Patriarch Filaret spoke today about the situation in Ukrainian Orthodoxy. He initiated the convening of an All-Ukrainian Orthodox Local Council, in which representatives of all three branches of Ukrainian Orthodoxy would participate.
Filaret noted that "by their actions during the Russian-Ukrainian war, the leadership of the Moscow Patriarchate placed itself on the side of the occupier and aggressor. Under such conditions, the question of the self-identification of the UOC MP, the continued presence in Ukraine of the Moscow Patriarchate, which blesses the war and serves the interests of the Kremlin, has become particularly relevant.
The head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate stressed: "In an independent state there must be an independent Church! I came out of this, starting the fight for autocephaly of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church back in the early 90s. Then this course was supported by the first president of Ukraine Leonid Kravchuk, the Verkhovna Rada and the government. The diploma of Patriarch Alexii II of Moscow on independence and autonomy in the government of the UOC-MP, to which the UOC-MP likes to refer now, was not an act of generosity from Moscow; it was the result of hard work and difficult discussions. I saw this status of the Church as the first step toward full autocephaly.
History itself proved that the Local Council of the then only Ukrainian Orthodox Church of November 1-3, 1991, under my leadership, was right in unanimously asking to give "the UOC full canonical independence, that is, autocephaly" and hoping that there would be the Kyiv Patriarchate.
I remind that this historic appeal was signed, in particular by the current head of the UOC MP Metropolitan of Kyiv and All Ukraine Onufry and Metropolitan of Simferopol and Crimea Lazar (now he and his diocese have declared that they do not agree with the decision of the Local Council of the UOC MP of 2022 about complete independence of this church from the Moscow Patriarchate and remain under the omophorion of the Moscow Patriarch Kirill in the jurisdiction of the ROC he heads).
Unfortunately, the then movement of the united Ukrainian Orthodox Church for autocephaly was stopped by Moscow, which organized non-canonical, so-called Kharkiv Council on May 27-28, 1992, which divided our Church and thus slowed down the canonical solution of this question. Thirty years later, we still have not achieved unity.
The Patriarch notes that Ukrainian Orthodoxy is now divided into three parts - the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, the Orthodox Church of Ukraine in the care of the Patriarch of Constantinople and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate. And this, according to Filaret, is a great misfortune for all Ukrainian people, because it spiritually weakens Ukraine.
He notes: "We Orthodox bishops, priests, monks and laity must stand up to the enemy with our unity during the war and take care of our native state.
In these terrible months the words of the spiritual hymn of Ukraine are especially relevant to each of us: God, give us unity!
The reestablishment of a united local Ukrainian Orthodox Church, independent of foreign religious centers with the Patriarch at its head, will bring spiritual consolidation to the Ukrainian nation and will accelerate our victory over the godless aggressor and will guarantee further development of our state. We must unite all Ukrainian Orthodoxy into one Church.
The current disunity is the consequence not only of historical circumstances, but also of the work of the enemies of Ukraine, who are interested in the fact that we do not have a single powerful spiritual force that can consolidate society. Also, not everyone in the Orthodox world wants to have the largest Orthodox Church, which in the case of unification becomes the local apostolic Ukrainian Orthodox Church. Many tend to look upon us, the heirs of the thousand-year-old Kiev Christian tradition, as neophytes, inexperienced children who need a guide or father.
Our greatness of Golden-Domed Kiev, our spiritual tradition goes back thousands of years. We have what to be proud of. Sacred Fathers of Ukrainian land which imperishably rest in Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra as well as samples of theology, polemical literature, religious art, architecture, traditional national piety and deep faith prove it".
The head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church is firmly convinced that "all branches of our divided Ukrainian Orthodox Church can unite around the idea of full autocephaly with the Patriarchal arrangement at its head. Any dependence on other thrones is a sign of inferiority and works to divide Ukrainians. Only the Kyiv Patriarchal Throne can unite all of us and ensure the proper development of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. It is not without reason that Metropolitan Metropolitan Peter Mohyla of Kiev sought to create a Patriarchate in Ukraine. "I think that the Ukrainian autocephalous church should have its own Patriarch as a logical completion of its hierarchical architectonics and the evolution of our national thought, our national-church ideology," wrote the prominent statesman Simon Petliura (uncle of our first Patriarch Mstislav)" .
"The Ukrainian Church has every reason to be a Patriarchate and there are no canonical, theological or any other obstacles to it.
I take positively the discussions that have begun among the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate and were manifested in the decisions of the Local Council of May 27, 2022. Orthodoxy does not know the status of an "independent" Church, and there are concepts of autonomous or autocephalous. If the bishops, clergy, monks and believers of the UOC MP decided firmly to separate from the Moscow Patriarchate, then their path will inevitably lead to autocephaly, and here there is the prospect of a pan-Orthodox unity in Ukraine, an opportunity to heal a long-standing church wound.
I also support the decision of the Council of Bishops of the Orthodox Church of May 24, 2022, to stop commemorating the head of the Moscow Patriarchate, Kirill Gundyaev, in the Diptych, because three years ago I strongly advised Metropolitan Epiphanius against commemorating Patriarch Kirill, given the Russian-Ukrainian war that has been going on since 2014.
I have carefully read the decisions of the Local Council of the UOC MP of May 27, 2022 and the decisions of the Holy Synod of the PCU of May 16, 2022. I believe that statements regarding the dubiousness of canonical ordinations (issues of apostolic right) on the one hand in relation to representatives of another Church (in the style of the Moscow Patriarchate) on the other are not good for mutual understanding and the establishment of dialogue. At this crucial moment, when Ukrainians sacrificially defend freedom and defend the independence and integrity of the state on the battlefield, pastors must also show self-sacrifice, reject the secondary and strive to unite around the main thing: the common cup of Christ. Today the war is not only for state and territorial independence from Moscow, but also for spiritual freedom. And each pastor must clearly decide with whom he is with: the occupants or defenders of Ukraine?
For the sake of unity, I ask everyone to put aside their pride and ambition, to forget their insults, and to realize their high responsibility before God and Ukraine. Remember the words of our Lord: "But the greater among you must be your servant" (Matthew 23:11).
As the eldest bishop in the Orthodox Church by ordination and age, I initiate the convening of an all-Ukrainian local Orthodox Council, in which representatives of all three branches of Ukrainian Orthodoxy would participate. In my opinion, this council should decide to unite into a single apostolic Ukrainian Orthodox Church with patriarchal governance and declare full autocephaly. First, I urge the representatives of the Church to meet to discuss the rules of the council and to determine the date of the council.
I declare that the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate will take part in such a unifying pan-Ukrainian Orthodox council in order to tell everyone: the Lord is among us! Personally, I am ready to meet at any time with His Beatitude Metropolitan Onufry of Kyiv and All Ukraine and His Beatitude Metropolitan Epiphanius of Kyiv and All Ukraine for brotherly dialogue in the spirit of the love of Christ for the sake of achieving spiritual unity.
I am certain that this truly historic association will support the entire Ukrainian society, for it is said, "That they all may be one: as thou art Father in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one among us, that the world may believe that thou hast sent me" (John 17:21-23).
With faith that the All-Merciful Lord will preserve and protect Ukraine, give us victory, and give us strength to build a united local patriarchal Ukrainian Orthodox Church," noted Patriarch Filaret of Kyiv and All Russia-Ukraine.