BRAMA, April 22, 2012, 9:00 AM ET|
Aiding and Abetting the Moscow Patriarchate
By Bishop Paul Peter Jesep
Ukrainians do not need someone else’s permission to have their own Church. I’ve said it. I’ve written it. And now I’m repeating it for the umpteenth time. Metropolitan Yurij of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Canada is aiding and abetting the Moscow Patriarchate. His inhospitable attitude toward the visit of Patriarch Filaret of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church Kyiv Patriarchate is misguided. Independent of the lack of Christian hospitality, it gives the Moscow Patriarchate legitimacy and greater leverage to interject itself in the social, political, and religious life of Ukraine.
In a letter released April 19, 2012, the Metropolitan advised his parishes that “His All-Holiness”, Patriarch Bartholomew I of Istanbul, Turkey informed him that Patriarch Filaret “cannot at this time be welcomed nor have banquets organized in his honour in the parishes, or their properties, of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada.” He further wrote that “no clergyman or member of the consistory Board can be in the vicinity of ‘Patriarch Filaret’ as any picture or report may portray this presence as representing or offering support of the U.O.C.C.”
The titular leader of world Orthodoxy has refused to extend “canonical” recognition to the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church Kyiv Patriarchate. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church Moscow Patriarchate, under the thumb of Patriarch Kirill of Russia, is accorded “canonical” recognition. The UOCC’s position implies that it must defer to the Moscow Patriarchate on matters of Orthodoxy in Ukraine since it is the only “canonically” recognized Orthodox Church.
Here are several things to consider:
- The Moscow Patriarchate continues to press the Ukrainian government to give it Church properties at the expense of the Autocephalous, Greek Catholic, and Kyiv Patriarchate Churches.
- The Moscow Patriarchate has consistently sided with Vladimir Putin and against protesters seeking democratic reform. It strongly advised reformers on several occasions not to participate in rallies.
- Patriarch Kirill (Vladimir Gundyaev) allegedly has made a fortune in tobacco, alcohol, and oil sales. It’s also been reported he owns a villa in Switzerland. And the world already knows he likes expensive watches.
- In January 2012, a top US intelligence officer, James Clapper, warned of Ukraine’s move away from democracy toward authoritarian rule. This will mean much closer ties to Moscow. The Moscow Patriarchate is playing an important role in influencing social and foreign policy in Russia.
- A high official in the Moscow Patriarchate said that “the military class has always been in the center of political life and on top of the social pyramid in Christian countries.” He has called for a strong military so that Russia can settle matters “on our territory or in the vicinity of our borders.”
- The Moscow Patriarchate has been supportive of Russia’s policies in Syria where innocent citizens wanting free elections have been butchered by the Moscow-backed regime.
- Liudmyla Fylypovych, a religion and philosophy professor at the National Academy of Science of Ukraine, observed, “The center of gravity is constantly shifting between the Ecumenical Patriarch and his supporters on one side, and the Moscow Patriarch and the churches that support him, on the other. In this situation Ukrainian church was simply used to strengthen one wing and weaken the other. I do not think Ukrainian church can be an argument or a toy used in any geopolitical confrontations. It is completely self-sufficient and possesses good, ancient traditions of its own.” In short, Moscow and Istanbul should stop using Ukrainian spirituality as a political football.
Patriarch Kirill of Russia as did his predecessor, Patriarch Alexy II, made it clear to the Ecumenical Patriarch that no canonical recognition can be given to the Autocephalous or Kyiv Patriarchate churches. Only Ukrainian churches under the jurisdiction of the Russian Orthodox Church can be accorded canonical status.
Canonical status is about politics. It’s about power. It has nothing to do with God, faith, or loving more and judging less to make a better world. The Ecumenical Patriarch is afraid of losing Russia’s support. Hence, he will never extend canonical recognition to a Ukrainian based church out of fear that it will offend Moscow. It’s not very Christian, but then again Church politics often isn’t.
A nation defines its soul in part by its writers, thinkers, artists, and its spirituality. In order for Ukraine’s national reawakening to continue then it must have a Ukrainian based church that can be a protector of Ukrainian culture.
The treatment of Patriarch Filaret is crude, inhospitable, contributes to the detriment of Ukraine, ignores the political reality that no canonical status will ever be extended to a Ukrainian based church, and most important it begs the question – does God really care about who gets the coveted political label of “canonical?” Is Christianity so deeply rooted in something this insignificant?
I have strongly, but respectfully disagreed both with Patriarch Filaret and Metropolitan Myfodii for seeking canonical recognition. They are given lip service and nothing more by Istanbul. They and their representatives repeatedly have been sent away empty handed. This is an opportunity for Patriarch Filaret to openly address the silliness of canonical recognition. Let me repeat … Ukrainians do not need, have never needed the permission of Moscow or Istanbul to have their own church. Please stop asking. Ukrainians are not spiritual serfs. Ukrainians answer to God and conscience, not petty church power politics.
Paul Peter Jesep is a New York lawyer and Bishop in the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church. He is the appointed U.S. Spokesperson and Government Liaison for His Beatitude Metropolitan Myfodii. The views expressed here are personal and in no way reflect the official position of his church. He may be reached at VladykaPaulPeter(at)aol.com.
* * * * *
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