Your Eminences, Your Graces,
Dear participants of the Jubilee Council of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church!
Today in the walls of the Holy Dormition Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra the Ukrainian Orthodox Church gathered in all its conciliar plenitude. The Life is living, according to the word of the Holy Hierarch John Chrysostom, and, thanking God for every year lived today, we have to summarize the period of life and ministry we lived through.
Convening this council, we set the goal to demonstrate the “unity of spirit in the bond of peace” of our Holy canonical Church.
We were prompted to this decision by the number of anniversaries that we celebrate. Now turns 45 years of our ministry in the rank of bishop. Last year we celebrated the 20th anniversary of granting autonomy and independence in governance to our Church. This year Ukraine is celebrating the 20th anniversary of its independence, the 1000th anniversary of our first Cathedral – the Cathedral of St Sophia the Wisdom of God in Kyiv and the 450th anniversary of the Peresopnytsia Gospels. Next year we are celebrating the 20th anniversary of the historic Kharkiv Council of Bishops and our ministry at the Kyivan Throne. All of these dates in total give grounds to speak about certain achievements in the Church. And as we see, they are a good fruit, which we bring to the altar of the Lord.
The Ukrainian Orthodox Church has grown quantitatively and qualitatively, the fact that we make sure regularly visiting the diocese of our Church. Today we are not ashamed to say the Lord: “Behold, here I am and the children whom You gave me.”
Our Holy Ukrainian Orthodox Church is the Church of apostolic origin. At the dawn of history, according to legend of the father of Russian history, St Nestor the Chronicler, the holy Apostle Andrew the First Called visited our land. And the words of the Apostle said when he installed a cross on the Kyivan hills, have fully come true: not only upon them but also throughout our land “beamed grace of God, and God erected many churches”, where since ancient times and the Bloodless Sacrifice has been made.
Prince Volodymyr’s Baptism opened a new chapter in the history of the Universal Church of Christ, for the Lord through the holy prince brought to the yardof the Father a myriad of strands about which the Lord said that they are not from His yard. The pagan Rus joined the family of Christian nations. It is impossible to overestimate the importance of what the Equal-to-the-Apostles Prince did in soteriological, and in political terms. Christian choice became the state-building for the Kyivan Rus and the State in which we live today.
The Ukrainian Orthodox Church is the Church of Volodymyr’s Baptism, the heir of centuries-long experience of sanctity, culture, science and traditions of our people.
There were many vicissitudes on the historical paths of Ukrainian Orthodoxy. The strifes, the Mongol-Tatar invasion, the Union, militant atheism, dissents. All this our Church has endured with patience and humility, and, performing its high mission, served to God and people.
On October 27, 1990 the Bishops’ Council of the Russian Orthodox Church adopted the resolution on the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, by which our Church was granted self-governance. The same day, His Holiness Alexy II, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia signed the certificate which blessed the UOC “to be henceforth independent and autonomous in its governance.”
The text of the Tomos in particular also determines the limits of independent action of the UOC: “The Ukrainian Orthodox Church, united through our Russian Orthodox Church with the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church may not change in itself anything concerning the dogmas of faith and holy canons without the conciliar decision of all Orthodox Catholic Plenitude”.
Thus a new phase in the history of Orthodoxy in Ukraine began. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church was granted the right to decide all major issues of her internal life. In 1990 the Ukrainian Church received the right to create and abolish the dioceses within the borders of Ukraine, and to choose and install the ruling and vicar bishops. The Primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church was granted the title “Metropolitan of Kyiv and All Ukraine.” Since then he is elected by the Ukrainian bishops and blessed by His Holiness Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia.
At present the documents of 1990 have already passed the procedure of final approval. In 2000, the Jubilee Bishops’ Council of the Russian Orthodox Church adopted the new statute of the Russian Orthodox Church, which approved the special status of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. Paragraph 18 of Chapter 8 of the Statute reads: “The Ukrainian Orthodox Church is self-governed with the right of broad autonomy. In his life and work it is guided by the Tomos of Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia in 1990 and the Statute of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which is confirmed by its Primate and approved by the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia”. The Local Council of the Russian Orthodox Church in 2009 approved all the decisions of the Bishops’ Council of the ROC, taken within the period from 1990 to 2009.
Thus, passed in 1990, the Resolution on the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, first, became the result of careful and thorough discussion of the initiatives made by the Ukrainian bishops in the early 90′s, and secondly, this Resolution have covered an important distance of recognition by the whole fullness of the Russian Orthodox Church. Today, this document is an integral part of the effective legislation of the Russian Orthodox Church, and its provisions fully are incorporated in the statutory documents of the Moscow Patriarchate.
Speaking about the importance of the documents issued in 1990, in the history of our Church, above all, it should be noted that, as we see, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church received her current status before the collapse of the Soviet Union. And the autonomy in the governance allowed the Orthodox Church to successfully carry out its mission of salvation within the Ukrainian state which is now independent. The Resolution of 1990 on the independence of the Ukrainian Church has created favorable conditions for the development of our Church in independent Ukraine.
Unfortunately, the independent being of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church was clouded by the church split, caused by the former Metropolitan of Kyiv and all Ukraine Filaret. It was his secession into split in 1992, and the support he received from the former government of Ukraine, became the reason of deepening the split, whose wound has not been healed till now.
The change of the status of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in 1990 defined its development for decades to come. Due to the self-governed status the Church with rights of broad autonomy the Ukrainian Church managed to strengthen essentially its position in the Ukrainian State. Over the past twenty years we have observed a steady quantitative growth of our Church. Despite the extremely difficult conditions of her existence, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church remains the most numerous confession in Ukraine. For the past two decades, our Church has managed to develop significantly its internal structure. Today actively the entirely new activities for the Churchare mastered: the Synodal institutions engaged in the missionary work, social service, external church relations, religious education and catechization, taking care of soldiers and so on are functioning. In the territory of Ukraine the whole network of seminaries and schools, pastoral courses and Orthodox schools is active. An important indicator of maturity of our Church is also the restoration of the old and opening of the new monasteries. Today the Ukrainian Church carries out her testimony to the world using the latest technology: Orthodox television and radio programs are broadcast, newspapers and magazines published, Orthodox Internet resources created. A new chapter in the history of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church was opened by the Council of Bishops of 1992, held on May 27-28 in Odessa. The aim was to adopt the decision on the means of opposing schism with the conciliar mind. In the course of the Council the resolution was adopted to remain in unity with the universal orthodoxy. The Council elected a new Primate of the Church.
The legality of decisions of the Kharkiv Council of Bishops, their conformity canons and validity, were recognized and reaffirmed by the heads of all local Orthodox Churches. The decision of the Council was accepted by the Orthodox people as the beginning of the era of religious freedom in Ukraine.
On June 26, 1992 at the Holy Dormition Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra the Local Council of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church was held, presided over by its new primate. Taking part in the work of the Council was the entire episcopate of the UOC, representatives of the clergy and laity of all dioceses and monasteries and theological schools. Since the Local Council is the highest authority in the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, it made a decision to “recognize Bishops’ Council in Kharkiv on 27-28 May 1992 as canonical and approve all its acts and regulations that are to be considered lawful”. The Council unanimously approved all the amendments made by the Kharkiv Council of Bishops to the Statute on governance of the UOC and testified its unchanged unity and loyalty to the Holy Ecumenical Orthodoxy. The same task is set for us today.
The atheistic epoch of which we all are witnesses has come to an end. The Church in the early 90s of the last century breathed full breast and, being filled with the grace of God set on her way to recovery.
Statistics of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church
Since the last Council of the UOC significant changes have taken place in our Church. If the episcopate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in 1992 consisted of 20 bishops, in 2011 their number increased to 72 (45 ruling, together with the Primate, 19 – Auxiliary and 8 – at rest). In 1992, the UOC consisted of 19 dioceses, today their number has grown to 45.
In 1992, the UOC counted nearly 5,500 parishes, by the present their number has grown to 12 000.
The number Synodal institutions of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church grew from 2 in 1992 to 26 in 2011.
Monasteries and monastics
In 1992, there were 28 monasteries in the UOC, now they are 211. Performing monastic obedience there are 4,826 monks and nuns: 1747 (in men’s) monasteries and 3079 in (women’s) convents.
For us it was a great spiritual joy to visit the monasteries of the Church and to observe not only the revival of external beauty, but also the arrangement of the internal monastic life of monasteries.
Just today, in the cradle of our monasticism, at the relics of Venerable Fathers of Kyiv-Caves, chaired by the Deputy Abbot of the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra and chairman of the Synodal Commission for the monasteries, the regular session of the abbots and abbesses of the monasteries of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church was held. I hope the commission will be the very institution that will help to monasteries in resolving administrative, economic and legal issues, and regular meetings of the monastics will become spiritual councils of the Church.
Canonization of saints and newly revealed miracle-working icons
In the period since 1993, when the commission for Canonization of Saints of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church began its work, God, wonderful in His saints showed us 258 new saints and men of prayer for our Holy Church and the people.
Among those glorified by our holy Church – the first new martys of our land in the twentieth century Hieromartyr Metropolitan Volodymyr of Kyiv, the Holy Hierarch Peter (Mohyla), St the Holy Hierarch Philaret of Chernihiv, the Holy Confessor Luke, Archbishop of Simferopol, the Venerable John of the Holy Mount, the venerable Laurentius of Chernihivand Amphilochius of Pochayiv, Venerable Kuksha of Odessa, the Venerable Anastasia and Elena of Kyiv, the synaxis of the saints of Kyiv, Odesa, Galicia, Crimea, Chernihiv, new martyrs of Slobozhanshchyna region, of Cherkasy and Zaporizhia, and the Venerable Martyrs of Mgar and Hlynka, Savytohorsk and Zverinetsk. By the Decision of the Holy Synod the commemoration of the holy Prince Yaroslav the Wise was restored and special memorial days fixed: April 26 – the victims of the Chernobyl accident, May 9 – deceased soldiers and war victims, August 18 – Victims of Terror and Stalinist repression, November 25 – the victims of famine and political repression.
The evidence of grace-filled renewal of our spiritual life and godliness of the way we go, there are many manifestations in our Church of the icons of our Most Holy Lady Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary. The newly revealed icon “Look down upon humility” (Kyiv), Boyanska (Zhytomyr diocese), “I am with you and nobody against you” (Chernihiv diocese), the Icon of Svyatohorsk in the Donetsk region, and many others that bear the myrrh, cry, get renewed and heal, strengthen the faith of our pious people and have become inexhaustible source of grace and spiritual comfort.
The central place of the Church’s life is its liturgical service that provides grace-filled strength for performing its spiritual mission and social work. So the questions of liturgical practice, mastery of the traditions of liturgical art require special attention. After the decades of restrictions the Ukrainian Orthodox Church has fully restored the liturgical and liturgical life.
Today there liturgical texts to the newly-glorified saints are composed, as well as new rites meeting the needs of modern life, constant work on the improvement of the liturgical texts is conducted.
In the church environment the issue of translation of the worship in modern language is actively discussed. In the Ukrainian Orthodox Church the church communities , if desired and with the blessing of the ruling bishop have a right to perform worship services in Ukrainian, Romanian, Georgian, Greek and other national languages. But in this regard one should steer the golden mean. We have to take care of the preservation and study of the Church Slavonic, but do not forget that it is not a man for the language but the language for men. The believers must understand the meaning of chants and rituals.
The issues of liturgical language and the liturgical texts can not be solved by purely cabinet work of a narrow circle of specialists. The issues of liturgical language and the liturgical texts can not be solved by purely cabinet work of a narrow circle of specialists. Therefore we call all the admirers of the divine service together with the liturgical commission and theological schools.
Church court and theological-canonical Commission
The decision of the Holy Synod restored the ecclesiastical courts of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. We hope that the efficiency of this authority which is unfortunately necessary will be estimated not by the number of decisions and canonical sentences, but the examples of solution of conflict issues in a spirit of peace and Christian love according to the canons of the Holy Church.
I would also like to mark the years-long work of the Canonical Theological Commission, which after careful consideration of complex and sometimes controversial issues, eventually submits to the hierarchy well-thought and reasoned conclusions which become basis for the decisions of the Holy Synod and the Council of Bishops of our Church.
In 1992, the UOC had four theological education establishments (1 Academy and 3 seminaries), now there are 20 (1 Theological Academy in Kyiv, Spiritual Theological Academy in Uzhgorod, 7 seminaries (in the diocese of Kyiv, Volyn, Odessa, Poltava, Simferopol, Kharkiv and Pochayiv Lavra), 9 theological schools, one theological university in Lugansk and a theological institute in Chernivtsi). In addition, at the seminaries of Odessa, Poltava and Pochayiv seminary and Lugansk theological school there are Choirmaster and icon-painting departments.
The Educational Committee of the Holy Synod of the UOC coordinates the activities of all educational institutions of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and is engaged in carrying out reform of theological education in Ukraine in accordance with the modern standards.
At the time the issue of granting theological educational institutions of the state accreditation and recognition of the diplomas of the graduate of the theological schools is actual now.
Religious education and education at secular schools and universities
An integral part of the life of the Church is preaching the Word of God and transfer of spiritual knowledge. After decades of domination of atheistic ideology the religious education and upbringing is returning to schools.
Many parents wish that their children were brought up on Christian ethical principles, and studied at school the Law of God. We must make every effort for actualization of this task. We must work both within the church walls – at Sunday schools and church schools, and outside it – at public schools of all levels.
We are faced with the task of teacher training – the teachers for Sunday schools, the teachers, of religion and religious study, naturalist and ethical subjects at public and private schools. It is necessary to elaborate documents, programs, textbooks and instructional materials for teaching Christian ethics and Biblical history in the system of secular education. The Synodal missionary department, the All-Ukraine Orthodox Teacher’s fellowship, Orthodox education workers from different regions of Ukraine are now actively working on solving this problem.
The Ukrainian Orthodox Church must regain the right to establish her own educational institutions at all levels she was devoid by the God-fighting atheistic power. We consider it necessary to teach the foundations of Christian ethics, Orthodox culture and the law of God at schools at all levels – from kindergarten to the most prestigious university.
We hope for the fruitful work of the Commissioner for Higher Education.
Interaction with the Armed Forces and other law-enforcement bodies
After the decades of atheist rule the church service in the army was restored, and in 1999 the respective Synodal Department was set up. Today in 30 dioceses of the Church the diocesan military departments are established, 34 temples built in the territories of military units, more than 150 priests are engaged in spiritual and pastoral work amidst the believing soldiers. Our priests have experience in pastoral work in peacekeeping missions in Kosovo and Iraq.
In February 2010, the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine together with the Council for Spiritual and Pastoral Care elaborated the draft concept of spiritual and pastoral care of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.
Today the introduction in the Armed Forces of Ukraine and other law-enforcement bodies of regular military priests (chaplains) is the priority and desirable task. In order to solve is a pool of priests should be formed willing to set down to work in the army on civil terms, and to introduce additional courses for the preparation of such clerics at the theological schools and secular schools.
Separately, the work of with public organizations of veterans-internationalists and associations of soldiers and officers’ widows and mothers is carried out. To coordinate this work a respective Synodal Department was created.
Cooperation with the penitentiary system of Ukraine and the pastoral care of prisoners
The pastoral care in prisons was also revived. Today the pastoral work with convicts and co-workers of the penal system is conducted in each of the 181 establishment of the penitentiary system, where there are 43 and 23 churches were built and some 120 prayer rooms were opened. According to statistics of the State Penitentiary Service of Ukraine about 18 thousand out of 150 thousand people detained visit the worship on a regular basis
The real comfort to people deprived of their liberty was the visit of the relics of St. Anastasia the Deliverer from Bonds to penitentiary institutions during their sacred procession throughout Ukraine.
Introduction of the training and material supprt of the clergymen bearing obedience at the institutions of the penitentiary system, as in case of military clergymen is also an urgent task.
Pastoral care of sick and people with special needs
Out of nothing in the 90′s began the service of the clergy of our Church at the institutions of health care started out of nothing.
Today in Ukraine there are 264 hospital parishes. More than 239 priests perform pastoral ministry in the hospitals churches, 53 of which are doctors by profession. The largest number of hospital parishes is in the Diocese of Kyiv – 35, in Kharkiv – 26, in Dnipropetrovsk – 22. In Ukraine there are 31 sisterhoods of mercy and 4 medical brotherhoods. The Synodal Department for Health and Pastoral Care of Hospitals was created to coordinate activities in the medical field and cooperation with the Ministry of Health.
We hope that the movement of compassion and sacrificial service to neighbors with special needs, volunteer service at the cancer clinics and hospices, where each Christian is able to follow the example of biblical good Samaritan will reach the All-Ukraine level
For moral and ethical evaluation of modern biomedical, medical and social issues and technologies as well as the phenomena of social life from the perspective of Orthodox-Christian dogma the Commission on Bioethics and ethical problems to the Holy Synod was established. The Commission was entrusted to elaborate drafting proposals for teaching of bioethics in the system of theological and catechization courses, as well as at the religious schools.
If you start counting from the 90s of last century, during this period our church grew much younger. It concerns bishops, clergy and parishioners. It is very nice to see at the worship a large number of children and youth. This is the future of our Holy Church.
The work with youth should be one of the priorities of the church ministry and one of the main objectives not only for the Synodal Department for Youth, but for every ruling bishop, every parish priest. But for the young people just worship is not enough, we must actively involve young people in matters of charity, volunteer and scouting organizations, to encourage spiritual education and participation in worship in the choir and the altar, to the parish life beyond worship, spending leisure together, sports and creative art.
The main task of the Synodal Department we consider coordination of the activities of diocesan and parish youth organizations with a purpose to create All-Ukraine Orthodox youth movement and youth social service network, and intensifying the work with students of higher education establishments and working youth.
The new direction of work of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church became the care of spiritual and physical training of youth and pastoral care of the Ukrainian Cossacks. The churching of revived Cossacks and their upbringing in the spirit of Orthodox traditions of Zaporizhzhya Host of the times of Bohdan Khmelnytsky and Sahaidachny is the responsibility of the newly formed Synodal Department.
Orthodox family as a small church
Today the wedding of young people in the church has become natural and traditional. Unfortunately, the institution of the traditional family is in need of protection and respect. As the traditional family values need protection. To this end we have created Synodal Department for Family.
We hope that spiritual assistance to newly-created families in preparation for the sacraments of marriage, baptism and education of children, building of the family a small church will become a matter of permanent concern to all parishes of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
Strong and large families living in the Orthodox tradition – is the basis not only for the future of the Church, but is also the future of our people.
At the same time the existence in our society, orphanages, orphans and children begging at railway stations and streets of our cities is evidence to the state of public morals. Guardianship of these children, their adoption and socialization should be a constant concern for the clergy and laity of our Church.
Charity and social service
With the fall of the God-fighting atheist Soviet regime the social ministry of our church also revived and charity became an integral part of the service not only to parishes and monasteries, but also every Orthodox Christian.
Today at parishes and monasteries there are charitable canteens, the network of church homes for elderly, church orphanages and foster care homes, rehabilitation centers for alcohol and drug addicts also function.
We have experience of holding charity auctions, charity fairs and other events that aim not only to draw attention of the society to the necessity of providing real assistance to the needy, but also collecting the necessary funds for good deeds.
But we are still at the beginning of the path to fulfillment of God’s commandments of effective love of God and neighbor. In our parishes and monasteries the charitable work should be organized in the same way as the statutory worship services.
For supporting the life of the Church, maintenance of the monasteries and churches, as well as social service the full-scale revival of economic activity of the Church as a whole, as well as individual parishes and monasteries, creating their own enterprises is required. We hope that the newly created administrative-economic department will successfully organize and get this job going.
Almost immediately after lifting the prohibition for free printing and distribution of the Holy Scriptures (many no longer remember that), a wide-scale edition of liturgical, theological, catechization, spiritual and educational, religious and philosophical and child Orthodox literature started. Today we have a large number of printed books, and now the time to evaluate its qualitative aspect.
Therefore, the publishing department of our Church by the decision of the Holy Synod was entrusted to build a system owing to which only the literature that does not contradict to the Orthodox teaching, has a respective form heading and a blessing, should be distributed through the church network. The place of any other religious literature is on the shelves of secular bookstores and specialized libraries for religious study.
Information and education activities
After getting out of the public and information isolation in the early 90′s the Church immediately began to revive her missionary, educational activities. Today the publication on religious subjects, or performance of a priest on television or radio do not surprise anyone. But until quite recently it was not so.
At the same time the Church together with the society entered an epoch of rapid development of information technology, and therefore had to learn to talk about eternal values through modern media and communications. In response to the challenges and needs, apart from the Missionary Department, the Department for Information and Enlightenment was created in out Church, besides in all the Synodal structures there are employees responsible for dealing with the media.
Today, the official media of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church is “Tserkovna Pravoslavna Hazeta” (Orthodox Church magazine) the magazine “Pravoslavnyy Visnyk” (Orthodox Bulletin), TV program “World of the Orthodoxy” and the official site of the UOC orthodox.org.ua. It is through these media that the official position of the Church hierarchy is expressed, therefore I remind once again to all clergy of the necessity to subscribe to official publications.
In compliance with the decision of the Holy Synod of the UOC the list of media recommended for the church-wide distribution was approved. Unfortunately, we still have not received from the diocesan bishops the list of media recommended for distribution in the dioceses. We consider it important that in the churches and church stores only the periodicals having the blessing of the hierarchy was distributed, which is on these lists.
Today the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, apart from the official media, is represented in the informational space by dozens of diocesan television and radio programs, 250 websites and more than 100 periodicals. Ruling bishops and representatives of central and regional information services UOC constantly participate in the live broadcasts of the national and regional television stations, giving interviews and commentaries to representatives of various electronic and print media.
We hope for the further development of the missionary, educational and informative service to our Church for the sake of the witness of Christ and his Church.
Preservation and development of spiritual and cultural heritage of Ukraine
The result of the spiritual rebirth of the Ukrainian people is returning to the domestic achievements of Christian culture. The church culture came back into the social life not only as a museum of antiquity, but also as an inspired creative achievement of our contemporaries. The milestone in the development of work of the Synodal Department “Church and Culture” we believe to be the name of one of the projects – “Spirituality in contemporary art.”
Though still having no permanent premises, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church created its own museum “Orthodox Ukraine”, the collection was formed, and thematic exhibitions used the premises of the former sacristy of the Holy Dormition Cathedral of Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra and the halls of other museums.
The relationships that have been established over the last year between the Holy Dormition Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra and the National Kyiv-Pechersk Museum-Reserve, which is located in our Cathedral can be called a model of true cooperation between the Church and the state museum institution.
Synodal Department has established fruitful cooperation with the National Museum “Sophia”, museum “History of the Great Patriotic War,” National History Museum, National Museum of Taras Shevchenko and many others.
We hope that the artificial confrontation between the Church and museum workers will increasingly become a thing of the past.
Ukrainian Orthodox Church is constantly working on carrying out cultural and educational, church and church-state projects in cooperation with the Ministry of Culture and other governmental and non-governmental institutions working in the humanitarian area, with creative teams and leaders of national culture. The Department established fruitful cooperation with the National Music Academy named after Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, the main result of which was the annual Easter Choral Assembly for three years at a run held in Kyiv. Thus, supporting the revival and development of “high” culture, we should not forget popular and mass culture.
Protection of monuments and construction of new churches
Orthodox churches are theology in stone, preachers of the Kingdom of God, witnesses of the spiritual greatness of our people. Therefore an important task for the Church community is the revival of the destroyed, preservation of existing and construction of new churches. All this should be done professionally, according to the canons of the Orthodox church architecture, with a sense of responsibility to the present and future generations of Christians.
Reconstruction of the Dormition Cathedral of Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra, St. Vladimir’s Cathedral in Chersonese, the monastery complex Svyatogorsk Lavra, Holy Dormition Conventof Zimne, revival of hundreds of the shrines destroyed by God-fighting atheists were the epoch-making events in the life of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
Today the Synodal Department for architecture, construction and protection of monuments of church architecture provides for clergy and for secular architecture and art workshops the advice on church design, restoration and construction, land allocation. The work on collecting historical and archival and bibliographic data on church architecture is conducted. The Department oversees the construction of church objects, cooperate with government and civil society organizations and individual experts to coordinate projects and town-planning documentation. The Department has not only to develop and implement their own projects, but also to develop effective coordination of church-building activity of our Church, so that each church building could qualify for recognition as an architectural monument.
Construction of the Cathedral in honor of the Resurrection of Christ and the spiritual and educational center of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church
The matter of church-wide importance today is construction in Kyiv of the Cathedral in honor of the Resurrection of Christ and the spiritual and educational center of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. According to the decision of the Holy Synod in Kyiv we build not only a great cathedral church, we are building the first and only in Ukraine spiritual and educational complex of such level, which will give our church the opportunity to develop the service that the modernity requires, to conduct and coordinate missionary, educational, social, charitable, information and other activities.
In the year of the 1000th anniversary of our historic cathedral dedicated to St Sophia, the Wisdom of God, I want to say that we are building the St. Sophia Cathedral of the XXI century. Thanks to all dioceses, monasteries, parishes, and simple believers, who joined the church-wide fund-raising for the construction of this cathedral, and all those who donated for the construction of other churches and monasteries.
Let the All-Merciful Lord grant you “heaven instead of earth, immortal instead of perishable, eternal instead of temporary”.
During the period of independence of the Ukrainian state and self-governance of the Ukrainian Church, the church activity became multiple-vectored. Responsibility for this activity of the Church is entrusted on the Department for External Church Relations, which was created by the decision of the Holy Synod in 1992. Since then and until today this church institution provides and coordinates the interconfessional and interreligious relations of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
Carrying out of the external church life of the UOC is primarily manifested in its relations with the brotherly Orthodox Churches. For the past twenty years our homeland was visited by the heads of almost all the local churches, on the other hand, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church periodically makes visits to those parts of the world where Orthodox people live.
Separately I’d like to underscore activity, which can be called for our purpose “All-Church arrangements”. Celebration of the significant events in the life of the Church and the State, anniversaries of the Primate, bringing the Orthodox shrines, spiritual and educational organization, historical and cultural conferences, exhibitions and presentations – all this is only a small part of the work carried out by the Department both at the church and international levels.
Special attention deserves the pastoral nurture of the Ukrainian diaspora. In order not to deprive our compatriots of due spiritual nurture, the priests from Ukraine are sent to the foreign parishes, particularly to North America and Western Europe. To facilitate the travel of clergymen abroad, the embassies in many countries are actively working on providing visa support. The latter also applies to the organization of pilgrimages to the shrines of the world of Christian pilgrims from Ukraine.
As for the domain of the church-state relations, the UOC is actively involved in public life of our people. Co-operation with the ministries, agencies and state committees is established to ensure the rights of our believers. Participation in the activities of the Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations and the Conference of Representatives of Christian Churches of Ukraine allows the Ukrainian Orthodox Church to influence the legislative process in Ukraine, to protect the Christian life, properly accomplish its salvific mission in different spheres of public life in partnership with other Christian organizations.
Church-state relations in Ukraine
This year the Ukrainian State commemorates 20 years of Independence and the 15th anniversary of the Constitution of Ukraine. In the preamble to the Constitution of Ukraine it is said about the “responsibility before God, our own conscience, past, present and future generations”, and the Constitution guarantees us the right of free confession of our faith and religious activities.
The stance of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the domain of society and church relations, as well as state and church relations has been consistent and unchanging for all 20 years of the Ukrainian State. According to the commandment of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church has always believed and believes that the basis of interaction of the Church (the kingdom not of this world) and the State should be the principle of ” ender to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22: 21).
The State might be incompetent in the matters of faith. It does not posess, so to say, an appropriate tool that allows distinguishing the truth of divine Revelation from heresy. The Church, living in the ontological unity with God, opens with her conciliar mind the dogmas of faith and sacredly keeps them. Hence, the main function of the state (in our opinion) – is to ensure conditions for free existence of the Church, as well as refraining from the temptation to consider the Church as an informal “ministry for religious affairs.” The Church in her turn has overcome a temptation to seek public support, to speak secular language, to compete with other denominations. It is obvious by the religious situation in Ukraine.
At the same time we want to mention that we have great potential for cooperation of the church and the state in the service to the people of Ukraine.
The Ukrainian Orthodox Church for many years has asked for the possibility to gain the status of legal entity for religious associations. We are also asking that opportunity for ourselves, for our Church. This would contribute to the development of the church infrastructure, its organizational cohesion and better coordination of social, charitable and educational activities of the Church. However, we reserve for the other religious organizations the right to obtain or not obtain such status in accordance with their internal regulations, traditions and beliefs.
Far from complete is the process of returning to the Church of the property she was taken away by the God-fighting power, as requires justice and international obligations of Ukraine. We note with appreciation what has been done in this direction by the Ukrainian State, and we are not asking to return immediately everything that once belonged to the Church. But we ask for a moratorium to ban the privatization of the former religious property, which is now in the state and municipal property, with a purpose to preserve everything that in time should be returned to the Church, not becoming a possession of private individuals.
There is a number of problems preventing full-fledged cooperation of the Church and the state in the field of education. Thus the question of recognition of diplomas and scientific degrees of the graduates of religious schools by the State is not resolved, the social rights of the students and teachers of religious schools are not equal to those of the students and teachers of secular education. Until now the religious organizations have no right to establish their secondary schools of different levels, at the same time the public organizations and even private persons enjoy such right. The state should get rid of this vestige of the atheist era.
We look forward to further development of the religious upbringing and education at the schools of all levels, further support for the State of introduction in general education of the courses in Christian ethics, Orthodox culture and Law of God.
Cooperation between public authorities and the Church in the sphere of public morality needs significant improvement. We are convinced that such cooperation should include not only joint participation in the celebrations, but should take place on a daily basis. In view of that fact, we support the most active involvement of the Church into development of the state programs for protection of public morals and promoting healthy lifestyles, of the draft regulations on activities of religious organizations, and involvement of religious organizations to implementation of the appropriate programs and activities. However, the joint development of specific mechanisms of cooperation between state bodies and religious organizations in the social sphere is also needed.
It is our deep conviction that the stance of the State as for satisfying information needs of the believers should be radically changed, including the creation and spreading of the spiritual and educational programs on the state television. It is necessary to stipulate for the opportunity for free of the spiritual educational programs created by the Church in the concept of the future of public television.
Preparing to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Kharkiv Bishops’ Council and the 20th anniversary of Our election to the office of the Primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, we hope to correct the mistake made in 1992 by the state, when the “Statement of the Presidium of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine of June 15, 1992 № 2446-XII on illegality of the Council of Bishops of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which took place in Kharkiv on 27-28 May 1992″ was adopted. Cancellation of this illegal and legally ineffective regulation will not change the life of our Church, but will clearly indicate the openness of the Ukrainian Parliament for cooperation and harmonization of the church-state relations, his willingness to correct past mistakes and respect to the largest religious community in Ukraine.
We also place much expectations on the work of the Standing Representation of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the Parliament, the Legal Department of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, as well as the participation of representatives of the Church in the Commission for ensuring the rights of religious organizations to the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine, public boards at the ministries and departments, for every assistance to cooperation of the church and the state within the framework of the Constitution and laws of Ukraine on behalf of all officials – the faithful of our Holy Church. Although, as the institutions both the Church and the state are independent from each other, the same people are the citizens of the State and the faithful of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church is the Church of the Ukrainian people.
The split and ways of its overcoming
The split in the Ukrainian Orthodoxy is a pain of the whole Orthodox Church. Outside the salvific fence of the Church there are our kindred brothers and sisters of the same faith. Some of these people turned to be in a schism deliberately – they selfishly seceded from the Mother Church because of the faults of their spiritual life: pride, ambition, wrongly conceived patriotism, etc. However, we know that many Orthodox believers, who are now in the split, stay there not by conscious choice, but through some or other life circumstances. Many were seduced by false patriotic rhetoric of the schismatic leaders, some went away because of the lack of reliable information or were already born in the split. One thing is clear – the way which they follow is not salvific, and those who follow it, unfortunately, increasingly get rooted in their erroneous views. Our mission and pastoral duty is to point out the errors and to return the strayed inside the church fence.
These people profess together with us the same Orthodox faith, among them are many of those who sincerely try to get enchurched and try the true Orthodox spirituality. However, staying outside the Church and out of canonical communion with the Ecumenical Orthodoxy, those separated can not achieve the fullness of enchurchment granted to one through the grace-filled gifts of the Holy Spirit. There is a tragic situation when people who seek unity with Christ, can not be included into it, for the sacraments they receive lack fullness of salutory grace. The Mother Church condemns the sinful state of the seceded, their desire to move away, break away from the plenitude of the catholic Church. But at the same time we sincerely sympathize with those who found themselves outside the church communion, and pray for their quick return to salvific unity of the Universal Orthodoxy in the bosom of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
On this way we are supported by all the fullness of the Russian Orthodox Church. By its resolution the Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church on 24-29 June 2008 approved of the “activities of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church hierarchy for finding canonical ways to restore peace and religious unity of the Ukrainian Orthodoxy” and called “our brothers and sisters in Ukraine which remain outside the Orthodox Church fencing: the Mother-Church is patiently and with sorrow waiting for all those who left the fold of salvation. There is no sin the Lord would not forgive, no guilt, which the Church would not have covered by mother’s love”. The Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church presided over by His Holiness Kirill, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia issued the “Address to Orthodox Christians of Ukraine, remaining outside the unity with the Holy Church” during their meeting in Kyiv.
The idea of restoring the unity of the Orthodox Church in Ukraine held a red thread through all the speeches and sermons of His Holiness Patriarch Cyril during his recent visit to Ukraine
“… As Patriarch also of Ukraine, I will do everything to ensure that people reunited, that the political and national differences disappeared, that the only Church of Christ, the Church Martyr and Confessor, who was faithful to Christ even unto death and shared the fate of his people, again had the power and opportunity to embrace with the mother arms of all her faithful children …
My word, full of love, is also addressed today and to our brothers and sisters who are in schism. We will pray for you even if you do not want this prayer, we will ask God on our knees so that He bowed His mercy to Ukraine, that he unified the Church, unified the nation for all together could say: “Unite all of us, communing with the One Bread and Cup, altogether into the One Communion of the Holy Spirit”.
Demonstrating willingness to begin a constructive dialogue with non-canonical church structures, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church also maintains its principled position on the historical fact of the schism and its initiators. Our position was and remains unchanged: we believe that from the standpoint of Orthodox ecclesiology and canon law, the only acceptable model for restoration of church unity is the unity of all Orthodox Christians in the bosom of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church is the returning of those seceded from where they separated.
Our view of the way in which the seceded from the plenitude of the Church can rejoin it also remains unchanged. The way to restore unity lies through repentance, i.e. grace-filled “change of mind” and the way of life of the seceded. The penance to which calls the Holy Church those seceded into split is not a humiliating procedure of pleading forgiveness, as some might imagine. Repentance of the laity is recognition to God of one’s own imperfections, which caused separation from God and His Church. Repentance of the leaders of split is a recognition to the entire Church, especially as to their own faithful of their own guilt, which made them “blind leaders of the blind” (Mt. 15: 14).
Ukrainian Orthodox Church is ready to forget about those wounds inflicted to her by those seceded. But, sincerely wishing the return of our brothers and sisters, who, as we believe, are temporarily staying in the division, we have no right to depart from the canonical tradition of the Orthodox Church. The Church is ready to display mercy and evangelical witness in love to those who have committed sin. But we can not accept the sin as such, i.e. the split itself. And to destroy sin the diplomatic efforts and meetings are not enough. The sin can be healed only through repentance, and we sincerely hope that our brothers and sisters of the non-canonical church structures, and above all their heads, find the courage to offer sincere repentance.
With gratitude to God we state the fact of the return of parishes and even a monastery, as well as “clergy” and “bishops” of the non-canonical groups to unity with the Church. Everyone who returned found their place of service in the fold of Holy Church.
Practice shows that the return takes place due to awareness of the harm of staying in split, and not because of the pressure of external factors.
The Church of Christ lives by the law of the completeness of love – the law that commands us to forgive, show mercy and pray for the repentance of the sinners. The aim of our dialogue with non-canonical structures is grace-filled transformation of the minds and lives of those who today are in schism. Starting a dialogue with non-canonical communities, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church follows the Christ’s love, as evidenced in the parable of the prodigal son and in the words of the Savior about the Good Shepherd who leaves ninety-nine sheep for the salvation of one (cf. Lk. 15: 4). And the joy in heaven over one sinner converted is stronger than that of ninety-nine righteous. We do not seek victory or superiority over our brothers, but their return to the salvific and the blessed womb of the Church. Addressing the faithful children of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, we ask you to raise prayers daily for the returning to the Church of those who separated from her, that we with one voice and one heart can praise the Lord.
Let me now turn to the theme of our Jubilee Council of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
Canonical order and the Statute on governance of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church
Today the Ukrainian Orthodox Church according to the Tomos of His Holiness Alexy II, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia is “separate and independent in management.” The rights of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church are fixed in the Statute of the Russian Orthodox Church, which was approved by the Jubilee Bishops’ Council of the ROC in 2000, and confirmed by the Local Council of the ROC 2009. In accordance with the Statute of the ROC “Ukrainian Orthodox Church is self-governed with the rights of broad autonomy. In its life and work it is guided by the Tomos of Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia of 1990 and the Statute of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, confirmed by its Primate and approved by the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia “(Chapter 8, paragraph 18).
The highest authorities of the church government and administration of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church is the Council of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, the Council of Bishops of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and the Holy Synod of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church headed by Metropolitan of Kyiv and All Ukraine.
Today in this church has assembled the Fullness of the Church: ruling and vicar bishops, chairmen of the Synodal institutions, abbots and abbesses of Stauropegial monasteries, representatives of the diocesan clergy, monastics and laity. Our task is to adopt the Statute on governance of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the wording that was adopted by the Synod of Bishops of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
We also have to consider and adopt the Resolution on the life of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, approving all decisions of the Holy Synod and the Council of Bishops of our Church for the period since 1992.
I wish our Council God’s help in labor, spiritual discretion, “the unity of spirit in the bond of peace” to accomplish the matter for which we have gathered here the grace of the Holy Spirit.