Schism in Schism: Constantinople’s Pseudo-Church in Ukraine Faces Liquidation

While in Ukraine fairly prolonged disputes about the date of the inauguration of Vladimir Zelensky continue, the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU) – not recognised by any of the local orthodox churches – suddenly offered a reminder about itself. The informational excuse for why the OCU came into the Ukrainian news again is natural in its own way – this pseudo-church, as an ugly fruit of the long-term schism of the Ukrainian Orthodoxy, is itself now on the verge of a schism and the termination of its legal existence.

As a reminder, just half a year ago real bacchanalia was created in the Ukrainian media concerning the reception of Tomos by the uniting local sects – the still Petliura‘s “autocephalists” (Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church) and perestroika’s Kiev Patriarchate (Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kiev Patriarchate). But it quickly came to naught as soon as the initiator of the creation of the OCU Petro Poroshenko realised that “faith”, like of course “language” and “army”, doesn’t especially help him in the electoral campaign. However, the freak created by his administrative efforts remained and occasionally offered a reminder about itself. This happened either in connection with the attempts of neo-Nazis to capture canonical temples, or because of the scandalous initiatives of the 40-year-old leader of the OCU Epifany: this “Metropolitan of Kiev” promised to absolve the sin of homosexuality, then argued in favour of possible unification with Ukrainian Greek Catholics – the uniates subordinated to the Vatican.

A bomb was planted under the OCU by the accomplice of Poroshenko – the official “honorary patriarch” Filaret, the initiator of the schism and patron of neo-Nazi rabble: for example, last week he awarded militants of the extremist group “C14” with personalised awards. This figure, as it turned out, was not even going to legally liquidate his Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kiev Patriarchate, which was supposed to be one of the conditions of “Tomos”. Since February he has not let his young colleague Epifany into his residence and also ignores and slights him morally. As a result, as of today, the OCU actually exists only on paper: the parishes subordinated to Filaret – only about 3,000 – remained faithful to him, and, respectively, Epifany does not receive a tithe from them, being content with mere pennies from the temples counted on the fingers.

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Filaret’s intention to bring together a church sobor and to discuss the issue of officially restoring the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kiev Patriarchate, which will now not be a basis for the “united local” OCU, became the last straw – as was assumed by Poroshenko and the Constantinople Patriarch Bartholomew, but its direct competitor. However, in the same way not recognised by anyone.

“The matter is that the Kiev Patriarchate wasn’t liquidated. It is not liquidated. There is the desire to register it as liquidated. The one who created the Kiev Patriarchate can liquidate it,” said Filaret, who considers himself to be the only founder of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kiev Patriarchate (actually he had a predecessor – the self-appointed “Patriarch of All Ukraine-Rus” Vladimir, who, very timely for Filaret, died under mysterious circumstances in 1995). In turn, Epifany called on his senior partner and tutor (in Ukrainian church circles there are still rumours about their close relationship) to think more “about the future and unity”, and not to “return to the past”. In passing, it became clear that since February both high-ranking schismatics never did a joint service, and Epifany even ignored Filaret’s invitation to the “patriarchal” reception in honour of Easter.

In short, the situation looks as follows: the 90-year-old Filaret violated his obligations to the president Poroshenko and the “Istanbul pope” Bartholomew and refused to liquidate the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kiev Patriarchate within the framework of the merger with the OCU, expecting that the already received “Tomos” – recognition of independence from the Patriarchate of Constantinople – would also apply to the separate components of the OCU. The OCU itself actually was a virtual structure, without parishes and financing, and now Epifany appeals to Poroshenko and Bartholomew with a request to calm the traitor of their common cause. The latter is frankly not up to them: Poroshenko is engaged in the preservation of his place in politics, as well as his freedom and fortune, and Bartholomew, because of the epic revolving around the OCU and “Tomos”, has spoiled relations with all local churches and found himself in eucharistic isolation. And, since Epifany frightens his supporters, already in the near future, if Filaret does not humbly repent, the OCU’s “Tomos” may be revoked.

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Pavel Dulman

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