Head of Ukrainian church rejects convening council


RISU, 10 May 2019


In light of recent events within the PTsU connected with rumors that Honorary Patriarch Filaret wants to convene a local council in early summer in order to change the PTsU charter and return patriarchal status to himself, the head of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (PTsU), Metropolitan Epifany, gave an interview to Levyi Bereg. The metropolitan maintains that on his part he is doing everything possible so that there will be good relations between Honorary Patriarch Filaret and himself, and he adds that it is now inappropriate to talk about changes in the PTsU charter.


"Indeed the opinions are being expressed to the effect that a council will be convened for changes in the charter, but these do not correspond to reality, inasmuch as the right to convene a council belongs to the primate, the Holy Synod, or the Bishops' Council. Only a local council has the right to change the charter. And in order to convene it, it is necessary to go through the specified procedure. The mechanism is the following: the primate make the suggestion to the Holy Synod; if the synod supports it, then the Bishops' Council considers it next and issues certain prepared questions for consideration by the local council. Therefore it is inappropriate to talk now about changes of the charter. Why? We received the tomos, and the charter was adopted at the unification council, by which it is now guided and which was legally approved by the state. It is obvious that, with the passage of time, in the future, certain changes will be introduced into the charter and some things will be delineated in more detail—which have not yet been finalized—about the life of parishes, monasteries, and dioceses. This does not contradict in general what is prescribed in the tomos and any fundamental changes are not foreseen," Metropolitan Epifany notes.


Metropolitan Epifany says that changes that contradict the tomos—for example, rotation of members of the synod and return of the Kiev patriarchate—are dangerous, because "we might lose our ecclesiastical independence, which is clearly prescribed in the document having the title of 'tomos.'"


Metropolitan Epifany notes that there is now no need for a local council. The Bishops' Council should be convened annually, and a local council will be convened only in the case of real necessity.


"We are not refusing to hold local councils. They will be held regularly in the future, since it is necessary for the life of the local Orthodox church. But at the present time we do not see such a need. Legal mechanisms for holding a local council without the consent of the primate, without the Holy Synod and the Bishops' Council, do not exist. Otherwise this would mean schism.


"We are legally within the united Orthodox church and we should be guided by that charter that was adopted at the unification council and which was confirmed by the tomos, which was legally registered by order of the Ministry of Culture. The tomos and charter are inextricable connected with one another. If changes were introduced into the charter, which contradict the norms of the tomos, it might be halted or withdrawn. That is a risk! That is the path to nowhere and a return to isolation. Moreover, whereas earlier there was a confrontation with the Moscow patriarchate and we placed our hope on the ecumenical patriarch and appealed to him for help and appealed for considering the bans of Moscow to be invalidated, then if we take the path of return to the past, we will be in conflict with the ecumenical patriarchate. Then there would be division within the church itself, because I am sure that not everyone will want to destroy what was built by such efforts. There will be confrontation, isolation, disillusionment, and distress in society. All this will have disastrous consequences for the church and for Ukraine, as we saw in the past in our history when divisions occurred. This should be prevented and not permitted. In communicating with bishops, I see unanimity in the path we are taking, which is leading us to development. If we talk about a return, nobody will agree with this," the metropolitan noted.


We add that the ecumenical patriarchate does not deny that in the future the Ukrainian church will have the status of a patriarchate. But first it is necessary to unite the Orthodox of Ukraine around the Kievan see, that is, the Orthodox Church of Ukraine. (tr. by PDS, posted 10 May 2019)

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