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Ukraine Business | 20Apr2012 | Bishop Paul Peter Jesep
Aiding and abetting the
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.”
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
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 the Ukrainian
church was simply used to strengthen one wing and weaken the
other. I do not think the 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
Paul Peter Jesep is a New York lawyer and Bishop in the
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 [email protected].
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