UKRAINIAN AUTOCEPHALY: A CALL TO UNITY OR THE DESTRUCTION OF THE UNITY OF THE CHURCH?
Protopresbyter Anastasios Gotsopoulos
This report of Protopresbyter Anastasios Gotsopoulos was supposed to be delivered at the Diakideios School of the People1 in Patras on Wednesday, January 8, 2020—but his speech was canceled. Reportedly, this happened after the interference of certain highly positioned individuals. We publish here a translation of the report with minor redactions.
Dedicated to the Ever-Memorable Father George Metallinos
To start out, I will ask you one question. A new priest comes to the parish. The first impression of him is the most favorable: He is highly educated, and has excellent connections and acquaintances with professors, archbishops, and even Patriarchs. You decide to invite him into the house, and entrust him with a matter of the greatest importance: that he perform the sacrament of the Unction, and confess your father, who, despite his advanced years, has never confessed before.
But when you speak with this priest, you experience a real shock, because you find out that he does not possess the grace of the priesthood, since he received “ordination” from a pseudo-bishop named Victor, with an extremely murky past. At first, this Victor (a.k.a Viktor Chekalin, Vincent Berg, Vikenty) was a deacon in the canonical Orthodox Church, but was cast out of the clerical rank, because he was convicted and imprisoned for pedophilia. After leaving prison, he joined a schismatic group, to which he introduced himself as a bishop, although he was not ordained—never by anyone—even as a priest, and began to ordain others as “priests” and “bishops”.
He then later left the schismatic group and became a bishop with the Uniates. However, they found out that he was completely un-ordained, and drove him away. The Pope even punished the Uniate archbishop for accepting him. Subsequently, the pseudo-bishop Victor became a Protestant—an Anglican pastor. In the end, after his “church” career, he ended up in Australia, where he posed as a “psychiatrist of the secret school of the KGB”! However, he was soon arrested and sentenced to 4 years and 3 months in prison for fraud and falsification of documents, because he presented himself as a psychiatrist with fake diplomas.
If you really knew that your new parish priest, educated and such, but was in essence, not ordained, because he was consecrated by Victor, a charlatan and a fraud, would you allow him to confess your elderly father? Would you take a blessing from him? Would you have him baptize your child? Would you go to a Divine Liturgy performed by him? Would you take communion from the un-ordained?
You’d tell me that this wouldn’t happen, and that it’s a figment of my imagination. Unfortunately, my dear brothers and sisters, all that I have presented to you is a reality; it’s true, down to the smallest detail.
This is exactly what happened in the new autocephalous church, created last year by the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Ukraine. A whole series of “bishops” have no trace of apostolic succession, because their consecration comes from a pseudo-bishop, a charlatan, a child rapist, a Uniate, an Anglican pastor, a self-proclaimed KGB psychiatrist, and now Victor Chekalin, convicted of fraud and falsification of documents! They were recognized—yes, dear friends—these people were recognized as canonical bishops, and honored with the highest ecclesiastical status—autocephaly—by our Ecumenical Patriarchate; unfortunately, they were also recognized by the Greek Church and the Patriarchate of Alexandria!
That is why, my dears, we are afflicted, we suffer and cry from pain, because, despite our many sins, we do not want to serve under the authority of pseudo-bishops, the un-ordained charlatans. Christ condescends to ensure that we sinners serve at His altar, but I think that He will not tolerate the un-ordained to pose as bishops, and deceive His people. Christ allows even the most sinful priest and bishop to celebrate the Divine Eucharist, and the offering they make—bread and wine—is transubstantiated into His Body and Blood by the Holy Spirit!
Yet for the sacrament to be performed by the un-ordained, this can never happen! The un-ordained cannot perform any real sacrament. They deceive and mock the people of God! Ultimately, it is unacceptable, that a handful of un-ordained schismatics without apostolic succession, defile (not the Church, which always remains holy and immaculate), but the Orthodox Episcopate of the Ecumenical Church.
We declare this publicly—and we will continue to do it, no matter what the local and foreign pundits say, voicing someone else’s opinion and repeating it like parrots.
We are not Russophiles, we are not following the instructions of Russian centers, we are not receiving rubles, we have not become traitors to Hellenism.
These slanderous characterizations do not hurt us, and we return them to those who utter them… These ad hominem labels that they hang on us only strengthen our conviction that we are not mistaken in the matter of Ukrainian autocephaly. If they had any real theological counterarguments, they would not have resorted to use slander against us. Or perhaps someone has actually heard any serious theological objections from them?
Our Lord, shortly before His death on the Cross, in His High Priestly Prayer2 paid special attention to the unity of the members of the Church. And in the future, the apostles, the holy fathers of the Church and all of our Church Tradition, as the apple of our eye, preserved the unity of our Church in truth.
In this context, a whole canonical tradition has been formed, in connection with which church institutions do not operate autonomously, on their own, but have a definite purpose: unity and communion in truth between members of the Church and between Local Churches.
The same applies to the institution of autocephaly. It also serves church unity. In briefly defining the concept of autocephaly, we can say that it has two dimensions: (a) the local level and (b) the pan-Orthodox level.
- At the local level, it manifests itself in the fullness of the canonical jurisdiction of a Local Church, without any dependence on another church center; therefore, in order to provide autocephaly, the consent of the Mother Church (from which the new Church is to be separated) is required;
- at the pan-Orthodox level, it manifests itself through the direct communion of the autocephalous Church with the family of Orthodox Local Churches, and therefore pan-Orthodox consent is required for the provision of autocephaly.
That is to say, the process of obtaining autocephaly ends with the entry of the new Church into fellowship with the other Local Churches, in the status of an equal sister church. This moment is of key importance, because it concerns the unity of the universal Orthodox Church, and not simply one part of it. Therefore, as an insufficient, flawed jurisdiction does not imply autocephaly, so an autocephaly which challenges the pan-Orthodox ecumenical (universal) unity of the Orthodox Church, is truly “malcephaly”.
On the serious issue of granting autocephaly to Ukraine, three fundamental questions were raised; among other things, the conclusion on the canonicity or non-canonicity of this Ukrainian autocephaly depends on the study of them:
- Is Ukraine canonically subordinate to the Ecumenical Patriarchate or the Moscow Patriarchate?
- Does the Ecumenical Patriarchate have the right to grant autocephaly [in this case—Trans.]?
- Who was/would be given autocephaly?
1. Is Ukraine subordinate to the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Throne?
Kiev Caves Lavra
The question of whether the Church of Ukraine is subordinate to the Ecumenical Patriarchate is of key importance, because otherwise, the Ecumenical Patriarchate has no canonical right to intervene in the jurisdiction of another Local Church. Otherwise, he commits serious canonical crimes (the invasion of a different jurisdiction, etc.), which is condemned by many holy canons (The 2nd Canon of the Second Ecumenical Council, 8th Canon of the Third Ecumenical Council, 39th Canon of the Quinisext [Fifth-Sixth] Ecumenical Council [in Trullo], 13th and 22nd Canons of the Council of Antioch, 3rd Canon of the Sardinian Council, etc.) as well as all the precedent of the Holy Tradition of the Orthodox Church.
Of course, initially—after the Baptism of the Russians in Kiev, on the Dnieper River, in 998—the territory of what is now Ukraine, or the “Kievan Metropolia”, or the so-called “Little Russia—Malorossia”, like all of Rus’, was subject to the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
Later, in the 17th century, Patriarch Dionysius IV, at the request of the Russian rulers, and following the principle of respect for the unity of the peoples of Rus’, which all Orthodox Patriarchs of Constantinople adhered to, transferred Ukraine to the jurisdiction of the Russian Orthodox Church. It should be noted that the first Patriarchs of Constantinople who tried to destroy the church unity of Little and Great Russia were Latin-minded Patriarchs, John Kalekas and Gregory Mammas in the XIV – XV centuries. And now we’ve come to this end in the XXI century…
As we have shown in our recent work, according to official data, documents and publications, including even from the Ecumenical Patriarchate itself, published by its own “Patriarchal Printing House” in Constantinople, according to studies by representatives of the leadership and members of the Ecumenical Patriarchate (archivists of the Ecumenical throne such as Archbishop Kallinikos Delikanis, Archpriest Theodoros Zisis, Vasilios Stavridis, Vlasios Pheidas,3 G. Larentzakis), as well as according to officially stated theses of the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, (in letters and speeches), it follows that in the ecclesiastical-canonical consciousness of the Ecumenical Throne during the last three and a half centuries, until 2018, Ukraine was not considered its canonical territory.
They explicitly and officially recognized that it belongs to the canonical jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate, which had full canonical jurisdiction in all aspects of church life.
At the same time, the inhabitants of Ukraine themselves were actively a part of all the manifestations of the church life of the Moscow Patriarchate (parish life, [being] persecuted for their faith, monasticism, theological research, leadership).
And, finally, the most important point: The fact that the Ukrainian Church is subordinate to the Moscow Patriarchate was unambiguously resolved in the pan-Orthodox consciousness. Without exception, all Local Autocephalous Orthodox Churches and Patriarchates recognize that the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which has the status of broad and wide autonomy,4 is subject to the canonical jurisdiction of Moscow. Without exception, all Churches consider the only canonical Metropolitan of Kiev to be His Beatitude Onuphry. Only with him and with his Synod did all Orthodox Churches communicate in inter-Orthodox and pan-Orthodox services and in various commissions. Such unanimity expresses the pan-Orthodox ecumenical consciousness of the Orthodox Church, which no one can neglect without serious consequences.
Let’s not forget: When on July 26–28, 2013 a large delegation of clergy, led by our Most Reverend Hierarch, brought the cross of the Holy Apostle Andrew the First-Called from our city of Patras to Kiev, whom did they commemorate? The Ecumenical Patriarch? Of course not! They commemorated the Patriarch of Moscow, Kirill, because Ukraine is subordinate to the Moscow Patriarchate, and the Patriarchal Church, like all Orthodoxy, recognized His Beatitude Met. Onuphry as the only canonical Metropolitan of Kiev and all Ukraine!
For three and a half centuries, this unanimous, continuous, and indispensable experience of the life of the Church has formed, what canonical tradition calls, “church custom or canonical president,”5 which is respected along with canon law and, therefore, applies even in matters relating to canonical jurisdiction. For example, the autocephaly of the Cypriot Orthodox Church is based on this ecclesiastical precedent, which was approved by the Third Ecumenical Council in its 8th Canon.
In any case, both the removal of East Illyria (Illyricum orientale—Crete, Achaia, Thessaly, Epirus, Albania, and Macedonia) from the jurisdiction of the Roman Patriarchate, and its submission to the Patriarchate of Constantinople, did not occur on the basis of the proclamation of a Tomos, as was customary, but on the basis of this church custom. Eastern Illyria until 731, was canonically subordinate to the jurisdiction of the Roman Patriarchate which was then Orthodox. In 731, the iconoclast emperor Leo III the Isaurian, despite the sharp objections of the Orthodox Pope Gregory III,6 separated Eastern Illyria by imperial decision, and subjugated it to the Patriarchate of Constantinople, in order to punish the Pope, who was Orthodox, and did not agree with him on the matter the destruction of Holy Icons!
Consequently, while Eastern Illyria was subject to Constantinople by ecclesiastical precedent, despite the fact that there was no church act (“tomos”) transferring jurisdiction over it from Rome, then the Kievan Metropolia is subordinate to the Moscow Patriarchate as there was a patriarchal and synodal decision in 1686, which was adopted by the church consciousness both in Constantinople, and at the pan-Orthodox level, thereby establishing a canonical, ecclesiastical precedent for 332 consecutive years.
Consequently, the Ecumenical Patriarchate, honoring the ecclesiastical canonical order, had no right to intervene in the affairs of Ukraine, without the consent of the head of the Russian Orthodox Church. Only the Ecumenical or Pan-Orthodox Council could authorize the Ecumenical Patriarch to intervene. However, exactly the opposite was happening: all the Orthodox Churches urged him not to intervene.
By what canon law does he neglect this pan-Orthodox consciousness and precedent, expressed “multilaterally and diversely”?
Under what canon law does the Ecumenical Patriarch place himself above pan-Orthodox consciousness?
2. Does the Ecumenical Patriarchate have the right to grant autocephaly this way?
In order to avoid misunderstandings and misinterpretations, it is necessary to clarify the following:
- Of course, the Ecumenical Patriarch has the right to grant autocephaly, but on certain conditions!
- Of course, the Ukrainian Church has the right to autocephaly, but, again, on certain conditions.
Everything in the Orthodox Church occurs subject to the conditions established by Church Tradition and canonical order. The same applies to the provision of autocephaly.
In the case of Ukraine, the basic conditions put forward by ecclesiastical tradition and order were not met. Unfortunately, the Ecumenical Patriarchate not only did not fulfill these conditions, but also contradicted itself! For decades, at Pan-Orthodox meetings, he declared and strongly supported one position, but later in Ukraine he did exactly the opposite.
All Pan-Orthodox conferences, all historians and canonists who collaborate with the Ecumenical Patriarchate and occupy leading positions in it, and even the Ecumenical throne until April 2018, unanimously proclaimed that church tradition and the procedure for proclaiming autocephaly of a particular Church imply a number of conditions, which were summarized from the official rostrum of the Inter-Orthodox Preparatory Commission (Geneva, December 9–17, 2009) via its chairman, the representative of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, Metropolitan John of Pergamon (Zizioulas):
“Since the Ecumenical Patriarch is concerned for the consensus of the Local Autocephalous Orthodox Churches, then, having received a document confirming their consent, he can sign a Patriarchal Tomos on his own… If the Ecumenical Patriarch alone signs a tomos of autocephaly, this does not detract from the pan-Orthodox consent, because, according to what has been resolved, it required that the consent of all the Primates be given in advance; of course, including the Primate of the Mother Church… The Ecumenical Patriarch fulfills a coordinating function and can express the opinion of all Orthodoxy. And he does this after the deliberation and discussion with the other Primates. This has nothing to do with Papal Primacy. A Pope expresses his own opinion without asking others. The Ecumenical Patriarch seeks to enlist the opinions of others, and expresses that opinion.”
This was said by Metropolitan of Pergamon John Zizioulas as a representative of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and chairman of the Inter-Orthodox Commission!
Unfortunately, none of the above was observed in the case of Ukraine. Obviously, not one of the conditions that the Ecumenical Patriarchate itself recognized as elements of church tradition and canonical order was fulfilled:
- No petition was filed from the Church itself, requesting autocephaly—the canonical autonomous Ukrainian Orthodox Church, recognized by the pan-Orthodox Church consciousness and the Ecumenical Patriarchate itself, which has 53 dioceses, 90 bishops, 12,000 parishes with priests, 250 holy monasteries, 5,000 monks and nuns, did not ask for it, but on the contrary, categorically refused autocephaly, and did not participate in this process. Moreover, about 400 thousand signatures of Ukrainian citizens refusing autocephaly were collected and sent to the Ecumenical Patriarchate!
- The necessary consent was not obtained from the Mother Church, from which a Church asking for autocephaly would be separated; to the contrary, the Mother Church was categorically against the provision of autocephaly.
- There was no communal, conciliar discussion with other Churches, and, above all, not a single Local Orthodox Church advocated the provision of autocephaly. The pressure exerted by America on the Local Churches in favor of recognizing autocephaly does not honor all those who planned the provision of Ukrainian autocephaly and participated in it. This is a shame for the Orthodox Church and its pastors.
- Thus, the Ecumenical Patriarch in the case of Ukraine acted not as a proponent of pan-Orthodox consent and consensus, but in the exact opposite way.
Unfortunately, we are bitterly convinced that the Ecumenical Patriarchate neglected the cry for help from the canonical Church and the Ukrainian people, neglected the opinion of the Mother Church, as well as the unanimous refusal of all Orthodox Churches—and listened to whom? To two Ukrainian groups: a) the political leadership of Ukraine, headed by then-President Poroshenko (who received only 17 percent support in the new elections!) And the speaker of the Verkhovna Rada, which are both Uniates, and b) two groups which erupted from the ranks of excommunicated and self-ordained pseudo-clergy. These pseudo-clergy created schismatic organizations, which, despite state and other support and assistance, found little response from the people.7
There is disregard for Church Tradition and the canonical order in the granting of Ukrainian autocephaly.
Is it possible for autocephaly based on such a foundation to bear spiritual fruit and prosperity? Obviously, it will only create problems.
3. Who was granted autocephaly?
If in the previous two paragraphs, we considered the neglect of Church Tradition and the canonical order, as well as serious canonical violations, the situation is significantly exacerbated if we consider who was granted autocephaly!
Here we are dealing with a disregard for the innermost essence of the Christian priesthood, for the very sacrament of the transmission of divine grace, through the continuous apostolic succession possessed by Orthodox bishops. In fact, we were faced with a violation not of just one church canon, but of the dogmatic teaching of the Church on the priesthood, which is continuously transmitted from the apostles to our days.
In an unprecedented and unheard-of act, the Ecumenical Patriarchate recognized and restored in the rank of bishop:
- Philaret Denisenko, the defrocked and anathematized former bishop of the Russian Orthodox Church. Philaret’s eruption and anathematization was recognized and accepted without objection for 26 years by the pan-Orthodox church consciousness, including the Patriarchate of Constantinople.8 At the same time, Philaret, right after being defrocked in June 1992, exercised his right of appeal [ἔκκλητος—Trans.] and applied to the Ecumenical Patriarchate, which sent a delegation to Moscow to study the circumstances of his defrocking. The appeal of Philaret was rejected, and Patriarch Bartholomew in August 1992, in his letter to the Patriarch of Moscow, recognized the defrocking of Philaret as consistent with the canons.9
- Makary Maletich, who actually was never defrocked as a bishop…because he never received canonical ordination as bishop! In fact, Makary is completely un-ordained as a bishop, since those who ordained him were ordained by only one bishop, who was defrocked and never restored, as well as Viktor Chekalin, the former deacon, charlatan, fraudster and person involved in a criminal case (child molestation), who never even had a priestly ordination.
The new Autocephalous Ukrainian Church has approximately 50 bishops. Unfortunately, today 2/3 of these hierarchs received consecration from defrocked schismatics, and 1/3 of the consecrations (approximately 15 bishops) is traced back to the false bishop Chekalin!
However, in the restoration of defrocked, excommunicated and self-ordained clergy, the Ecumenical Patriarchate did not follow Church tradition, as was correctly noted by the bishops and Primates of many Local Churches:
A. There was no repentance on the part of the schismatics, therefore it is quite natural that Philaret can at any moment create a new schism. Let’s pay attention to the fact that the introduction of heretics and schismatics into the Church is, first of all, a spiritual process that takes place in the spirit of the patristic tradition. It is not committed by one administrative act of a particular institutional body, like the inclusion of any association! Professor Demetrios Tselengidis very accurately noted that repentance is the basic, fundamental, and mandatory prerequisite for the grace of God to take effect, and it cannot be replaced by an act signed in official authority, no matter what the authority. In the absence of repentance, when a sinner, stagnant in sins, deliberately rejects the saving word of the Church, grace cannot act, and the formal adoption of a synodal decision will not help here. And in this case, there was no repentance—even if external, even only formally, brought forward by anyone.
B. The schismatics did not show the slightest readiness to return to fellowship with the Church from which they broke away. Thus, the Local Church is ignored, and the basic and fundamental principle of Church Tradition is violated, according to which communion with the whole Church occurs only via the Local Church, and the indictment on church crimes made by one Local Church is valid in the whole Ecumenical Church (12th and 32nd Apostolic Canons, the 6th Canon of Antioch and 9th Canon of the Carthage Local Council).
This fundamental canonical principle is crucial for the restoration of schismatics. Their restoration is not accomplished unconditionally, through their communion and recognition by certain “friends” belonging to canonical Churches. Communion with schismatics does not help heal the schism, but leads to the fact that those who communed with schismatics in the sacraments are subject to ecclesiastical court, for violating the holy canons! Canonical tradition gives a clear answer:
“Furthermore, we decree that communion with those excluded from communion is not allowed, nor in another church is it to be allowed to admit those who have no admittance to another church. If anyone among the Bishops, or Presbyters, or Deacons, or anyone of the Canon, should appear to be communing with those who have been excluded from communion, he too is to be excluded from communion, on the grounds of seemingly confusing the Canon of the Church”10 (The 2nd Canon of the Council of Antioch).
“If any one shall pray, even in a private house, with an excommunicated person, let him also be excommunicated.”11 (The 10th Canon of the Holy Apostles)
“[One] must not join in prayer with heretics or schismatics.”12 (The 33rd Canon of the Council of Laodicea)
Thus, according to the Tradition of our Church, the restoration of schismatics always takes place either through the Local Church from which they separated, or by convening an Ecumenical Council (for example, as happened with the Meletian schism at the First Ecumenical Council). Never has a single Local Church restored a schismatic group, separated from another church’s jurisdiction. This is how “confusing the Canon of the Church” (2nd Rule of the Council of Antioch) is essentially meant to be understood.
C.) No proper concern or care was taken regarding the lack of apostolic succession among the unappointed “bishops” of the new Church, namely:
- Those who received false consecration in schism were not re-ordained;
- Those who received false consecration from defrocked and anathematized clergy were not re-ordained;
- Those who received false consecration from the self-ordained and generally non-ordained, were not re-ordained.
After all, it was precisely this that was prescribed by the corresponding decision of the First Ecumenical Council, regarding the Meletian schism, and this is precisely what the Ecumenical Patriarchate did recently, when two “bishops” of the Old Calendarists entered its jurisdiction in the USA. He ordained them as like the un-ordained!
Approximately 35 of the 50 “bishops” of the new Church belong to the group of Philaret, who received canonical ordination in the Russian Orthodox Church, but later on, despite the fact that he was defrocked and anathematized, continued to “ordain”. The remaining “bishops” (about 15) belonged to Makary’s group, and their “episcopal ordinations” are traced back to the unrighteous charlatan and swindler Viktor Chekalin.
Some, unfortunately, including official figures, in order to calm their conscience and justify their inaction and silence, characterize our persistence in the issue of the un-ordained as an obsession. But until they answer us seriously and responsibly, we will continue to publicly declare this issue in the hope that at some point their conscience will become our ally… Frankly, we are particularly concerned that neither the Ecumenical Patriarchate nor the new church answers the most important question: “From whom did the “bishops” of Makary’s group receive the episcopal ordination and apostolic succession?”
Why do these officials not answer this question? Maybe this question concerns details, which are not worth discussing? The question of the apostolic succession of Orthodox bishops is not important? Four to five versions are unofficially distributed on the Internet, trying to justify the “canonicity” of their ordination. However, they achieve the exact opposite effect, because:
a) The data they each present does not correspond to the others. Each version is fundamentally different from the others and refutes the rest;
b) they are based not on official statements of competent church authorities, but on the words of Ukrainian journalists or even on an anonymous (!) researcher who published an unsigned text! Is it possible for competent institutions and persons to remain silent on such serious issues, and the answers to come from… “journalists”?
- The new Autocephalous Church is silent, as if there was no problem at all!
- The Ecumenical Patriarchate is also silent, as if there were no problems!
- The Alexandrian Patriarchate is also silent on this issue!
- The Special Rapporteur of the Synodal Commissions, Professor Vlasios Pheidas, is silent about this in his report!
- And the Synodal Commission on Dogmatic and Canonical Issues is silent about this in its conclusion addressed to the Holy Synod!
- The Synodal Commission on Inter-Orthodox and Inter-Christian Relations is also silent about this in its conclusion addressed to the Holy Synod!
- The Archbishop of Athens in his statement to the Council of Bishops of the Greek Orthodox Church did not say anything about this issue!
- During a meeting of the Council of Bishops of the Church of Greece on November 7, 2019, none of the bishops who supported autocephaly addressed the issue of healing the problem of those who were not ordained from the Makary group. And they are silent!
- Finally, in the decision of the Council of Bishops of the Greek Orthodox Church—complete silence…
None of the above seemed to have ever heard or thought that the lack of apostolic succession among the un-ordained is a problem! And at the same time, they accuse us of “asking too many questions”. It’s a pity that everything happens this way…
So, who in the end confuses the people of God: those who try to understand what is happening, and ask questions, or those who, being competent and responsible persons, remain silent? Is it a manifestation of church ethics to demand that the people of God not ask questions or ask officials about anything? If authorized approved pastors do not answer us, who will answer us?
And most importantly: these questions about how the non-ordained received the “priesthood” are not raised by us with our “obsessions,” but by bishops, Primate and Synods of Local Churches.
Can anyone blame the bishops and the Primates for embarrassing the fullness of the Church when they do not recognize the hierarchal rank of the un-ordained?
Can anyone blame the Archbishop of Albania, Anastasius, for embarrassing the fullness of the Church when he answers the Ecumenical Patriarch, citing irrefutable theological arguments, and denying the canonicity of even [the defrocked] Philaret’s episcopate, not to mention Makary, who has no ordination at all!
The same problems and the same questions are raised by the defender of the rights of the Ecumenical See, who is a supporter of Ukrainian autocephaly, His Grace Metropolitan Hierotheos (Vlachos) of Nafpaktos. As a leading theologian and expert in the field of dogmatic theology and ecclesiastical canonical order, he does not “recon” on the way in which “restoration” was accomplished. So, on March 30, 2009, in his letter to the Holy Synod of the Church of Greece, he notes:
“With regard to the question of how the Ecumenical Patriarchate recognized the “episcopate” of bishops, who were “ordained” as such by defrocked or schismatic “bishops”, or otherwise the “self-ordained”, our Church, before making any decision, must ask the Ecumenical Patriarchate a question as to the way he restored these bishops.”
Indeed, and how did the Ecumenical Patriarchate react in response to the reasonable concern of the Metropolitan of Nafpaktos? With utter silence! Neglecting the question of an authoritative bishop, who had justified anxiety regarding the essence, divine inspiration, and action of the sacrament of episcopal ordination among schismatics!
It is noteworthy that the Metropolitan of Nafpaktos quotes the words “episcopate”, “ordained”, “self-ordained” and “bishops”, in referring to the “bishops” of the new autocephalous church, apparently due to deep doubts as to whether they were “ordained”, whether they hold an “episcopate”, and, finally, whether they are even “bishops”! Perhaps the Metropolitan of Nafpaktos confused the people of God when he presented his message to the public?
Maybe Metropolitan Seraphim of Kythira confuses the people, when, in his New Year’s encyclical, he says the following with perfect clarity:
“Another very dangerous and disturbing problem is the well-known and increasingly aggravated “Ukrainian issue” in connection with the anti-canonical way in which autocephaly was provided. There is an unpredictable scale of spiritual threat of a deepening and uprooting impending schism among the Local Autocephalous Orthodox Churches, if this complex and intrinsically intractable canonical and ecclesiological question does not receive a timely, canonical and final solution at the pan-Orthodox level. We will not tire of emphasizing this. From everywhere, voices are heard, alarmed and preoccupied with the ongoing anti-canonical development of events in connection with this most acute, Ukrainian question.”
G.) The former “bishops” among the schismatics did not obey the canonical bishops, as prescribed by the 8th Canon of the First Ecumenical Council, regarding the return to church communion of schismatic clerics (Cathari), which clearly states this:
“But if they come over where there is a bishop or presbyter of the Catholic Church, it is manifest that the Bishop of the Church must have the bishop’s dignity; and he who was named bishop by those who are called Cathari shall have the rank of presbyter, unless it shall seem fit to the Bishop to admit him to partake in the honour of the title. Or, if this should not be satisfactory, then shall the bishop provide for him a place as Chorepiscopus, or presbyter, in order that he may be evidently seen to be of the clergy, and that there may not be two bishops in the city.”13
On the contrary, they remained in the same diocese as “parallel bishops” along with canonical bishops. Moreover, we are dealing not only with the parallel existence of two bishops, in violation of the 8th Canon of the First Ecumenical Council, commanding, “Let there not be two bishops in the city”, but also with the creation of a parallel Church and a parallel Synod in the territory of another Autocephalous Church.
Honestly, we cannot help but see that the Phanar’s intervention in the affairs of Ukraine led to the creation of a grotesque situation: He had such “successes” that he managed to make the impossible and unprecedented possible for all of Orthodoxy—in a single city there are now 4 bishops serving of the same nationality, and one and the same flock: the canonical bishops belonging to the autonomous Church under the omophorion of Metropolitan Onuphry; two of the former schismatic structures of Philaret and Makary, that existed before the Tomos, and one new group, which Philaret recently ordained, after creating a new schism! The most tragic thing is that Phanar and his “heralds”, without any hesitation, and with great confidence, speak of the unity of the Church of Ukraine.
There is no historical and canonical precedent, when a bunch of defrocked, excommunicated, self-ordained, and schismatic “clergy”, in one fell swoop be “restored to their clerical dignities”, participate in a “unification council”, and at the very same time receive “autocephaly”—an enviable speed even for express procedures! And all this—with disrespect for the apostolic and canonical ordinance, which provides that it is not righteous to suddenly turn into a bishop a “convert”, “from a vicious way of life. For it is unfair for the still untried to become a teacher of others,” see the 80th Apostolic Canon and the 2nd Canon of the 1st Ecumenical, the 3rd of the Laodicean Local Council, and the 4th of St. Cyril)!
Here the Patriarchate hastened to immediately bestow the highest church degree—autocephaly—to people who were born and spiritually took shape in a 25-year schism, and now he is tasting the fruits of his unreasonable actions that dishonor the Church, alas…
Since the canonical Metropolitan of Kiev Onuphry, recognized by all Orthodox Churches, and the other canonical bishops, did not die, did not resign, were not absent without a good reason for 6 months in their diocese, were not convicted of a canonical offense—how can one elect the “Metropolitan of Kiev” or another bishop? Isn’t this forbidden by the 16th Rule of the First-Second Council14 of 861:
“It is also necessary to decree something in regard to the quarrels and disturbances that are taking place in God’s Church. Under no circumstances shall any Bishop be appointed over a church whose president is still alive and is in good standing of honor, unless he himself shall voluntarily resign. For the cause of one who is going to be ousted from the church must first be canonically examined and brought to a conclusion, and then thereafter when he has been duly deposed from office, another man may be promoted to the episcopacy in his stead.”1516
An absolutely anti-canonical Ecumenical Patriarch demands that His Beatitude Onuphry, recognized by all Orthodoxy as the canonical Metropolitan of Kiev and all Ukraine, stop calling himself by his canonical title, which is recognized by all Orthodox Churches.
Does the decision of the Ecumenical Patriarchate on accepting bishops of another Church without a letter of canonical release and the permission of their Kyriarch17—the canonical Patriarch—contradict the holy canons? This is strictly prohibited by the 14th and 15th Apostolic Canons, the 15th Canon of the First Ecumenical Council, the 15th Canon of the Sardinian Council, the 63 (54th) of the Carthaginian Local Councils.
Based on what canon does a self-governing Church, having the rights of broad autonomy, with an active church life (thousands of parishes, thousands of monks and millions of believers), which to this day has been recognized by all Orthodox Churches as expressing the aspirations of all the Orthodox of Ukraine, “disappear” from the church diptychs, in order to provide a place for the founding of a “new church”?
And finally, how can the Orthodox Churches acknowledge that the actions and deeds of an unrighteous false bishop-impostor convey divine grace in the sacrament of the priesthood? Can anyone who does not have ordination ordain canonical priests? Since when did the un-ordained have apostolic succession?
The moral character of the new church
Let us take a closer look at the moral character of leaders, and, consequently, the moral character of the new autocephalous Church as a whole, which the Greek Orthodox Church recognized.
I honestly admit, I doubt that the leaders of the new church are even believers. It is regrettable to talk about this, but judging by their behavior, they are ruthless and conspire even with the devil himself in order to achieve his goal! And the Phanar knows well what kind of “guys” he is dealing with, and does not trust them.
There is proof of this: The unthinkable is provided in the tomos—that the “autocephalous church” cannot canonize saints, but must appeal to Constantinople on this issue! For no other Church has something like this provided. The Greek Orthodox Church has the right to canonize saints, and only because of their respect for the Ecumenical Patriarchate appeals to him, without being obligated to do so. However, she can canonize the saints herself, and sometimes enjoys this right: for example, St. Chrysostom of Smyrna was glorified among the saints by the Church of Greece without an appeal to Phanar. The [autonomous] Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate has the right to canonize saints, but the “Autocephalous church”—the OCU—does not!!!
I will cite several cases that clearly demonstrate the moral character of the new Church:
1. The “canonization” of a self-ordained heretic and an event in his honor!
Mockup of the memorial to “Metropolitan” Lipkovsky in Cherkassy, September 2018
Ten days after receiving the “tomos” (01/06/2019) and before undergoing proper “enthronization”, the new “primate” hastened to honor Vasily Lipkovsky (Ukrainian: Vasil Lipkivsky). In the presence of President Poroshenko and one “bishop” of his new church, on January 18, 2019 in Cherkassy (Ukraine), Epiphany participated in the opening of a large monument in honor of Vasily Lipkovsky, whom the author of the monument depicted in bishop’s vestments.
Moreover, the un-ordained Makary, “restored” by the Ecumenical Patriarchate, honored the memory of Vasily Lipkovsky on November 27, 2018, as a “Hieromartyr”, having an icon painted of him!
Who is Vasily Lipkovsky? A Ukrainian defrocked priest, and later the self-proclaimed “Metropolitan of Kiev and All Ukraine”! To be more precise, he did not ordain himself, but was consecrated by a Soviet-style national assembly, which was attended by defrocked former priests and deacons, as well as lay people, among whom were women.
Moreover, in order for consecration to be more “real”, a part of the relics (the hand) of the Hieromartyr Makarios, bishop of Kiev, was placed on the head of the “ordained” Vasily Lipkovsky! Due to such an ungodly and blasphemous method of “ordination”, this group received among the people the nickname “self-sainted—samosvyaty”18 (meaning self-ordained)!19
According to one honorable hierarch of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the ever-memorable Metropolitan Maximos of Sardis, Vasily Lipkovsky introduced married bishops, a second and third marriage for clerics, and also abolished monasticism! Such lofty church morality, worth of all imitation, veneration and respect…
In order for all Orthodox to understand the seriousness of this issue, it should be noted that the group under the self-ordained Vasily Lipkovsky, after two and a half years, already numbered thirty bishops and about 1,500 priests and deacons, who served in nearly 1,100 parishes, and its diaspora was created in Europe and America! The Metropolitan of Sardis Maximos on this occasion writes the following:
“The aforementioned Vasily Lipkovsky, self-ordained to the rank of bishop, independently appropriated the title, ‘Metropolitan of Kiev and All Ukraine’, repeatedly appealed to the Ecumenical Patriarchate with a request to accept him in church fellowship and to bless him, as well as to acknowledge the self-ordination of himself and other bishops, which cannot be justified… Of course, needless to say, not one of the appeals received a response from the Ecumenical Patriarchate.”
If the ever-memorable Archpastor Maximos only would have seen the deplorable development of these events today…
Unfortunately, he [Lipkovsky] is revered and worshiped as a saint by the new OCU… I especially emphasize that all of the above is not coming from Russians to slander this “apostle of the Ukrainian church” (as the “primate” Epiphany characterized Lipkovsky), but from venerable hierarchs of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the ever-memorable Metropolitan of Sardis Maximos and Metropolitan Methodios (Fouyias) of Thyateira and Great Britain.
2. There’s even the LGBT! Lord have mercy!
The new church, the offspring and instrument of American foreign policy, cannot keep up with issues related to the movement of perverts (homosexuals). In his first statements, the new Primate Epiphany said regarding the rights of sodomites, perverts, the LGBT:
“Of course, I am for starting reforms in the church, so there wouldn’t be conservatism, so we would depart from Russian tradition and so the church would be open and a spiritual guide for the Ukrainian people. Because we are moving towards Europe, and therefore we should depart from the Russian conservative tradition. The church should be more open, because Russian Orthodoxy is very conservative and far from the people. I have the position that we should be with the people. We should understand their problems… This is a difficult issue that we should not raise at the beginning of our journey, because, you know how Ukrainian society perceives this question. Now we need to work on it, so Ukrainian society would accept it. It’s a long path.”20
And soon he began to implement his plans: At the next meeting of the Synod of the OCU, Ivan Ryabchiy took part as a translator, a member of the leadership of the LGBT movement in Ukraine, and one of the main initiators of gay pride parades in Kiev.21 According to journalists, Ryabchiy, who, in addition to his sexual orientation, positioned himself as a nationalist and patriot, was previously a member of the leading circles of the Kiev Patriarchate. For example, in 2016, “Patriarch” Philaret (Denisenko) presented Ryabchiy with an award from the UOC-KP (the schismatic group of Philaret, called the “Kiev Patriarchate”).
Yes! An active participant in the LGBT movement sits at a meeting of the Synod of the autocephalous church and is awarded by the “Honorary Patriarch” Philaret “for his special contribution to the spiritual revival of Ukraine”!!!
Let us rejoice in the rising new church!
3. And of course, contacts with the Uniates!
Finally, I left the most important example of their ecclesiastical morality for last: a fact that from now on, will all the more trouble us, in relations with the OCU. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why the Ecumenical Patriarchate set about creating this church formation.
Extremely disturbing are the increasingly strengthening warm relations between the OCU and the Uniates. Epiphany’s best friend is the major archbishop of the Uniates Shevchuk. All these sweet speeches… Let’s not forget what the Pope said: “Ukraine is a laboratory of ecumenism!”
The plan is being implemented methodically and purposefully: the Phanar wants us, as Orthodox, to “swallow” communication with schismatics; to “swallow” the lack of apostolic succession among the bishops. To gradually get us used to fraternizing with the Uniates. And so in the end, one more step, and we will find ourselves in the arms of the pope who “loves us so”.
It will not be difficult at all… Then they will tell us: “And what about the fact that the Uniates recognize the pope, that they are so close to Orthodoxy after all. And then we will be the same… all together, in love and harmony! What is wrong with that?” There is a revealing video on this, which is worth watching to understand what they are preparing for us.22
We are sincerely concerned about the position of traditional Greek bishops and theologians, who have accepted, approved, and want to impose on the faithful this evil false autocephaly! We ask ourselves: how do they feel when they observe this mechanism in action? Do they not feel sharp reactions of conscience as accomplices, because they participated in a crime against the Ukrainian people, recognizing such people as their shepherds, and such a church as their Mother?
4. The Ukrainian Problem: has it gone from a canonical question to an ecclesiological?
Unfortunately, the Ukrainian church issue is being transformed from a canonical problem into a massive ecclesiological problem, the consequences and extent of which are currently unpredictable:
For the first time in modern church history, the Ecumenical Patriarch interprets the “prerogative of honor”23, which Orthodox Tradition, no doubt, grants him, as a primacy of power according to the papal model.
The Primacy of Honor (prerogative of honor):
- The role of a coordinator in inter-Orthodox relations.
- Declares and realizes resolutions which Orthodox Churches undertook in a conciliar way.
A Papal Primacy of Power:
- The Pope acts outside his jurisdiction, not only within the Roman Patriarchate, but throughout the Church.
- The Pope makes decisions sovereignly and independently and / or contrarily to the opinion of the Local Churches.
- The remaining bishops are required to accept a papal decision.
- A papal decision does not need approval; it cannot be challenged or changed.
Tell me, please, what do the actions of the Ecumenical Patriarch remind you of? Orthodox prerogative of honor, or the papal primacy of power?
Moreover, the Ecumenical Patriarch’s demand is unprecedented in the Orthodox Church.
To judge serious problems in the Local Orthodox Churches and intervene in any affairs outside his jurisdiction throughout the ecumenical (universal) Orthodox Church, and not just that, but “self-sufficiently, as a duty” to resolve “not only dogmatic questions, or those or related to the Holy Tradition, or canonical church prescriptions, or problems of a general nature concerning the whole body of the Church, but also all the important local problems that concern one or another Local Church.”
This is reminiscent of the Dictate of Pope Gregory VII (Dictatus Papae) of 1075. The Pope’s Dictate sets out the requirement to submit to the Pope all the most important (“cause majores”) affairs of each Church!
And the associations continue if we recall the statements of the Gregorian reform theorist Cardinal Humbert of Silva Candida (1053-1054) in his writings “On the Holy Roman Church” (De sancta romana ecclesia), which states that the Roman Church is “the mother of all Churches” (mater omnium ecclesiarum), their core, source and origin (cardo, fons et origo), their top and foundation (vertex et fundamentum).
Reverent and beloved fathers, we understand where our Orthodox ecclesiology is being directed…
Consequently, the responsibility will be great for all those who take part in this, or by their silence make it possible to consolidate these views and practices in the Orthodox Church. Possible connivance will be charged with complicity in the crimes committed.
I would like to believe that the Primates of the Local Orthodox Churches and our bishops, who took an oath to observe the sacred canons and Church order, and to preserve the purity of Orthodox ecclesiology, are fully aware of their great responsibility to God and His people.
5. The new “church” of Ukraine—year one
Recently, on January 6, 2020,24 one year has passed since the provision of the tomos to Ukraine. It is quite natural that its church activity, which was dictated by certain anti-Christian centers of power, was designed to serve not ecclesiastical, but exclusively geopolitical purposes, based on the violation of a number of sacred canons, which rapidly leads to ecclesiological deviations, and cannot bring good results for our Churches. Spiritual laws, as St. Paisios said, must come into action! And here is the result:
1. The deterioration of the church situation in Ukraine. Not only have peace, harmony and unity not been achieved, on the contrary, violence occurs, seizures of churches, hacking of the doors of the holy temples of God with crowbars and chainsaws, threats, accusations against clergy, courts, etc.
Indeed, my dear brothers and sisters, how can we, as clergy and laity, be calm and indifferent to the pain and suffering of thousands of our Orthodox brothers, members of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church abiding in the Ukrainian lands, who wish to remain in their Mother Church, and for this reason suffer such persecution? Aren’t they members of the Body of Christ? Aren’t we obliged to empathize with them? How is it possible for us Orthodox Greeks to be on the side of their executioners?
The absence of the Spirit of God and the influence of evil spirits are indicated by the fact that the autocephalous church was self-divided! The schism has schismed! Philaret, with several bishops, separated from the schismatics and began to ordain new bishops. To this day, he has already created his own Synod with eight “metropolitans”! His spiritual child, the “Primate” Epiphanius, charges him, and Philaret threatens to disclose incriminating evidence. The Phanar, who restored Philaret and proclaimed him—just wait—”Honorary Patriarch”—now in an awkward position, accuses the Russians of causing the quarrel between Philaret and Epiphanius! Laughter through tears!
2. All situations driven by the devil are difficult to control; they sow confusion and division at the inter-Orthodox level, and this is what has happened with Ukrainian autocephaly.
In Africa, thiry local clergymen from four Metropolises published a message in which they disagreed with the decision of the Patriarch of Alexandria to recognize the OCU. This is an unprecedented phenomenon for Africa. And there is a threat that if local bishops do not exercise caution, they will lose all the clergy, and then the end of their mission can be very bad…
In Cyprus, an exchange of harshness between the archbishop and three to four bishops hit the press!
And look what is happening in Greece! Can’t you see that Ukrainian autocephaly is causing more and more damage to our Local Church?
Let’s read the message of the Archbishop of Albania, Anastasius, describing the crisis, in which, due to the Ukrainian problem, the Greek church discourse ended up “under the guidance and patronage of dignitaries”—indeed, a serious accusation from the Archbishop of Tirana! In particular, he writes:
“It is regrettable that in the light of such an important problem, irresponsible people have become more active, who insult those who express different opinions and at the same time flatter those who support them.
“Apparently, everything is well thought out and planned. Some use social networks.
“Their main mouthpiece is a clergyman of the Cretan Metropolia (under the leadership and patronage of high-ranking officials), who, along with a certain ‘strike team,’ took upon himself the task of viciously and sarcastically scrutinizing, intimidating, and at his own discretion, ‘punishing’ with insults, threats, far-fetched fabrications, and even obscene jesting, against all those who make other proposals to overcome the crisis…
“All who participate in the implementation of this plan, directly or implicitly, without hesitation, label people ethnophiletic characters, such as ‘Slavophiles’, ‘Russophiles’ and the like. There is an undoubted crisis of Church polemics that undermines inter-Orthodox dialogue during this critical period for Orthodoxy.”
The Archbishop of Albania mainly speaks of supporters of autocephaly, who formed a “definite strike team” and insult, ridicule and trample in the mud all who criticize the actions of the Phanar, “under the guidance and patronage of dignitaries”!
2. Personally, I was saddened by how understated and indifferent the dignity of our episcopate was when the Ecumenical Patriarch made his decision. Unfortunately, not a single bishop was outraged by such a direct insult to the Church hierarchy of the Greek Orthodox Church.
3. To be honest with our spiritual fathers, we must with great respect, like real children, tell them that, with a few exceptions, they disappointed us, both personally and collectively, as a Council of Bishops.
How could a Christian not be disappointed seeing how the very essence of the conciliar system is being undermined due to the refusal to put forward a vote on the approval of autocephaly? Why were they so afraid that they did not put the question to a vote? Perhaps the fact that they will not be able to turn this matter around in their own way, and then have to give answer to those in whose favor they promised to resolve this issue?
But even in spite of such a course of events, they failed to do it completely: Some venerable bishops raised very serious objections to the council “decision”, pointing out the unacceptable rush to “carry out this procedure”, “ignorance and complete unpreparedness of the bishops”, as well as the fact that this issue is “not yet ripe for discussion” and “pernicious haste in making a decision.”
In addition, it was pointed out that there were flaws in the conclusion of the conciliar commissions, which was of the greatest importance in this matter: It was described as “superficial and containing inaccuracies”, and the conclusions as “contradictory, inconsistent and ill-conceived”. And this is far from the point, as Metropolitan Germanios of Elis and Olena mentioned, informing his clergy about the course of the Council of Bishops at the diocesan meeting.
4. We were disappointed with the conciliar discussions, as they proceeded without any objection.
Can we not be upset, when we hear how almost completely our episcopate is silent on the most important canonical, ecclesiological and theological issues raised in connection with Ukrainian autocephaly, and at the same time speaks of a “brave Hierarchy” or refers to national self-consciousness with cheap ethnophiletic slogans like, “We can’t let the Russians take our patriarchy away from us”?
It is tragic that the Greek bishops at the Council of Bishops (that is, quite officially, from the pulpit where theology is to be born) are trying to support Ukrainian autocephaly, saying how bad Moscow is, which means it “got what it deserves” from Bartholomew!
I can’t believe that this is possible! Such an argument reminds me of a situation in my family about 15 years ago, when my children, then very young, quarreled. When I scolded one of them, he said that the other started first, and he made excuses: I was not guilty, he started it… And if these childhood tricks annoy us, then a completely different reaction is caused when you hear the same level of argument from the bishops at the Council of Bishops regarding such significant theological issues.
As the literal flock of Christ, loving and honoring our shepherds, we expect and demand seriousness from them, that they remain at the same height that befits their high title bestowed upon them by Divine Grace.
And not only this but much more disappoints us and fills us with bitterness …
Protopresbyter Anastasios Gotsopoulos
I would like to dwell in more detail on the statement of our Metropolitan made before the Council of Bishops. His Grace told us:
“If the Russians had come to Council of Crete, Patriarch Bartholomew would not have given autocephaly to Ukraine.”
Unfortunately, our Archpastor is absolutely right. This statement is completely and totally true—quite tragically so! If the Russians went to Crete, he [i.e. Patriarch Bartholomew] would not have given autocephaly to Ukraine.
This was promised by Patriarch Bartholomew himself to the Patriarch of Moscow in Chambésy (Geneva) during the previous Pan-Orthodox Pre-Council Gathering of Primates (January 2016), as recorded in the letters of the Patriarch of Serbia, and the Archbishop of Czech Lands and Slovakia.25
Moreover, a Greek bishop, who fully supports the rights of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, described in detail to me what happened in Chambésy in January 2016 at the meeting of Primates. The Moscow Patriarch was strongly opposed to the Pan-Orthodox Council, and it was obvious that the meeting was at an impasse.
During the break, over a cup of coffee, the Ecumenical Patriarch says to the Moscow Patriarch in the presence of the other Primates: “If you just come to Crete, I won’t even touch Ukraine!”
The Moscow Patriarch agreed to this, and they returned amicably to the conference room and announced the holding of the Pan-Orthodox Council in Crete!
However, in the end, the Patriarch of Moscow not only didn’t come to Crete, to confirm the patriarchal status of the Patriarch of Constantinople, but 6 months later, on the pretext of celebrating Kirill’s birthday, he organized an anti-meeting of Primates, designed like a Pan-Orthodox Council. The Phanar’s patience boiled over…
This was recalled by our Most Reverend Metropolitan when he said: “If the Russians had come to Council of Crete, Patriarch Bartholomew would not have given autocephaly to Ukraine.”
However, I did not write in vain: “unfortunately.” Why “Unfortunately”? Because it proves that the motive for granting autocephaly was not spiritual! There was no concern for the Ukrainian people; there was no care for healing the split. There was no grief over the schism and no desire to return the faithful to church fellowship. There were only goals and objectives in the field of church politics. If Moscow, had confirmed with its presence in Crete the “first-throne” status of Constantinople, no one would be involved with some schism in Ukraine. Am I wrong?
5. Finally, I have left for last the topic of worries and confusion, which was caused by the visits of representatives of the new autocephalous “church” to our country. The “bishops” of the new church visited the Monastery of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Patmos, founded by St. Amphilochius (Makris), on the patronal feast of the monastery (on the day of the Annunciation). As a result, not a single nun of the monastery communed! Just think about it, my dear: The Annunciation Day, the feast day of the monastery, and the nuns do not partake of Holy Communion…
Didn’t you see the impudence of the representatives of the OCU who went on a pilgrimage to Greece, supposedly to bow to the shrines of our Motherland, even before the ink had dried on the document of their recognition. In fact, they just wanted to take pictures and show those photos to the people of Ukraine, saying, “Here! Look, Look! All of Greece recognizes us, not Onuphry!” Such are they, such is their spiritual level!
Fortunately, they did not dishonor our city, and did not desecrate the altar of our Church of St. Andrew the First-Called. This did not happen thanks to two people: firstly, our Most Reverend Metropolitan, who did not give them permission to serve the Liturgy, which was announced publicly. Personally, I wish and pray that God will send him spiritual strength, so that he does not succumb to other similar attacks by the devil and his servants. I am sure that the corresponding pressure will increase, not only from the splitters of Ukraine, but also from their patrons, politicians and dignitaries in the Church.
The second person after the Metropolitan who helped to ensure that the holy Church of St. Andrew the First-Called was not defiled, was a simple Christian, Spyros Zorbalas. I must publicly say that we first met with Mr. Zorbalas one or two days before the arrival of the schismatics, and I set out some of my concerns to him. I admit, however, that I was wrong, and his step was successful, because he scared away the schismatics, and they were forced to change their plans and did not attend the Divine Liturgy in the Church of St. Andrew the First-Called! Once again are confirmed the words of the Holy Prophet Moses, that with the help of God, one person, and even more so two people, can drive away the enemy:
How should one chase a thousand, and two put ten thousand to flight, except their Rock had sold them, and the Lord had shut them up? (Deut. 32:30)
Beloved ones! I think that the time is coming when we will have to make decisions, perhaps painful ones. There will be no excuse for us if we see how the altars are desecrated by the hooves of mules (by “mules” we mean the spiritual state of the blasphemers. Remember the terrifying vision of St. Anthony the Great, to whom the Arians appeared in the form of mules surrounding the Holy Altar of the monastery, jumping on it and kicking it. According to St. John Chrysostom, heretics differ little from schismatics, because both of them lead souls from the Church to eternal perdition).
So, if we see how dumb cattle enter the temple, defecate in it and pollute it, do we really not react, remain indifferent and say: Is it the issue for overseer of the church or the priest? Do we not thus participate, by showing indifference, in the desecration of the holy sites of our faith?
As a faithful people of God, we must abandon spiritual laziness and carelessness and assume, as far as the strength and capabilities of each of us allow, the responsibility assigned to us by Orthodox ecclesiology, which is briefly formulated in the famous Encyclical of the Eastern Patriarchs (1848), written in reply to Pope Pius IX:
“Moreover, neither Patriarchs nor Councils could then have introduced novelties amongst us, because the protector of religion is the very body of the Church, even the people themselves, who desire their religious worship to be ever unchanged and of the same kind as that of their fathers…”26
Protopresbyter Anastasios Gotsopoulos
Russian translation by the brothers of the Kellia of St. Modestos on Mt. Athos
Translation from the Russian by Matfey Shaheen
1 Translated from the Russian “в школе имени И. Диакиди города Патры”. This refers to the Diakideios School of the People or Διακίδειος Σχολή Λαού, named in honor of Ioannis Diakidis (Ιωάννης Διακίδης)
2 See John 17
3 The Greek professor Βλάσιος Φειδάς (Russian spelling: Власий Фидас) which do to transliteration of Greek, may appear if at all, in various spelling in English (for example: Vlasy Fidas, Blasios I. Pheidas, Phidas, Phithas etc).
4 The autonomy that UOC enjoys grants them by far more freedoms than the autocephaly granted by the Phanar to the OCU. In reality, the “autonomy” of the UOC is practically autocephaly in all practical ways, save for the fact that the UOC commemorates the Patriarch of Moscow and receives myrrh from him. In Russian Imperial days, the Myrrh was in fact made in Kiev. The OCU must receive myrrh from Constantinople, and receive the blessing of Constantinople to canonize saints, unlike the UOC, which does not require the pre-approval of Moscow to canonize.
5 Here I translate this phrase from the Russian translation of the authors Greek, throughout this article, by various names, as appropriate to the context, including church custom, ecclesiastical custom, ecclesiastical precedent, and canonical precedent. By its very nature, this is not a clear codified and unmoving law, but a natural way in which a canonical or ecclesiastical norm is established simply by long-standing tradition. If something is continually practiced in Orthodoxy, and does not violate the dogmatic canons, it may eventually become set in the local or even ecumenical church custom simply by way of its continuous existence and the consensus or otherwise non-objection of the churches. This is similar to the concept of Precedent in common law based legal systems—Trans.
6 The fifth Syrian pope and the last pope born outside Europe until Francis.
7 Shaheen, Matfey. “Analyzing the Ukrainian Cross Processions—Why did 300,000 Ukrainians March for the Baptizer of Russia?” Orthodox Christianity, August 15, 2019. http://orthochristian.com/123071.html
8 Orthodox Christianity. “Patriarch Bartholomew’s 1997 acceptance of anathematization of Philaret Denisenko.” October 25, 2018.
9 See above for the letter in question.
10 The Rudder, “The Twenty-Five Canons of the Regional Council Held in Antioch Interpreted.” Translated by D. Cummings. The Orthodox Christian Educational Society, 1957. Pg. 535. Available online: http://s3.amazonaws.com/orthodox/The_Rudder.pdf
11 Translated by Henry Percival. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Vol. 14. Edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1900.) Pg. 594 Available online: https://ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf214/npnf214/Page_594.html
12The Rudder, “The Sixty Canons of the Council of Laodicea.” Translated by D. Cummings. The Orthodox Christian Educational Society, 1957. Pg. 566. Available online: http://s3.amazonaws.com/orthodox/The_Rudder.pdf
13 Translated by Henry Percival. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Vol. 14. Edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1900.) Pg. 20. Available online: https://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf214/Page_20.html
14 Also called the Council of Constantinople (861) or the Protodeutera.
16 The Rudder, p. 471
17 A Kyriarch or Kyriarchal Church refers to the ultimate ecclesastical authority figure, a primate or mother church, to which an individual or group is bound. In the case of a Church which obtains canonical autocephaly, the term can refer to the Mother Church which granted autocephaly, without any longer implying authority over the now sister church—Trans.
18 From the Russian самосвяты, meaning self-ordained, self-sanctified, but can also sound like Self-Sainted.
19 See here for more information: http://orthochristian.com/120077.html as well as here http://orthochristian.com/116116.html
22 This English video from the Ukrainian Union of Orthodox Journalists is also available in Greek here and in Russian here.—Trans.
23 See the Third Canon of the Second Ecumenical Council: “The Bishop of Constantinople shall have the prerogative of honor after the Bishop of Rome because Constantinople is New Rome.”—Trans.
24 Since the preparation of this document.
25 This most likely is referring to the primate of the Czech-Slovak Church, who is elected either as Archbishop of Prague or Archbishop of Presov; it should be said though, this primate is then generally styled as a Metropolitan, however in Greek, the language of this original article, Archbishops outrank Metropolitans—Trans.