The closer the date when Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew is scheduled to come to Ukraine, the greater the panic radiating from the Moscow Patriarchate. And the number of agitated spins related to the issue just keep growing every day.
In our previous reports, we have already touched upon such hysterical stunts a on the part of the Russian church’s branch in Ukraine ROCinU). However, no such efforts could cancel the visit of His Holiness, while preparations are underway in Ukraine to accept the honorable guest. At the same time, manifestations of “canonical schizophrenia” by Moscow clergy seem to be yielding no result, so it’s quite natural that the Kremlin is mad at their human assets in ryasas. Therefore, Moscow moved to deploy all loyal resources available to try to disrupt Bartholomew’s visit.
The recent “Address to His Holiness Bartholomew, Archbishop of Constantinople – New Rome, Ecumenical Patriarch”, published on February 12 by a Ukrainian odious MP Andriy Derkach, confirms the point. The appeal was signed by a number of pro-Moscow political operatives, including MP Nestor Shufrych, a former member of Viktor Yanukovych’s party, now part of another pro-Russian force, OPZZh, journalist Vyacheslav Pikhovshyk, and Andriy Derkach himself. Although the authorship has not been mentioned, it is likely it was Derkach who has penned the appeal.
First, a quick word about the author. MP Andriy Derkach is an Russian intelligence asset, an anti-Ukrainian propagandist, and an ardent critic of Ukrainian Church’s autocephaly, that’s per the Myrotvorets (Peacemaker) NGO’s database. Derkach’s cooperation with the Russian intelligence stems back to his studies at the KGB’s Dzerdzhinsky Higher School. He is also believed to be among the sponsors of the Moscow Patriarchate in Ukraine. He refers to himself as President of the Pokrov International Orthodox Film Festival, which is held under the ROCinU auspices.
However, Derkach got into an international spotlight mostly due to his recent involvement in the promotion of the so-called “Biden-Poroshenko” tapes, with the aim to meddle in the latest presidential election in the U.S. His efforts, however, ultimately put him on a sanctions list drawn by the U.S. Treasury. Now this sorry source of “breaking news” undertook to “expose” the consequences of Ukrainian Church independence granted by the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew – and that’s pretty much everything that the mentioned appeal is all about.
The appeal is rather bulky, with several appendices to it, which incidentally is exactly Derksch’s style. It is authored in the letter and spirit of Russian propaganda campaigns criticizing the tomos of autocephaly for the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, as well as the OCU as such. The appeal repeats the same messages about the “schism in the whole Orthodox world”, “seizure of temples”, the law “obliging the UCO to be renamed into the Russian Orthodox Church in Ukraine”, as well as the “attempts to grab from the UOC the Kyiv-Pechersk and Svyato-Assumption Pochaev Lavras”, “interference on the part of politicians and SBU in the process of convening a unifying council”, and the figure of honorary patriarch Filaret, etc.
Reading the appeal, it’s first unclear why Derkach goes listing all the previously voiced “facts”, and what people’s deputies Derkach, Shufrych, and others have to do with the whole thing in the first place. After all, it’s rather ridiculous for politicians rooting for a certain religious organization to voice allegations of “political interference in church affairs” by their colleagues.
In order to better understand the reason and motive behind the appeal, the document should be read from the bottom. It’s there where the authors point to the immediate objective they pursue. It needs to be quoted in fulll: “We ask and urge you, Your Holiness, to launch prior to your arrival in Ukraine an inter-Orthodox dialogue on the Ukrainian issue with the participation of all 14 Orthodox Churches, and only after that should you come with a real package of measures and a roadmap for real and comprehensive reconciliation of Orthodox Christians in Ukraine, rather than carrying an invasive and insidious ‘Barbarossa Plan’. To this end, as you should understand, all parties to the Orthodox community of Ukraine must participate rather than being replaced by all fake figures or swindlers of all sorts.”
This is precisely what the main leitmotif is. It’s by no means the desire to tell His Holiness and the Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate about the consequences “of the proclamation of tomos,” as stated early in the appeal.
Thus, as we have assumed, it becomes quite obvious that the reason behind releasing the appeal is the upcoming Ukraine visit of the Head of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, which the signatories claim is only possible if the “inter-Orthodox dialogue on the Ukrainian issue” is resumed and if some kind of a “road map of real and comprehensive reconciliation of the Orthodox in Ukraine” is in place.
Unlike the statements by ROCinU clergy, Derkach’s address was penned in a diplomatic tone. By the way, the authors address Patriarch Bartholomew in line with the church protocol: “Your Holiness”. Although the address contains no statements too harsh, targeting His Holiness, it’s an ugly face of hypocrisy and arrogance that hide behind the diplomatic veil.
For example, the authors do recognize the right of the Ecumenical Patriarch to grant churches autocephaly. In particular, the text states that “No one in the world, including us, questions your canonical right to grant autocephaly to a Church on legal, canonical grounds.” According to them, it was this right that has been recognized by four local Churches, who “in no way recognized the canonicity of the OCU clergy.”
However, the authors contradict themselves by saying that “Some Churches from the Orthodox family recognize the OCU, while others don’t.” And they also note an increase in the number of those recognizing the OCU from one to four (in two years), out of fourteen. And this is not the only example when the signatories show their alleged respect for His Holiness before voicing accusations and spitting threats.
As for Ukrainian autocephaly, in their opinion, the case of the tomos for the OCU was “the first time when the gift of autocephaly was granted in a completely inexplicable way, where the tomos fell as a heavenly manna into the hands of people with no canonical status and in the state of mutual enmity. It has made them canonical while they (as the whole Orthodox world is aware) have no canonical degrees of priest and hierarchical degrees.” The tomos, the authors claim, “became part of Ukraine’s political life and an instrument in the shameful actions on the part of politicians.”
The unifying council, as per Derkach and his allies, convened “an absolute minority of opposing UOC-KP [Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Kyiv Patriarchate], UAOC [Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church], and fringe representatives of the UOC [Ukrainian Orthodox Church]”, but even back at the stage of its preparation “Exarchs for almost six months had failed to reach consensus among all Orthodox groups in Ukraine in order for the ‘Unification Council’ to actually become unifying.”
In addition, the authors admit that they had been hindering participation of ROCinU representatives. In particular, they say one of the bishops, Metropolitan Agapit, “was released by us from the escort convoy on the night before this so-called ‘Unification Council.’ In general, they claim, the Council never lived up to expectations, so the schism in Ukraine was “never cured.” On the contrary, they say, “the split has now been drawn not in parishes and dioceses, but in the hearts of Orthodox believers.”
Therefore, the whole process of formation of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, in their opinion, is nothing but “hybrid propaganda and information campaign aimed at misleading all those who are not fully aware of the subtleties of canon law.”
The latter statement is especially ridiculous given that there are no theologians or priests among the signatories – only politicians, journalists, and public figures. Such statements directed towards the Ecumenical Patriarch, who is a highly qualified expert in ecclesiastical law, an experienced theologian, a historian, look like a complete absurdity. Such instructions by Derkach and Shufrych are reminiscent of a quote from a Soviet film: “You still don’t understand shit, but you’re already talking about God!”
However, the ode to the absurd went on, so the appeal’s authors who “fully understand the subtleties of canon law” tell the Patriarch, “that without a pan-Orthodox consensus, efforts to cure the split in Ukraine have failed. The latter wording proves that it was in the ROC where these sham theologians have been learning to understand the “subtleties of canonical law.”
In the context of the letter, it becomes obvious that the authors put all the blame on the “war and state criminal”, fifth President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko. Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, in the context of the said appeal, is seen by its signatories as a deceiver. In particular, the authors believe that His Holiness’s statement about the consequences of gifting the tomos of autocephaly to the Orthodox Church of Ukraine is untrue, because “what is really happening does not correspond to what you are saying.” They add that in Ukraine so far “no one has been able to get the stone of division off of the path of progress towards universal ecclesial unity.”
The reason for this is Filaret’s demarche, which caused a “split in the OCU itself.” The appeal speaks of Filaret as a religious figure respected by some in Ukraine. After all, he’s an old man and “Honorary Patriarch”, the athors say, claiming that the young “wolves in ryasas” he had brought up had snatched his property, with the help of Poroshenko’s business partner Andriy Matsola. Filaret is still allowed to deliver services in St. Volodymyr’s Cathedral, the appeal adds, noting that he ordains new bishops, trying to revive the UOC-KP, “referring to the rights you delegated with the tomos as deception and fiction, and accusing his former students of raiding and breach of obligations.”
In addition, in their opinion, Bartholomew’s statement that “the unity of Orthodoxy is not subject to verification due to the response of the Ecumenical Patriarch to the request of the Ukrainian Orthodox believers” is not true. Not only did this response, as claimed in the appeal, fail to tackle the split in Ukraine, it also turned into disunity, confusion, and temptation by the harbingers of a schism within a larger Orthodox family.” Then these “canon law experts” exposed their reflection on Russian propaganda narratives, saying that “the schism threatens to spread across the entire Orthodox world and is already restricting the Eucharistic communion.”
It is extremely absurd to even comment on this because both we and a number of other theologians and experts have noted that no one but the ROC is going for a so-called “schism” – not even their satellites. But both the ROC and its wannabe theologians seem to be willing to live in their fictional reality of “global split.”
Further, these “canon scholars” accuse Patriarch Bartholomew of standing behind “spiritual-canonical chaos”, as a result of which a new political format of Orthodoxy was formed, where the authors claim the “shameful division” on the grounds of religion, language, and nationality became common, as well as the use of paramilitary formations and surfing the tide of national-radical rhetoric,” which once again differs from the actual words of the Ecumenical Patriarch.
In addition, Derkach and his allies suspect that the reason for the cooperation of His Holiness “with Petro Poroshenko and the new government is solely for the purpose of raiding seizure of church assets in Ukraine.” In this case, it’s about a “secret” minutes of meeting signed by His Holiness and Petro Poroshenko “in Istanbul on November 3, 2018,” according to which Ukraine allegedly must hand over to the Ecumenical Patriarch 11 Ukrainian shrines (temples, cathedrals, monasteries, and Lavras) attended by UOC believers and currently used to deliver sermons.”
Although the agreement has been openly published so it’s clear to anyone who has actually read it that it contains not a single word about the handover of temples, the authors continue circulating this nonsense, initially invented by Russian propaganda masterminds. But for what reason? It is yet to be seen. Perhaps it’s being done in order to frighten some overly religious and naïve old ladies with rumors that Patriarch Bartholomew is coming to Ukraine to seize temples, or perhaps Mr Derkach has once again stepped on a path of “exposing conspiracies”, such as the Biden-Poroshenko tapes…
It will be recalled that recently, Derkach has come under the U.S. sanctions, so we are yet to see whether he will also be targeted in an anathema, too. The signatories and wannabe experts on “subtleties of canon law” couldn’t but poke the United States, claiming that its “intervention” also led to an “Orthodox split.”
Also, they say it’s geopolitical reasons that stand behind the “schism”. It’s for these reasons that someone is trying to make Ukraine a “zone of disturbance” and a “red rag” for Russia. The authors, besides claiming knowledge of the subtleties of “canon law”, also seem to believe they have superpowers allowing them to see these geopolitical interests “behind the omophorion of the Ecumenical Patriarch.”
Derkach, together with his allies, believes that “the lack of dialogue within the Orthodox family on this topic, including between you and Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia, brings even greater embarrassment and confusion.” Also, the signatories noted the failed and ridiculous sham Council in Amman. In their opinion, the “reluctance to respond to calls for pan-Orthodox meetings may be wrong,” so they tell Patriarch Bartholomew to “deal with this”. “Perhaps you are wrong,” they claim. “Both as Patriarch and as a mere mortal. You are no Saint, Your Holiness. ”
The latter statements testify to their authors’ brazenness and arrogance of their authors. After all, how can these politicians and other people reprimand someone of such a high Church rank for his alleged wrongdoings while themselves being full of sins, remaining in the epicenter of public scandals?
The so-called canonists have also touched upon the “heresy of Papism” and pointed out to the Patriarch that today he pursues the policy of “the Primate Patriarch, not an equal among equals, which is not typical for us as Orthodox in our understanding of collegiality in administration.”
However, the climax of absurdity and a manifestation of impoliteness and impudence became a notion to the Ecumenical Patriarch: “how many of your predecessors were dethroned for disturbing inter-Orthodox relations” and words expressing hope that His Holiness has no purpose in the “finish streak” of his lifetime “to drive horses in a wrong direction in hope not minding about the consequences.” And as an icing on the cake of hypocrisy and blasphemy after such statements comes the finishing line: “Many summers to you, Your Holiness.”
Thus, having looked into this ode to absurdity, blasphemy, hypocrisy, and impudence, we can conclude that Moscow is truly agitated over the upcoming visit of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to Ukraine. Therefore, a targeted campaign is underway to compromise his tour. However, the ultimate goal of the campaign is to disrupt the visit as such. After all, the ROC fears the Ecumenical Patriarch as Satan does the incense, because the visit could yield catastrophic implications for the Moscow Patriarchate in Ukraine.