Visit of head of the Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch Kirill to Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople did nothing to dampen the expectations of those supporting the granting of a Tome (decree of recognition) to the particular Ukrainian Orthodox Church. We do not know the details, but the information that transpired in the media after the meeting carried positive signals. Many observers have labeled Kirill’s visit a failure.
Archbishop Yevstratii (Zoria) of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Kyiv Patriarchate) wrote on Facebook: “‘We are afraid only of God.’ If you believe the pro-Russian Greek-language church news portal Romfea, this is what Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew said at a meeting with his Moscow counterpart in response to the latter threatening ‘a split of all the Orthodox community’ if the Tome of autocephaly for the Ukrainian Church gets issued. ‘We do not threaten and do not accept threats,’ the Ecumenical Patriarch said. ‘We have no money, no army, no strength, but we are afraid only of God!’ he added.
“The Patriarch of Moscow insisted that Ukraine was in his jurisdiction and that everything had to remain as it was. However, it is known that Patriarch Bartholomew publicly denied in a speech delivered on July 1 that jurisdiction over the Metropolitanate of Kyiv was ever transferred to anybody by canonical means. Similarly, representatives of Constantinople (for example, Metropolitan Elpidophoros) have repeatedly stressed that Moscow has done nothing for 25 years to solve problems in Ukraine, and the situation cannot remain as it is today.”
As the situation shows, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew stands strong and is consistent in his intentions to grant the much-desired Tome.
After the departure of the Patriarch of Moscow, a meeting (Synax) of the hierarchs of the Church of Constantinople immediately began at the Patriarchal Cathedral of St. George in that city. Patriarch Bartholomew delivered a speech in which, in particular, he dwelt on the difficulties faced by the Ukrainian Orthodoxy, calling them “the difficulties which are neither a recent phenomenon nor something created by the Ecumenical Patriarchate,” but which it still must and has a legitimate right to resolve, the uocofusa.org website states.
Let us dwell on it in more detail. Patriarch Bartholomew made an excursion into history, into the time when the Orthodox Metropolitanate of Kyiv under the Patriarchate of Constantinople joined the Patriarchate of Moscow. He spoke about the events of 1686, when the Ecumenical Patriarch Dionysios IV and the Holy Synod of the Church of Constantinople, acting under the pressure of difficult historical circumstances, issued a controversial Tome transferring the Metropolitanate of Kyiv to the canonical jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate.
“It all began in the early 14th century, when the see of Metropolitanate of Kyiv was moved without the canonical permission of the Mother Church to Moscow, and there have been tireless efforts on the part of our Kyivan brothers for independence from ecclesiastical control by the Moscow center ever since. Indeed, the obstinacy of the Patriarchate of Moscow was instrumental in occasionally creating schisms, which still afflict the pious Ukrainian people,” Bartholomew said in a speech.
According to the Ecumenical Patriarch, a study of the matter in the light of the sacred canons does not justify any intervention whatsoever by the Church of Russia, since the area in question is outside the jurisdiction of Moscow. As Patriarch Bartholomew once again emphasized, “the canonical dependence of Kyiv on the Mother Church of Constantinople has remained constant and uninterrupted.”
The Patriarch emphasized that the Mother Church (Patriarchate of Constantinople) did not concede its canonical rights over Ukraine, and given the current situation in the Ukrainian Orthodoxy, which developed because of Russia which could not resolve the problem, the Ecumenical Patriarchate assumed the initiative of resolving the Ukrainian issue. This responsibility is exercised by the Mother Church in accordance with the authority given to it by the sacred canons, and in view of the jurisdictional responsibility of Constantinople for the Metropolitanate of Kyiv.
Patriarch Bartholomew informed the hierarchs of the Ecumenical Patriarchate about the parliament of Ukraine’s request to issue a Tome recognizing the autocephaly of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, as well as periodic appeals from the Patriarch of Kyiv Filaret who asked for a review of his case [that is, lifting of the anathema imposed on him by the Patriarchate of Moscow. – Ed.]. Patriarch Bartholomew mentioned in his speech Bishop and Professor Makarios of Christoupolis, who studied the question of Ukraine for many days, and penned an official report of over 90 pages, which he then sent to Constantinople bishops.
After studying all the relevant church canons, the canonists of the Ecumenical Patriarchate concluded that “the Archbishop of Constantinople alone has the privilege to judge and adjudicate conflicts of bishops, clergy and metropolitans of other patriarchs.”
“This Patriarchate’s mission is not comprised of imposing some new ecclesiological principles but preserving truths of faith, precious traditions and inspired patristic teachings established many centuries ago. The Ecumenical Patriarchate bears the responsibility of setting matters in ecclesiastical and canonical order because it alone has the canonical privilege to carry out this supreme duty,” Patriarch Bartholomew summed up.
As we see, the Ecumenical Patriarch appeals to historical facts, knowledge and truth. This is the basis that the Patriarchate of Moscow lacks. The latter acts through force, money, and lies. For 15 years, Den’s Library project aimed its efforts specifically at defusing the Moscow myths and preparing intellectual soil for Ukrainians to thrive. Back in 2015, Den published the book Return to Tsarhorod which is directly related to the current topic. “When Russia turns to the Byzantine historical legacy (as well as that of Kyivan Rus’), it becomes a failed quest to find something that does not exist. For Ukraine, this is the best way to find the true path,” Den’s editor-in-chief Larysa Ivshyna wrote in her Foreword in that book.
“It should be understood that the aggressive policy of the Kremlin, both today and in the distant past, is rooted in a deeply hidden and unconscious complex of vassal dependence – dependence on our true, Kyivan Rus’, on a history undistorted through imperial manipulation,” Ivshyna continued. “Is not it confirmed by the tragicomic project of building a monument to Volodymyr the Great, our Kyivan prince, in Moscow? It is actually sadly ironic in my assessment: they once competed for the title of a ‘Third Rome,’ shed rivers of blood and wasted megatons of paper in that effort, and today they are seeking, in essence, to become ‘the Second Kyiv.’ And all of it is because of them lacking courage to ask one question: who are they? It is here that the roots of Russia’s great-power expansionism lie. They know exactly where its most vulnerable point is – it is on Pechersk hills of Kyiv. This is because stolen, alien history has not been reproduced, has not sprouted in Russia. To fill the emptiness, they commit new crimes. Some of them are committed in order to mask the past ones.”
How can the story of granting a Tome to the Ukrainian Church develop now? Doctor of Philosophy, head of the Department of History of Religions and Practical Religious Studies of the Religious Studies Division at the Institute of Philosophy of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine Liudmyla FYLYPOVYCH commented for The Day.
“We hope that the Ukrainian question will finally be resolved in the Orthodox world. I think that not only me, but also others, cannot help feeling that in the confrontation between the Patriarchates of Constantinople and Moscow, between Ukraine and Russia, the balance has swayed towards Constantinople and Ukraine. Of course, we cannot say yet that the Russian Orthodox Church and Kirill have lost, but in this situation, the Patriarch of Constantinople has strengthened his position. He has succeeded in persuading his hierarchs and metropolitans of other Orthodox churches to maintain unity, despite the fact that the Ukrainian Church will receive autocephaly. These were and still are some very complex chess-like combinations, since Moscow has always relied on its numerous parishioners and the high number of parishes, because it still remains the largest Church in the Orthodox world. But as current events show, not all victories are won by big battalions. It turns out that victories can be won with daily, steady, but quiet work as well.
“The autocephaly drive itself has not stopped since 1917. In 2008, when Patriarch Bartholomew came to Kyiv, neither he nor even we were fully prepared yet. The Ecumenical Patriarch then followed a completely different model of recognition of a church’s autocephaly. But the events of recent years, in particular, ones connected with the annexation of Crimea, the occupation of parts of the Donbas, the war, plus the refusal of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) to recognize the Pan-Orthodox Council of 2016, have played into our hands. This is because Vladimir Putin and his pocket Church began to seriously trouble everyone not only in the Orthodox world, but in the West as well. Someone had to show wise strength. And, strangely enough, it was spiritual and religious leader of the Orthodox, Patriarch of Constantinople who did so.
“We need to be prepared for the fact that, with the Ukrainian Church getting the Tome, it will find itself living in a difficult time, because very different entities are to be involved in the process of creating the particular Ukrainian Orthodox Church. Plus, from the outside, Russia will ‘help the matters’ as well. The least they will do is to deny the Tome’s legality. You see, they did not even stay to dine after the meeting in Istanbul, but gathered their belongings and headed home to elaborate a plan of resistance to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. In fact, Kirill is in a very difficult situation today. The Kremlin made him to understand that he had either to prevent the Ukrainian autocephaly, or to lose his patriarchal kukol. If he gets to stay in the office, it means that the secular authorities will try to accept his position, and his position was rather silent. ‘Good, good,’ he said after the meeting with Bartholomew. If he gets replaced, it will mean that he failed in his job. But he can go into some sort of opposition to the current regime in Russia as well. We will see.
“I think that it will become clear where this ship will go by the middle of October. The authority of the Ecumenical Patriarch has been strengthened, he behaves intelligently and wisely: listens to everyone, but does exactly what the Patriarchate of Constantinople needs. Until now, he did not want to spoil his relations with the ROC, but times have changed. The ROC has gone too far in following the overall geopolitical course of Russia. It should have kept some distance, because the Church has its own tasks and mission.
“The Synod of the Church of Constantinople must make a decision not only about giving the Tome, but also about the procedure: what should happen and how? After this, we expect that a Church Council will be convened. Right now, they are deliberating whether it will be a Bishops’ Council involving those who appealed to Bartholomew for a Tome or an All-Orthodox Council of Ukraine. But gathering people from all over Ukraine will probably be difficult, so it is likely that the Churches involved will just convene a Bishops’ Council. Next, they will need to elect a primate of the united Church who will receive the Tome from Constantinople (it is unclear whether Patriarch Bartholomew will be present himself or whether he will send an esteemed representative). This is how it should happen, but there are many different circumstances that can intervene. Constantinople clerics have never been in a hurry; they, unlike us, measure time in centuries.
“Now the most important thing is to change the minds of people, because they believe many myths. There should be a government initiative involving social psychologists and experts who will explain to people what this step means and what we stand to get from it. If the Church wants to be a particular one, it must rely on some social stratum, on the believers. They need to work with people. Autocephaly should have been achieved a long time ago. All healthy nations have independent churches already.”