HIS HOLINESS PATRIARCH MAKES SPEECH AT ASSEMBLY OF PRIMATES OF LOCAL ORTHODOX CHURCHES
Press Service of the Russian Orthodox Church, 22 January 2016
On 22 January 2016, the Assembly of Primates of Local Orthodox Churches began in the Orthodox Center of the Constantinople patriarchate in Chambesy. His Holiness Patriarch of Moscow and all-Rus Kirill delivered an address to its participants.
At the start of his speech, His Holiness noted that each meeting of the primates of the Orthodox churches is an event having special significance. "It is a possibility for exchange of opinions, discussion of problems concerning us, and making consensual decisions on matters of general Orthodox significance. But first of all it is the opportunity to feel again our unity, particularly when we commune together from one cup, realizing that all of us are one body in Christ," His Holiness Patriarch Kirill noted, also expressing gratitude to His Holiness Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew, who acted as the initiator and organizer of this meeting.
Further in the speech, His Holiness touched on various aspects of the preparation for the Pan-Orthodox Council.
"Gathering together, we are clearly aware that our church is one and conciliar and that the maintenance and strengthening of its unity is a priority concern which lies at the base of our ministry. The Holy and Great Council is called to be the visible, clear, and convincing testimony to the unity of the Orthodox church, and we all understand that the council will be able to be so only if it reflects the genuine unanimity of the local Orthodox churches. For the sake of achieving such unanimity all of us must work fervently in the pre-conciliar period," the primate of the Russian church emphasized.
In this context, His Holiness Patriarch Kirill viewed with satisfaction that "concern about the absence of general Orthodox recognition of His Beatitude Metropolitan Rostislav, primate of the Orthodox Church of the Czech lands and Slovakia, which has frequently been expressed by both the Moscow patriarchate and other churches, had been heard, and His Beatitude today is present among us, having now received the necessary recognition of all local churches."
Speaking about problems hindering full-fledged unanimity among the local Orthodox churches, Patriarch Kirill expressed regret because of the disruption of communion between the patriarchates of Antioch and Jerusalem. His Holiness is convinced that its restoration is an urgent task in our days, when the whole world is following with alarm events in the Near East, since "it is from the religious communities of this region that people primarily expect an example of cohesion and readiness to overcome disagreement."
During his speech, His Holiness Patriarch Kirill elaborated on the church situation in Ukraine. "Now more than 30 churches of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church have been seized by force and at least another ten are under threat of attack by schismatics and nationalists, promoting the supposed voluntary transfer of believers into the so-called Kiev patriarchate," His Holiness reported. "In fact this is a genuine gangster, hostile takeover: they conduct a meeting of persons who have nothing to do with a parish, and then with the help of authorities they falsify charter documents and seize the church building by forces of militant nationalists, and the parish of the church along with its priest are cast out onto the street!"
The primate of the Russian church expressed profound sorrow because of the actions of several bishops of the Constantinople patriarchate, who have visited Ukraine and expressed their support for schismatics supposedly in the name of His Holiness the patriarch of Constantinople, and thereby they sow deception among Ukrainian believers and clergy.
It is impossible to imagine, Patriarch Kirill continued, that representatives of another confession could come into an Orthodox church in Switzerland, Greece, or another European country and "make the decision" that now this church will be used by them. "But this is now the reality in Ukraine. Those parishes of the canonical church who have been thrown out of their church buildings have won all court cases, but the schismatics and their semi-gangster armed formations ignore the courts' decisions," His Holiness noted sadly.
As an egregious example of the hatred of nationalists toward believer of the canonical church in Ukraine, Patriarch Kirill cited the situation in the village of Ptichia of Rovno province, emphasizing that adherents of the schism "sow evil and deliberately provoke interconfessional conflict and divide Ukrainian society."
"Quite recently one of their supporters publicly declared: if Metropolitan Onufrey has hitherto adhered to the canonical church, then it is only because an appropriate instrument of torture has not been found—a flat iron or a solder gun. It is horrible to imagine what would happen if these gangsters were to receive canonical legalization and influence in our midst," His Holiness Kirill declared.
His Holiness expressed gratitude to the fraternal local churches—particularly the churches of Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem, Serbia, Bulgaria, and Poland—for prayers and support of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. "His Holiness Patriarch of Serbia Irenaeus wrote to me quite accurately about the Ukrainian schismatics: these people belong to Orthodoxy in name only and their contempt for the norms of Christian morality and readiness to hate, lie, and shed blood is living testimony of this," the primate of the Russian church reported. "For such people there is only one path into the church—through repentance. We are asked why we do not want to unite with them and demand that we begin a dialogue that is hardly between equals. But what agreement can there be between Christ and Belial?"
"The Orthodox people of Ukraine, as before,
support the canonical church," His Holiness the patriarch
testified, describing the gathering of tens of thousands of
worshipers in a procession of the cross in Kiev on the day of
commemorating the Holy Equal-to-the-Apostles Prince Vladimir. "I
believe in the future of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church: its
believers are united in their condemnation of the schism and the
violence and evil only strengthens them in the achievement of love
and faith. . . ." (tr. by PDS, posted 25 January 2016)
[tr. note: On 25 January the Moscow patriarchate posted an English version of the article translated here. The paragraph that ends my translation is represented by a considerably longer variant, as follows:
‘The Orthodox people of Ukraine continue to support the canonical Church. Now the schismatics are frantically fabricating public opinion polls to prove their popularity in the country. However, many Ukrainian archpastors say that the number of people in churches of the canonical Church has grown. The recent procession with the cross held by our faithful in Kiev on the St. Vladimir Day brought together tens of thousands of people, whereas the similar event conducted by schismatics ended in a shameful fiasco. Few churches, which they have managed to grab from Orthodox communities, have become deserted while real Orthodox communities have not disintegrated but continue to worship in the most unfavourable conditions. I trust in the future of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church; her faithful are united in their condemnation of the schism and violence, and this evil only strengthens them in their feat of love and faith’. from Patriarchal Press Service]
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