By Ivan KAPSAMUN, The Day
Religion expert Liudmyla FYLYPOVYCH: “Metropolitan Volodymyr repulsed wisely”
Strange things began to happen after the health of Metropolitan of Kyiv and All Ukraine, Celebrant of Ukrainian Orthodox Church, had become worse. To be more precise, during the last two meetings of the Synod which were held under the chairmanship of Ahafanhel, Metropolitan of Odesa and Izmail, an attempt to discharge Volodymyr from his governing duties was made. However, a meeting of the Holy Synod of Ukrainian Orthodox Church that was to be presided by Ahafanhel and scheduled for February 21, was cancelled by Metropolitan Volodymyr. “In this letter we announce that a meeting of the Holy Synod of Ukrainian Orthodox Church, scheduled for February 21, 2012 by Right Reverend Ahafanhel, Metropolitan of Odesa and Izmail, is cancelled by Us,” says the letter by Celebrant of Ukrainian Orthodox Church Volodymyr (you can read the full version of the letter at http://risu.org.ua). Meanwhile, Vasyl Anisimov, head of Ukrainian Orthodox Church press service, told the Radio Liberty that the meeting of the Archbishops of the Church are still going to take place. We have discussed the situation that came about in Ukrainian Orthodox Church with Liudmyla FYLYPOVYCH, Doctor of Philosophy, professor, Head of the Religious Matters in Ukraine Department at the Hryhorii Skovoroda Philosophy Institute, the National Academy of Science of Ukraine.
Would you please tell us what is happening right now within the Ukrainian Orthodox Church?
“An attempt to discharge Metropolitan Volodymyr from his duties was made. His illness and temporary incapacity were used as an excuse. It is true that Metropolitan Volodymyr is ill now, but he is still capable of keeping track of what is going on within the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and directing all the processes, especially, since his health is improving. We can see that he is returning to his active managing position in the Church. Numerous meetings with diplomats, representatives of various eparchies and public organizations were held at the hospital these days. Metropolitan Volodymyr solves all the matters concerning Ukrainian Orthodox Church wisely, without fuss, noise, and scandals. He appeals to the believers and the Synod of his church through letters. I think the order in Ukrainian Orthodox Church will be restored quite soon.”
What do you think has caused the attempts to discharge Metropolitan Volodymyr from his duties?
“Ukraine is quite a tidbit for the orthodox world, and it leads many into temptation. Let us be straightforward here: the raider attack on Ukrainian Orthodox Church, or some spiritual aggression was conducted by the Moscow Patriarchate. It is hard for me to understand Patriarch Kirill’s ‘brotherly love’: when Ukrainian Orthodox Church has to go through hard times and function without its leader, he complicates the situation within this church. Instead of brotherly help we see a gesture that can hardly be defined as a brotherly one. Metropolitan Volodymyr resisted all the attempts to aggressively seize power and unbrotherly attitude in a wise and calm manner.
“The orthodox world is a conglomeration of various orthodox churches. The center of gravity is constantly shifting between the Ecumenical Patriarch and his supporters on one side, and the Moscow Patriarch and the churches that support him, on the other. In this situation Ukrainian church was simply used to strengthen one wing and weaken the other. I do not think Ukrainian church can be an argument or a toy used in any geopolitical confrontations. It is completely self-sufficient and possesses good, ancient traditions of its own. Ukrainian church has a right for its own autonomy, and then, we hope, for sovereignty and autocephaly.”
Does Ukraine have any interests represented in this geopolitical conflict?
“Ukrainian nation has been an orthodox one in terms of religion for a very long time, it has always been present in the religious picture of the world. The thing is that the current status of Ukrainian Orthodoxy does not yet allow it to be an ‘active player.’ People and organizations, especially churches, that do not possess authority or any official statuses, tend to often be of greater importance than those provided with all the external attributes. In my opinion, Metropolitan Volodymyr and Ukrainian Orthodox Church in general have gained a profound spiritual and moral prestige among the orthodox believers of the world. Apostolic Nuncio paid a visit to the Metropolitan during his stay at the hospital. This is a clear evidence that Catholics hold him in respect as well.”
How high are the chances of a schism within Ukrainian Orthodox Church?
“The threat of a schism does exist. I would rather call this process a breakaway. A number of archbishops may split off, but it still remains uncertain if eparchies ruled by them will support such actions. Orthodox churches of the south and east of Ukraine fall under this threat. Personally, I oppose the schism. Keeping people with different political views within a single structure is a great merit of Metropolitan Volodymyr. I suppose he will do everything possible to avoid another schism. He keeps on mentioning this all the time, since there is absolutely no prospects in following the path of 1992-93 and making the same mistake again. But if some part of Ukrainian Orthodox Church decides to split off, there is no point in keeping it from doing so. There is a wonderful way of solving this matter: creating exarchates for those, who do not support Ukrainian local church. Let the exarchates of Moscow Patriarchate and Ecumenical Patriarchate be created. Besides, the ideas of this kind were already expressed before, but they were never realized. People who do not wish to be a part of Ukrainian Orthodox Church congregation, can attend such exarchates.”
What threats does the situation within Ukrainian Orthodox Church carry for the Ukrainian orthodoxy in general?
“I wish everyone a lot of patience. Spiritual part of Ukraine is going through a very complex transformation now, things like that do not happen spontaneously, during just a decade or two. It is going to take more than one generation to finish them successfully and wisely. But it is clear that all Orthodox believers in Ukraine await being united into one church.”