Update: interesting discussion about this article on Ukrainian forum.
Since the baptism of Kievan Russ by Prince Vladimir in Xc. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Metropolitan see of Kiev) has been under jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Constantinople and had in fact the wide self –governing rights. In 1593 The Patriarchate of Constantinople granted autocephaly to the Moscow Patriarchate while Kiev Metropolitan See remained under jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Constantinople. In 1686, using the way of political pressure, intrigues and bribes, the Moscow principality forced the Patriarch of Constantinople Dionysius IV to hand over the Kiev Mitropolia to the Moscow Patriarchate. This was the reason why a some time later the Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Constantinople removed the Patriarch Dionysius from the Patriarchal Throne.
In 1924 the Patriarch of Constantinople Gregory VII announced that the Patriarchate of Constantinople recognized the territory of the Moscow Patriarchate only within the geographical limits established in 1593. This meant that the Constantinople did not recognize the jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate on the territory of Ukraine. The same claims were made by the Patriarch of Constantinople Dimitrios I in his letter to the Patriarch Alexei II in 1990. in March of 2005, the official representative of the Patriarchate of Constantinople Vsevolod (Maidanski) of Skopelos visited Ukraine and during his meeting with the President of Ukraine Victor Iushchenko he announced” “ The Mother-Church of Constantinople does not recognize the canonicity of the jurisdictional belonging of the Kiev Mitropolia to the Moscow Patriarchate.” According to the Canonical Tradition of the Orthodox Church, the Church whose missionaries have brought the Christian faith to another country or granted autocephaly (independence) to the Church of this country is regarded as a “Mother-Church” for the latter. The Church of Constantinople is a “Mother-Church” for the Moscow Patriarchate as well as for the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
The “Ecclesiastical occupation” of the Church of Ukraine by the Russian Church has never been accepted in Ukraine. The attempts to withdraw from the jurisdiction of the Russian Church became especially active in 20th, 40th and 90th of XX century. In 1918 Ukrainians even asked the Georgian Church to ordain the bishops for their independent Church. The Georgian Church agreed but the Ukrainian candidates for episcopacy never reached Georgia because of the Civil War. Ukrainians remember this historical fact with gratitude until now.
On June 8 of 2005, the meeting took place between The Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomaios I and the President of Ukraine Viktor Iushchenko. During the conversation the President Iushchenko mentioned that “presently the Ukrainian society looks forward to the creation of united, Autocephalos Orthodox Church.” In March of this year, in his speech made on the Assembly of the Party “People’s Union, Our Ukraine” President Iushchenko said: “I believe we will witness the creation of the autocephalous, Orthodox and united Church of Ukraine.”
Presently three Orthodox Churches function on the territory of Ukraine:
1) The Orthodox Church of Ukraine, under jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate,. (later UOC-MP) The Head of this Church is Metropolitan Vladimir Sabodan is appointed by Moscow. This Church is officially recognized by other local Autocephalous Orthodox Churches in the World; it was an active supporter of Ianukovich during the elections and even urged the believers to vote for him. This Church is largest among other churches in Ukraine according to its membership and possesses a big property.
2) Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Kiev Patriarchate (later UOC-KP). The head of this Church is the Patriarch Philaret Denisenko.
3) Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (later UAOC), the head of this Church is Metropolitan Methodios Kudriakov. This is quite a small Church comparing to other ones.
There exist also the marginal pseudo orthodox groups created by Russain secret services such as “the Patriarch of Kiev” Moses Kulik etc. They have no influence.
The UOC-KP and UAOC are not officially recognized by the other Autocephalous Orthodox Churches in the World. The Church of Metropolitan Vladimir Sabodan does not recognize them as well and calls them the schismatic churches. The Moscow Patriarchate defrocked and anathematized Patriarch Philaret Denisenko who had been one of the Candidates for the Patriarchal Throne for Moscow. The relations between the Church of Patriarch Philaret Denisenko and that of Metropolitan Methodius Kudriakov are friendly and they even negotiate about their unification. During the Ukrainian elections Metropolitan Methodius himself supported Ianukovich. It should be noted that after the death of Patrirach Demetrius Iarema the council of this church elected Metropolitan Constantine Buggan of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in USA (under jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Constantinople) as its head. The Metropolitan could not officially accept this position and Metropolitan Methodios Kudriakov was appointed the head of the Church. We may call this fact an unofficial entrance of the Ukrainian autocephalous Church under the jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Constantinople.
The aim of the negotiations between the Kiev Patriarchate and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church is the creation of united, independent Orthodox Church of Ukraine. It should be noted that since the second half of 80th and the first half of 90th of the XX c. there have existed the Ukrainian Orthodox Churches under jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Constantinople on the territory of North and Latin America, Europe and Australia. The head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Diaspora and in the USA is Metropolitan Constantine Buggan and the Head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Canada is Archbishop John.
Patriarch Philaret (Denisenko) of Kiev and all Russ-Ukraine: “Presently there is the fight for superiority between the Moscow Patriarchate and the Patriarchate of Constantinople. This year “at the World council of the Russian people” Metropolitan Cyril (Gundyaev) of Smolensk and Kaliningrad stated that the Orthodox countries are to be united around the Moscow Patriarchate in the same way as the Islamic countries are being united in the World Islamic Conference. That the Orthodox Churches should create united front around the Moscow Patriarchate. About five years ago the Patriarch of Moscow Alexis II stated that no theological arguments exist to prevent the Moscow Patriarchate to be the first among the other local Orthodox Churches since the Russian Church is the largest one and the Moscow city is the third Rome. In order to occupy the first and superior place the Moscow Patriarchate acts with the help and instructions of the Russian State. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church is an obstacle on the way of the Moscow Patriarchate claiming the primacy in the Orthodox world since it depends on the Ukrainian Church whether the Moscow Patriarchate will have claims for the first place (primacy) in the Orthodox World. The Ukrainian Church almost equals to the Russian Church by the number of its parishes. In case the Ukrainian Church will be granted autocephaly and withdraw from the jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate the Moscow Patriarchate will become twice as small, weaker and will not be able to claim for the first place. The autocephaly of the Ukrainian Church will be a guarantee for the stability in the Orthodox World and the Patriarchate of Constantinople will remain the first among equals (primus inter pares), as it has always been according to the tradition. The Ukrainian Church will balance the life of the Orthodox Churches. The Moscow spreads dirty gossips to discredit my personality. At the meeting of the President Victor Iushchenko with the Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew it was said that the Patriarchate of Constantinople would send to Kiev it’s representative, bishop Ilarion (Rudnik) from the Orthodox church in Portugal(under jurisdiction of Constantinople). He has a Ukrainian background. Bishop Ilarion had to arrive first in Istanbul but while crossing the Turkish boarder he was arrested by the Turkish police with the charge of being Chechen terrorist. As Turkish police stated he received this information from the Russian secret services. Russian State does its best not to permit the recognition of the independence of the Ukrainian Church since it understands very well the great importance of this fact. The Patriarch of Moscow Alexis II stated that in case the Patriarch of Constantinople recognizes the independence of the Ukrainian Church the great schism is going to happen in the Orthodox World. It was not enough for the Moscow Patriarchate to split the Ukrainian Church now it wants to divide the Orthodox World. But if this happens only the Serbian and perhaps the Bulgarian but not the other Churches will support it.
It will be the fact of the extreme importance if the Catholicos-Patrirach of All Georgia Ilia II appeals to the Patriarchate of Constantinople and other Churches for the recognition of the Kiev Patriarchate in order to regulate the situation in the Orthodox Church in Ukraine. As time goes by Moscow becomes much stronger. Moscow creates alternative “Orthodox congregations” in Ukraine in order to make us weaker. At the same time it strengthens its influence throughout the World: joins the Russian Church abroad to the Russian Orthodox Church. The Russian Church abroad has its parishes all over the World. Moscow plans to establish the Metropolitan Province in the West Europe, opens a number of new churches at the embassies of various countries in order to enter into closer relationship with the governments of these countries etc. It is obvious that all these institutions will pursue a Russian policy.
We demand the Tomos of autocephaly from the Patriarch of Constantinople. We do not want to be either under jurisdiction of Moscow or Constantinople but we want to be granted an autocephaly. In the independent Ukraine there should exist the independent Orthodox Church. As soon as the recognition of the UOC-KP takes place the great majority of UOC-MP and UAOC will join us and the UOC-KP will have more than 8500 parishes which is a big power.
We think that in case the Pan-Orthodox Council will discuss the question of the independence of the Ukrainian Church. Moscow will start murk the water. It will use the diplomatic channels to disturb the process and to spoil the atmosphere at the Council. It would be better if the Patriarch of Constantinople openly recognizes our autocephaly. He has every right to do so. We have excellent relationships with UAOC; its clergy wants to join us. As for the bishops, they refrain from making open statements because of the political pressure from outside. However such unification has already started in the region of Ternopol. Everybody understands that Ukraine is an independent State and will never come back to Russia.
It would be very helpful if the Georgian Orthodox Church opens its representation (Podvorie-Rus. Metochion-Gr.) in Kiev, at the Kiev Patriarchate. Besides, Georgian priest could also be appointed in the Georgian Embassy in Ukraine. He would play an important role in the solution of the problem of the Ukrainian Church.”
Alexander Sagan, the academic advisor of the President of Ukraine in religious matters: “The Orthodox Church is in a quite difficult state in Ukraine and we ought to be very careful while trying to regulate the situation. The State officially does not interfere in this... The believers themselves must take an initiative. The statement of the Archbishop Vsevolod (Maidansky) of Skopelo about the fact that the Patriarchate of Constantinople does not recognize the Ukrainian Church as a canonical territory of the Moscow Patriarchate is very important. We think that the unification of the UOC-KP and the UAOC will take place this year which itself is a positive fact. Bishops of UAOC ask for guarantee that after the unification of these two churches they will not loose their positions. The commissions are being created on the matter of this unification. The personality of the Patriarch Philaret is not a hindrance to this process of unification. In 2000 the attempt was made to unite these Churches. The representatives of UOC-KP and UAOC met in the Patriarchate of Constantinople and signed the declaration but because of the pressure from the government at the time the process of unification failed. We expect the completion of this process in September-October. The President Victor Iushchenko suggested the Patriarchate of Constantinople to open the representation in Kiev. After the recognition of independence of the Ukrainian Church the majority of Ukrainian believers will become the members of this church. Only the small exarchate will remain under the Russian jurisdiction which obviously will not create any problem. The independence of the Ukrainian Church is the matter of the State security. For instance, let us consider the institute of military priests. Presently all military priests belong to the UOC-MP. This Church signs agreement with armed forces and the priests go to soldiers and policemen. But these priests belong to the Moscow patriarchate and pursue a Russian policy. The Russian Patriarch Alexis II signed also the agreements with all military institutions. It could be acceptable to allow these priests to visit jails and hospitals but what are they going to teach soldiers and policemen? We all saw their actions during the period of elections. Even today they openly state that they are against the integration of Ukraine in NATO and European organizations. So, this is the matter of National security. Besides, several million Ukrainian Orthodox believers are distressed because nowhere throughout the World are they recognized as a members of the Church. After we won in the elections no repayment from our side towards the UOC-MP has taken place but the endurance has also its limits. They announce that Ukraine fell into Satan’s hands and call people for separatism. We should try to restrain them. The dignity of the President is inviolable and the call for the division of the country is a crime. We believe that after the unification of the UOC-KP and the UAOC this Church will be granted autocephaly. There will be scandal and pressure from Moscow since many parishes of UOC-MP will join the autocephalous canonical church. If the recognition of autocephaly will take place this year or the next year it will be excellent for the delaying of this process will have a negative effect. We expect the incitement of the economic problems from Russian side similar to those in Estonia when the Patriarchate of Constantinople recognized the autocephaly of the Estonian Church in 1996. Estonians did their best to face theses problems since they were very well aware what the Moscow Patriarchate represented itself. We expect that some sort of destabilization process will be incited in Ukraine in order to diminish the actuality of the issue of the independence of the Ukrainian Church and to end it eventually. The President Iushchenko has a very clear vision of this situation.
It will be very difficult to attain the recognition of the autocephaly of the Church of Ukraine. We know very well the attitude of the Ecumenical Patriarch. It could be said that he needs the independence of the Ukrainian Church more than we do. This is the reason why he fully supports this idea. The Russian Church will confront us. The Moscow Patriarchate and the KGB are the same. That is why the Patriarch Bartholomew needs support. It will be ideal if the Georgian Patriarchate appeals the Patriarch of Constantinople and the heads of the Orthodox Churches for the independence of the Ukrainian Church. This would be an immense help for Ukraine. The opening of the representation of the Georgian Patriarchate in Kiev would play an important role in solution of many problems of the Church of Ukraine. The personal qualities of the representative himself will also be very important since the Russian secret services will try to put pressure on him. I think that the idea of the opening of the representation should be suggested directly to the Patriarch Alexis of Moscow. The idea of the convening of the Pan-Orthodox council concerning the Ukrainian question will be echoed positively. The fact of convening of the council of such a high rank is very important but proper preparation for the council is also necessary. I am ready to visit Tbilisi for the consultations on every level.
Priest Peter Zuev (Ukrainian Orthodox Church - Moscow Patriarchate): The situation in the church in Ukraine is absolutely abnormal. UOC-MP is not able to unite the Ukrainian Orthodox believers. After the “Orange Revolution” the society demands autocephalous canonical Church. The unification of the Orthodox Churches in Ukraine can be based only on the canonically recognized autocephaly. The UOC-MP cannot be granted autocephaly since its episcopate is entirely under the Russian influence. They will never demand independence openly although deep down in their heart more than half of them support autocephaly because they know that Ukraine will never become part of Russia.
On the first stage The Church of Ukraine may be granted Autonomy under the jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Constantinople. It could be granted to the bishops of UAOC who have been canonically ordained. The Patriarch Philaret makes every effort that autocephaly be granted to his church. The Patriarchate of Constantinople will play a leading role in this process. If the Georgian Patriarchate supports our Church in this matter the Ukrainian people will never forget this. The Catholicos-Patriarch Ilia II could address both the Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew and the Moscow Patriarch Alexis and indicate that the Church in Ukraine is in a very difficult state. Every third parish is schismatic and this is horrible. The Patriarch Ilia II could call for the unity according to the Gospel. The Moscow Patriarchate does not want to let the Ukrainian Church go. The Patriarch Alexis II does not want to enter the History as an author of such a wise decision.
The Pan-Orthodox Council can play a very important role in the solution of the Ukrainian Church problem. The Moscow Patriarchate tries to maintain the empire similar to the USSR but times are different now. They will not be able to maintain the Empire. Quarrels among the Orthodox churches discredit the Church in Ukraine. Metropolitan Vladimir Sabodan (UOC-MP) is an inert personality. His health is seriously damaged. Bishop Sophrom of Cherkask openly supports the autocephaly. The official representative of the Patriarchate of Constantinople Archbishop Vsevolod (Maidanski) of Skopelos is very good theologian and the Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew charged him with a mission to make his famous statement.
The positive effects of the opening of the representation of the Georgian Patriarchate in Kiev are manifold: for instance in making contacts. I think the request for the opening of the representation should be sent to Metropolitan Vladimir Sabodan where it is to be indicated that the Patriarch Philaret has a Georgian priest and is plans to establish Georgian parish under his jurisdiction. This will give a stimulus to the Metropolitan Vladimir to approve this. We can provide the representative with the church and housing. It would be good if the representative himself brings the letter of request to Kiev and waits for an answer here. In this case he will have an opportunity to start his work immediately even before he receives an answer. The personal qualities of the representative are of a great importance since the UOC-MP knows many ways to bribe or frighten him.
After the recognition of the autocephaly of the Church of Ukraine it would be good if any bishop with Ukrainian background from America or Canada will be appointed head of this church.”
Mr. Vladimir Stretovich, Head of the Christian-Democratic Union, Chair of the committee in Rada against organized crime and corruption: “Michael Saakashvili is an excellent President. We are excited by his attitude towards Russia. We should learn a lot from him. The recent statement made by Archbishop Vsevolod (Maidanski) of Skopelo about the fact that the Patriarchate of Constantinople does not recognize the joining of the Kiev Mitropolia to the Moscow Patriarchate and that the jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate on the territory of Ukraine is not canonical has a historical importance. Now the bishops of the Orthodox Church in Ukraine need to seat around the round table and negotiate how the Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew could possibly grant them an autocephaly. Historically the Georgian Orthodox Church went through the similar situation. The president Victor Iushchenko plans to meet with the bishops of the UOC-MP very soon. These bishops say they are not enemies and if the President listens to them they will support him altogether It is most important if the government makes the first step towards this since the bishops of UOC-MP are also Ukrainians and patriots of their country. We had a conversation about it already three years ago with Metropolitan Vladimir Sabodan (UOC-MP) who fought for the independence of Ukraine when he was young. Recently the relationship between him and the Patriarch Philaret Denisenko became warmer. Everybody understands that the recognition of the aautocephaly of the Church of Ukraine is an irreversible process. The appeal of the Catholicos- Patriarch will make the issue of the Church of Ukraine actual that is very helpful. As many Church representations are opened in Kiev as better it will be. Naturally the representation of the Georgian Patriarchate can bring a very positive impact to us. If the Pan-Orthodox Council convenes concerning the Ukrainian Church issue you may consider this problem mainly solved.”
Mr. Michael Kosiv, head of the religious sub-commitee in Rada: “The situation is very difficult. We have inherited divisions in the Church. Our only hope is the Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew I. Archbishop Vsevolod (Maidanski) of Skopelo was in Kiev in March and on behalf of the Patriarch of Constantinople he announced that he doe not recognize the jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate on the Ukrainian territory. This announcement is extremely important for us. There was an attempt made by UOC-KP and UAOC to join the Patriarchate of Constantinople together but this process failed. The granting of the status of the Patriarchate to the Church of Ukraine is also a problem but according to the history since the Church of Kiev is the “Mother-Church” for the Church of Moscow which presently itself has a status of Patriarchate then this status belongs to the Church of Kiev as well. The bishops should forget their arrogance and unite. The fear of the Moscow Patriarchate is also to be overcome since it cannot do much harm to us. The appeal of the Georgian Patriarch to the Patriarch of Constantinople will be a great stimulus for the latter to recognize finally the autocephaly of the Church of Ukraine. We do not need too many formalities in the relationship with the Moscow Patriarchate we should rather negotiate as equal parties. As soon as the canonical recognition of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine takes place the great majority of the Orthodox believers will join this Church. The majority of the bishops of the UOC-MP will also join this Church since they are pragmatic people and know that at least five more years or may be ten, Victor Iushchenko will be a President. It does not matter under whose jurisdiction the representation of the Georgian Patriarchate in Kiev will be. The existence of this representation itself is most important. Besides, there are many Georgians in Kiev and they need to attend the liturgy served in their mother tongue.
Metropolitan Andrew Gorak of Lvov and Sokal (Ukrainian Orhtodox Church – Kiev Patriarchate):
I pray to God for the appeal of the Catholicos-Patriarch Ilia II to the heads of the Orthodox Churches to persuade them to pay attention to the Ukrainian Church problem. But a lot depends on the Patriarch of the Russian Church. The Georgian Church has already gone through this Golgotha. You where united but you had been waiting for the recognition of your autocephaly for 26 years (1917-1943). The solidarity among the Orthodox people is needed. Estrangement and distrust should be overcome.
I cannot even dream about Pan-Orthodox council concerning the Ukrainian Church problem. It would be just to invite the representative of the UOC-KP to the council rather than considering our matter without our presence. Inviting us to the council will show that they consider us as an equal party. The preliminary consultations held with the Patriarch of Constantinople are also necessary. First of all the Council should evaluate the ecclesiastical-canonical state of the UOC-MP. In the Orthodox canonical tradition there exist either autonomous or autocephalous churches while the Moscow Patriarchate presents the UOC-MP as some kind of “self governing” church. What does this mean? This is a new invention and in fact does mean anything. The UOC-MP is just one of the obedient dioceses of the Moscow Patriarchate. 40 years have passed already since the Macedonian Orthodox Church (Macedonia, the former republic of Iugoslavia) demands to be granted autocephaly but with no result. I am surprised that Orthodox people do not learn from the lessons of the history. I visited Constantinople twice as a member of our Church delegation but there has not been any result yet. The visit of the President Iushchenko to Constantinople gives us hope that the solution of the problem will get started and here the actions taken by the Georgian Patriarch will be of a great value.
The Patriarchate of Constantinople plans to open it’s representation in Kiev. If the Georgian Patriarchate also opens it’s representation it will be a significant break through. It does not matter under whose jurisdiction will the representation be but most important is what the representative himself will do and what instructions will he carry out.
Archpriest Oleksa Petriv, Director of the bureau for the relations of the Greek-Catholic Church in Ukraine with the Ukrainian Government:
Historical facts: In 1596 the great majority of the Orthodox bishops of Kiev Metropolitan See joined the Roman-catholic church while maintaining the Orthodox liturgical and traditions. This Church has a legal autonomy in the bosom of the Catholic Church and is called Greek-Catholic or Uniat Church. In 1944 Stalin abolished the Greek-Catholic church of Ukraine and went underground until the 90th of XX c. officially this Church had dioceses only in the Europe and the USA. Since 1990 the Church has been restored on the Ukrainian territory. Presently this church counts more than 4 000 000 believers.
“We, Ukrainian Greek-Catholics, being patriots of our country entirely support our Orthodox brothers in their struggle for the independent church. Sooner it happens better it is since such a disorder cannot be tolerated any more. I think the unification of the Orthodox churches in Ukraine should be the first step towards the Church independence. It is obvious that not all will join the united Church and the Russian Church will maintain a small exarchate. According to the Archbishop Vsevolod (Maidanski) of Skopelo, Ukraine is the canonical territory of the Patriarchate of Constantinople and the Moscow Patriarchate does not have any rights here. The joining of the Kiev Metropolitan See to the Moscow Patriarchate in 1686 was not canonical. If the Georgian Patriarch makes an appeal to the Patriarch of Constantinople concerning the question of the Church of Ukraine, all positive effects of this action will be hard to imagine. The convention of the Pan-Orthodox council in order to solve this problem is very important. In my opinion, year ago the Moscow Patriarchate could manage that the resolution of this council be in its favor but now the situation changed. This council will show that the Ukrainian Church issue is important for the Orthodox Church in the World. Now there is a unique chance for the unification of the Orthodox Churches in Ukraine and for the recognition of this independent Church by the Orthodox World. The Georgian Patriarchate could also participate in negotiations among the Orthodox Churches of Ukraine. The opening of the representation of the Georgian Patriarchate in Kiev will facilitate to this process. I think the request for the opening of the representation should be made to the Metropolitan Vladimir Sabodan (UOC-MP) and not to the Patriarch Alexis II. Obviously the position of our government will be of a crucial importance in this case.
Priest Iuri Boiko (UAOC), deputy of Rada:
“Our strategic goal is to create the united, independent Church of Ukraine. The attitude of the Patriarch of Constantinople towards this problem gives us hope but he has to take into consideration the imperialistic traditions of the Moscow Patriarchate. The Patriarch of Constantinople does not want the international conflict to happen in the Orthodox World and here the support of a neutral Georgian Patriarchate will be very helpful. The initiative of the Georgian Patriarch would give a stimulus to the Patriarch of Constantinople to convene the Pan-Orthodox council concerning the Ukrainian Church issue. At the meeting of Rada I addressed the President Iushchenko with the speech where I indicated the necessity and importance of the opening of the representation of the Georgian Church. The representation will be under jurisdiction of the Catholicos-Patriarch of all Georgia ilia II. Besides, many Georgians live in Kiev and they need an Orthodox-spiritual Center too. The representation could even be opened at the Georgian Embassy in Kiev. The personality of the Patriarch Philaret (Denisenko) is a hindrance to the process of our unification with UOC-KP. However the priests and bishops of our churches are friends with each other. We are also friends with the clerics of the UOC-MP. Now we face the problem of legitimacy. The opinion that only UOC-MP is legitimate is not correct. Both, the society and the government should be aware of this. The fact that the President Victor Iushchenko invited the Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew I to Ukraine is extremely important. The aim of our autocephaly is to achieve the sanctity and the independence of the Church with the clerics with high moral standards. Before the Orange Revolution we saw how the Church was financed by the State officials and the representatives of the criminal circles. And we know that he who pays piper calls the tune.
The independent Church is necessary for our national self-identity and it will prevent using the Orthodox Church against the Ukrainian interests. Look what the priests of the UOC-MP preached during the period of elections! Now they behave the same way against the process of democratization of Ukraine and its integration in the European organizations.
Mr. Gregory Comendant, President of the Evangelical-Christian Baptist Federation of All Ukraine:
“It is necessary for the Ukrainian Orthodox Church to be autocephalous. We support this idea altogether. We successfully collaborate with our Orthodox brothers in the Ukrainian Church Council and are in a very good terms with them. Many think that the personality of the Patriarch Philaret is a hindrance to the process of unification of the Orthodox churches in Ukraine. However he is a strong personality and has a talent for organization. The majority of clergy and parishioners in the UOC-MP are not content with the situation in the Church and will immediately join the canonical Orthodox Church. In my opinion more realistic will be to enter first under jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Constantinople and then to be granted autocephaly. We know that the question of the canonical independence of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine is of a vital interest for the State authorities as well.
Professor Dimitri Stepovik, the member of the highest ecclesiastical council of the Kiev Patriarchate: “Besides being the member of the highest ecclesiastical council of the Kiev Patriarchate I am also a professor of the Kiev Theological Academy. We expect much from the President Iushchenko. The Kiev patriarchate is a truly patriotic church. The policy of our President concerning the church has not entirely met our expectations yet. All know very well that the Moscow poisoned him and after his inauguration he immediately went to Moscow. He could at least announce that he had to go there because of the political and economic pragmatism but he never said anything like this. The time already has come for Ukraine after going through long-suffering to have finally its own independent church. For us the appeal of the Catholicos-Patriarch of all Georgia to the Patriarch of Constantinople will be God’s blessing and the true sign of fraternity. It is necessary to open the representation of the Georgian Church at the UOC-KP. For the beginning this may not be an official representation, for instance they could send here one religious journalist. He will be able to get an objective information right at the place and understand real circumstances himself. An exchange of unofficial visits is also necessary. The delegation of our church will visit you not to participate in the liturgy but for getting know each other and making contacts. We ask the Georgian Patriarchate to advocate the UOC-KP before the Orthodox churches in the World. Your unofficial representative may even live in the Kiev Theological Academy, say for three months and take the objective information to Tbilisi.
The Russian secret services work intensively. In 1992 disguised agents arrived together with Metropolitan Vladimir Sabodan and occupied the Lavra of Kievo-Pechora. The Patriarch Philaret did a tremendous work to maintain the patriotic church since the tricks of enemy were many and still is.
The Pan-Orthodox council should recognize the autocephaly of UOC-KP and 99% of the UOC-MP will immediately join us. If you help us in this we will remain your loyal friends forever.
Archpriest Sergei Stankevich, journalist (Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Kiev Patriarchate): The schisms in the Orthodox Church in Ukraine are caused by external forces. It is necessary for our Orthodox brothers to forget political and pragmatic purposes and give a dogmatic and ecclesiastical-canonical evaluation to the situation in the UOC-KP. Until now we hear only hysterical journalistic announcements. Patriarch Philaret of Kiev has been the Patriarch for more than 40 years. He held high hierarchical positions in the Moscow Patriarchate. He was a locum-tenens of the Moscow Patriarch and one of the real candidates for the Patriarchal throne. He ordained Metropolitan Vladimir Sabodan (UOC-MP) and now the latter tries to discredit the Patriarch Philaret. The only argument of the UOC-Mp is that Ukrainian people are not ready for the autocephaly(!?). The See of Kiev is much older than that of the Moscow and if we speak about the canons and tradition then the Moscow Patriarchate should be subordinated to the Kiev Patriarchate. The dogmatic and theological dialogue concerning the recognition of the Kiev Patriarchate is necessary with other Orthodox Churches. .According to the number of its believers Ukraine is largest Orthodox nation in the World! The initiative group including theologians and canonists from Orthodox Churches is to be created for studying the canonical statute of our church. When in XIX c. the Orthodox Church in Greece announced it’s autocephaly it took 17 years for the Patriarchate of Constantinople to recognize the autocephaly of the Greek Church.
The Georgian Church could help us in many ways to leave the Moscow Patriarchate. The appeal of the Georgian Patriarch will be a unique one: The whole world will see that Ukrainians are not alone and somebody has raised the voice to defend us. The convening of the Pan-Orthodox council to discuss the Ukrainian problem is necessary. We need to introduce dogmatic, theological and canonical arguments to this council. The opening of the representation of your church in Kiev would be an excellent fact and it will show the World your position. The request for the opening of the representation should be sent directly to the Patriarch Alexis. Metropolitan Vladimir Sabodan is a ruler of just one of the dioceses of the Russian Church. Russia used to interfere in the internal affairs of our State through UOC-MP.”
Mr. Andrew Iurash, Religious expert, Professor of the Lvov National University:
“It is necessary to state the Ukrainian Church question on all levels. Such an attempt has never been made in the bosom of the World Orthodoxy yet. If the Georgian Church states this question, it could be said that the problem is more clearly and objectively seen from outside. In any case, not all Orthodox will unite in Ukraine. If the autocephaly will be recognized the majority from the UOC-MP will join the independent Church while the rest of it will create the diocese of the Russian Church that will not be any problem. This will be so called Estonian variant where two canonical Orthodox Churches exist on the same territory. In the South-East regions of Ukraine many clerics can’t imagine their life without the Moscow Patriarchate. Metropolitan of Odessa Agathangelos (Savin), who is quite an odious person, is an expression of their spirit. As for the clerics in the West regions of UOC-MP, the majority of them will immediately join the canonical autocephalous Church since these are pro-Ukrainian regions. The sequence in the process of granting autocephaly should be kept: first the autonomy under the jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Constantinople and then autocephaly. As soon as the independent, recognized will appear the regrouping of the forces will start in the UOC-MP: there are some bishops in that church who openly support autocephaly, for instance bishop Sofrom of Cherkask, bishop Nyfont of Volin and etc. I think the great majority of UOC-MP, UOC-KP and UAOC together should create canonical autocephalous Church. The State Authorities play an important role in this process. At the time of the President Leonid Kuchma the State does not do anything in this direction. On the contrary, Kuchma tried to restrikt the UOC-KP. He was in good terms with UOC-MP and his wife actively participated in the political life of this Church. Presently UAOC is in very difficult state. It is almost disintegrated but its decay is prevented by Russia since it wants to say afterwards: there are two of you (UOC-KP and UAOC) whom we are to talk to? The Ukrainian State is supposed to help all these churches and a forceful “Ukrainization” is unacceptable.
The appeal of the Patriarch of Georgia to the Patriarch of Constantinople and the heads of other Orthodox Churches will have many positive effects: 1. the actualization of the Ukrainian church problem on a large scale and a high level will take place; 2. The fact that somebody in the World Orthodoxy paid attention to the Ukrainian believers while even the Orthodox Church in Poland, our closest neighbor is silent, will be a strong impact for other Orthodox Churches.
The Pan-Orthodox council concerning the Ukrainian church problem is itself the fact of a greatest importance since such a council has never been convened because of our Church. Some will say that The Ukrainian Church problem is an internal affair of the Moscow Patriarchate but as the history teaches us and as it was announced by Archbishop Vsevolod of Skopelo the jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate on the territory of Ukraine is not canonical. The Patriarch of Constantinople charged him with the mission to make this announcement. The Announcement was made to see the reaction of the Moscow Patriarchate. In response to this, the Patriarch Alexis announced that the Moscow Patriarchate may make a schism within the Orthodox Church as it was the case when the problem of the Estonian Church rose but it will be a dead end for the Moscow Patriarchate. Now, the Patriarch of Constantinople needs support to take a decisive step. Such a supporter could be a Georgian Patriarchate. This is to be done rapidly otherwise Moscow Patriarchate may itself grant autocephaly to the Ukrainian Church under certain conditions (the church leadership will be appointed by the Moscow Patriarchate and etc.) and in result we will have a pro Russian Church which rather than balancing the World Orthodoxy will destabilize it. This will have an effect on the geopolitical situation. It is necessary for us to be granted autocephaly by the Patriarchate of Constantinople.
The Georgian Patriarchate may play an important role in resolving Ukrainian Church problems on the inner Ukrainian scale as well. Since 1917 The Ukrainian Orthodox believers have been hoping that their bishops would be ordained in Georgia. Because of technical reasons their hopes were not realized but kind and warm feelings towards the Georgian Church remained. The opening of the Georgian Church representation will advance the ecclesiastical level and the presence of the Georgian priest will have a positive impact there. The representative may organize informal meetings among the clerics of the Orthodox churches, round tables, conferences and dialogues. This will be a kind help from the neutral party.”
From July 16- to July 20 of 2005 Mr. Vladimer Gogiashvili, the director of the “Center for the study of Religious Issues” and Archpriest Basil Kobakhidze, the expert of the Center visited Constantinople (Istanbul) where in the Patriarchal Church of St. George they attended the Holy Liturgy. They also had an audience with His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I and the chief secretary of the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate Archimandrite Elpidophoros Lambrianidis.
Bartholomew I, Archbishop of New-Rome and the Ecumenical Patriarch: “I think, besides the contemporary situation of the World Orthodoxy the “Center for the Study of Religious Issues” should also work on the future perspectives of its development.
The Mother-Church of Constantinople who is the Mother Church for the Ukrainian Orthodox as well is very pained and concerned about the situation of the Church of Ukraine. During the recent years we have been making all efforts to regulate the situation in the Orthodox Church in this Country which has already attained the political independence. During the visit of the President Iushchenko in Constantinople I met him twice, first in his Hotel and then here, in the Patriarchal Residence. We talked about the ways for the definition of the future canonical statute of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. The state of the Church in Ukraine is very difficult and there are some forces who want it to be more difficult. During the years we have been trying to cooperate with the Moscow Patriarchate on this matter but the Russian Church does not want the Ukrainian Orthodox Church to have any real independence.
The Mother-Church of Constantinople does want to unite all three Orthodox Churches in the Ukraine and then to grant the canonical statute to this Church. We will see whether this is going to be an autonomy first and then a full autocephaly or direct autocephaly.
As for an appeal of the Catholicos-Patriarch of all Georgia Ilia II to me concerning the question of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and the convening of the Pan-Orthodox Council on the same question, The Mother-Church of Constantinople will be happy to receive any kind of support especially from such an ancient Church as is the Georgian Patriarchate.
After granting the Ukrainian Orthodox Church an autocephaly, the Mother-Church of Constantinople will call all other autocephalous Churches for the brotherly acceptance of the Ukrainian Church among them and for establishing a full Eucharistic communion with Her.
It should be noted that the opening of the representation of the Georgian Church in Kiev, which I think is reasonable, will create a problem in your relations with the Russian Church. However I have already become accustomed that my name in Russian journals and newspapers is being mentioned in a negative context. I think the representation of your Church may play certain positive role in the situation of the Orthodox Church in Ukraine.
I am an old friend of Georgia and have visited your country many times. I have always been amazed with the faith and hope of your people in God. However, unfortunately there exists a danger of fundamentalism but we think the reforms which the new Government carries on after the “Rose Revolution” and the openness towards the Europe will neutralize this problem to some extent. I am very happy with the position of the New Government of Georgia which supports the integration of Turkey in the European Union. I have said many times and I am saying it now that the European Union is unimaginable without Turkey and vise versa, the development of Turkey is unimaginable without the European Union.
In February of 2006 in Porto- Allegre (Brazil) the 9th General Assembly of the World Council of Churches will be held. I think, the Georgian Church should necessarily return to the Ecumenical Movement, at least as an observer. It is impossible that the Georgian bishops may be against the return of Georgia to the international arena. I know the problems of Georgia including the Church problems in Abkhazeti and Osetia. An isolation from the international Christian family will not do any good to your Church especially now, when the World Council of Churches took into consideration the demands of the Orthodox Churches and carried on an administrative changes. According to these changes the resolutions of the Council will be based not on the majority of votes as it used to happen before but on the consensus.
It will be good if the “Center for the Study of Religious Issues” will work on these issues as well. Let us keep in touch; we are interested in the results of your research work.
As a consequence of the consultations held the following conclusions have been outlined:
1. As the Ukrainian State authorities, society and faithful believe, the existence of an independent Ukrainian Orthodox Church recognized by the World Orthodoxy is necessary. The existence of quite a large Orthodox Church on the Ukrainian territory under the jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate threatens the State and national interests of Ukraine and prevents the process of democratization of Ukraine and its integration in NATO and European Organizations.
2. The canonical recognition of the independence of the Orthodox autocephalous Church of Ukraine will considerably decrease the number of the members of the latter and weaken its aggressive actions, including those towards Georgia. The existence of the Ukrainian autocephalous Orthodox Church will be a clearly positive factor in the life of the Orthodox Churches in the World.
3. Ukraine is waiting for the active help from Georgia in this matter: a) an appeal of the Catholicos-Patriarch of Georgia to the Patriarch of Constantinople and the heads of other Orthodox Churches concerning the settlement of the Ukrainian question; b) The Georgian Patriarch should initiate the idea of convening the Pan- Orthodox council concerning the Ukrainian question (only the Patriarch of Constantinople has right to convene such a council) d) the representation of the Georgian Patriarchate should be opened in Kiev as a sign of respect towards the Orthodox Church in Ukraine and to make a positive impact on the negotiations among the Orthodox churches in Ukraine.
4. There is a need for the rapid actions since the Moscow Patriarchate itself may grant independence to the Church of Ukraine under certain conditions (the church leadership will be appointed by the Moscow Patriarchate and etc.). Consequently, instead of the strong church with positive attitude towards values common to all mankind we will have a huge pro- Russian church which will become the factor of destabilization in the World Orthodoxy. It will also be a hindrance to the process of the democratization of Ukraine and its integration in NATO and the European organizations.
According to the canonical tradition of the Orthodox Church the Patriarch of Constantinople is the first among equals (Primus inter pares – Lat.) (Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon, canon 28). He does not have an administrative power over other autocephalous Churches similar to that of the Pope of Rome. The Patriarch of Constantinople enjoys only the primacy of honor and other privileges which are as follows: His name is placed first in Diptych (list of the names of the Heads of the Orthodox Churches), he has a right of convening of the Pan-Orthodox Synods and to preside on these synods (last time such a synod took place in Istanbul, on May 24 of 2004), to initiate theological dialogues with non-Orthodox Churches and other religions and to lead these dialogues. There were many cases when Patriarch of Constantinople convened the Pan-Orthodox synods in order to settle the crisis brought up in various Orthodox Churches. For instance the Pan-Orthodox Synod of May 24 of 2005 considered the crisis in the Patriarchate of Jerusalem and the Synod in Sophia in 2000 settled the crisis existed in the Church of Bulgaria. So, Patriarch of Constantinople has an absolute legitimacy to convene the Pan-Orthodox Synod concerning the crisis in the Ukrainian church but taking into consideration the factor of the Moscow Patriarchate he has not done it yet. Obviously he needs a reason for taking an action.
This is where a neutral and authoritative Church could play a great role by addressing the Patriarch of Constantinople and other Orthodox Churches with open letter and asking them to take steps towards the settlement of the Ukrainian Church problem. The Georgian Orthodox Church and the Catholicos-Patriarch Ilia II as Her head could play such a role.
The arguments could be as follows: the considerable number of believers of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church is in a difficult position since their Church is not recognized by other Orthodox Autocephalous Churches in the World. This fact causes tension and conflicts among Ukrainian Orthodox. As for the other considerable part of the Ukrainian faithful, they are under jurisdiction of another country that is contrary to the Church tradition which states that the Church of an independent country is to be autocephalous (Canon 17 of the Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon and canon 38 of the Council of Trullo state this). This is the reason why the Ukrainian Orthodox people have rights to have their own independent Orthodox Church. Georgia also experienced the Russian “Ecclesiastical occupation” with its grave consequences and that is why it is especially compassionate towards its Ukrainian brothers. The Patriarchate of Constantinople enjoys a privilege to initiate the launching of the process of granting autocephaly to the Church of Ukraine. That is why the Catholicos-Patriarch of all Georgia Ilia II should appeal him openly for the convening the Pan-Orthodox Synod concerning the Ukrainian question. The Catholicos-Patriarch Ilia II may address the Orthodox Churches in Ukraine and offer an assistance of the Georgian Orthodox Church playing a role of an intermediary in the process of a dialogue among them. The Catholicos-Patriarch Ilia II may open the representation of his Church (Metochion) in Kiev. This is fully in accord with the canonical tradition of the Orthodox Church. There exist many such representations nowadays. The representation of the Georgian Orthodox Church in Kiev may be established at the Georgian Embassy in Ukraine. It may enjoy rights of canonical ex-territory that means it will be under direct jurisdiction of the Catholicos-Patriarch Ilia II. This representation may play an effective role especially when the idea of opening of the representation of the Georgian Orthodox Church is being supported by the great majority of the Ukrainian clergymen. Another positive effect of such steps taken by the Catholicos-Patriarch Ilia II will be an aggressive critique of the Georgian Church by the Moscow Patriarchate in Russian secular and Church press. This will show one more time the Georgian Orthodox clergy and faithful, still being pretty much influenced by the ideology of the Russian Orthodox Church, an imperial longings of the Moscow Patriarchate.
Chairmen of the Center for the study of religious issues
Archpriest Basil Kobakhidze, expert
Source: Centre for the study of religious issues