Ukrainian Orthodox Church seeks recognition



The Bishops' Council (Sobor) of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kiev patriarchate (UPTsKP), scheduled to coincide with the celebration of the 50th anniversary of Patriarch Filaret's occupation of the Kiev see, was held on 13 May in the historic residence of the metropolitans of Kiev on the territory of the national preserve Kievan Sophia, a correspondent of reports.


The council approved the activity and decisions of the patriarch and Holy Synod of the KPTsKP in the inter-council period and also introduced changes into the charter of the church pertaining to the composition of the synod and the rights of the chancellor of the Kiev patriarchate (now this office is occupied by Archbishop of Vyshgorod Agapit).


At the suggestion of the patriarch, the following were elected to membership in the Supreme Church Council: Archpriests Mikhail Marusiak and Petr Landvitovich, and also Vladimir Bondarenko, Liliia Grigorovich, Alexander Gudima, Ivan Drach, Viacheslav Kirillenko, Pavel Movchan, Nikolai Porovsky, and Dmitry Stepovik.


The council adopted a statement "On several matters of the canonical position of the Kiev patriarchate and ways for overcoming church division," and an appeal to the Constantinople patriarchate for recognition of the autocephaly of a local church of Ukraine.


The bishops of the UPTsKP thanked the Ukrainian president and other officials for their assistance in the transfer of the church of Little Sophia for worship services of the Kiev patriarchate on the territory of the national preserve Kievan Sophia.


The council adopted a resolution that says: "In connection with the intensification of repressions and harassment conducted by the occupation authority in Crimea, in the name of the Kiev patriarchate to express support for the fraternal Crimean Tatar people, the Ukrainian community, and other persecuted residents of Crimea in their struggle for their own rights and resistance to the illegal actions of the Russian authorities."


The resolutions of the council are signed by 41 bishops, including 3 from Russia and one each from Crimea, Moldova, France, and Greece. (tr. by PDS, posted 14 May 2016)



of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kiev patriarchate


"Concerning several issues of the canonical position of the Kiev patriarchate and ways to overcome church division"


In development of views presented in the historical-canonical declaration "The Kiev Patriarchate is the local Ukrainian Orthodox Church" (2007), in the council message "On the local Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Kiev patriarchate" (2010), and in a number of other documents in which the view of the Kiev patriarchate on the main reasons for the division of the Ukrainian church is expressed:


consistently advocating the overcoming of the existing church division and the formation in Ukraine of a united local Orthodox church as autocephalous, that is, completely administratively independent of other church centers, with the patriarchal throne in Kiev;


wishing to explain its vision on several acute issues of the canonical situation of the Kiev patriarchate and ways of overcoming church division;


the Bishops' Council of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kiev patriarchate adopts this declaration.


1. The only solid grounds for overcoming the existing church division and for the formation in Ukraine of a united local Orthodox Church are the canons and historic traditions of Ecumenical Orthodoxy. Only strict adherence to these canons, historic traditions, and precedents can bring the process of church unification to a successful conclusion.


Canonical prerequisites for the existence in Ukraine of a united and autocephalous local Orthodox church are the uninterrupted history of more than 1,000 years of the activity of the Orthodox church in Ukrainian lands and the existence of a sufficient number of bishops, priests, and laity for an independent church life. These conditions include the existence of a separate Ukrainian nation that has its own sovereign state.


Apostolic canon #34 reads: "It befits the bishops of every nation to know the first among them and to recognize him as their head." The existence of the Ukrainian nation as distinct from other nations is obvious and therefore the Orthodox bishops of the Ukrainian nation should have their own first hierarch and not be subjected administratively to a first hierarch of bishops of another nation.


Rule 17 of the fourth and rule 38 of the sixth ecumenical councils say that "let the dispensation of church affairs follow the civil and territorial dispensations." This means that the existence of a separate sovereign Ukrainian state is another one of the indisputable canonical bases for the administrative independence (autocephaly) of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.


2. It should be noted that the canonical rules of the Orthodox church do not specify a concrete procedure for one or another church to acquire autocephalous status. There is not a single picture of this procedure among local Orthodox churches, and because of this the question of autocephaly and the means for its proclamation has been excluded from the list of topics for the work of the upcoming Pan-Orthodox Council.


The generally accepted rule of law is that issues that are not regulated by laws are decided on the basis of precedents and customs. Therefore we are convinced that the proclamation of the autocephaly of the Kiev patriarchate, which is the conciliar will of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, does not affect church canons. This is the way it was for almost all local churches, like the Kiev patriarchate, besides the ancient eastern patriarchates, whose autocephaly also developed historically and was only subsequently confirmed by the ecumenical councils.


3. Over the course of seven centuries, the Orthodox church in Ukraine existed as a metropolitanate of the Constantinople patriarchate. Gradually, to the extent of its own growth, this metropolitinate acquired all the broader rights of church independence. In the 17th century, before the illegal annexation on the part of the Moscow patriarchate, it independently conducted councils, selected and installed on the Kiev throne its own metropolitan, selected bishops independently, and conducted consecrations thereafter. In effect, at that time the Kiev metropolitanate already had all the signs of an autocephalous church. The only reason for the absence of formal autocephaly was that at the time Ukraine did not have its own political independence and its territory was divided among three neighboring countries.


It is an unconditionally proven historical fact that in 1685-86, by the will of the Moscow tsarist government, in violation of the canons, and by means of bribery, the Kiev metropolitanate was virtually torn away from the Constantinople mother church and annexed by the Moscow patriarchate. This incident has frequently been declared by both the Constantinople patriarchate and the Ukrainian church itself to be uncanonical and null and void.


In the 20th century, with the fall of the Russian monarchy and the proclamation of the independence of Ukraine, the possibility was opened of the rejection of the uncanonical subordination of the Ukrainian church to the Moscow patriarchate. However Ukraine's loss of its sovereignty and forced incorporation into membership in the Soviet Union and the totalitarian policy of the atheistic regime regarding the church made practically impossible the independent existence of an autocephalous church in Ukraine; it existed only among Ukrainians in the diaspora.


4. In the early 1990s, as a result of the weakening of pressure of the soviet regime, the restoration of the activity of an independent Ukrainian church in the motherland became possible. After the proclamation of political independence of Ukraine, a part of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which at that time was dependant upon the Moscow patriarchate, at its legal council on 1-3 November 1991 unanimously adopted the decision for complete canonical independence (autocephaly). At a Unification Local Council on 25-26 June 1992, the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church united, becoming the single Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kiev patriarchate.


5. Unfortunately, as the result of the conduct of the so-called Kharkov council, which was held in 1992 on orders from Moscow, under pressure and control of special services, a portion, which called itself the "Ukrainian Orthodox Church," seceded from the unity of the Orthodox Church in Ukraine.


This so-called council made its decision under external coercion, in gross and cynical violation of the canons and the charter of the UPTs. The religious organization, which was de facto newly formed at it, although it usurped the name "Ukrainian Orthodox Church," is not in essence Ukrainian but subordinate to Moscow and is not a church, because it does not have the canonically established status of autocephaly or autonomy. In reality it is an association of structures of the Moscow patriarchate, that is, the Russian Orthodox Church operating in Ukraine.


On the other hand, as a result of external influences, including those from Moscow, some bishops, priests and laity seceded from the unity of the Orthodox church in Ukraine in 1992-1993 and created an unauthorized grouping which acquired for itself the name of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church.


It also should be noted that there is also a number of other small religious organizations operating in our state that adhere to the Orthodox religious confession. However they are not as widespread as the two aforesaid and therefore their position is not mentioned in this statement.


6. Thus in our state now there is one really Ukrainian Orthodox Church operating and it is the Kiev patriarchate, which is the canonical and historical successor of the ancient Orthodox Kiev metropolitanate of the Constantinople patriarchate that existed until 1686. The Kiev patriarchate also is the true successor of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church that operated in Ukraine in various formations in the years from 1919 to 1992, as well as the Ukrainian Orthodox Church which for reasons of external necessity was subject to the Moscow patriarchate, but at its council of 1 to 3 November 1991 made the decision for complete autocephaly.


The religious organization that calls itself the Ukrainian Orthodox Church is a noncanonical artifact of the Moscow patriarchate in Ukraine, the fruit of the self-professed Kharkov pseudo-council of 1992 and the special services that organized and conducted it.


Religious societies in Ukraine that separated from the Kiev patriarchate in 1992-1993 and adopted for themselves the name "Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church" are a noncanonical formation and they fall under the definition of "unauthorized assembly" according to the first rule of the holy prelate Basil the Great.


All of this however does not in any wise mean that amidst the aforesaid religious organizations there are not bishops, priests, and laity who really yearn for the development of Orthodoxy in Ukraine and desire to overcome the existing church division and to form in Ukraine a united autocephalous local Orthodox church. On the contrary, we are convinced that a substantial number of bishops, more than half of the priests, and the overwhelming majority of Orthodox laity, who are still not united with the Kiev patriarchate, really are interested in church unification.


Unfortunately they are temporarily restrained from fellowship with us by the position of their own church leaderships, deceptive propaganda, and fear of punishment or other such circumstances. We hope that they all will find within themselves the strength to overcome these obstacles, and our fraternal embrace is always open to them.


7. Despite the gross canonical violations committed in the formation in 1992-1993 of religious organizations under the names of Ukrainian Orthodox Church and Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church, on the whole, Orthodox doctrine has not been lost within them and the reality of the sacraments they perform has not been violated. Therefore the Kiev patriarchate considers that the current situation now in the Orthodox church of Ukraine is a tragic division that needs to be overcome. Therefore we once again call the bishops, priests, and laity who adhere to both of the aforementioned communities to the restoration of church unity with the Kiev patriarchate as the true local Ukrainian Orthodox church under the omophorion of the only canonically elected primate, Patriarch of Kiev and all-Rus-Ukraine Filaret.


And we call our all-Ukrainian flock to patient work in explaining to brothers and sisters the truth about the Kiev patriarchate, and we warn against aggression or other actions that inflame hostility and delay the achievement of unity.


8. The uncanonical and illegal intervention of the Moscow patriarchate in the life of the Ukrainian church, which has occurred since the 17th century and up to the present, must be finally stopped. This is encouraged by the eighth rule of the third ecumenical council, which condemned the attempt of the Antioch church to intervene in the life of the Cypriot church and to subject it to its authority: "Let it be maintained that throughout the dioceses no one of the pious bishops extends his authority to another diocese that previously was not under his or his predecessors' hand, but if any one has violently taken and subjected some diocese, he shall return it so that the rules of the holy fathers will not be violated; let not the arrogance of secular authority be advanced under the guise of sacred office. And so that there not be gradual and unnoticed loss of the liberty which Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Deliverer of all people, has given us by his own Blood. Wherefore this holy and ecumenical council has decreed that every diocese maintain the purity and without harassment the rights belonging to it from the beginning and which have long been established. . . . If anyone proposes a resolution contrary to what is here determined and decreed by this holy and ecumenical council, may it be null and void."


9. Having a basis in this and other previously mentioned rules and proceeding from the conciliar decisions of the Ukrainian church and taking into account numerous prior historical precedents, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kiev patriarchate considers and determines itself to be the genuine and fully canonical local Orthodox church in Ukraine. Rejecting any encroachments of the Moscow patriarchate of a special role or authority regarding the Ukrainian church, the Kiev patriarchate recognizes only the Constantinople patriarchate as its mother church, and it awaits from it recognition of the historically established and canonically based autocephaly of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.


The models for such recognition are the local churches that previously were within the Constantinople patriarchate but now are autocephalous: the Bulgarian, Serbian, Greek, Romanian, Albanian, Czech, Slovak, and especially the Polish Orthodox churches. The Polish church has its roots in the Kiev metropolitanate and on that basis it received recognition of its own autocephaly from the ecumenical patriarch in 1924.


10. As regards the status of a patriarchate for the Ukrainian church, we consider that it is just such a status for our local church that is absolutely justified, historically based, and pastorally justified. After all, it has one of the largest number of believers, clergy, and bishops among the other Orthodox churches, it has historical roots in the preaching of the holy apostle Andrew the First-called, and in external conditions and internal capacities it in no way lags behind the Bulgarian, Georgian, Russian, Romanian, and Serbian patriarchates.


However, taking into account all circumstances, our church is ready, if it is required, to postpone for a time our request for recognition of the dignity of a patriarchate, keeping this name within its own limits and for internal consumption.


11. We do not see any impediments to church unification in the fact that now hierarchs of the Kiev patriarchate and hierarchs of other Orthodox jurisdictions receive identical titles and operate in the same administrative territory. Actually according to canonical rules there should be only one bishop in a single city. The purpose of this is to avoid dual subordination of religious parishes and clerics, who should have only one ruling bishop.


But contemporary practice shows that the majority of local [i.e., national—tr.] churches adhere not so much to the letter as to the spirit of this rule, especially in the diaspora.


Now each bishop—both of the Kiev patriarchate and of the two other Orthodox jurisdictions—has respective parishes in his administration so as to not have one parish subordinate to two bishops. The Savior teaches us: "The Sabbath is for man and not man for the Sabbath" (Mk. 2.27). We consider that for the achievement of unity and maintenance of church peace even after unification each bishop will subsequently head the diocese which will comprise the same parishes which hitherto were subordinate to him and will retain the title he had at the time of unification. And in the future, over the course of several decades, an ordinary gradual process of church life will lead to a rectification of territorial boundaries of dioceses in accordance with the traditional canonical procedure.


12. We conclude with regret that the sincere attempts of our church over the course of the past two years to revive a dialogue over unification with the leaders of the other two Orthodox jurisdictions have not been crowned with success. These newly elected leaders have completely refused to conduct a constructive dialogue with the UPTsKP, taking a path of self-isolation and increasing hostility against the Kiev patriarchate.


Despite such a position of the current leaders of said religious organizations, we are sure that the achievement of the goal—the formation in Ukraine of a united Orthodox church—is inevitable and imminent. Because only the path of unity and autocephaly for the UPTs is canonically correct, pastorally appropriate, and historically proper. And with God's help, by the efforts of all Orthodox bishops, clergy, and laity in Ukraine who are interested in the development of Orthodoxy in our country and with the blessing of the mother church of Constantinople, this path will be successfully taken.


The Bishops' Council of the Kiev patriarchate calls the whole Ukrainian flock and all who care for the fate of Ukrainian Orthodoxy to pray for church unity and to work together for its rapid achievement. May the Risen Lord bless this good work and crown it with success in the near future.  (tr. by PDS, posted 15 May 2016)


Ukrainian original posted on website of UPTsKP, 13 May 2016

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