Peter Anderson reports from the Orthodox world.
Longstanding reporter of the news from the Eastern Church, Peter Anderson shares our dream of a unified Christianity. His love for Orthodoxy has driven him to this personal mission to share the news of East with the world through his email list. The Urbi et Orbi Foundation is proud to share his efforts and his insights with you.
This morning, August 13, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew celebrated the Divine Liturgy on his native island of Imbros (Turkey) on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of his ordination to the diaconate in 1961. https://orthodoxtimes.com/patriarchal-co-liturgy-for-60th-anniversary-of-ecumenical-patriarchs-priesthood-live/ (includes video and photos) He concelebrated with Patriarch Theodoros of Alexandria, Metropolitan Epifany (primate of the new Ukrainian church — OCU), Metropolitan Panteleimon of Maroneia (Church of Greece), and Metropolitan Nektarios of Kition (Church of Cyprus). The big news is that Patriarch Theodoros of Alexandria celebrated the Liturgy with the primate of the OCU. Theodoros had previously recognized the OCU in November 2019 by commemorating Epifany in the diptychs of the Liturgy. However, now he has taken the ultimate step of serving with him. Although the Moscow Patriarchate has already severed communion with Patriarch Theodoros, there may now be possible further attacks by Moscow against him.
On August 24, Ukraine will be celebrating its Independence Day. The holiday occurs on the anniversary of the day on which the Ukrainian SSR parliament in 1991 adopted its Act of Independence. The holiday this year is especially important as it marks the 30th anniversary of the enactment. Approximately 30 delegations from other countries and from international organizations are expected to attend. https://www.ukrweekly.com/uwwp/ukraine-plans-lavish-celebrations-to-mark-the-countrys-30th-anniversary-of-renewed-independence/ In Kyiv there will be a very large parade including military units. The official festivities will occur during the period of August 22 to 24.
As previously reported, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew has been invited by Ukrainian President Zelensky to attend the celebration and has accepted. His official program of activities has not yet been released by either the Ukrainian government or by the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Perhaps the reason for the delay is to make it more difficult for supporters of the UOC-MP to plan protests. However, there are now media reports of some details of the visit obtained from unnamed persons within the OCU. https://credo.press/238536/ According to these reports, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew will be in Kyiv for approximately four days, presumably beginning on August 22. However, another source indicates that the visit will begin on August 20. The Ecumenical Patriarch will participate in a number of government-related events, such as meeting with the President, the Prime Minister, and the head of the Parliament and attending the parade. He will attend a meeting with children who had a parent who died fighting for Ukraine in the Donbass and will visit the Holodomor monument. Both of these two visits relate to sad events in which Moscow was allegedly involved. There will also be meetings with the ambassadors of Greece and Turkey.
With respect to religious events, the media reports specify the celebration of the Divine Liturgy with Metropolitan Epifany (primate of the OCU) at St. Michael’s Golden-Domed Church (the cathedral of the OCU in Kyiv) and a meal with clergy of the OCU. An evening vesper service will be held in the historic and recently restored St. Andrew’s Church in Kyiv. (In July 2021, an agreement was signed by the Ukrainian authorities and by the Exarch of the Ecumenical Patriarchate allowing certain liturgical use of the church by the Ecumenical Patriarchate, while at the same time the church remains part of the museum complex “Sophia of Kyiv” and continues to operate as an active museum. https://orthodoxtimes.com/the-agreement-on-the-use-of-the-historic-church-of-st-andrew-in-kiev-was-signed/) Although not mentioned, it is logical that the Ecumenical Patriarch will meet with the members of the Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations. https://vrciro.org.ua/en/council/info Although the UOC-MP would certainly boycott such a meeting, it would be an opportunity for Bartholomew to meet with the Catholic, Protestant, and other religious heads in Ukraine.
The UOC-MP has repeatedly expressed its opposition to the visit by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. The big question now is what form of protest, if any, that the UOC-MP will have during the time of the visit. It appears that many of the events will be intertwined with the official celebration of the 30th anniversary. Protests and picketing during a time of celebration may result in a general public opinion backlash against the UOC-MP and may irritate the government. Public protests by the official church itself during the celebration has risks for the UOC-MP. However, there are other alternatives.
Several months ago, an organization was created in Ukraine with the title “Miriane” which is the word for “laity.” https://spzh.news/en/news/80487-prihozhane-upc-obedinilisy-v-organizaciju-dlya-zashhity-svojej-very-i-cennostej This organization has expanded rapidly. Its website is https://mirane.org/ukr/ and its Facebook address is https://www.facebook.com/miryany.offpage. On June 15 the organization held a major protest in Kyiv. https://spzh.news/en/news/80999-verujushhije-uzhe-ne-gotovy-molcha-otdavaty-na-rasterzanije-svoi-khramy–miryane It is very possible that if there are protests during the visit of the Ecumenical Patriarch, the demonstrations will be organized by Miriane and not by the UOC-MP itself. The UOC-MP will then use the protests by the laity as evidence that the Ukraine people themselves oppose the visit. Today, August 13, Miriane published a letter to the Ecumenical Patriarch demanding to meet with him on August 21 to explain to him the true situation in Ukraine. https://spzh.news/en/news/81862-miryane-trebujut-vstrechi-s-glavoj-fanara-jesli-on-prijedet-v-ukrainu The letter includes the following statement: “Lay people from all dioceses of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church will gather to meet with you on August 21 at 9 AM by Kyiv time on the square at the entrance to the building of the Verkhovna Rada (parliament) of Ukraine.” It remains to be seen whether this will involve a large scale project, such as occurred on July 27, where a large number of people were bused from all parts of Ukraine to Kyiv.
Another method of protest is action at the parish level of the UOC-MP and the posting of these protests on the social media. This idea, originating in the Zaporozhye diocese (headed by Metropolitan Luke), was publicized on Facebook by the UOC-MP. https://www.facebook.com/Church.ua/ (see entry for August 9 at 8:13 a.m.) The protest involves the priest of a parish with his parishioners (a ”flash mob”) holding a large banner that states “Bartholomew, we did not invite you.” It is also suggested to make some banners in English so that they can be understood by foreigners. Photos of these protests are then collected under the Facebook hashtag found at https://www.facebook.com/hashtag/stop_bartholomew . So far, there are not a great number of photos posted, but I assume that they will increase as the visit approaches. One website claims that the participants often do not know in advance why they are being asked to gather. https://religionpravda.com.ua/?p=73164
Archimandrite Cyril Hovorun has given a very extensive interview to the Kyiv publication, LB.ua. https://lb.ua/news/2021/08/09/491165_kirilo_govorun_vidbulasya.html?fbclid=IwAR2WyLH–lY3bVbIjYfx95D7SOj-zO7ixdNIAnddqYnpJBreb-6MJT1rtVQ Whether or not one agrees with Archimandrite Cyril, the interview makes very interesting reading and has many historical insights. Archimandrite Cyril served as chairman of the DECR of the UOC-MP under Metropolitan Volodymyr. However, in recent years, he has held various academic positions in the West and is sympathetic to the OCU. He discusses religious event in Ukraine from 1990 to present. He discusses at length the relationship between the UGCC and the Orthodox church in Ukraine during the last few decades. He also makes certain observations with respect to the conflict between the UOC-MP and the OCU. He believes that the UOC-MP and the OCU “will exist in parallel for a long time.” He compares the current conflict between the UOC-MP and the OCU to the highly emotional conflict between UGCC and the Orthodox in Ukraine in the 1990s. However, over time, the two churches learned to co-exist and live with one another. He believes that the same will eventually happened with respect to the UOC-MP and the OCU. He states:
I think that the UOC-MP and the OCU will grind like Orthodox and Greek Catholics in the 1990s. And when they get used to it, more active communication will begin. The UOC is still in a state of shock. She did not expect everything to happen that way, she was not ready for that. Now it’s a church on steroids. It is pumped, conditionally, by psychotropic drugs that support the changed consciousness of the people in this church. This is the basis which allows her to remain separate from others. Steroids will run out, the effect of hysteria will pass, people will wake up, they will see that nothing terrible is really happening – then reconciliation will begin.
Is this a correct assessment? On almost a daily basis I review the websites of the UOC-MP and the Union of Orthodox Journalists (UOJ). Day after day there are attacks against the OCU and often against Constantinople. It is a massive and very sophisticate form of information warfare. The UOJ also has websites in Romanian, Georgian, Greek, and Serbian – peoples who are very important in the conflict between Moscow and Constantinople. As far as I know, the financing of the extensive operations of the UOJ remains a mystery. However, one wonders if it will be possible year after year for such websites to keep their readers and listeners at the present high emotional state given the fact the Ukrainian people are very friendly in nature and may have members of the OCU as their relatives or neighbors. Human nature tells us that things will eventually calm down. In fact, it is difficult to image that the Ukrainian religious situation will ever be resolved until emotions calm down.
In Montenegro, Prime Minister Zdravko Krivokapić has stated that the basic agreement with the Serbian Orthodox Church has been technically and legally completed and has been handed over to the Serbian Patriarchate. He affirms that the Government of Montenegro is “absolutely ready” to sign it. https://www.cdm.me/politika/krivokapic-temeljni-ugovor-predat-patrijarsiji-vlada-spremna-da-ga-potpise/ In response, Patriarch Porfirije sent a letter to the Prime Minister Krivokapić on August 11 stating: “[W]e sent your proposals to the designated expert commission which should determine what is their qualitative contribution in relation to the already determined, fully agreed and accepted by you text that we intended to sign on 27 May of this year at the Patriarchal See in Belgrade. After the end of the holiday season, the members of the expert commission will submit their analysis to the Holy Synod of Bishops, which will afterwards inform you about the position of the Serbian Patriarchate on this important issue.” https://www.spc.rs/eng/patriarch_sent_letter_prime_minister_montenegro
In other news, the Divine Liturgy for the recently-deceased Father Leonid Kishkovsky was held on August 12 at his parish church on Long Island. The entire Liturgy can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DQsZ-3Ch6TM . The following are some beautiful tributes to him: https://credo.press/238527/; https://www.oca.org/in-memoriam/protopresbyter-leonid-kishkovsky. In Dubai, an agreement has been reached between the Antiochian and Romania Patriarchate with respect to the establishment of a parish to serve the religious needs of Romanians in that area. https://orthochristian.com/141034.html The priest of the parish will be appointed by Patriarch Daniel of Romania with the blessing of Patriarch John of Antioch. Finally, the new apostolic nuncio to Ukraine will receive his episcopal ordination in Vilnius, Lithuania on Saturday. He will be ordained by Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, who is now visiting Lithuania. https://ilsismografo.blogspot.com/2021/08/lituania-il-segretario-di-stato.html
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA