Change of UAOC Communities to UGCC as a Sign of Future Unity with Catholics

UOJ Konstantin Shemliuk – 4/7/2020

Recently, several eparchies of the UAOC have moved to the UGCC. Is this a coincidence or inevitability for all Ukrainian schismatics?

On June 14, 2020, at a general meeting of the Kharkov St. Dmitry’s parish of the Kharkiv-Poltava Diocese of the UAOC (o), parishioners of this community almost unanimously voted for the transfer to the UGCC. Then it became known that the members of the St. Yuryev parish in Poltava and the Transfiguration parish in Lozova of the same eparchy of the UAOC (o) followed the example of this community. They turned to the bishop of the UGCC Vasily Tuchapets with a request to accept them into the Kharkiv Exarchate of this structure.

It should be noted that the Kharkiv-Poltava Diocese of the UAOC (o), which until recently has been headed by “Archbishop” Igor Isichenko, did not identify itself with the UAOC under the leadership of Makariy Maletich, but considered itself an independent religious structure. Due to the split in the UAOC in 2006, the Kharkiv-Poltava Diocese was isolated by adopting its own statute with the word “renewed” (o) attached to the name of this structure. Igor Isichenko has been in the lead of the diocese since 1993, and, in principle, he has never concealed his sympathies for Catholicism and Uniate.

UGCC and “Kyiv tradition”

According to Isichenko“the only church that really retained the continuity of the Kyiv tradition is the Greek Catholic Church” because “dissolving in Polish Catholicism, managed to cherish the Kyiv local tradition”.

“Archbishop” Igor explained his understanding of the phrase “Kyiv tradition”: “Until the end of the 17th century, entering a Ukrainian church, you would not have understood whether it was Uniate or Orthodox … Without conscious moving away from the Moscovite rite and church structure, any unifying initiatives will only fix the model of the Church that took shape in the tragic era for Ukraine (the time when Ukraine was part of the Russian Empire – Ed.). The UGCC has been successfully undergoing the restoration process of an authentic Kyiv rite since the end of the XIX century.” In other words, for Isichenko, the whole essence of the “Ukrainian church” lies in the conscious “disengagement from Moscow”, the best example of which is the UGCC.

That is why, on April 1, 2015, the “сouncil” of the structure headed by “Archbishop” Igor turned to the Synod of the UGCC with a request “to search for ways to restore Eucharistic communion and administrative unity”. According to the “Vladyka”, there are no dogmatic or canonical obstacles to such unity – it is only hindered by “illusions of the past and negative stereotypes”.

There is nothing surprising in the actions of schismatics from the Kharkiv-Poltava Diocese of the UAOC – they deliberately and for several years have been seeking the unity with the UGCC. But, despite all the triviality and inevitability of this decision, it is noteworthy that other representatives of the Ukrainian schism look at the Uniates with sympathy.

Earlier, Isichenko admitted that he began the “prayer unity” with the Uniates on Maidan – at the end of 2013. The Uniates did not disdain joint service with the “autocephalists” either. For example, the Kharkiv exarch of the UGCC Vasiliy Tuchapets participated in evening services with Isichenko, and even earlier the Chernivtsi and Lviv Uniates had “blessed” the water with him at Epiphany.

There is nothing surprising in the actions of schismatics from the Kharkiv-Poltava Diocese of the UAOC – they deliberately and for several years have been seeking the unity with the UGCC. But, despite all the triviality and inevitability of this decision, it is noteworthy that other representatives of the Ukrainian schism look at the Uniates with sympathy.

UGCC and OCU: rapprochement

First in this row comes the OCU. Immediately after receiving the Tomos, the head of the UGCC Sviatoslav Shevchuk said that “the next step (after the creation of the OCU – Ed.) is an ecumenical dialogue between the UGCC and the united Ukrainian Orthodoxy towards the restoration of the original unity of this Church”. To follow the formation of the OCU, he sent his greetings to the newly elected leader Epiphany Dumenko, in which he called the creation of the OCU “God’s gift” on the way to “full unity of the Churches of Vladimir’s Christianization. In response, the head of the OCU Epiphany Dumenko said that “we have outlined a certain path for our further cooperation and in the future we will look for those points of contact that will unite us”.

The ex-metropolitan of the UOC, and now the “hierarch” of the OCU, Alexander (Drabinko), also spoke out for the unity with the Uniates. According to him, what Metropolitan Vladimir (Sabodan) and the UGCC head Lubomir (Guzar) allegedly couldn’t do should be done by modern representatives of the UOC and the Uniates: “What they have done to us: to you (Shevchuk – Ed.), to Vladyka (Sus – Ed.), to me – this is advancement. Crossing the line of the possible, to make the possibility of the unreal real. What they could not do, we did and, I think, we will do”.

The upcoming plans to unite the two structures were also revealed by former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, who said during the consecration of the Uniate Church in Italy that “today the Greek Catholic Church plays an extremely important role in the unity of the state. And for me it is extremely important that it is also the unification of our Churches – I am here as an Orthodox, here the majority are Greek Catholics, but we are together because we pray for Ukraine.

According to Poroshenko, “God has sent us very wise hierarchs – Patriarch Sviatoslav and His Beatitude Epiphany. It is nice that they communicate, it is nice that they negotiate, it is nice that they coordinate their actions”.

These and other numerous facts, testifying to the future unity of Uniates with the Ukrainian Orthodox schismatics, enable us to conclude that one of the possible reasons for the actions of the Ukrainian self-ordained dissenters is to cut off Orthodox Ukraine from the Mother Church and thus contribute to the movement of the RCC to the East. This means that sooner or later, for example, the unity with the UGCC, demonstrated by the Kharkiv-Poltava Diocese of the UAOC, will be followed by other representatives of the Ukrainian schism.

UGCC and the “Single Local Church”

This thesis is indirectly confirmed by the words of “Archbishop” Igor Isichenko, who in one of his interviews stated“The local Church is not reduced to administrative unity. If the creation of a church structure is an end in itself, then it is useless. If the healthy parts of each Church try to unite in order to create the healthy body of the nation, which it needs today, then the unity of the Church will be ensured. This is now the position of the entire Kharkiv-Poltava Diocese of the UAOC: the Local Church is impossible without the unity with the UGCC. This is the position that our Diocesan Council determined in April this year.”

From these same words, it becomes clear that the creation of the “Single Local Church” is not the ultimate goal of everything that is happening in the church field of Ukraine. The final goal has been repeatedly voiced by Pope Francis and Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople – the complete eucharistic unity of the Orthodox and Catholics. In this sense, Ukraine, according to the head of the UGCC Sviatoslav Shevchuk, is only a “laboratory of ecumenism”, and the Uniates are its “catalyst”.

This is now the position of the entire Kharkov-Poltava Diocese of the UAOC: the Local Church is impossible without the unity with the UGCC. This is the position that our Diocesan Council determined in April this year.

Igor Isichenko

Perhaps, it is these facts that allowed the Piraeus Metropolis of the Church of Greece to claim that the OCU was established to facilitate the “unification” of papacy and Orthodoxy. The Anti-Heresy Department of this metropolis published a statement in which it outlined the stages through which the Pope and Patriarch Bartholomew intend to achieve the unity of Catholicism and Orthodoxy: “Ukrainian Autocephaly is aimed at facilitating ‘unification of the Churches’, papism and Orthodoxy.”

The statement says that “at the first stage, the goal is to ‘unite’ the schismatics of Epiphany with the Ukrainian Uniates in order to create a single local ‘Church’, which will include Uniates and those who will follow Epiphany (see above the words of Isichenko about the creation of the “Single Local Church” – Ed.). At the next stage, they will most likely seek to merge all the Orthodox churches that follow the Ecumenical Patriarchate, with all the Uniate local “Churches” that will obey the primacy of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. And finally, at the third and final stage, the “unification” of world Orthodoxy with heretical papism will be carried out through all these Uniatized hybrid “churches” created by then”.

Therefore, the transition of the UAOC community to the Greek Catholic Church is the beginning of that very “first stage” and evidence of those processes that are now underway among domestic schismatics in general.

In Kharkiv, they just decided not to participate in any intermediate structures such as the OCU and to join the UGCC at once because they understand that sooner or later it will happen to all Ukrainian schismatics anyway.

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