Response to the OCU Synod on its recent decision

(Translation from Ukrainian)


The process of forming a religious organization must not be at the expense of the rights and interests of any other religious organization because it can lead to the violation of the state’s laws. In turn, it is especially important for the Orthodox Church to strictly obey and fulfill the Sacred Canons that are fixed, clear and implanted in the very nature of the Orthodox Church.


isregard for these truths is especially painful for Ukraine under the conditions of the military aggression when injustice and unrighteousness are keenly felt. The Church should serve as an example of truth and dialogue aimed at a just reconciliation of all sides. It is the duty of the representatives of all religious organizations to work to overcome hatred, hostility, deceit and injustice


With this open letter, acting in the spirit of kindness and love in Christ Jesus, I caution the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (the “OCU”) concerning the mistakes and abuses committed by the leadership of the Holy Synod of the OCU and its relentless desire to mislead Orthodox Christians, both in Ukraine and beyond, concerning the person of His Holiness Patriarch Philaret.


The Patriarchal and Synodal Tomos granted to the OCU not only defined the Holy Church of Ukraine as the spiritual daughter of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, but also imposed duties on the OCU and its hierarchs. In particular, it obligated the Metropolitan of Kyiv and All Ukraine, as well as the hierarchs of the Holy Church of Ukraine, to be elected in accordance with the proper provisions of the Divine and Sacred Canons and in accordance with the relevant provisions of its Constitution, which must in all things conform to the provisions of this Patriarchal and Synodal Tomos.


In fulfillment of the Patriarchal and Synodal Tomos, the Charter of the OCU was approved according to which the Holy Synod of the OCU has the authority to resolve current church affairs with the exception of those requiring the competence of the Holy Council of Bishops.


In turn, the Charter of the OCU, which you, brethren in Christ - members of the Holy Synod - should be guided by, defines the powers of the Holy Synod of Bishops, namely:

- approve the list of those who are eligible to be elected as bishops;

- decide on the resignation and removal of diocesan bishops from the cathedra;

- exercise canonical supervision over the actions of the bishops and all ecclesiastical bodies;

- consider and adjudicate disputes that exceed the responsibility of local bishops and the annual standing Holy Synod;

- establish new dioceses and liquidate or unify the old ones, as well as determine the boundaries of archdiocesan areas.


I draw your attention to the fact that with your hands, as members of the Holy Synod, the leadership of the OCU makes quasi-legitimate decisions and introduces a spiritless dictatorship among the bishops of the OCU. A vivid example of canonical ignorance and systematic inconsistency, characterized by intentional adaptation of the canons to the private desires of the leadership of the OCU, are the decisions of the Holy Synods for 2019-2022 published on the official OCU website, under which you have signed.


After reading the content of the decisions of the Holy Synod, even in retrospect it becomes clear that these decisions violate the canonical order of the OCU itself.


At the meeting of the Holy Synod of the OCU on November 22, 2021, decision #13 was made to release His Eminence Adrian, titular bishop of Shepetivka, to retirement. However, the Charter of the OCU refers such decisions to the exclusive competence of the Holy Council of Bishops. This is a direct violation, which makes the decision of the OCU’s Holy Synod null and void in its canonical nature.


I draw your special attention to those grievous decisions to which, by your silent consent, the leadership of the OCU attaches a quasi-canonical nature. These decisions typically relate to misleading Orthodox Christians in Ukraine and beyond about the person of His Holiness Patriarch Philaret, who for most of you is a spiritual father.


I bring to your attention the document entitled "Journals of the Holy Synod meeting of February 5, 2019," which is available at the link: https://www.pomisna.info/ru/document-post/zhurnaly-zasidannyasvyashhennogo-synodu-vid- 5-leto-2019-r/.


According to Journal No. 1, the Holy Synod of the OCU made a decision to approve the titles of the hierarchs of the OCU. There is no mention of His Holiness Patriarch Philaret among the list of hierarchs of the OCU. Only a separate clause specifies that His Holiness Patriarch Philaret, with this title, continues the leadership of the Kyiv diocese as part of the parishes and monasteries of Kyiv. And yet the approval of the boundaries of the bishops' areas belongs to the exclusive competence of the Holy Council of Bishops. On the other hand, His Holiness Patriarch Philaret did not stop to exercise the leadership of the Kyiv diocese within the parishes and monasteries of Kyiv as the Primate of the UOC of Kyiv Patriarchate, and due to the decision of the Holy Synod of the OCU as of February 5, 2019, His Holiness Patriarch Philaret was not in the list of titles of bishops of the OCU.


The next document in which the OCU’s Synod mentions the figure of His Holiness Patriarch Philaret is titled "Journals of the meeting of the Holy Synod of June 24, 2019," which is available at: https://www.pomisna.info/ru/documentpost/zhurnaly -session-higher-synod-vision-24-chervnya-2019-r


His Holiness Patriarch Philaret is mentioned here with the title "Honorary Patriarch Philaret," even though there were no decisions of the OCU’s Synod or the Holy Council of Bishops regarding the inclusion of His Holiness Patriarch Philaret in the list of OCU bishops with the title "Honorary Patriarch.” He continued to be the Primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate, which he has stated repeatedly. Moreover, by the same document, the Synod of the OCU treacherously and without any authority determined that the Local Council of the UOC-Kyiv Patriarchate, which was held under the chairmanship of His Holiness Patriarch Philaret, is "an assembly of persons invited by him.” That is how, by another quasi-canonical decision, the Synod of the OCU spreads a deception to Orthodox Christians who are not familiar with the intricacies of the canon law of the Church. This decision of the OCU Synod even according to the principles of tolerant interchurch communication between subjects of different jurisdictions looks manipulative.


In addition, again, in violation of its own Charter, the hands of the Holy Synod of the OCU decided to "exclude from June 24, 2019 from the episcopate of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine the Most Reverend Joasaph (Shibayev), Metropolitan of Belgorod and Oboyansky, and the Most Reverend Peter of Valuyev, Vicar of Belgorod diocese." I remind you that such decisions must be presented exclusively at the Holy Council of Bishops. At the same time, how can one exclude from the OCU the bishops that the OCU would not even be able to admit to its membership as the Tomos of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine clearly prohibits having dioceses abroad.


Continuing the canonical ignorance and deliberate adaptation of the canons and the canonical order to the private desires of the leadership of the OCU, the Holy Synod of the OCU on February 4, 2020 (link: https://www.pomisna. info/ru/document-post/zhurnaly-zasidannya-sash -synodu-vid-4-lyutogo-2020-r/ ) made the following decision: "Considering that the Honorable Patriarch Philaret... has not submitted a letter to the Primate, His Beatitude Metropolitan Epiphanius of Kyiv and All Ukraine, with an appeal to the Holy Synod regarding a conciliar consideration of his future position in the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, to establish that the Honorable Patriarch Philaret is a retired hierarch of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine from June 24, 2019."


Given that His Holiness Patriarch Philaret was not, including at the time of the above decision, a hierarch of the OCU, the Synod of the OCU solely assumed the responsibility to decide on the "canonical status" of the bishops of other religious organizations. Using the analogy of this decision, we can conclude that the OCU’s Synod can unilaterally include a bishop of any religious organization in its composition and then "canonically retire.” The nullity and uncanonical nature of such decisions does not even need additional interpretation.


It is worth remembering that the official position on the non-affiliation of the UOC of Kyiv Patriarchate and His Holiness Patriarch Philaret to the OCU was announced at the Local Council of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate, which took place on June 20, 2019. The Local Council proclaimed the continued existence of the Kyiv Patriarchate. Therefore, any decisions of the structural bodies of the OCU regarding the UOC of the Kyiv Patriarchate cannot be legitimate, canonical, and consistent with general notions of adequacy.


It is worth remembering that the official position on the non-affiliation of the UOC of Kyiv Patriarchate and His Holiness Patriarch Philaret to the OCU was announced at the Local Council of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate, which took place on June 20, 2019. The Local Council proclaimed the continued existence of the Kyiv Patriarchate. Therefore, any decisions of the structural bodies of the OCU regarding the UOC of the Kyiv Patriarchate cannot be legitimate, canonical, and consistent with general notions of adequacy.


"Accept Metropolitan Auxentius of Agyn and Poros and his diocese into the UOC of the Kyiv Patriarchate with the title Metropolitan of Chersonesos and Agyn" (Resolutions of the Council of Bishops of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate of October 23, 2021)


To admit Metropolitan Chrysostom (Kallis) to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate, with the parishes and clergy belonging to his diocese of the Greek Old Calendar Church - at his request" (Resolutions of the Council of Bishops of the UOC of Kyiv Patriarchate of 13 December 20.)


Having the reliable information that Metropolitan Auxentius, together with the faithful of his diocese, does not belong to the Church of Greece, but is a separate Church of the Genuine Orthodox Church(old calendarist), the Synod of the OCU, contrary to common sense and logic, nevertheless asks the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church of Greece to consider the excommunication of Metropolitan Auxentius of Kherson and Metropolitan Chrysostom of Mariupol from the Church. What church should the aforementioned hierarchs be excommunicated from, if they belong neither to the jurisdiction of the OCU nor to that of the Church of Greece, but according to the above-mentioned resolutions of the Council of Bishops they belong to the jurisdiction of the UOC of Kyiv Patriarchate?


With such hollow decisions, the leaders of the OCU are trying to interpolate the uncertainty of their own existence into another Local Church, thus provoking the Greek Church to become a participant in their own un-canonical mess. It is an undeniable fact that the aforementioned hierarchs of the Kyiv Patriarchate, being ethnically Greek, do not belong to the jurisdiction of the Greek Church, so they cannot be governed by any of its decrees.


Therefore, we consider such a provocative decision of the Synod of the OCU to be an outrageous and contemptuous disregard of both the Holy Canons and moral standards, the violation of which can provoke confusion in other Orthodox Local Churches.


In paragraph "3" the Synod of the OCU, without any legal decisions, refers to Metropolitan Joasaph of Belgorod and Oboyansky, Archbishop Filaret of Belgorod-Dnistrovsky, and Bishop Peter of Valuysky as "former," allegedly having lost the rights associated with being an Episcopalian of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine. This statement by the Synod contradicts other documents of this Church, for the aforementioned bishops were never part of the jurisdiction of the OCU. The Tomos of the OCU clearly forbids having dioceses abroad. And if they have never been members of the OCU, how can the term "former" be applied to them?


The same applies to the decision of the Synod of the OCU regarding the summoning of these bishops "for trial," which has no jurisdiction or authority over these bishops of the Kyiv Patriarchate, because they are beyond the influence of the current head of the OCU. In addition, the OCU Synod threatens to hold a "trial in absentia" for these hierarchs of the Kyiv Patriarchate in the event of their absence from such a trial.


Referring to the Charter of the OCU, which speaks of an ecclesiastical court, in Chapter XI we read: The judicial bodies of the Church are: I) the Hierarch, II) the Episcopal courts, III) synodal courts of first and second instance for presbyters and deacons, IV) synodal courts of first and second instance for bishops, V) the Holy Council of Bishops, and VI."


As we can see, the Charter of the OCU says nothing about the existence of a court in absentia, which is threatened to be used against the three bishops. Therefore, we state that the members of the OCU Synod are violating the Charter of their Church by their own decisions, attempting to use non-existent canonical leverage. We consider this to be undisguised blackmail on the part of the Primate and members of the OCU Synod with regard to the episcopate of the UOC-Kyiv.


We note that such a path of totalitarian influence against the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate, which is inimical to the spirit of the Gospel, was inspired with one goal - to draw public attention away from internal problems within the OCU where agents of influence of the hostile state are hidden along with the true patriots of Ukraine, as evidenced by the open criminal proceedings, entered by the Security Service of Ukraine into the Unified register of pre-trial investigations on criminal offences, stipulated by the Criminal Code of Ukraine.


The Primate of the UOC is well aware of the canons of the Orthodox Church, which forbid a bishop of one church to interfere in the affairs of another. Therefore, we suggest that he also master the law of morality, which St. Paul urges him to imitate - to honor his instructors.


Following the spirit of the Gospel, we call upon our brethren in the OCU to solve problems not by threats and blackmail but by the spirit of peace and love. This is always important, especially in our troubled times when there is a threatening trend toward the secularization of Ukrainian society. After all, the number of believers decreases each year from 76% in 2014 to 67.8% in 2021. Also, since 2013, the number of Orthodox believers has declined by 10%.


Therefore, facing the threatening tendency to plunge society into the whirlpool of religious confrontation, we call upon the clergy and bishops of the OCU to demonstrate particular unity around indigenous evangelical values that can change the negative direction of events, avoid any hostility on religious grounds and deepen spiritual life. May the long-awaited Local Council under the leadership of the Ukrainian hierarch, which will put an end to the existing disagreements and troubles among the Orthodox Churches in Ukraine, be a new stage in the creation of the United Church of Ukraine



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