Peter Anderson reports from the Orthodox world.
Longstanding reporter of the news from the Eastern Church, Peter Anderson shares our dream or 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.
Today, June 25, the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, meeting at the Orthodox Center of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Chambésy, issued a communique relating to the distribution of communion. https://orthodoxtimes.com/the-communique-of-the-ecumenical-patriarchate-for-the-holy-communion/ (English) The paragraphs relating to communion are as follows:
During this meeting, the Official Letters of Their Beatitiudes the Orthodox Primates that had been received thus far in response to the letter of the Ecumenical Patriarch to them of May 17th of this year, on the issue of the mode of distribution of Holy Communion that emerged after the appearance of the coronavirus pandemic, were read and discussed. It was satisfactorily determined that their opinion coincided with that of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. This consists of the following:
a) The Mystery of the Divine Eucharist is non-negotiable, because we believe that through it is transmitted to the faithful the Body and Blood of the Savior Christ “unto the remission of sins and life eternal” and it is impossible that through this Mystery of Mysteries any disease might be communicated to those who partake. For this reason, the Church remains steadfast and immovable in its teaching towards the essence of the Mystery of Holy Communion.
b) As to the mode of distributing the ineffable Mysteries to the faithful, the Church, respecting Holy Tradition that is interwoven inextricably with the daily ecclesiastical practice and kenoitc experience, and as the guardian and vigilant watchman of those traditions handed down from the Holy Father, finds no need for a change of this mode, especially under pressure from external factors.
At the same time, the Mother Church, mindful of the special needs of Her children in the Diaspora, urges the Chief Shepherds who serve in the Diaspora that with a pastoral sensitivity, responsibility, and consciousness, to temporarily make, by economia, accommodations to problematic situations that arise from local laws of the State for the greater spiritual benefit of the Christian people, always in coordination with the Sacred Center at the Phanar.
With respect to news from Ukraine, former Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko arrived at a Kyiv courthouse on June 18 to defend against a request by Ukrainian prosecutors that he be subject to confinement for the period prior to his trial on criminal charges. Before he entered the courthouse, he addressed thousands of supporters who had gathered there. The specific charge on which confinement was sought was that in 2018 Poroshenko had illegally appointed a deputy head of the foreign intelligence service. During the hearing before the judge, prosecutors stated that they were dropping their demand for pretrial confinement. The hearing was then postponed, and the prosecutors stated that they would seek at that later time conditions, such as a commitment by Poroshenko not to leave Kyiv without permission. https://www.reuters.com/article/uk-ukraine-poroshenko/ukraine-ex-president-avoids-pre-trial-detention-as-west-warns-against-score-settling-idUKKBN23P2TR As stated in the foregoing Reuters article, the United States, Britain, Canada, and Germany had earlier expressed concern about the proceedings against Poroshenko, and the U.S. embassy in Kyiv had stated that the “justice system should not be used for the purpose of settling political scores.”
Before the large crowd prior to the hearing and as well as during the hearing, Poroshenko claimed that one of the charges against him related to obtaining the tomos and creating the OCU. An English translation of the full text of Poroshenko’s address to the judge can be read at https://ukrainetoday.org/2020/06/18/poroshenkos-full-statement-in-court-put-me-in-place-for-tomos-for-me-it-will-be-the-biggest-reward/ Poroshenko stated in part: “I want to emphasize that all 27 cases [the matters for which Poroshenko is being investigated] were absolutely illegally brought against me, which included the case of ‘inciting religious hatred’ by obtaining the Tomos and creating the Orthodox Church of Ukraine … Put me in jail for this case. For me it will be the biggest reward.” Later the same day, the press service of the State Bureau of Investigations (SBI) stated: “On November 6, 2019, the SSU [Security Service of Ukraine] launched an investigation into the statement of parishioners of the Kyiv Patriarchate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church on illegal actions of a number of senior officials who committed actions aimed at inciting inter-religious hatred during the establishment of the OCU. Subsequently, the SSU transferred the case for investigation to the SBI. The case is being investigated.” https://www.ukrinform.ua/rubric-society/3048033-u-dbr-pidtverdzuut-isnuvanna-spravi-cerez-tomos.html The big difference between the two statements is that Poroshenko used the preposition “by” (шляхом) while the press service of the SBI used the preposition “during” (при). Poroshenko indicates that the prosecutors are contending that the very acts of granting the tomos and creating the OCU constituted “inciting religious hatred.” On the other hand, the press service indicates that the acts occurred during the time of the establishment of the OCU.
It was reported on June 19 that an “informed source” within the SBI had told Ukrainian Pravda that the charge had been made by Filaret of the UOC-KP and that the SBI had no intention of interfering with the activities of the OCU or to question the legitimacy of its creation. https://www.pravda.com.ua/news/2020/06/19/7256283/ On the same day, the press service of the UOC-KP issued a statement which included the following: “The purpose of criminal proceedings is to protect the violated right to freedom of conscience of the faithful and the clergy of the Kyiv Patriarchate, and not to terminate the activities of the OCU. https://www.cerkva.info/news/zaiava-pres-sluzhby-kyivskoi-patriarkhii/ From this and other statements, it appears that gravamen of the UOC-KP’s complaint probably relates to the actions of the Poroshenko administration in withdrawing the state registration of the UOC-KP. It should also be noted that the SBI is still investigating these allegations by the UOC-KP and apparently has not yet decided whether to recommend prosecution based on these allegations.
The person in charge of prosecuting any case against Poroshenko is Prosecutor General Irina Venediktova, who was Zelensky’s legal advisor during his political campaign for president. She assumed this position on March 17, 2020 and replaced Ruslan Ryaboshapka, whom Zelensky had earlier appointed. According to ABC News, “Zelensky and his supporters have justified Ryaboshapka’s removal over what they said was slow progress in bringing prosecutions against former top officials and in high-profile investigations.” https://abcnews.go.com/International/ukraine-fires-prosecutor-general-alarming-us-european-countries/story?id=69436552 However, Venediktova does not seem to be an enemy of the tomos. During the presidential election campaign, she stated: “For our self-identity, obtaining a tomos is most important.” https://tass.ru/obschestvo/6298170 All of the foregoing indicates that Poroshenko is not being investigated from his role in obtaining the tomos or creating the OCU.
On June 12, the OCU issued a statement stressing the importance of a fair justice system and stating that “any political motivation in the activities of law enforcement agencies and the initiation of criminal cases, in particular against the fifth President of Ukraine, is unacceptable.” https://www.pomisna.info/uk/vsi-novyny/zayava-kyyivskoyi-mytropoliyi-pravoslavnoyi-tserkvy-ukrayiny/ On June 19, the OCU issued another statement claiming that the investigation of the allegations relating to inter-religious hatred is a shameful attempt to put pressure on the OCU by its opponents. https://www.pomisna.info/uk/vsi-novyny/zayava-kyi-vskoi-mytropolii-ukrai-nskoi-pravoslavnoi-tserkvy-pravoslavnoi-tserkvy-ukrai-ny/
Metropolitan Epifany, primate of the OCU, performed the funeral for Poroshenko’s father on June 19. https://www.pomisna.info/uk/vsi-novyny/mytropolyt-epifanij-zvershyv-chyn-pohoronu-oleksiya-poroshenka/ Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew sent a letter to Poroshenko expressing the Patriarch’s condolences on the death of his father. https://cerkvarium.org/novyny/pomistni-tserkvy/spivchuttya-vselenskogo-patriarkha-petrovi-poroshenku-z-privodu-smerti-batka (photocopy of the English-language letter) Bartholomew has also sent a letter to Zelensky wishing a speedy recovery for the latter’s wife who was hospitalized for Covid. https://orthodoxtimes.com/letter-from-ecumenical-patriarch-to-president-of-ukraine/
With respect to news from Montenegro, parliamentary elections have been set for August 30. https://www.cdm.me/english/parliamentary-and-local-elections-scheduled-for-30-august-decided-president-dukanovic/ The opposition parties, who strongly support the position of the Serbian Orthodox Church in regard to the new law on religion, boycotted the meeting to set the date on the grounds that conditions now for an election are worse than at the time of the 2016 elections. https://www.barrons.com/news/montenegro-calls-polls-for-august-despite-virus-return-01592664604?tesla=y The Freedom House, a NGO which rates various countries on their degree of political freedom, has now released its numerical grades for 2020 on the political rights and civil liberties in Montenegro. https://freedomhouse.org/country/montenegro/freedom-world/2020 Montenegro gets mixed grades.
As occurred on Sunday June 14, the Serbian Orthodox Church held processions in Montenegro on Sunday June 21. There were about 8,000 participants in Podgorica, 4,000 in Niksic, 4,500 in Pljevlja, 1,000 in Berane, 1,400 in Bar, 3,000 in Budva and 1,200 in Bijelo Polje. https://www.cdm.me/drustvo/na-litijama-bilo-oko-23-hiljade-gradana-opet-krsene-mjeregradova-opet-krsene-mjere/ The anti-Covid restrictions currently limit the size of groups to 200. https://www.gov.me/en/homepage/measures_and_recommendations In Montenegro there has been a spike in Covid cases with 62 new positive results being reported after June 14. https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/country/montenegro/ (see graph) The government has responded to the new processions by temporarily detaining clerical organizers for questioning. https://balkaninsight.com/2020/06/22/montenegro-police-grill-serbian-clerics-over-church-rallies/ On June 22, Metropolitan Amfilohije, accompanied by his two attorney, was at the police center in Podgorica for approximately six hours. His two attorneys subsequently filed a complaint with the Prosecutorial Council alleging unprofessional conduct by the prosecutor who was not present but who took long periods of time to submit his relatively few questions. https://mitropolija.com/2020/06/23/branioci-mitropolita-amfilohija-podnijeli-prituzbu-tuzilackom-savjetu/ At the end, the Metropolitan was informed that a criminal complaint would be filed against him but that he would not be detained. With respect to the trial of Bishop Joanikije and eight priests for alleged violations of the anti-Covid restrictions in Nikšić on May 12, the trial previously set for June 19 has been reset to July 16, due to the illness of one of the priests. https://www.cdm.me/hronika/odgodeno-sudenje-sudija-joanikija-pitao-o-imovinskom-stanju-on-odgovorio-da-pitanje-nije-pristojno/ One can probably expect a continuation of the large processions and a continuation of criminal charges until the anti-Covid regulations are relaxed so as to allow huge gatherings.
In other news, President Putin accompanied by Patriarch Kirill and Defense Ministry Shoigu visited the new Cathedral of the Armed Forces on June 22. The following is an interesting 5-minute video of the visit. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=unxknzTgSpQ It is interesting to see the respect paid by President Putin to the various icons. In Kyiv, Vadim Novinsky, the billionaire and member of parliament who is so close to Metropolitan Onufry (UOC-MP), confirmed that he has been ordained a deacon by and at the request of Metropolitan Onufry. https://spzh.news/en/news/72392-vadim-novinskij-rasskazal-kak-stal-diakonom-cerkvi Lastly, Bulgaria’s Prime Minister will be fined from entering a church without wearing a mask. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-bulgaria/bulgarian-pm-to-be-fined-for-not-wearing-face-mask-in-church-idUSKBN23U2G2
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA