August 17, 2021, marks the seventh anniversary of the election of Metropolitan Onufriy (Berezovsky) as head of the Russian Orthodox Church’s branch in Ukraine. Onufriy’s days is the only time of the year when ROCinU mouthpieces forget about their rhetoric about the “persecuted Church.” Usually, during these celebrations, the ministers of the Moscow Patriarchate in Ukraine compose laudatory odes to their “most canonical primate.”
“Wise, prayerful, ascetic, almost a saint alive in this sinful land”: that’s how Onufriy’s subordinates try to score more points. Let’s try to look into Onufriy’s service without undue pathos and panegyrics, traditional for Russian clichés.
A cursory analysis will show that the “wise leader” lost all chances to leave his trace in the history of world Orthodoxy as a truly good shepherd who cares for his flock. Instead of bringing them into unity with the rest of the Orthodox world in the autocephalous Church, he led them into the dark jungles o the “Russian World” and self-isolation.
THE GREAT PRAYER HAS NOT BEEN ABLE TO BRING PEACE FOR UKRAINE, FOR WHICH, AS HIS SUBORDINATES CLAIM, HE ALWAYS PRAYS. ALTHOUGH, PERHAPS, IT’S THE WRONG KIND OF PEACE HE AND HIS COLLEAGUES HAVE BEEN PRAYING.
The “ascetic” never managed to find courage to really perform a feat, namely to break off the 300-year-old shackles of the Moscow church yoke, or call on Vladimir Putin to withdraw troops from Ukraine.
What’s Onufriy’s feat then? Probably, it is manifested in the devoted service to the Moscow Patriarchate… This is exactly what Metropolitan Onufriy does best as head of the Russian Church in Ukraine.
Onufriy’s ministry covered a rather difficult period for Ukraine. The occupation of Crimea and the war in the East required decisive action, or at least truthful answers and objective assessments. However, throughout the seven years of his “primate service”, we never received answers from him to the painful questions: “Whose territory is Crimea?” and “Who has been fighting against Ukrainian troops in Donbas?” Instead of offering clear and unambiguous answers, he tells Ukrainian society some trite excuses like “The Church is beyond politics” and “I’m no politician.”
The actions of Onufriy himself and his subordinates speak for themselves. It is worth mentioning how on May 8, 2015, he and his entourage did not stand up in the Verkhovna Rada to honor the late heroes who sacrificed their lives in the Donbas war. “We did not stand up because it was our protest against the war as a phenomenon,” Onufriy later explained.
However, all those present honored the Heroes of Ukraine, rather than paying homage to “war.” None of the participants in that parliament session and none of the Ukrainian citizens support the war as a phenomenon. Therefore, Onufriy’s acquittal is insignificant and only clearly testifies to the contempt for the Heroes of Ukraine, who are even ashamed to sing on Onufriy’s priests.
The real protest against the war would not be about sitting down in the Rada, but at least attempting to refrain from visiting the capital of the aggressor power. It is in Moscow that it is necessary to protest, to lead processions to the Kremlin walls, and to pray for peace in Ukraine. Instead, Metropolitan Onufriy has visited Moscow more than once over these seven years and has never expressed even a faint note of protest against the actions of Russian leadership. Although, as the second member of the Synod of the ROC, he could have achieved more.
In general, this event, with which Onufriy delved into the history of Ukraine (probably, in history textbooks next to Onufriy’s name there will always be a photo of him sitting down in parliament), stands out so strikingly against the background of pronounced victory mongering, cultivated among the ROC and its branch in Ukraine. Sometimes it seems that “Victory Day” is almost the second holiday after Easter for the ROC ministers. It is noteworthy that last year Onufriy did not serve on Easter, but on “Victory Day” despite quarantine, he delivered a memorial service in the park.
Surprisingly, but if during World War 2 Onufriy’s predecessors, such as ROC Patriarch Sergei (Stragorodsky), had protested against the war, hadn’t prayed for the army, hadn’t raised funds for tank squadrons, would Metropolitan Onufriy be even able to celebrate anything today?
How come the predecessors understood the gravity of the problem but their successors didn’t? Because for Onufriy, it’s not a war but an “internecine battle,” i.e. a civil conflict between Ukrainians. The leadership of the ROCinU turns a blind eye to the real facts and evidence of Russian military intervention. However, they probably approve of this intervention, too.
How else can one explain the ordination of the bishop of Bakhchisaray, outright separatist Kalinik (Chernyshov), who actively contributed to the occupation of Crimea by Russia in the spring of 2014? For this, he received an award from the occupying authorities and boasted about it.
The so-called Crimean diocese itself, which is de jure still subordinate to Onufriy, is de facto directly subordinated to Moscow. The clergy of this diocese openly cooperate with the Russian occupation authorities at a time when the Orthodox Church of Ukraine is being persecuted and oppressed by these very “authorities.”
However, Crimea and Donbas are not all Onufriy’s defeats. His biggest fiasco is certainly the tomos of autocephaly for the Ukrainian Church. Due to the weakness and devotion of the ROCinU to the Kremlin, Onufriy shamefully failed to contribute to the unification process, thus humiliating his own followers.
FOR SLIGHTLY MORE THAN 20 YEARS, ONUFRIY’S PREDECESSOR, METROPOLITAN VOLODYMYR (SLOBODAN) HAS BEEN PAVING BRIDGES BETWEEN BRANCHES OF THE DIVIDED UKRAINIAN ORTHODOXY, ATTRACTED CONSTANTINOPLE, AS WELL AS MOSCOW, TO THE PROCESS, BEFORE ONUFRIY, WITHIN SIX MONTHS, PUT ON NAUGHT ALL OF HIS PREDECESSOR’S ACHIEVEMENTS.
Onufriy had a real chance to become leader of the united Ukrainian Church and go down in history as a great saint, but he will be remembered as a “talisman of unity of the Russian Church.” And it’s due to this that he, along with his entire hierarchy, lost their canonical status, now bearing their titles illegally.
It is unfortunate, but for the sake of “preserving the unity of a single and indivisible Russian church” Onufriy sacrificed unity of the Ukrainian Church. A logical question arises: which Church is dearer to him?
Even his subordinate church organization was put by Onufriy in stronger dependence from Moscow. Let us recall the Council of Bishops of the ROC in 2017. Under the manipulative instruction in the statute of the ROC about the “center in Kyiv” and the unbundling into the so-called separate chapter, the same statute actually curbed the rights of the ROCinU.
Are these achievements to be proud of? Destructive action and lost, or rather, wasted opportunities forced Onufriy’s organization to hide behind the so-called “persecution,” which, in fact, is just another manipulation to hold their parishioners. Claims of persecution against the background of mass processions marching along the central streets of the capital look like another lie, which seems to have become habitual for this organization.
In conclusion, we can say that the seven years of Onufriy’s service are seven years of degradation and a complete waste of all the hard work done by his predecessor.
Finally, we’d like to mention one more inconspicuous detail. Onufriy’s enthronement took place outside the temple, in the street. Usually, primates are elevated to the throne of prominent Christian shrines of the Local Church, such as His Beatitude Epifaniy, who was enthroned in the ancient chair of Kyiv’s Metropolitans, St. Sophia. I don’t know if it was a sign, but Onufriy’s current status shows that he remained outside the Ukrainian shrine, in the street. However, there is still time to repent and change everything…