Church of Serbia – 18/3/19
The Position of the Serbian Orthodox Church on the Church Crisis in Ukraine
Last November the Serbian Orthodox Church was the first among the autocephalous churches to officially react at the highest level, (i.e. the Holy Assembly of Bishops) to the intentions of His Holiness the Patriarch of Constantinople who, according to his own findings and in a self-willed manner wanted to “decide” and “resolve” the church problems in Ukraine as the “first without equals” (primus sine paribus) – and not as the “first among equals” (primus inter pares) which is, in fact, the centuries-old Orthodox ecclesiological and canonical principle – and we pleaded with him not to do so, but rather that he, in fraternal dialogue with the Russian Orthodox Church and in consultation with the other Churches, actually help to resolve this crisis.
Unfortunately, the voice of the Serbian Church has remained a “voice crying in the wilderness”: no response came from Constantinople – just deathly silence. Later, the Holy Synod of the Serbian Church addressed Constantinople with a new appeal not to rush, but to act in the spirit of conciliarity, brotherly love and responsibility not only in regard to the Church in Ukraine, but for Orthodox unity as a whole. The reaction was the same – deadly silence. Then in Thessaloniki His Holiness the Serbian Patriarch personally, verbally, begged His All-Holiness the Patriarch of Constantinople in the same manner – which, unfortunately, resulted in the same. It should be noted that on each occasion the Serbian Church conveyed her position and steps taken to all the other local sister Churches.
After all that the Patriarchate of Constantinople has done in Kiev – and Kiev is, as is well known, “the mother of all Russian cities” – the position of the Serbian Church, which has also been communicated to all the local Orthodox Churches, is the following:
1. The Serbian Orthodox Church does not recognize the uncanonical “intrusion” by His Holiness the Patriarch of Constantinople into the canonical territory of the Most Holy Russian Church, given that the Kiev Metropolitanate cannot in any way be identified with the current “Ukraine”, which is made up of dozens of other dioceses. It was transferred to the Moscow Patriarchate in1686, which can be concluded on the basis of documents from Patriarch Dionysius IV of Constantinople, from decisions made by his successors, and by the “Taktika”, “Syntagma”, Diptychs, “Calendars”, and “Almanacs” issued since then, not only by other Churches, but also by the Patriarchate of Constantinople itself, and, furthermore, even from personal statements and declaration made by the current Patriarch of Constantinople, up until April of 2018.
2. Also, the Serbian Orthodox Church does not recognize the artificial “confederation” of Ukrainian schismatic groups (which are already opposing each other and are irresistibly heading for division), proclaimed as the “autocephalous Church of Ukraine”, since this church is non-existent canonically, and in reality was forcibly imposed. The schismatics have remained schismatics. Once a schismatic, always a schismatic, except in cases of sincere conversion and profound repentance. The only Church in this given case recognized by the Serbian Church is the Ukrainian Orthodox Church headed by His Beatitude Metropolitan Onufry of Kiev and All Ukraine.
3. The Serbian Orthodox Church does not recognize the Kievian, ostensibly “unifying,” council, in which none of the hierarchs of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church participated (since a day earlier the titular Metropolitan Alexandar Drabinko and Metropolitan of Vinnitsa Simeon were received into the jurisdiction of the Church of Constantinople, and that without a canonical release from their Church). The whole scenario and everything that took place backstage of this strange gathering, which is not unknown to the public, is a cause for disbelief and sadness in the souls of Orthodox Christians throughout the world. In actuality, this is an anti-unifying pseudo-council which separates and breaks apart and has dug a deeper hole of estrangement and disintegration of society in the unfortunate country of Ukraine. Because of all this, the Serbian Orthodox Church regards its decisions as anti-canonical and not valid, and as such, not binding for the Serbian Orthodox Church.
4. The Serbian Orthodox Church does not recognize the schismatic hierarchy as an Orthodox hierarchy, nor the schismatic clergy as Orthodox clergy, given that the members of Denysenko’s group received their “church hypostasis” from a defrocked, excommunicated and anathematized hierarch (this fact was, at the time, recognized by the Ecumenical Patriarch himself), and that the members of the Maletich sect have neither apostolic succession nor priesthood in general. No official decree, no, as they say “stroke of the pen”, can change something which has happened into something that did not happen, nor create something which did not exist. Therefore, the Serbian Orthodox Church does not accept that Mr. Dumenko (called Epiphanius) is a hierarch, let alone the presiding hierarch of an autocephalous church (this last title is not given him even by his “spiritual father”, Mr. Denysenko, the “actual presiding hierarch” and moreover, lifetime “patriarch”).
5. Finally, the Serbian Orthodox Church is, by necessity, forced to cease liturgical and canonical communion not only with Mr. Epiphanius Dumenko and his followers, but also with the hierarchs and clergy who concelebrate and enter into communion with them, in accordance with the canonical principal that he who enter into communion with someone who is outside of communion places himself outside communion.
With grief and sadness over the broken unity of the Holy Orthodox Catholic Church, the Holy Synod of the Serbian Orthodox Church, again beseeches His All Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew to revise his previous decisions and to reestablish the former blessed love and unity of the local holy Churches of God. Nothing is more necessary nor more precious than love, peace and like-mindedness among brethren.
From the Office of the Holy Synod of Bishops.