Moscow, Kiev, Vatican & the Never-ending Schism in Ukraine

(From Left ) Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople, Patriarch Kiril of Moscow and all Russia, Metropolitan Onufriy of Kiev and All Ukraine

(From Left ) Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople, Patriarch Kiril of Moscow and all Russia, Metropolitan Onufriy of Kiev and All Ukraine

OCP News Service – 30/5/17-  George Alexander – Dept. of Church Research & Studies
EP- Ecumenical Patriarchate
ROC- Russian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate)
UOC- MP –Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate)
UOC –KP – Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Kyvian Patriarchate)
UAOC – Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church
UGCC – Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (Uniate Rite Under Vatican)

Recently Patriarch Kirill appealed to Pope Francis, UN, and WCC to not let Ukrainian government impose certain anti-Christian laws which will result in the total disintegration of canonical Orthodox Church of Moscow Patriarchate in the country.

We all know that the situation in Ukraine is complex in several aspects. Political and ecclesiastical problems have affected the smooth functioning of canonical Orthodox churches in Ukraine. At the same time, we need to understand that there is no one-sided solution to this problem. No solution is possible without the participation of all parties (EP, ROC, UOC-MP, UOC-KP, UAOC, politicians, government and faithful) involved in schism. An ecclesiastical solution is the most important, but it will not effective if there is no support from government authorities.

From (L)Patriarch Filaret- of Kyiv and All Rus’ – Ukraine, Metropolitan Macarius of UAOC

From (L)Patriarch Filaret- of Kyiv and All Rus’ – Ukraine, Metropolitan Macarius of UAOC

On a diplomatic level, Patriarch Kirill did the right thing, i.e. to appeal Pope Francis and others to summon Ukrainian authorities to refrain from anti-orthodox laws. It is the duty of the Russian Patriarch to make sure that Canonical Orthodoxy is protected in Ukraine. On the other hand, I think that a Pan-Orthodox solution is more important here, i.e. involving all Orthodox parties. There is no need to give an unwanted role for Pope and Vatican in resolving Orthodox schism in Ukraine or elsewhere. If such a freedom is given to the Vatican, then it shows the weakness of the Orthodox Church structure to find any lasting solution. (Vatican can be consulted with the case of UGCC).
It was much better if all canonical (EO and OO) had a common conciliar world platform to discuss our issues. Sadly, we are not even able to run a Pan-Orthodox council with full participation.

Our Ignorance Will Disintegrate Orthodoxy in Ukraine

Pope cannot be a coordinator of Orthodox unity. Vatican diplomacy cannot bring a solution for inter-orthodox schisms. We need to understand this reality. The problem in Ukraine is Pan-orthodox or inter-orthodox in nature, which is at the same time affected deeply by canonical, political and ethnic issues. If there is a problem for Orthodox Christians, only they can find a solution. Orthodox Church leaders and faithful must find a lasting solution to the problem. A solution for the schism in Ukraine must come from the Orthodox, not from Vatican, WCC or anyone else.

The Uniate Agenda- The Double Stand of Vatican
Eastern Catholic Rite or Uniates are a big problem in Ukraine and elsewhere. These communities are one major stumbling block for unity between Orthodox churches and Rome. Uniates create problems for both EO and OO Churches. In early days they directly attacked Orthodox Christians. In modern times they use pseudo diplomacy and tactful methods to engage Orthodox communities. Many times the Russian Orthodox Prelates has complained about Uniate activities in the canonical Orthodox territory in Ukraine. Ukraine is an Orthodox Christian nation, it is not an Eastern Catholic country. (I am not against unity with Rome. I love to see the old Orthodox Church of Rome united with the rest of the Orthodox world. Just the way it used to be in the early centuries).


Let us consider Rev Alexander Lucie Smith’s (Moral Theologian and Consulting Editor of Catholic Herald) article on the schism in Ukraine. (An Orthodox schism could be looming, but there might just be a Catholic solution)

I wrote a response to his article – A Response to Fr Alexander Lucie Smith’s Article on ‘Orthodox Schism’ in Ukraine

He speaks on the ongoing schisms and problem between various Orthodox Churches in Ukraine. He talks on the tug-of-war between Constantinople and Moscow Patriarchates over Ukraine’s Orthodox communities. Towards the end of his article, Fr Alexander Advises that Uniatism or Eastern Catholicism is an option for rival Orthodox Churches in Ukraine. As per him, “There is another solution, and that is to seek union with Rome. It has been done before now and could be done again. I wonder if any of the rival Orthodox Churches in Ukraine are thinking of autocephaly sub and cum Petro as a solution to their problems.”

Let us not forget the fact that Kharkiv-Poltava Eparchy merges with the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (as of April 2017). Who lost here? Orthodoxy is the ultimate loser. Why? Because there is a very complex and ruthless schism in the country. (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.)

Orthodox Schism in Ukraine should not benefit the growth of Uniatism.

On one hand, the Latin Hierarchy and Vatican pretends to promote unity with Orthodox churches, especially with the Moscow Patriarchate, whereas on the other hand Uniates are used as an imperial tool to disrupt canonical Orthodox territories.
This is not the case with Ukraine alone, but elsewhere as well.

Constantinople and Moscow
We need a lot of effort to coordinate unity between Orthodox Patriarchates. Are we really focusing on this aspect or are we engaging with Rome in our own ways? If Constantinople and Moscow Patriarchates do not reach an agreement between them, then no solution will be possible in Ukraine. A consensus between Prelates of Constantinople and Moscow is very important to deal with boiling issues in Ukraine.
“There is no future without peace. Peace is the future” – Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II of Antioch and All-East.

No Dialogue, No Solution
Recent Survey says that the number of people identifying themselves as canonical Orthodox in Ukraine decreases, which is a big matter of concern. We cannot find solutions if we are not ‘dialogical’. There are many Orthodox Christians who think that all non-canonical churches in Ukraine should join canonical Orthodox Church of Moscow Patriarchate at once. This is not a practical idea. Instead, only a constructive dialogue can bring last unity results. Several dialogues were held between UOC-M, UOC-KP, and UAOC for unity, but none of them found desirable results. Instead, all of them kept accusing each other of halting the dialogue process.

“He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” – St. John 8:7

What is our ultimate goal? Is it peace and unity? The, we need to be ‘dialogical’. Keeping aside all our differences, politics and ethnic issues, we need to come together for a dialogue in Ukraine to save the unity and prosperity of Orthodoxy. We need to revamp the halted dialogue process in Ukraine.

May God have mercy upon Ukraine.

OCP News Service – Dept. of Church Research & Studies