hard to foresee the way the eventual dialog will develop, especially taking into consideration today’s staff changes in the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and the obscurity of the Russian government’s position on the latest events in Ukraine. At the same time, the exchange of implications and accusations between Moscow and Kyiv after the appeal was published indicates that the churches are not ready for unification. The unification of churches is like marriage: it is not correspondence to some formal criteria that you need more, but mutual trust and love. Trust will appear when churches reject the temptation to debate and involve secular authorities to heal the wound of schism.”

By Yuliana LAVRYSH