Hanna Wozniak – OCP News Service – 26/10/18
President Poroshenko’s strange decision to handover St. Andrew’s Church to Constantinople.
On October 18, Ukrainian Parliament approved the handover of St. Andrew’s Church in Kiev to the Ecumenical Patriarchate. During the second hearing, 237 deputies voted for the bill (first, 216 deputies gave their votes). The project was personally initiated by President Poroshenko. It is reported that Parliament obliged the Cabinet to complete the handover in one month since the bill is adopted.
St Andrew’s Church was constructed between 1747 and 1754, to a design by the Italian architect Bartolomeo Rastrelli, and is rightfully considered one of Ukraine’s most beautiful religious structures.
At present, it is the Cathedral of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAOC), but it is a state property which is part of the Sophia of Kiev National Sanctuary. That is why the decision to hand over the Church was reviewed by members of Parliament.
Nevertheless, the Church won’t be transferred to the Patriarchate, but only for its use. As the bill reads, it was done to provide the Phanar with a place where its clergy can hold services, ceremonies, and processions – on condition that the Ecumenical Patriarchate will comply with cultural protection laws.
Obviously, the UAOC’s consent was also obtained. Its primate Metropolitan Makarios said that if the UAOC was part of the new Local Orthodox Church he agreed to give his cathedral to the Exarch of Constantinople. Along with this, he claimed that the UAOC needs another Church in Kiev in return, for example, St. Cyril’s Church or Church of the Savior at Berestove.
But here comes a peculiar detail: St Andrew’s Church was closed for restoration in 2015 and since then services haven’t been held there. The restoration will continue for at least a year and only after this, the building will be opened, said a representative of the National Sanctuary complex “Sophia of Kiev”, which owns the Church. Besides, a special agreement will be signed between the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the sanctuary complex according to which the Church will operate both as a place of worship and as a museum (like the Refectory Church of St. Sophia’s Monastery where services are held from 8 AM till 10 AM. It is opened to the public as a museum after the Liturgical services).
Does this property comply with the demands of Constantinople? After the Synod that was held on October 9-11, the Phanar published its decision on Ukraine’s autocephaly. One of the points was to restore the Patriarchate’s ‘Stavropegion’ in Kiev. According to Poroshenko, St. Andrew’s Church will become the ‘embassy’ of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Ukraine. Kiev seems to have decided that Constantinople would be fine with a Church closed for restoration. The representatives of the global Orthodox leader would reside in a museum – and that, as politicians think, also shouldn’t confuse the Phanar. Moreover, the Church won’t be owned, but only used by Constantinople. The Patriarchate seems to be fine with the same. The secretary of the Holy Synod of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kiev Patriarchate (UOC KP), Archbishop Yevstratiy (Zorya) noted that the state and the Phanar have already agreed that St. Andrew’s Church will be the Cathedral for the ‘Stavropegion’. But why this Church (witnessing a long-standing restoration), is chosen for the Constantinople’s Exarch?
Meanwhile, intriguing is the behavior of Filaret (Denysenko), the ‘recently-recognized’ primate of the UOC KP. On October 20, the UOC KP Synod changed the title of its head. According to the recent declaration, their Primate will also be called the ‘Archimandrite of Kiev-Pechersk and Pochaiv Lavras’, which seemingly reflects Filaret’s desire to get them at his disposal. At the moment both Lavras belong to the UOC MP, so it looks like the “Archimandrite” doesn’t want to comply with the fifth point of the Constantinople Synod’s decree in which the Patriarchate appeals to all sides involved to avoid appropriation of Churches, Monasteries, and other properties.
In any case, the transfer of the St. Andrew’s Church shows ‘chaotic’ process of creating a new Church in Ukraine. Isn’t there a more decent estate to be handed over to the Ecumenical Patriarchate?
OCP News Service