By Yaroslav Nivkin, Union of Orthodox Journalists
On August 28, many media outlets spread the news of the OCU’s recognition by the Greek Church. Though it appeared fake, its hierarchs still should make a choice.
At the end of August 2019, the information space of Ukraine was stirred up by the news that the Church of Greece had ostensibly recognized the OCU.
The “patriotic” religious and secular resources spread the news that recognition had already taken place and that the matter depended on the usual procedural formalities.
Moreover, just recently the recognition of the OCU by the Hellas Church as a fait accompli was announced by Patriarch Bartholomew: “The first Church to recognize the Local Church of Ukraine will be our sister-church – the Greek Orthodox Church.”
Well, did the Church of Greece recognize the OCU?
Let’s take a look at the press release of the decision of its Synod dated August 28, 2019, which regards the “Ukrainian issue”.
A small penultimate paragraph is devoted to the “Ukrainian issue” in the press release: “After the reports of the Synodal Committees on dogmatic and legal issues and inter-Orthodox and inter-Christian relations on the Ukrainian issue, the Permanent Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church of Greece recognizes the canonical right of the Ecumenical Patriarch to grant Autocephaly as well as the privilege of the Primate of the Church of Greece to further resolve the issue of recognition of the Church of Ukraine.”
The recognition of the OCU by the Greek Church is not mentioned anywhere. It only speaks of Phanar’s right to grant autocephaly and the fact that the members of the Synod entrusted the Primate of the Church of Greece, His Beatitude Ieronymos, with the power to delegate autocephaly. The latter, in turn, refused such a right and proposed to resolve the “Ukrainian issue” at the Council of Bishops in October, where there will be the plentitude of the Church – about 80 hierarchs.
The fact that the Greek hierarchs think in pro-Phanar categories is refuted by the phrase at the Synod said by one of the hierarchs of the Church of Greece about the members of the OCU: “Here we have a special case with non-ordained schismatics who were also excommunicated.”
The Church of Greece is now facing a very difficult situation, because of the authority of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, the Hellenistic solidarity, and the crushing power of the US Department of State, which does not hesitate to lobby the interests of the OCU at all levels.
Whether the Greek hierarchs will succumb under such powerful pressure or not is unknown. But it is necessary to imagine what will happen in the Orthodox World if someone recognizes the OCU as a Church.
To begin with, let’s recall what the Church is.
As you know from the words of the Savior, the Church is His Body. The Body that cannot be divided, multiplied or duplicated. All sorts of Christian denominations and faiths eventuated from successive schisms are not the Church of Christ, although they call themselves so.
There is only one Church in the world – and this is the Orthodox Church. Its division into Local units is conditional and necessary for the convenience of administrative management. The Church in Georgia, Turkey, Russia, Ukraine, Australia, Africa and so on is one single Church, the Body of Christ.
Therefore, the canonical ecclesiastic rules that preserve this unity are extremely important. One of them is “one city – one bishop” rule, which arose at the first Ecumenical Council. Its essence is that any territory can be the jurisdiction of one bishop only. Speaking in modern terms, only one Local Church with one Primate can act in one country. There cannot be two, three, ten or fifteen. True though, there are exceptions, mainly in the countries where the emigrant population predominates, but they should also be resolved by the Church with time.
In contemporary Ukraine, the Church has existed for over a thousand years. At first it was part of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, then of Russia. Currently, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church has the status of broad autonomy. But there has always been one Church on our land as a part of One Church of Christ.
The Ukrainian Orthodox Church is recognized by absolutely all World Orthodoxy. Its Primate and hierarchy are recognized by all Local Churches. They have communion with them, serve with them.
With the creation by Phanar of the OCU, nothing has changed about the position of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the Orthodox World. Delegations from 11 Local Churches arrived at the St. Patron’s Day feast of His Beatitude Onuphry. The bishops on behalf of their Primate congratulated the Kiev Metropolitan and concelebrated together.
And now, let’s presume the Greek hierarchs were pressed so that they recognized the OCU as a Church. What happens then? According to the “one city – one bishop” rule and the primary logic, whereby there cannot be two Churches in the same territory, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church simply disappears for the Greek bishops. Its place is taken by the OCU.
Where, in this case, will many thousands of priests and communities of the UOC vanish and what will millions of its believers become?
Of course, we can say like they say that from now on the real Ukrainian Church is the OCU, while the UOC is not at all Ukrainian, but Russian. But even this lie from the point of view of ecclesiology does not change anything. Whatever the name of the Church – Ukrainian, Russian, Greek or Bulgarian – all this does not matter in the context of the fact that it is a real canonical Church, part of the One Church of Christ.
The Ukrainian Orthodox Church has more than one hundred bishops, 12 and a half thousand parishes, hundreds of monasteries and millions of believers. They are here, they exist, they have not vanished into the thin air.
Constantinople after the formation of the OCU created for itself a virtual reality in which the canonical Church in Ukraine is the OCU, while the Ukrainian Orthodox Church disappeared, evaporated for the hierarchs of Phanar.
If the Greek Church recognizes the OCU, then it will have to join the same fictitious virtual world.
Of course, one can refuse reality and convince everyone of their rightness, but not for long. People usually trust their eyes more than others’ words.
And here an amazing harmony can be traced between the actions of the Phanar hierarchs and their protégé from the OCU. The words of these people shape one reality, but in objective reality it is completely different.
Epiphany Dumenko loves to pronounce texts about love for the believers of the UOC, absolute voluntariness and the complete absence of conflicts during the “transitions” of communities to the OCU. But dozens of documentary records and video footage, where parishioners of the canonical Church, defending their temples, suffer punches and kicks from the “loving brothers” from the OCU, completely refute the words of Mr. Dumenko.
When we hear a person saying one thing, but see with our own eyes something completely different, we have no other choice but to admit that this person is telling a lie.
The legalization of the Ukrainian schismatics and the creation of the OCU led to an explosion of persecution against the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. Members of the OCU have seized hundreds of UOC temples, a number of priests and parishioners were affected and wronged.
There is no doubt that the recognition of this structure as a Church by anyone else than Phanar will bring to the Orthodox World not love and prosperity, but rather conflicts and separation for many years, maybe, even forever. Just a split will cross the borders of Ukraine and spread to the entire Orthodoxy.
Will all of this benefit the One Church of Christ; will it help its believers in the work of saving their souls: in Ukraine, Greece, or any other place? Hardly.