Wednesday, May 25, 2022

    “Schism” by ROC, piety of Ukrainian people: Patriarch Bartholomew speaks with Ukrainian journalists

    On the Day of St. Nicholas (new calendar), perhaps the most revered saint in Ukraine, Ukrainian journalists met in Constantinople (Istanbul) with His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. The meeting was attended by the Exarch of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Ukraine, Bishop Michael (Anishchenko) of Koman and the Chief Secretary of the Holy and Sacred Synod, Archimandrite Gregory. It wasn’t an interview, but rather a friendly chat. Not everyone gets such a nice present on St.Nicholas Day…

    The meeting kicked off with a festive Liturgy on the day of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker (new calendar). His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew presided over a solemn service in the St. Nicholas Church. For local parishioners, it was a double win: they celebrated the feast of the throne and had the opportunity to meet with their Patriarch.

    Immediately after the Liturgy, we arrived in the Ecumenical Patriarch’s residence, where a meeting with His All-Holiness was to take place. The conversation with Ukrainian journalists began just five minutes after Bartholomew arrived from the St. Nicholas Church, where he had spoken with parishioners as the service wrapped up. His All-Holiness looked cheerful and confident – looking at Patriarch Bartholomew (who will soon turn 82), you couldn’t even tell he had just led a two-hour service and then talked with dozens of parishioners.

    Photo by Stauropegion of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Ukraine

    “The dream of our Russian brothers is to lead global Orthodoxy. But this won’t happen.”

    His All-Holiness paid most attention to the release of the Local Ukrainian Church from Moscow’s influence. According to the Ecumenical Patriarch, the topic of Ukrainian autocephaly had been on the agenda for quite a while. It emerged decades ago and there had always been attempts by the Ukrainian nation to gain their own Local Autocephalous Orthodox Church.

    “And now has come the historic moment when the Mother Church of Constantinople has fulfilled this long-held dream of yours,” His All-Holiness said.

    The Ecumenical Patriarch could not fail to ignore the obstacles posed by the Russian Church. His All-Holiness reiterated the fact that there is no “schism” in place that the Russians have been talking about.

    Also, if they believe there is a ‘schism,’ it’s they who have created it by severing communication with the four Local Churches. As no one else has suspended communication or created a ‘schism’ in the bosom of Orthodoxy,” said Patriarch Bartholomew.

    Photo by Stauropegion of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Ukraine

    His All-Holiness recalled that this “schism” was formed by the Russian Orthodox Church back in 2016 when the ROC and three other Local Churches under the latter’s influence chose to not attend the Great All-Orthodox Council in Crete. At the last moment, the Russians and three other Local Churches pulled out.

    “Obviously, they did not want such an important event to be held under the leadership and chairmanship of the Ecumenical Patriarch,” His All-Holiness said, sharing his thoughts.

    “The dream of our Russian brothers is to seize the lead in Orthodoxy. But this won’t happen. That’s because, according to the canons and rules of the Orthodox Church, approved by the Ecumenical Councils many, many years ago, this advantage, these privileges rest with the Ecumenical Throne,” Patriarch Bartholomew recalled.

    His All-Holiness pointed out that His Beatitude Archbishop Chrystosomos of Cyprus said in an interview that this situation, this structure of the Orthodox Church, is “cemented.” The first chair among the Orthodox Churches will always be Constantinople, while Moscow’s chair shall be the fifth.

    “We have no problems with the Russians. They are the children of Constantinople. Like you, Ukrainians, all the Churches in the Balkans and the Church of Russia received autocephaly from Constantinople,” Patriarch Bartholomew underlined.

    Filaret’s “disciplinary” anathema and Pylyp Orlyk’s Constitution

    His All-Holiness and Chief Secretary of the Holy and Sacred Synod then recalled what preceded the granting of the tomos to the Ukrainian Church. In Ukraine, the schism occurred because Moscow banned and anathematized Metropolitan Filaret when Ukraine demanded autocephaly after gaining independence as a state. Ukrainians turned to Moscow, but the latter did not grant their church any autocephaly in the early 1990s. Filaret and his allies were banned and prosecuted, and this is where the great wound on the body of Ukrainian Orthodoxy emerged. Moscow was not entitled to grant autocephaly – Ukrainians had to turn to Constantinople to get it.

    Photo by Stauropegion of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Ukraine

    “These prosecuted Ukrainians appealed to the Ecumenical Throne. That’s because, since the Fourth Ecumenical Council, since the 5th century, the Ecumenical Patriarchate has had such a privilege – to accept appeals,” Archimandrite Gregory recalled.

    Exercising this right, the Ecumenical Patriarchate thoroughly studied all the issues concerning the Ukrainian Orthodox brothers and, approaching them with love, resolved the issue by granting them autocephaly.

    The Chief Secretary of the Holy and Sacred Synod drew attention to an interesting detail that many Ukrainians aren’t aware of. The text of Pylyp Orlyk’s Constitution is currently on display in St Sofia Cathedral in Kyiv. And in the first articles of its text it is noted that after all the struggle that the Ukrainian nation has gone through, Ukrainians express a desire to be in unity with the Ecumenical Throne of Constantinople.

    “Throughout all these centuries, Ukrainians have not ceased asking for church independence. All their movements, which were later considered a schism or an attempt to separate, were in fact the desire of these people to not remain under Moscow’s influence,” said Archimandrite Gregory.

    The Chief Secretary of the Holy and Sacred Synod decried accusations by opponents of the autocephaly of the Ukrainian Church, saying that the Ecumenical Patriarch had granted autocephaly to the unordained.

    “This is not true. If someone reads the statement made on October 11, 2018, that the actions of the Ecumenical Patriarch in this regard were both canonical and historical. Metropolitans Macarius and Filaret appealed to the Ecumenical Throne to reconsider their case, on which they were subjected to anathema,” the Chief General of the Holy and Sacred Synod reminded.

    He also reminded that under ecclesiastical law, the Ecumenical Throne has the opportunity to accept appeals. Once a decision has been made at the level of the Local Church, a person who believes they have been wrongly condemned may apply to the Ecumenical See to have their case reconsidered.

    Archimandrite Gregory reiterated that the Ecumenical Patriarch had sent letters to Macarius and Filaret where he explained that the reasons for their condemnation were not dogmatic or related to the matters of faith. These were disciplinary reasons and therefore the Ecumenical Patriarch lifted these condemnations, these anathemas off Filaret and Macarius.

    During the conversation, the Chief Secretary of the Holy and Sacred Synod also mentioned the letter of Patriarch Dionysius IV regarding the ordination of the Kyiv Metropolitans by the Moscow Patriarch.

    “There was a big debate: does Kyiv belong to Moscow’s jurisdiction because of this letter or not? We know that this letter was written under great pressure exerted on Patriarch Dionysius IV,” said Archimandrite Gregory.

    Patriarch Dionysius IV left a small note for his successors so that they would understand that there was a problem about this letter. It was a commitment to mention the Ecumenical Patriarch by the Metropolitan of Kyiv.

    “In other words, the Ecumenical Patriarch did not give Kyiv out to Moscow. He simply gave Moscow the opportunity to ordain a Metropolitan of Kyiv,” Patriarch Bartholomew reminded.

    “If the Ecumenical Patriarchate put up with this violation for so long, when the Metropolitan of Kyiv did not mention the Ecumenical Patriarch, it doesn’t mean that the Ecumenical Patriarch is obliged to always tolerate these violations,” Archimandrite Gregory stressed.

    Photo by Stauropegion of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Ukraine

    “I don’t care what people say about me personally. I’m concerned that the rights of the Throne of Constantinople are being challenged”

    During the conversation, His All-Holiness did not ignore the attacks of the ROC and the ROCinU on him personally, especially after visits to Ukraine and the United States. But he, in a Christian and dignified manner, did not retaliate.

    “Our Russian brothers criticize me (personally – ed.), accusing me of nurturing papal claims. I forgive them and I don’t stop there. I (personally – ed.), to be honest, don’t care what Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, Metropolitan Antoniy of Boryspil, and others will say. Let them say what they want. We are troubled when the rights and privileges of the Patriarch of Constantinople, the Throne of Constantinople, are called into question, since they were given to us by the Ecumenical Councils – we did not seize them ourselves,” said Patriarch Bartholomew, adding that challenging them is a sign of ingratitude or ignorance.

    According to the Ecumenical Patriarch, his visits to Ukraine and the United States were very successful and very blessed. “Our Russian brothers did not want these visits to be successful,” said Patriarch Bartholomew.

    Photo by Stauropegion of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Ukraine

    “I saw manifestations of faith and reverence” – Bartholomew on Ukrainians

    At the request of Ukrainian journalists, His All-Holiness shared his impressions of his visit to Ukraine. First of all, His All-Holiness was impressed by the piety of the Ukrainian people.

    “I saw manifestations of faith and reverence at the Liturgy we celebrated in front of St Sophia Cathedral, and wherever I went, they would thank me for the Tomos of Autocephaly. I saw faith and gratitude of Ukrainians for what has been done,” said Patriarch Bartholomew.

    His All-Holiness also praised the attitude of the government towards the Church.

    “I was in a very good mood when I saw the attitude of the state towards the Autocephalous Church in Ukraine, it is a very good mood and desire to cooperate with the Autocephalous Church,” said the Ecumenical Patriarch.

    His All-Holiness has noted that he often reads about how many parishes of the ROC in Ukraine are converting to the Autocephalous Church.

    “This shows that autocephaly is strengthening and expanding, that people want to have their own independent Church, they don’t want to be dependent on Russia. And political relations between Russia and Ukraine are very tense now. It (Ukrainian nation – ed.) wants to have its own Local Church and not depend on Moscow. That is why they (parishes of the Russian Orthodox Church in Ukraine – ed.) are gradually joining the Autocephalous Church,” Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew concluded.