Ukrainian Orthodox dissident speaks out


Religiia v Ukraine, 12 January 2016


Archpriest Georgy Kovalenko, who until recently was the spokesman for the UPTsMP, continues to stay in the mainstream of public opinion of Ukraine, expressing his judgment on burning issues of church and civil life, a correspondent for the portal Religiia v Ukraine reports.


In a recent interview for the website of the Ukrainian Institute of Strategies for Global Development and Adaptation the priest dwelt on the doctrine of the Russian World which is systematically proclaimed by Patriarch Kirill.


"Regarding this doctrine, I expressed my position back in early 2010 and I have repeated it many times. We should not give up our birthright. That is, we should have our own conception of the Russian World ("Russian" in the Ukrainian language means "related to the time of Rus or to the population of Rus . . . or to their heirs, the Ukrainians"—ed.) because Rus is Kievan and it should not be renounced. We should understand our own tradition through discussion of this topic and build the World of Rus, which would be at the same time the world of modern Ukraine because we are the heirs of Kievan Rus. And we should not surrender our own history and worldview to anybody. 'Kiev is the mother of Russian cities,' the chronicle says. We also should develop this Kiev model and the Kievan tradition and conception," Archpriest Georgy Kovalenko said. "And with respect to the Moscow 'Russian World,' I am no specialist in this question and I never have been an adherent of this conception, the consequences of which we now see in the same Donbass where the 'Russian Orthodox Army' was created. This does not have anything to do with Orthodoxy or Christianity. And unfortunately we can hear statements about this only from Ukraine because I have not heard that anybody in Russia has condemned the very existence of such an armed formation in the Donbass."


To the question of whether it turns out that the doctrine of the Moscow Russian World will negate the possibility of the existence not only of the Russian World, which derives its history from Kievan Rus, but even of the possibility of the existence of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, the priest answered: "Back when His Beatitude Metropolitan Vladimir was alive, the phrase 'Russian World' never was uttered by his lips, or anything like it. He was not a bearer of the Kievan idea. And incidentally even in certain scientific texts this is reflected. Therefore insofar as I am acquainted with this conception, I see that it is a certain ideological and political construct in which religion, unfortunately, is being used not in its proper sense but in order to be a cover, flag, or banner for imperial or other political ideologies. In the end the Russian World concept may lead to what happened, for example, in Syria with the Islamic State."


Also at the time of the interview Fr Georgy Kovalenko agreed that hierarchs may be criticized for certain political views because "this is a question of conversation about politics and not a conversation about theology." The main thing is that politics not dominate in the church: "During the time of His Beatitude Metropolitan Vladimir, the so-called political Orthodoxy—the attempt to use Christian rhetoric and symbols for achieving political goals—was officially condemned at the level of the church. Blessings also were rescinded from several organizations which were bearers of this ideology. It seems strange, but back in 2007 one of the organizations was called 'the People's Patriotic Union of Novorossiia.' That is, the church saw the danger in all these things earlier. What it will be today is difficult for me to say."


He recalled that in the time of the Revolution of Dignity in Kiev, the religious community of the country acted in the role of peacemaker and mediator (apparently he has in mind the common position of the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations—ed.) and he expressed regret that in the current situation (the annexation of Crimea and war in the Donbass) the same religious community "cannot fulfill this mediating function since it is not authoritative for all sides of the conflict."


Responding to the question about the conduct of the new primate of the UPTsMP, Metropolitan Onufrey, when he did not stand at the time of honoring the memory of fallen heroes of the ATO in parliament and also spoke coarsely about the victims of Golodomor, Archpriest Georgy Kovalenko said: "In the first place, if I had at the time been in the Verkhovna Rada, I would have stood and this also would have been the action of a man from the UPTs. Second, if one speaks about the Golodomor, then His Beatitude Metropolitan Vladimir called it genocide even long before Yushchenko came to power. We published a book, The Fast from the Devil, where in the preface His Beatitude called the Golodomor genocide. And this was not a political statement; it was a definite attitude."


The ex-spokesman of the UPTs justified Metropolitan Onufrey's conduct by the fact that "he was elected recently and he has his own vision and education. The course of affairs will run and I can suggest to sincerely pray that his decision will not cause waves and disturbances either outside the churchyard or inside the church."  (tr. by PDS, posted 30 January 2016)

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