The Armenian Orthodox Conciliar Model may help Resolve Ukrainian Orthodox Schism

by Orthodoxy Cognate PAGE on December 15, 2016

in Featured News, News

(From Left ) Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople, Patriarch Kirilof Moscow and all Russia, Patriarch Filaret- of Kyiv and All Rus’ – Ukraine, Metropolitan Onufriy of Kiev and All Ukraine, Metropolitan Macarius of UAOC

(From Left ) Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople, Patriarch Kiril of Moscow and all Russia, Patriarch Filaret- of Kyiv and All Rus’ – Ukraine, Metropolitan Onufriy of Kiev and All Ukraine, Metropolitan Macarius of UAOC

George Alexander – Dept.of Church Research & Studies- OCP News Service – 15/12/16
Orthodoxy Cognate PAGE

#Please note that this article contains independent personal reflections and suggestions of the author.

“The unity of the Orthodox, those confessing faith in the “one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church,” is precious and we must not allow lesser differences to divide us.” – Blessed Father Seraphim Rose.

Our Ignorance Will Disintegrate Orthodoxy in Ukraine

Major Churches Involved
1.Ecumenical Patriarchate (EP)
2.Russian Orthodox Church- Moscow Patriarchate (ROC)
3.Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP)
4.Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Kyivan Patriarchate (UOC-KP)
5.Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAOC)

The Armenian Orthodox Church is famous for having a conciliar orthodox structure in its administration and unity. This structure or a similar one shall be adopted as a model to resolve the schism between three major Orthodox Churches in Ukraine if such a ‘deal’ is agreed between all jurisdictions. The idea is not to promote the Armenian Orthodox model as a replacement for Ukraine, rather suggest a different perspective which may add value in finding a solution to the problem. 

Let us first look at the Armenian Orthodox Model. The Church of Armenia has two Catholici and two Archbishop-Patriarchs.

From (L) His Holiness Catholicos-Patriarch Karekin II of All Armenia, His Holiness Catholicos Aram I of the Great House of Cilicia, From (R) below. His Beatitude Patriarch-Archbishop Nourhan Manougian of Jerusalem & His Beatitude Patriarch-Archbishop Mesrob II Mutafyan of Constantinople

From (L) His Holiness Catholicos-Patriarch Karekin II of All Armenia, His Holiness Catholicos Aram I of the Great House of Cilicia, From (R) below. His Beatitude Patriarch-Archbishop Nourhan Manougian of Jerusalem & His Beatitude Patriarch-Archbishop Mesrob II Mutafyan of Constantinople

Hierarchical Structure of the Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Church
The Church of Armenian consists of two Catholicosates and two Patriarchates.

•Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin which is the headquarters and Supreme See of the Armenian Church. (Catholicos-Patriarch Karekin II).

•The Catholicosate of the Great House of Cilicia in Antelias, Lebanon, is a regional See with the current jurisdiction of the Dioceses of Lebanon, Syria, and Cyprus granted by the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem. (Catholicos Aram I).

•The Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem which has jurisdiction over all the Holy Lands and Jordan. (Archbishop-Patriarch Nourhan Manoukian)

•The Armenian Patriarchate of Constantinople, which has jurisdiction in the modern-day Republic of Turkey. (Archbishop-Patriarch -Mesrob Mutafyan).

It shall be noted that The Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin (Catholicosate of All Armenians) is supreme ecclesiastical authority and center of the entire Armenian Orthodox Church. The Catholicos of Cilicia is equally important and equal in rank with the Mother See but recognizes the ‘primacy of honor’ of the Catholicos of All Armenians. The regional Patriarchates in Jerusalem and Constantinople are autonomous in matters of administration & governance in accordance with the Mother See. The regional Patriarchs pledge their allegiance to the Supreme Catholicos-Patriarch of all Armenians.

Governing Bodies of the Armenian Orthodox Church
There are different Assemblies and councils for the Armenian Orthodox Church. These structures are created for the effective administration and management of the Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Church.

The National Ecclesiastical Assembly
It is the most important governing body of the Church which comprises of elected clergy and laymen. It also elects the Catholicos of all Armenians.

The Council of Bishops
Presided by the Catholicos-Patriarch of All Armenians, this body discusses and suggest canonical, church. Liturgical, religious and dogmatic issues to be discussed and decided at the National Ecclesiastical Assembly.

The Supreme Spiritual Council
The Synod Bishops was replaced by this Council in the year 1924. This is the highest executive body of the Church which is presided by the Catholicos of All Armenians. The members of this council are either elected by the National Ecclesiastical Assembly or appointed by the Catholicos of All Armenians.

Like other Orthodox Church, they also have diocesan assemblies, Diocesan Councils, monastic brotherhoods, parish assemblies, and parish councils.

All the above structures and governing bodies are unified within the One Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Church at the same time the Catholicosate (Lebanon) and regional Patriarchates (Jerusalem and Constantinople) have their own freedom with matters of internal administration and decision making. They always honor respect and recognize the ‘primacy of honor’ of Supreme Catholicos-Patriarch of all Armenians.

So does this mean that the Armenian Orthodox Church doesn’t have any internal or external problems? No. Of course, they have many challenges and issues. Irrespective all challenges, agreements, and disagreements, all four different hierarchical structures exist as one Unified National Armenian Orthodox Church.

A Response to Fr Alexander Lucie-Smith’s Article on ‘Orthodox Schism’ in Ukraine

“I firmly believe that the Ukrainian Churches will get united and Ukraine will have the one national church in the near future,” Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.

Ukrainian Orthodox Churches
The situation in Ukraine is complex with schism between three major Orthodox Churches Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP), Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Kyivan Patriarchate (UOC-KP), Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAOC), where the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) and the Ecumenical Patriarchate (EP) have their own important part.

The Russian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate has a historical role in Ukraine through UOC-MP, whereas UOC-MP and others want a unified national Ukrainian Orthodox Church. The Ecumenical Patriarchate can act as a bridging gap between Russian and Ukrainian churches. Before going further let me remind that we are here to find a lasting solution for the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. This is not possible without mutual love, trust, and understanding and above all sacrifice of power and positions. The aim should be peace and triumph of Orthodox unity. There is no room for any unwanted power struggle.

Unified National Council
There is a need to set up ‘All Ukraine National Orthodox Council’ where all three Churches should be given equal importance. The idea is that there can be one unified conciliar Ukrainian Orthodox Church, at the same, each Church will have its own separate existence and internal autonomy/autocephaly.

The Ecumenical Patriarch – Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia – Patriarch of Kiev and All Ukraine, Metropolitan of Kiev and All Ukraine & Metropolitan of UOAC. The working relationship of the National Ukrainian Orthodox Council can be summarized as follows.

The National Ukrainian Orthodox Council



EP, Moscow Patriarchate, UOC-KP, UAOC & rest of the Orthodox World.
UOC – KPEP, UOC-MP, Moscow Patriarchate, UAOC & rest of the Orthodox World.
UAOCEP, UOC-KP, UOC-MP, & rest of the Orthodox world.

The Order of the Hierarchy can be – The Ecumenical Patriarch, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, Patriarch of Kiev and All Ukraine, Metropolitan of Kiev and All Ukraine and Metropolitan of UAOC. The creation of a national Ukrainian Orthodox Council is suggested, as we have three major Orthodox Churches in schism in the same country and it is a very special situation. The National Ukrainian Orthodox Council should have various commissions, departments, assemblies within its structure. The Armenian Orthodox Church Catholicosate in Lebanon and two Patriarchates are based more on regions and geographical locations. In Ukraine, the conciliar unification of three major Orthodox Churches within the national council should be based on their Byzantine Slavic Orthodox tradition (There was already a historic All-Ukrainian Orthodox Council (Sobor). Even this council can be revived with full participation of all parties.

It is important to understand the role of each Church involved. None can deny the historic and vital role of the Russian Orthodox Church in Ukraine. Likewise, it is not practical to urge UOC-KP to completely amalgamate with UOC-MP and the Moscow Patriarchate. Ecumenical Patriarchate cannot take UOC-KP and UAOC without an agreement with the Moscow Patriarchate as well. It is not easy to build one Ukrainian national Orthodox Church in a day or two. It will be a step by step constructive process. For this purpose, a national council will be useful.

Canonical Affiliations
All Churches in Ukraine can remain affiliated (canonical affiliation) with the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Moscow Patriarchate and with each other. Affiliation is not subjugation, rather it is a brotherly relation and full communion with each other.

Names, Titles, and Formats
Option I
Hence, the national Orthodox Church of Ukraine will have three unified Churches in conciliarity, at the same time three Churches in separate existence by their own means. (Just like the One Unified Armenian Orthodox Church that has two Catholicosates, and two regional Patriarchates). All three Ukrainian Churches remain in affiliation with each other, as well with EP, ROC and rest of the Orthodox world. UOC-MP, UOC-KP, UAOC should manage their own respective parishes and assets. Extensive cooperation in theological education, social issues can be practiced. So in Ukraine, there will be one Patriarchal Church and two Metropolitan Churches. Russian Orthodox Church and Ecumenical Patriarchate should recognize the autocephalous nature of the Kyivan Patriarchate and UAOC and in return, UOC-KP & UAOC should respect and recognize UOC-MP as an autonomous integral part of the Moscow Patriarchate. Earlier, UAOC and UOC-KP tried for a merger without success. If these churches would like to merge, they should be given adequate support.

We cannot alter the past, but we can correct our mistakes, create a joyful present and a better future.

Option II
If UOC-KP doesn’t accept the choice to opt as a Metropolitan Church and the name ‘Kyivan Patriarchate’ is a problem for Moscow and others, then certain alternations can be made with UOC-KP. An option is to address them with the name ‘Kyivan Autocephalous Orthodox Church of Ukraine’ where they will remain as a Patriarchal Church. (Kyivan Autocephalous Orthodox Church of Ukraine – UOC-MP- UAOC).

Option III
Another option is that with the consent of Moscow, EP shall accept UOC – KP and UAOC as Metropolitan Churches, provided if such an agreement is reached between all parties. In that case, Ukraine will have three Metropolitan Churches unified within the one national Orthodox Church of Ukraine which will be UOC-MP, UOC-Kiev Autocephalous Metropolitanate, and UAOC. This will be a challenging option for UOC-KP. If they agree to become a Metropolitan Church, then the order of churches in Ukraine should be (UOC- Kiev Autocephalous Metropolitanate, UOC-MP, and UAOC).
The most important thing is to bring lasting peace and brotherhood. Moreover, all Churches should refrain from blaming and accusing each other. They should also refrain from invading Churches of the other party and converting faithful from one jurisdiction to another. Disputed Church building and properties should have an amicable settlement.

If Ukrainian-Russian Orthodox Churches are not united in communion and ‘concilliarity’, then it will be a great disaster. Never to forget the interests of Vatican and UGCC in Ukraine. The Vatican plays diplomatic ecumenism on one side and promotes Uniatism on the other side. This is quite clear from two small incidents.

1. There was an initiative for union between Kharkiv-Poltava Eparchy of the UAOC with UGCC. Anyone is free to join the Roman Catholic Church, but using Uniatism as a tool of the union is false and it has been slammed by Roman Catholics and Orthodox hierarchs. There was even a common declaration between Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and Pope Francis that Uniate way of church unity ecumenism is false. But the agreement remains in papers.

Vatican & Uniate Reunion: Indian, Syriac Orthodox & Thozhiyoor Faithful Join Malankara Eastern Catholic Rite

2.Fr Alexander Lucie-Smith a famous Roman Catholic theologian suggest Uniatism or Eastern Catholicism is an option for rival Orthodox Churches in Ukraine. His article was published by the Catholic Herald by the title ‘An Orthodox schism could be looming. But there might just be a Catholic solution’.

OCP Chancellor Slams Vatican Ecumenism & Uniate Movement

We need only winners in Ukraine, not losers. We have only a win-win situation for all. Above all, we need to forgive past mistakes.

Dept. Church Research & Studies – OCP News Service

#Please note that this article contains independent personal reflections and suggestions of the author. 

Copyright © 1997-2016, (OCP Media Network). When reproducing our materials in whole or in part, hyperlink (OCP Media Network)and author details are mandatory.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Petr Kudinov December 16, 2016 at 8:49 pm

Sorry for my english 1st of all. I must to admit that it’s not the unique situation. Look at the US orthodoxy – there is a great problems too! Situation in the Ukraine is not a cause but a consequence. And in a big part is a consequence of institutional (earth organization of the Church) issues of the Orthodox Church. So the solution must be multi-level. Level 1 – We must clearly define a procedure of the autocephaly proclamation. Solution of the Ukrainian problem – is a level 2. The author apparently is not familiar with the current realities or too idealizes possible options. I will not delve into them, but the real solution can only be this: the Russian Orthodox Church provides the Ukrainian Church autocephaly. Other churches joins new one. And there is main question – how to grant autocephaly (question level 1)?

Michael Woerl March 21, 2017 at 2:43 am

THe EP has NO INVOLVEMENT whatsoever in Ukraine. Patroarch Bartholomew should mind his own business instead of doing jobs the US/NATO/EU/CIA asks him to …

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