Why did the Ecumenical Patriarchate Grant the ‘Ukrainian Autocephaly’ in a Hasty Manner?

Tamar Lomidze – OCP News Service – 11/2/19

In late January 2019, a Virtual Town Hall was organized on the ‘Ukrainian Autocephaly’ by the Order of St. Andrew the Apostle – a society that defends the rights of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, which is linked to the Greek Archdiocese of America.

The speakers included Metropolitan Emmanuel of France (representing the Phanar), Rev. Dr. Nicholas E. Denysenko, Ph.D. (Professor of Theology), and Vera Shevzov, Ph.D.  (Professor of Religion, Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies).

The conference was an open forum and all issues could be discussed. Hence the speakers and listeners put forward their questions. This resulted in an awkward situation for Metropolitan Emmanuel, as there were a number of questions with regards to the policies of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

By the end of the Townhall, it seemed that the Metropolitan was not well-prepared in order to counter the questions raised. Metropolitan was elusive in responding to many questions. Some of the questions raised are listed below:

On what basis was Filaret Denysenko, who had been considered a ‘schismatic’ by the Phanar, reinstated?

Why did the EP skip a Pan-Orthodox Council to discuss the problem of the Ukrainian autocephaly?

Why is the new Ukrainian Church deprived of the rights to control its diaspora?

Why was the autocephaly granted in December 2018-January 2019, and not in 2008 when President Yushchenko requested for the same?

Why did the Ecumenical Patriarchate act against the will of Metropolitan Onufriy, the Primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP), which had been recognized as the only canonical Church in the country by the Phanar?

What was the reason for the unilateral cancellation of the ‘act of 1686’ (which attached the Kyivan Metropolis to the Moscow Patriarchate)?

Of course, one may presume that Metropolitan Emmanuel did not want to discuss such awkward topics. However, Constantinople appointed him to supervise the Ukrainian issue. He presided over the Ukrainian Unifying Council in December. So, his evasiveness or unwillingness to answer tough questions show at least that the autocephaly project wasn’t elaborated enough.

Even the hierarchs of the UOC of the USA and UOC of Canada, who took part in the process, were surprised when everything took place in a swift manner.

The Ecumenical Patriarchate received appeals from President Poroshenko, the Ukrainian Parliament, and the clergy in April 2018. He reinstated the hierarchs of the formerly unrecognized UOC-Kyivan Patriarchate and Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church in October 2018. As early as December 2019, these Churches and two bishops from UOC-MP united to form the Orthodox Church of Ukraine. The new Church received the Tomos of Autocephaly on the 6th of January, 2019.

What made Phanar implement this project in a hasty manner? Is it because of some fundamental ecclesiastical reasons? It doesn’t seem so. The position of the uncanonical Churches didn’t change (much since 2008). Maybe there were more prosaic, material reasons such as political gain or other advantages. For instance, to make a profit and get the better than your “competitors” in the struggle for influence in the Orthodox world.

OCP News Service