The Main Statements Made by the Ukrainian Pseudo Priest Filaret About the Schism in Constantinople’s “Autocephaly” Project

On May 15th the honorary patriarch of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU), Filaret, who declared the restoration of the Kiev Patriarchate, held a big press conference.

During the conference he spoke about his plans to return the “old” church of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Kiev Patriarchate) and about whether or not it will be recognised in world Orthodoxy. He also gave an unflattering assessment of the outgoing president Poroshenko and the head of the new church Epifany

The Ukrainian “Strana” news agency provided the main theses of the latest press conference of Filaret.

Why there was an idea to exit the OCU

Mikhail Denisenko (Filaret) at the beginning of communication with journalists explained what globally does not suit him in the “Orthodox Church of Ukraine”. It was recognised by nobody, except Constantinople. 

“No church recognises not only the Kiev Patriarchate, but also the Orthodox Church of Ukraine … Neither the Greek church, nor the Jerusalem church, nor the Alexandria church have prayful communication (with the OCU), not to mention the Serbian church. And meanwhile we do not see ways that would lead to recognition. Why don’t they acknowledge this? There are many reasons. But the main reason is Moscow,” said Filaret. 

Here the patriarch started to traditionally criticise the Russian Orthodox Church, saying that the other orthodox churches are afraid to offend it.

At the same time, it is obvious that other patriarchs could not in principle be pleased with the scheme of Constantinople – to enter someone else’s canonical territory and to open a metropolitanate there.

After all, as a result it did not please Filaret either. At a press conference he said that in Ukraine, which has more orthodox churches than all the countries that didn’t recognise the OCU, must be an independent patriarchate, and not an affiliate. 

Filaret answered the logical question of why in this case didn’t he state this during the Unifying Sobor by saying that it was a “situational decision” to gain canonical recognition. But today it should not distract from the main goal – the revival of the Kiev Patriarchate. 

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Besides this, the church leader stated that he was simply deceived by Petro Poroshenko. 

“Zelensky said that he will not interfere”

Filaret said that he was cheated not only by the president, but also by the head of the OCU Epifany, and also bishops. 

The honorary patriarch described the agreement in the following way: it’s like saying that after the creation of the OCU, he will manage the church within the country, and Epifany will manage affairs abroad. But he, as is known, was pushed away in general. And the foreign parishes of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Kiev Patriarchate) were handed over to the direct management of Bartholomew. 

Filaret said that the specified agreements were oral: “We did not sign because I trusted Poroshenko and Epifany, but they deceived us”.

According to the honorary patriarch, if he had known that Epifany would behave towards him in this way, then he would not have proposed his candidacy for the position of the head of the OCU.

“For there to be unity, it is necessary to observe arrangements,” said Filaret, and added: “We did not agree that I will be sent to rest!” 

At the same time, the hierarch gave a careful compliment to the newly elected president.

“Zelensky told me that he will not interpose in church affairs, that the church is separated from the state, but that he will contribute to the normal development of church life. Concerning Poroshenko, he promised one but does another,” he stressed. 

“We do not want the OCU”

It follows from Filaret’s words that he is going not only to head the church again, but also to change its name. 

“Why don’t we agree on the name ‘Orthodox Church of Ukraine’, or ‘in Ukraine’. Because all autocephalous churches have an adjective in their name … Only our Church was named not like the others – not the ‘Ukrainian Orthodox Church’, but the ‘Orthodox Church of Ukraine’. What hides behind it? It means that orthodox Ukrainians outside of Ukraine do not belong to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. And this is mentioned in Tomos,” said Filaret.

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He claims that it is worth returning the old name – Ukrainian Orthodox Church – in order to not infringe on the rights of emigrating Ukrainians.

“All autocephalous orthodox churches reserve their emigration, except the Greek churches. All the Greek diaspora canonically is subordinated to the Ecumenical patriarch. That’s also why we have to be called ‘Ukrainian Orthodox Church’, and not ‘Orthodox Church of Ukraine’ so that our Ukrainian emigration has the right to belong to its native church,” summarised Filaret.

At the same time the church hierarch already has a model for how to return to the patriarchate to Ukraine and not to be left without Tomos of Autocephaly. 

How not to lose Tomos

Filaret suggested to introduce two positions within the framework of the united church. The first one is external use, and the second one is for internal use. Outside, the church will be a metropolitanate of Constantinople, and inside – the Kiev Patriarchate. 

“Our task is to preserve the Kiev Patriarchate. But only inside of Ukraine for now… For the external world today we are the Kiev metropolitanate recognised by the Ecumenical Patriarch. But we are not satisfied with this. Our goal is the recognition of the Kiev Patriarchate … Today externally it is the Kiev metropolitanate, but inside – the Kiev Patriarchate … For 30 years we fought for the creation of the Kiev Patriarchate, and now we want to renounce it. That’s why the future belongs to the Kiev Patriarchate in Ukraine. Because this demands the existence of an independent Ukrainian state …” said the honorary patriarch.

He also said that Tomos wasn’t given “in order to be taken back”

To what extent such an idea will please Constantinople is a big question. However, Filaret does not despond and already demands to convene the Local Sobor. However, he doesn’t give a forecast for when it will happen.

“Carrying out a Sobor depends on the Holy Synod and the Hierarchal Sobor. So when they will decide, then there will be a Sobor,” said Denisenko. 

In the future, probably, the time for church-bureaucratic games is coming. And here the honorary patriarch has no visible upper hand yet. Filaret answered the question of how many bishops support him by saying: “This does not interest me. I am interested in the truth”.

As a reminder, at a recent service in the Vladimirsky Cathedral of Kiev, where Filaret convened supporters on behalf of the Kiev Patriarchate, only four bishops came out of 60. 

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Main theses of Filaret. Briefly:

  • Poroshenko, Epifany, and bishops did not observe the agreement on the distribution of powers in the OCU.
  • The agreement meant that Filaret manages the Church from the inside and Epifany represents it externally.
  • Filaret did not find it necessary to commit an agreement to writing (they were oral) since he trusted Poroshenko and Epifany, but they “deceived” him.
  • Epifany “went along the back roads”, he avoids communication with Filaret. “I made recommendations to Epifany, but he does the opposite … And he does not call me. He says that he respects me, but this isn’t so, it’s only words,” said Filaret.
  • If Filaret had known that Epifany was going to behave in this way, then he would not have proposed his candidacy for the position of the head of the OCU.
  • Epifany is not independent, people stand behind him – he himself hinted this to Filaret.
  • “We do not agree on the name of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine” because it does not reflect the belonging of orthodox Ukrainians living abroad.
  • The statute of the OCU should be rewritten, having convened a Sobor as soon as possible. The operation of the statute signed on December 15th came to an end with the granting a Tomos.
  • “Why I remembered Igor Kolomoisky [in the recent address]? Because he, being abroad, reacted to the church events. And he fairly estimated that the Kiev Patriarchate was created by Filaret. That’s why I mentioned that even secular persons paid attention,” said Filaret.
  • The current situation will not be the basis for depriving Ukraine of Tomos: “it wasn’t given in order to be taken back”.
  • “We won’t destroy what we built over 30 years”.

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