Overcoming division and subordination of one Church to another are different things
On June 8, 2010 in Istanbul a meeting was held between President of
Ukraine Victor Yanukovych and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. This
meeting testifies to respect that the head of the state extends towards
the Mother-Church of Constantinople and the attention paid by the
Ecumenical Patriarch to Ukraine.
During his tenure of
presidential office Victor Fedorovych Yanukovych met several times with
Metropolitan Volodymyr, Primate of the UOC-MP, two times with Patriarch
Kirill of Moscow and now he met with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.
Judging by the president’s words that “one cannot build strong country
without faith”, one should expect him to meet with heads of other
Ukrainian Christian confessions and religious organizations.
Kyiv Patriarchate is grateful to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew for
his prayers for Ukraine and the unity of the Ukrainian Church. We hope
that the Mother Church of Constantinople will continue acting not just
prayerfully, but by other means, in accordance with the assumed burden
of primacy in Orthodoxy, on the lines of overcoming church division in
Ukraine, provoked by non-canonical actions of the Moscow Patriarchate,
keeping in mind the words of Christ “and whoever wishes to be first
among you shall be slave of all” (Mark 10:44).
On our part we
have to state that the Kyiv Patriarchate did not secede from the
Orthodox Church for we unfailingly confess Orthodox faith and perform
canonical prescriptions in our church life, We separated from the Moscow
Patriarchate and do not recognize its authority over Ukrainian Church
– but the Patriarchate of Constantinople itself stated in the Tomos of
Autocephaly of the Orthodox Church in Poland (1924) that joining of the
Kyiv Metropolis to the Moscow Patriarchate in 1686 was carried out
regardless of prescriptions of the canon law and therefore is illegal.
we do not fully understand an idea expressed by His Holiness Patriarch
Bartholomew when he said: “all our brothers who seceded should come back
to the canonical Church”. What is the Ecumenical Patriarch speaking
Does His All Holiness mean returning of the Kyiv
Metropolis, which was illegally separated by Moscow, to the previous
canonical order and subordination to the Throne of Constantinople? In
such an instance these words should be addressed to Moscow Patriarchate
that illegally retains power over the Church in Ukraine. It is obvious
that His Holiness the Patriarch had an opportunity to get this viewpoint
across to Patriarch Kirill of Moscow in the course of his recent visit
Could His Holiness possibly refer to subordination
of the Kyiv Patriarchate to the Moscow Patriarchate? If that is the
case, this idea does not conform to the stance of Constantinople as for
non-canonicity of the power of Moscow over the Ukrainian Church that we
know for sure from the Tomos mentioned.
Did His Holiness Patriarch
Bartholomew possibly have in mind subordination of our hierarchy,
clergy and faithful to his Throne? But neither the bishops nor the
priests and laity of the Kyiv Patriarchate have ever separated from the
Patriarchate of Constantinople, for they have never been under its
authority. And those who have not separated cannot return to unity. If
we consider this issue in the historical context, for a longtime the
Kyiv Metropolis had resisted attempts of the Moscow hierarchs to
subordinate it for all it is worth, and had unfailingly preserved unity
with the Throne of Constantinople – till the time when, to our mutual
regret, the patriarch of that time, subduing to pressure and for rich
gifts, illegally issued the charter on the strength of which Moscow
gained power over our Metropolis.
Thus, from the words of His
Holiness the Patriarch that we know it is yet unclear what particular
ways of overcoming division of the Church in Ukraine he sees except
fervent prayers that we share and lift up to the Throne of God.
only comprehensible interpretation of His Holiness Bartholomew’s words
for us is that he referred to returning of all the Orthodox in Ukraine
to the prayerful and Eucharistic communion, which is a manifestation of
the Church unity. It is against our will that we have no such unity, but
we are always ready to do all possible to restore it. Though it is our
firm conviction that overcoming church division and subordination of one
Church to another are different things and one cannot be replaced by
In the history of both the Patriarchates of
Constantinople and Moscow there were precedents of breaking the
Eucharistic unity – between it and other Churches, and even inside it.
However we see that these breaks – between Constantinople and the
Churches of Greece and Bulgaria, between Moscow and the Church of
Georgia and American Metropolis – were coped with not by means of
subordination, but through reconciliation and recognition of
autocephaly. Misunderstandings that emerged in Estonia and Great
Britain also do not prevent Eucharistic communion of the two
Therefore on our part we insistently and
unalterably strive for restoration of Eucharistic communion with all the
Local Churches – and hope that His All Holiness the Ecumenical
Patriarch will further this good deed in a fatherly manner.
for participation of the Ukrainian state and its head in overcoming of
the existing inter-church controversies, the stance of the Kyiv
Patriarchate was stated straight and clearly in the letter of the Holy
Synod addressed to Victor Yanukovych, dated May 14, 2010.
completion we have to note that enjoying the freedom of preaching and
faith confession, running freely our churches, monasteries and education
establishments, it is with pain and sorrow that we observe the
limitations imposed on the Patriarchate of Constantinople by the state
laws of its country of residence. Having possibility to gather for
prayers in thousands of churches and to hold sacred processions freely,
we regret that our Mother-Church is in such restrained conditions, and
in spite of all efforts, cannot change them for the better. We pray for
her and ask God to grant her the freedom of faith, worship, education
and preaching that we enjoy in our country.
of the Kyiv Patriarchy