The great cross procession and anniversary of the Metropolitan Onufriy showed true purposes and the level of real support of the Ukrainian autocephaly
The patriarch Bartholomew repeatedly noted in his public statements that “the main goal of granting autocephaly to Ukraine was aspiration to cure the existing schism and to restore church unity in the country”. And that the Constantinople patriarchate was pushed by “the addresses and requests of most of the Ukrainian believers” and also unconditional rights and the privileges of the Ecumenical throne supported by all Orthodox world “to act as the highest church authority, to accept appeals against decisions of other Local churches and to grant autocephaly, without necessity to accept anybody’s other opinion”.
However the latest events occurring in Ukraine demonstrated the true purposes of Constantinople and the real level of supports of the autocephaly it has provided both among the Ukrainian believers, and in the whole Orthodox world. Let’s analyze these events one after another.
Tomos of the union became Tomos of schisma and led to mass captures of the church buildings and attacks on the clergy
In June of this year, six months after uniting process of the schismatic “Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Kiev Patriarchate” and “Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church” into Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU) that was supported by the Patriarch Bartholomew, the Honorary patriarch of OCU Filaret carried out “Local council” of Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Kiev Patriarchate and declared restoration of its activity in its fullness. Filaret’s supporters withdrew their signatures under the decision of Unifying council, raised exclusive rights to management over the monasteries and dioceses which were earlier part of the “Kiev Patriarchate” and refused to recognize Tomos’ conditions, because in their opinion, it “deprives the Ukrainian church of their parishes abroad and puts it into complete dependence on the Constantinople patriarchate”.
Thus, already in half a year after receiving a “unifying” Tomos Ukrainian Orthodoxy returned to the situation when in the country at the same time exist three Orthodox churches competing among themselves. The only difference was that internal church disputes were replaced by the raider captures of the church buildings and attacks on clergy which are undertaking with active participation of government officials and the armed radical activists. Until recently the main victims of illegal actions were priests and parishioners of Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate). However in the last month the number of such complaints considerably grew from the supporters of Kiev Patriarchate as well.
The great cross procession showed that the vast majority of the Ukrainian believers support the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church
On July 27., on the eve of the 1031. anniversary from the date of the Baptism of Kievan Rus’, Ukrainian Orthodox Church held the Great cross procession with wonder-working icons and sacred relics of confessors of belief through the streets of Kiev. According to the Metropolitan Anthony, the Chancellor of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate), “The great cross procession united different people from all corners of Ukraine not through political slogans, but through a warm prayer for Ukraine, the Ukrainian people and canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church”.
By different estimates, from 100 to 300 thousand believers took part at the organized by this Church cross procession who almost completely filled with themselves the center of Kiev. And it, even by the most modest estimates, almost by 10 times exceeded total number of participants of the cross processions organized next day by the Kiev Patriarchate and OCU with an active support from the specially arrived delegation of the Constantinople patriarchate.
Anniversary of the Metropolitan Onufriy showed the maximal level of support of Ukrainian Orthodox Church from the Local churches
Several weeks prior to the mentioned cross procession representatives of eleven Local Orthodox churches had arrived to Kiev to congratulate the Metropolitan of Kiev and All Ukraine Onufriy on his 75. anniversary and 5 years from the date of his enthronement and to support canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate). The highest hierarches of Local churches not only took part at the all-night vigil and Divine liturgy, but also held a joint briefing for mass media. “Our presence here means unconditional support of canonicity of Ukrainian Orthodox Church and its liturgical unity with the whole Orthodox world”, – the Metropolitan of the Alexandrian Orthodox Church Meletios expressed the general opinion at this briefing.
In addition, the Metropolitan of the Orthodox Church of Cyprus Isaiah on behalf of representatives of Local churches appealed to the authorities of Ukraine to provide equal rights to believers of all faiths and confessions and to return the captured church buildings of Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) to its parishioners. – “We ask that people who were expelled from their churches and compelled to pray in unadapted rooms, can return to them and that their rights were restored”.
This almost unanimous support of Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) from the Local churches sharply contrasts to the actual isolation of the primate of OCU Metropolitan Epiphanius, both in the day of his enthronement, and during his participation at the celebrations of the name day of the Patriarch Bartholomew. It demonstrates also the fact that Local churches are not ready without Panorthodox discussion, on only the order of Bartholomew to support the new rules that destroy orthodox canons, and to recognize schismatics.
True purposes of Bartholomew and the role of the Ukrainian autocephaly for these purpose
The facts of deepening split in the Ukrainian Orthodoxy and strengthening support of canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church both among the Ukrainian believers, and from Local churches, are obvious. They just push the Ecumenical throne to change its policy on the Ukrainian issue and, at least, to convoke the Panorthodox Council. It is necessary for comprehensive discussion of the situation in Ukraine and prevention of a deep split this time on the level of the whole Orthodox world. However patriarch Bartholomew refuses flatly to do it and, instead, strengthens pressure upon Local churches, continuing to insist on his exclusive right to take any decisions without coordination with them.
This position is explained by the long-term strategy of the Constantinople patriarchate directed to form new rules of the game in the World Orthodoxy. In this vision Local churches have to recognize unconditional superiority and special rights of the Ecumenical throne, to agree to limit their activity to the borders of their national states and gradually to refuse their parishes and even the whole dioceses abroad in favor of Constantinople.
As a result, from “the first among equal” Bartholomew will be able to turn into the actual head of the Orthodox Church and to acquire the power comparable to the papal one.
And this position is explained by a special role which OCU has to play on the way to realization of the true purposes of Constantinople.
First, recognition of the Ukrainian autocephaly by the Local churches will automatically mean their consent with the new rules of the game which the Constantinople patriarchate tries to establish. So, according to the conditions of the Tomos for OCU, “The orthodox church of Ukraine recognizes as its Head the Ecumenical Throne, as well as other patriarchs and heads, recognizes inalienable right of the Ecumenical Throne to establish stauropegic monasteries in any territory and to make categorical judgments for all Local churches and also refuses parishes abroad to advantage of the Ecumenical throne and recognizes its special canonical privileges in diasporas abroad”.
Secondly, OCU entirely depending on Constantinople, after its even partial recognition, can be turned into powerful weapon in Bartholomew’s hands. It also will be the first, without any discussions and conditions that publicly supports and recognizes any new initiatives of the Ecumenical throne directed to strengthening of the Constantinople patriarchate and weakening of other Local churches. It can be granting of autocephaly to the Macedonian, Montenegro or Abkhazian church, or absorption of North American or Western European parishes of the Antiochian, Russian, Romanian or any other Orthodox Church.