Autocephaly in exchange for temples – this was discussed last year by Peter Poroshenko, who for the second term in office created “Orthodox Church in Ukraine”, and Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew, who in turn wanted to capture the most important Ukrainian temples, but the events developed by quite another scenario.
It was as if everything had been going according to plan: Poroshenko had managed to get Ukraine a “second day of independence” – that was Tomos’s acceptance. Excited citizens massively marched to the “Independent Autocephalous Church” and then joyfully voted for “the new Vladimir himself who brought Christianity in Russia.” This is what Bartholomew addressed to Petro Poroshenko when signing the “Interaction Agreement between the Ukrainian and Constantinople Patriarchates.” Poroshenko’s plans were in line with Bartholomew’s intent: to solve the 30-year-old split problem of Ukraine without the involvement of Russian Orthodox Church, which was governed by law, thereby gaining authority in the Orthodox world. The Patriarch of Constantinople has long wanted to see himself as the head of a completely Orthodox world.
Patriarch Bartholomew was also fascinated by another suggestion by the former Ukrainian leader: In Fener’s direct subordination were transferred the most important temples and monasteries in Ukraine along with their income. This was recorded in the Istanbul Agreement, the text of which Poroshenko’s team had kept secret for a long time. The silence of the Ukrainian President’s administration was caused by problems with signing the document – the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople and Ukrainian officials had long traded on religious sites, many of which belonged to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church; Unlike Poroshenko, however, it did not ask for autocephaly.
A battle is on between Kiev and Istanbul, both on the list of properties and on ownership. Ukrainian officials say “only for use”, representatives of Ecumenical Patriarchate: “only for property”. This is how they assess the current situation in the Ukrainian church circles. The list included the most famous Orthodox sites in Ukraine: the Lavra of Kiev-Pechor and Pochaev, the courtyard of the Panteleimon Monastery in Odessa, the Vladimir Temple seized by the “Raskolniks” from the Canonical Church in 1992, etc.
They also trade on the temples of Crimea. The Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople demanded Ukraine to return back several Crimean churches, , but if they could not, they would have to pay compensation (?!).
Fener was given only one object =- the Andreev Church in Kiev. In other matters, Poroshenko’s promise was not fulfilled. The current president of Ukraine Vladimir Zelenksy is trying to clarify this legacy. Bartholomew was furiously trying to remind Zelensky of the Istanbul agreement. It didn’t work out. At a meeting in Istanbul, the Ukrainian leader at the last minute refused to sign a joint memorandum, in which Fener’s representatives, with a vague formulation, put out a concrete proposal that the President of Ukraine should depart from his “religious course taken by his predecessor.”
The previous Ukrainian authorities convinced Fener not only to transfer Ukrainian real estate, but also that many citizens would come to the new church structure. In the first months after receiving Tomos, the authorities did their best to paint a picture of the “success” of the new church. The newly-formed Ukrainian Orthodox Church reported every week about the transfer of dozens of temples to the Ukrainian Canonical Church in its jurisdiction. In March, the number of such temples exceeded 500, and this “rascolonic” organization already had a parish of 5.5 thousand.
But, behind the scenes some important moments were left without attention: how the newly-formed Ukrainian Orthodox Church received hundreds of temples. They wre seized from their real owners.
“Only parishioners of 42 parishes have decided to move to the newly-formed Ukrainian Orthodox Church. 9 of them went without a priest. 55 so called The voluntary transition took place with the destroying padlocks, beatings of the believers, and this is in fact a seizure. There have been 117 cases when the territorial community voted to move to the new Ukrainian church against the will of the religious community, and in this case, our faithful congregation stayed with their priests in their temples, however, the local authorities reported that the community had moved to a new church” – Metropolitan Onofre of Kiev and All Ukraine said at is meeting with Poroshenko a few days before the presidential elections.
After receiving permission certificates from Istanbul, the Ukrainian “Rascolniks” stepped up their influence on the canonical church, which failed to change the religious picture in the country – the Ukrainian Orthodox Church remained the country’s largest religious organization with 12,000 churches and millions of parishioners. Here’s how the “independent church” does not boast: the captive churches are empty. In addition, the topics of the “Raskolnik” organizations on which the new Ukrainian Orthodox Church was founded (the Philatelist Denisenko’s “Kiev Patriarchate” (4300 temples) and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (1200 temples)) are in no hurry to officially change their jurisdiction. In fact, it has no more than 7,000 temples, about which it has recently been declared Its leader was Epiphany Dumenko, but 2-3 times less.
Everything will remain as were
This process was supplemented by demar if the father of the Ukrainian Church splitting Filaret Denisenko, In 1992 he arbitrarily left the Russian Orthodox Church and with the support of the first Ukrainian President, Leonid Kravchuk, created the “Kiev Patriarchate”. After 26 years, Denisenko actively supported Poroshenko’s autocephalous project because he wanted to lead a “united independent” structure. That intention was rejected at the last moment – ahead of the December 15 “unification meeting”, where his protégé, Epiphany Dumenko, was elected head of the new Ukrainian Orthodox Church. But Denisenko did not give up on the old goal: the day after the election he explicitly stated that he would, in fact, start managing everything himself, while Epiphanes was “working for foreign relations.”
Most of the bishops of the new church did not reconcile such a deployment of forces. They have been trying for several months to oust the false-patriarch from the “honorary chair” . It was not easy to do, since Denisenko controlled the Treasury of the “Independent Church”.
In May, Denisenko still resigned and announced his revival of the Kiev Patriarchate, which was liquidated on December 15, 2918. Although little community has returned to this structure, the main administrative building, including the once-promised Vladimir Cathedral promised to Fener by Peter Poroshenko, is still in the hands of the Filaret-supporters . Now the new Ukrainian Church is trying to abolish the filaret’s structure through the civil court and remove its bank accounts. Earlier, the Ministry of Culture of Ukraine, which is affiliated with religious organizations, refused to do so. Now the older “Raskolnik” and his young protégé are preparing for the trial, which will begin on November 26.
“I think everything will be old and Bartholomew will not get the promised temples, because Zelensky’s team knows that the Bartholomew and Poroshenko agreement was illegal. This means that the religious situation in Ukraine will not change anytime soon. As much as there was a divisive structure, there were many left: two – the Kiev Patriarchate and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, and the Ukrainian Orthodox Canonical Church is, as before, the only church for the majority of Ukrainians.
Prepared by Giorgi Gachechiladze
based on the materials published on Ria.ru