Priests from the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (in unity with the Moscow Patriarchate) do not wait for their leadership’s decision on unifying dialogue, but are taking steps to unify Orthodoxy in Ukraine. Thus, on September 24, in the HQ of the Stauropegium of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Ukraine, St. Andrew’s Church, two priests of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (MP) concelebrated the Divine Liturgy of the Exarch of the Ecumenical Patriarch, Bishop Michael of Koman.
This is reported by the Mission Stauropegium of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Ukraine.
These are UOC (MP) Archimandrite Gavriil (Anisymov) – vicar of the Stauropegium Men’s Monastery in honor of Rev. Paisius Velichkovsky, located in temporarily occupied Crimea, as well as UOC (MP) archpriest Oleksandr Kolb, abbot of the St. Mary Magdalene Church in Lutsk.
During the service, vigil prayers were offered to God for the fallen soldiers of the Armed Forces of Ukraine and civilians killed by the invaders.
In his sermon, Bishop Michael of Koman explained the parable of the talents to the parishioners. He emphasized that the Lord gives each person talents that must be developed and used for the benefit of others.
“If we have some talents, some flair, let’s develop them, let’s develop them to become better at them. To share this talent with other people,” reads the sermon of the Exarch of the Ecumenical Patriarch in Ukraine.
After the Divine Liturgy, Archimandrite Gavriil (Anisimov) thanked Bishop Michael for the opportunity to co-serve at the same Throne and for brotherly care in a difficult time for the vicar and brothers of his monastery:
“Your Eminence, dear Bishop Exarch! We are sincerely grateful to you for the opportunity to co-serve with you by the Throne of God, in this very church of the Apostle Andrew, the pearl of golden-top Kyiv and the Stauropegium of the Ecumenical Patriarch. I also thank you and directly in your person – His Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew for the parental care during a difficult time – for me personally and the brothers from our monastery, when we were forced to leave our home, the monastery that we had been building over many years. Those who know me personally or follow me on social networks know the fact of our vision toward the events surrounding us, namely Russia’s armed aggression against our Motherland Ukraine. Seizing the opportunity, I would like to thank our brave heroes who put their lives on the front line, so that we could perform our service today in this Temple, offering our prayers for them and those who perished. It is an honor for me personally! Also, as a priest who performed ministry on the territory of the Ukrainian Crimea, I would like to note the resistance movements that still have the courage and bravery to fulfill their mission of restoring the state sovereignty of Ukraine in the occupied territories. Fight! Walk toward your goal! Ukraine is with you!”
According to the sources of the Spiritual Front of Ukraine, Archimandrite Gavriil, the vicar of the Stauropegium monastery in honor of Reverend Paisius Velychkovsky, together with some representatives of his brotherhood, was forced to urgently flee Crimea, facing pressure from the leadership of the Russian Church and the FSB security agency.
Father Oleksandr Kolb, who also co-served with the Exarch at the Divine Liturgy, expressed his joy at the Eucharistic union of both Churches: the UOC (MP) and the Mother Church of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. He is also outraged by the fact that the UOC (MP) still continues to implement the decision on breaking the Eucharistic union with the Ecumenical Patriarchate, despite the fact that such decisions are dictated by Moscow, while the UOC itself claims it is independent.
“The parishioners of our church are well aware of my position since 2014. I condemn the Russian Federation, which is waging a war against our state of Ukraine, and I also condemn those who bless this war, that is, Patriarch Kirill. Together with parishioners, we patiently waited for concrete actions from our hierarchs of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church regarding the complete separation of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church from the Russian Orthodox Church. On behalf of my parishioners, I sent a letter to the UOC Council held on May 27, 2022 in Feofania. We asked them to finally disassociate from the MP and restore Eucharistic communication with the Ecumenical Patriarch and other Local Churches with which this connection was severed,” the priest said.
He explained that, together with Ukrainian believers, he wants to have nothing to do with the Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Orthodox Church.
“We fully trust the decisions and actions of the Ecumenical Patriarch. Today’s co-service with the Exarch of the Ecumenical Patriarch, Bishop Michael of Koman, is a direct testimony of our trust in Patriarch Bartholomew,” the UOC (MP) priest emphasized.
Addressing the faithful, the Exarch of the Ecumenical Patriarch, Bishop Michael of Koman, expressed his joy at the co-service with the priests from the UOC (MP). He drew attention to the resolutions of the UOC (MP), following the Russian Orthodox Church, to sever unity with the Church of Constantinople after the Tomos was granted to the OCU.
“Such service, I think, took place for the first time after the UOC, following the Russian Orthodox Church, adopted a clumsy resolution on the termination of Eucharistic communication with the Mother Church of Constantinople and other Local Orthodox Churches that recognized the autocephaly of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine,” said the Bishop of Koman.
In addition, Bishop Michael sees in the co-service the effect of God’s Providence.
“Two clerics from different parts of the united Ukraine, without prior agreement or planning, simultaneously expressed their will to act in accordance with the teachings of the Savior Our Lord Jesus Christ, “So that all may be united”, to implement Orthodox ecclesiology, in opposition to artificially imposed ideological stamps and propaganda of a distorted understanding of the Church of Christ by many church hierarchs. The desire to celebrate a joint Divine Liturgy, to partake of the same Chalice of Christ. By the way, another UOC cleric, Hieromonk Amfilohiy Filiuk, prayed and received communion here in Stauropegium last Sunday,” said the Exarch.
He added that such co-services fill him with joy and hope that more and more people will understand the falsity, unnaturalness, and bias of the mentioned resolutions of the Russian Orthodox Church and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (MP) on the severance of Eucharistic communication. “Decisions based not on freedom in Christ, but on intimidation and manipulation.”
“Personally, I believe that with God’s help, the ice of mutual mistrust and confrontation in the life of the Orthodox in Ukraine will slowly break. We are happy to welcome other UOC clerics for joint service and prayer, as the first step towards the pacification of church life. We are waiting, with respect and love, as brothers in Christ and free children of God,” the Bishop of Koman concluded.
It should be recalled that on October 14, 2018, the Russian Orthodox Church unilaterally terminated Eucharistic communication with the Ecumenical Patriarchate due to the issuance of the Tomos of autocephaly to the OCU. On November 13, 2018, the same decision was made by the UOC (in unity with the Moscow Patriarchate). They even noted that the process of granting the Tomos of autocephaly “is artificial, externally imposed, and not reflecting an internal church necessity.”
The decision to sever Eucharistic communication means that believers of the UOC MP are unable to receive communion in the churches run by the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and priests and hierarchs of the UOC (MP) are prohibited from holding joint services with EP priests. Such a step is the highest measure of institutional church sanctions.
Today’s co-service by the UOC (MP) priests with the Exarch of the Ecumenical Patriarchate is a positive event that can have a significant impact on church life in Ukraine. The step is a manifestation of the will of individual priests with the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (MP) to resume co-service with the Ecumenical Patriarchate and may kick off a process of dialogue between the two churches, for the sake of the unity of Ukrainian Orthodoxy.
Also, this indicates that some priests from the UOC (MP) disagree with the line of their church leadership, who remain in a Eucharistic breach with the Ecumenical Patriarchate and have not announced a complete withdrawal from the Moscow Patriarchate, which blesses the murderers of the Ukrainian people.