Peter Anderson berichtet aus der orthodoxen Welt

Seit vielen Jahren verfolgt Peter Anderson aus Seattle USA die Entwicklungen in der orthodoxen Welt. Nicht im Auftrag einer Zeitung, sondern aus persönlicher Liebe zu den Ostkirchen und im Einsatz für die Communio von Ost und West gibt er Einblicke in neue Entwicklungen. Mit Zustimmung von Peter Anderson werden seine E-mail-Nachrichten auf der Homepage des Zentrums St. Nikolaus dokumentiert.

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NEWS 2023

  • 2 February 2023: Government panel finds canonical connection between Ukrainian and Russian churches

    On February 1, an “expert group” appointed by Ukraine’s State Service for Ethnopolitics and Freedom of Conscience (“State Service”) concluded that a “ecclesiastical-canonical connection between the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and the Russian Orthodox Church” still exists even after the actions taken by the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) to amend its charter on May 27, 2022.  The expert group was appointed pursuant to a decree signed by President Zelensky on December 1, 2022, which provided in part:  “The State Service of Ukraine for Ethnopolitics and Freedom of Conscience to ensure within a two-month period, in accordance with the Law of Ukraine "On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organizations," to carry out a religious examination of the Statute on the Administration of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church for the presence of a church-canonical connection with the Moscow Patriarchate, if necessary to take legal measures.”  The complete decision by the expert group, now released at the very end of the two-month period, can be read at .  At the end of the long report, the following conclusions were reached: 

    1. The adoption of the new edition of the Statute on the management of the UOC (from 27.05.2022) and the Resolution of the Council of the UOC did not lead to the severing of the ecclesiastical-canonical connection between the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and the Russian Orthodox Church.  The status of the UOC as a structural subdivision of the Russian Orthodox Church, which enjoys certain rights of independence, but does not form an autocephalous Church, remains unchanged.
    2. The UOC relative to the Russian Orthodox Church has an ecclesiastical-canonical connection of the part with the whole.  The relationship between the UOC and the Russian Orthodox Church is not the relationship of one independent (autocephalous) church with another independent autocephalous church.  The UOC also does not have the status of an autonomous Church, which would be recognized by other churches, and therefore, from the point of view of ecclesiology and canon law, it is a structural subdivision of the Russian Orthodox Church, which has separate rights of independent formation without its own canonical subjectivity.
    3. The current activity or lack of activity of the highest bodies of church power and management of the UOC shows that the UOC continues to be subordinate to the Russian Orthodox Church.  It does not act as an independent (autocephalous) Church and does not proclaim its own independence (autocephaly).  The members of the Expert Group did not find any documents or actions that would indicate the transformation of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church into a religious organization independent of the Russian Orthodox Church.

    The decision does not come as a surprise.  Even Olena Bogdan, who headed the State Service until December 6, 2022, and who was quite sympathetic to the UOC, acknowledged that a canonical connection still existed between the UOC and the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC).  It is also undisputed that the UOC has not yet declared itself to be “autocephalous.”  Instead, the UOC argues that the status of autocephaly can only be granted by pan-Orthodox action.  To me at least, the strategy of the UOC on May 27 is fairly apparent.  First, the UOC wished to sever itself from any control by the ROC and in that sense obtain complete independence.  On the other hand, the UOC wished to avoid becoming a “schismatic church” which could well be the case if it simply unilaterally declared its own autocephaly.  For the UOC, avoiding schism is extremely important.  According to the conservative Orthodox theology held by the UOC, a schismatic church no longer has Divine Grace.   Being schismatic would mean that the baptisms, confessions, and Divine Liturgies of the church would no longer be valid sacraments.  For the millions of faithful of the UOC, this would be catastrophic with respect to their eternal salvation.  Therefore, the UOC created a reality which is very different from the reality existing prior to May 27 but which does not fit squarely within the traditional Orthodox concept of an autocephalous church.  In that sense, the UOC created something new in terms of the usual Orthodox ecclesiology.

    The UOC maintained the canonical connection by retaining a reference in its charter to the Bishops' Council of the Russian Orthodox Church of October 25-27, 1990, which granted the UOC independence in its management.  However, this canonical connection now appears to be conceptual and does not appear to limit the freedom of action of the UOC.  The expert group failed to specify any specific situation where the UOC was in fact controlled by the ROC subsequent to May 27.   On the other hand, the UOC has not followed orders from Moscow since that time.  For example, two days after the adoption of the May 27 amendments by the UOC, the Holy Synod of the ROC responded by stating that any amendments to the UOC charter must be consistent with the charter of the ROC and must be submitted to the Patriarch for his approval.  The amendments made on May 27 are in fact very inconsistent with the charter of the ROC and were not approved by the Patriarch.  Still the UOC charter is in effect and is being applied by the UOC.  Furthermore, the UOC has taken various steps which are flagrant violations of the charter of the ROC.  For example, the commemoration of the Patriarch in “all churches” of the UOC is mandated by Chapter X, article 6 of the Charter of the ROC.  Furthermore, on March 2, 2022, Patriarch Kirill issued a resolution that the failure to commemorate him in Ukraine was “a schism for which everyone who commits it will answer before God.”  In spite of this, the UOC decided on May 27 to stop commemorating the Patriarch.  Chapter X, article 13 of the charter of the ROC provides: “The Ukrainian Orthodox Church receives holy chrism from the Patriarch of Moscow and All Rus'.”  In spite of this, the UOC has now decided to make its own holy chrism and not to receive it from the Patriarch.  Actions such as these provide strong evidence that the UOC is acting independently and does not consider itself subject to the rules and directions of the ROC.

    It is widely assumed that the conclusion of the expert group sets the stage for outlawing the UOC in Ukraine because of its connection with a church in an aggressor state.   However, in this regard, one would expect that such a drastic action would require actual proof that the existence of the church in Ukraine creates a genuine security risk to Ukraine.  Otherwise the guarantees of freedom of religion would be violated.  In this regard, one must consider all of the actual facts in determining whether a genuine security risk exists and not focus only on a conceptual “canonical connection” under Orthodox ecclesiology.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA  

  • 30 January 2023: Vatican visit of the Ukrainian Council of Churches & Archpriest Mykolay Danylevych

    A high-level delegation of the Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations ("Council") made an official visit to the Vatican, January 24-26.  The communique issued by the Council at the conclusion of the visit can be read in English at  The delegation included such religious heads as Metropolitan Epifany (head of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine), Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk (head of the UGCC); Archbishop Mieczysław Mokrzycki of Lviv (Latin-rite Catholics); Yaakov Dov Bleich (Chief Rabbi of Ukraine); and Akhmed Tamim (Supreme Mufti of Ukraine).  The delegation was headed by Bishop Marcos Hovhannisyan (head of the Armenian Apostolic Church in Ukraine).  The Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) was represented by Archpriest Mykolay Danylevych, deputy head of its Department of External Church Relations (DECR) and one of its primary spokespersons in relations with the media.  Although the UOC did not send its primate or one of its bishops, Father Mykolay was, in my opinion, a very wise choice for this assignment.

    The delegation had a private meeting with Pope Francis prior his general audience on Wednesday, January 25.  The text of the Pope’s prepared remarks (not used) and his actual remarks can be read at (official English translation).  During this meeting, it was also possible for various delegation members to address the Pope briefly.   For example, Metropolitan Epifany requested that the Pope declare a day of prayer and fasting for peace on February 24, the one-year anniversary of the invasion of Ukraine. (also includes a number of photos of this meeting).  Major Archbishop Sviatoslav gave the Pope a list of doctors captured by the Russian armed forces and requested the Pope to seek their release.  The delegation also attended the vespers in the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls on Wednesday evening.  This traditional event, with Pope Francis presiding, marks the end of the week of prayer for Christian unity.  The entire service can be seen at .  The Ukrainian delegation was seated in the front next to the cardinals.  In the video, one can see Pope Francis greeting Metropolitan Epifany at 1:09:25  and Father Mykolay at 1:10:21.

    There were also meetings between the delegation and important persons in the Curia.  There was a meeting with Cardinal Parolin, Secretary of State, and Archbishop Paul Gallagher, Secretary for Relations with States.  There was a meeting of the entire delegation with Cardinal Kurt Koch, prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity.  Following the group meeting, Cardinal Koch had a separate meeting with Metropolitan Epifany.  Archbishop Claudio Gugerotti, who was the apostolic nuncio to Ukraine from 2015 to 2020 and who is now the new prefect of the Dicastery for the Eastern Churches, hosted the delegation for dinner.

    Following the Vatican visit, the UOC posted articles concerning the visit at  and .  The following information was included in the posting:

    During the meeting with the Pope and the mentioned high representatives of the Vatican, Archpriest Mykolay Danylevych expressed his gratitude for the support of Ukraine and the help provided by the Catholic Church, as well as separately for the provision of temple premises to Ukrainian Orthodox communities in Europe, which are now being actively created, including in Italy , given the mass emigration of Ukrainians.  The Pope and the leadership of the State Secretariat of the Vatican were also informed about the latest legislative initiatives in the Ukrainian parliament, which are actually aimed at introducing restrictive measures and further stopping the activities of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which is contrary to the Constitution of Ukraine and international law.  Representatives of the Vatican expressed concern about the possibility of collective punishment of an entire denomination for individual violations of the law by individual clerics.  During the meetings, representatives of the Vatican also made statements regarding the condemnation of any persecution on religious grounds, as well as the importance of mutual cooperation between faiths and unity in diversity.

    Father Mykolay has also given a video interview which covered his Vatican visit.  

    On January 29, the UOC posted an article describing another aspect of Father Mykolay Danylevych's trip to Italy.  In addition to being the deputy head of the DECR, Father Mykolay is also the rector of the UOC parish of St. Spyridon of Trimythous located in the Sviatoshyn district of Kyiv.    According to the article, Father Mykolay took his teenage Sunday school students on a pilgrimage to Milan during the period January 21-25.  The article stated: “The main purpose of the trip, in addition to visiting shrines and places of interest, was to practice the Italian language, which most of the students had studied in Sunday school for two years.”  This included a visit to a private Catholic school where they practiced their Italian with students and teachers.   

    For the past few months, I have been following Father Mykolay on his Telegram channel and his Facebook page because I believe that he is a reasonable voice in the highly emotional church conflict in Ukraine.  I have just found an excellent interview that Father Mykolay gave to the major Russian religious website Pravmir in 2017.  In the interview, Father Mykolay describes some of his past life and his love of the priesthood.   He also describes his approach to dialogue – “during discussions I try never to get personal, I criticize ideas, but not the people who articulate these ideas.”  With respect to inter-Christian meetings, he states:  “No need to be afraid, you just need to learn more.  And when you travel, communicate with other Christians, you see many forms of preaching the Gospel that you can borrow, learn at some moments to be more open to the world, when it is possible and necessary.”  As to conflicts between Christians, he stated:  “In fact, the basis of all conflicts is, first of all, the lack of love, respect, and then hatred.  And the worst thing is when hatred arises between Christians.  As a rule, nationalists of all stripes are predisposed to it: Ukrainian, Russian, Greek, Turkish - any radical attitude deprives a person of peace of mind.  And a Christian must maintain moderation in everything.  In my opinion, a Christian can and should be a patriot, but not a nationalist - otherwise he is no longer a Christian.”  Father Mykolay has been very much of a Ukrainian patriot.  His brother Vitaly is a lieutenant colonel in the Ukrainian Armed Forces and was one of the defenders of Azovstal in Mariupol.  Father Mykolay immediately condemned the invasion on the day that it occurred.  A few days later he made an appeal to the OCU for inter-religious peace:  "Now is the time to unite, not quarrel.  Trouble in our common home.  We are all in the same boat.  Do not shake it, because we will all drown.  I very much hope that this trouble will motivate us to appreciate peace in general and interfaith peace in particular.  That we will all rethink a lot." 

    Aside from the Pravmir article, I found almost nothing on the Internet about Father Mykolay's career.  He seems to be very private in this regard.  He was born in 1977 in the western Ukrainian village of Smyha (Rivne Oblast), located 34 km northeast of the Pochaiv Lavra.  He attended the seminary at the Pochaiv Lavra.  He then attended the Moscow Theological Academy.  While at the Academy, he became an employee of the Moscow Patriarchate’s DECR, then headed by Metropolitan (now Patriarch) Kirill.  As part of his training, he was sent to Italy to learn Italian and to Greece (Patras) to learn Greek.  In his Pravmir interview, he describes the world of Greek Orthodoxy as “absolutely special.”  He had occasion to travel with various Russian Orthodox delegations to foreign countries.  In 2007 he was transferred from Moscow to Kyiv to be part of the DECR of the UOC.  He also began to teach at the Kyiv Theological Academy.  In 2007, another employee of the DECR in Moscow was also transferred to Kyiv – Father Sergei Hovorun (later as a monk, Igumen and then Archimandrite Cyril).  In April 2008, Igumen Cyril was officially made the head of the DECR of the UOC.  Thus, Cyril was the supervisor of Father Mykolay for a period of time, after which Archimandrite Cyril Hovorun returned to Moscow.   In May 2012, Father Mykolay was made deputy chairman of the DECR of the UOC.  At the time of this promotion, the primate of the UOC was Metropolitan Volodymyr (Sabodan).  Father Mykolay has held the same position to the present time.

    Unfortunately, there is now little hope for a formal dialogue between the UOC and the OCU.  The UOC at its council on May 27, 2022, required that before any dialogue between the two churches can even begin, the apostolic succession of the OCU bishops must be restored.  (see paragraph 9)  Although the canonical status of the ordination of the OCU hierarchy might be a subject of the dialogue, the UOC requires that the OCU concede on this point for a dialogue even to begin.  On the other hand, the OCU is now doing everything in its power to discredit the independence from Moscow claimed by the UOC and seeks to portray the UOC as simply an agent of the Russian Orthodox Church.  This is being used to encourage the transfer of the faithful and the parishes of the UOC to the OCU.  Neither side is taking the steps necessary to promote better relations between the two churches.  For an improvement to occur, there really needs to be an unofficial dialogue between reasonable minds on both sides.  In my opinion, Father Mykolay Danylevych might be one of those minds.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 25 January 2023: Metropolitan Hilarion of Budapest sanctioned for 30 years

    On January 23, 2023, President Zelensky of Ukraine signed Decree № 26/2023 “On the application of personal special economic and other restrictive measures (sanctions).”  Attached to the decree are the names of 22 individuals, all of whom are representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church.  Six of the individuals are sanctioned for 30 years, while 16 are sanctioned for 5 years.  See also  The first person on the list of those sanctioned for 30 years is Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev), presently Metropolitan of Budapest and Hungary.  As is well-known, he was chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department of External Church Relations (DECR) from 2009 to June 7, 2022.   The current chairman of the DECR, Metropolitan Anthony of Volokolamsk, is also sanctioned, but only for five years as opposed to 30 years for Hilarion.  Sanctions for five years were also imposed on Vladimir Legoyda, the spokesperson for Patriarch Kirill.  Hilarion is subject to 18 enumerated sanctions while Anthony and Legoyda are subject to 14 sanctions. 

    It is reported that 16 of the individuals were sanctioned based on the recommendations of the Security Service of Ukraine.  Metropolitan Anthony was on this list of 16 individuals.  Six additional individuals were added by the Cabinet of Ministers.  Metropolitan Hilarion was one of the six.  President Zelensky, in his television briefing on January 23, stated:  “Another NSDC [National Security and Defense Council] decision today concerns our spiritual independence, which we are strengthening and will continue to strengthen.  Sanctions have been imposed against 22 Russian citizens who, under the guise of spirituality, support terror and genocidal policy.”  

    As was widely reported, Metropolitan Hilarion was subject to a sudden demotion on June 7, 2022.  He was removed from his position of chairman of the DECR and lost his position as a member of the Holy Synod.  He also lost all of the other important positions that he held.  The diocese that he now heads has a total of 11 active priests and 5 deacons.  It was a humiliating demotion.  In my report of June 12, 2022, I discussed the relevant facts relating to the demotion of Metropolitan Hilarion.  See  At the conclusion, I stated:

    When one considers the reason given to Metropolitan Hilarion for his demotion, namely “required by the current socio-political situation,”  the only likely “situation” relates to events in Ukraine.  The reference to “a very sharp turn” in the road likely refers to Ukraine which has had a huge impact on the Russian Federation and the Moscow Patriarchate.  The fact that the demotion does not relate to the activities of the DECR or other institutions headed by Metropolitan Hilarion indicates that the demotion relates to the personal conduct of Metropolitan Hilarion with respect to Ukraine.  As many have observed, Metropolitan Hilarion has been very quiet with respect to Ukraine and has in no way endorsed the war there.   The sudden and surprising nature of the decision to demote him supports the theory that the decision was dictated by an authority outside the Moscow Patriarchate.   

    With respect to Zelensky's accusation that Hilarion supports “terror and genocidal policy,” one should look at the interview given by Metropolitan Hilarion on January 29, 2022.  Hilarion stated in part:

    And in Russia there are politicians who remind us that our country has never lost in any war, therefore, "whoever comes to us with a sword will die by the sword."  First, let's remember at what cost Russia won the wars.  This price is millions of lives.  Secondly, let's remember that every war brings incalculable disasters to people. We must also remember that the outcome of the war is unpredictable.  Can we assume that Russia won the First World War?  Let's remember with what enthusiasm Russia entered it, what patriotic feelings accompanied Russia's entry into this war.  Could anyone then imagine that in three years Russia would collapse?.. For all these reasons, I am deeply convinced that war is not a method of solving the accumulated political problems. 

    Metropolitan Hilarion has now been in Budapest for almost eight months.  He communicates with the public frequently through his Telegram channel.   One can see by reviewing all of his entries since his arrival in Budapest (as I have) that he has addressed only strictly religious issues and has not discussed Ukraine at all.  Here, in my opinion, we have a prelate who has been exiled because he did not vigorously support the policies of the Putin administration with respect to Ukraine.  Yet now, he has been subject to sanctions, and in fact the highest degree of sanctions, because he allegedly supports a policy of terror and genocide.  I can only shake my head in disbelief.  One simply wonders who can be advising Zelensky in religious matters.

    With respect to religious matters in Ukraine, the following are two analyses relating to draft law No. 8371 now pending before the Ukraine Rada. ;  In my last report, I provided my own analysis.   Reading the other analyses further confirms my belief that the ambiguities in the draft law raise major problems, such a need for definitions for the terms “affiliated” and “centers of influence.”

    Lastly, a delegation of the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations is now visiting the Vatican.   From the photographs of the visit, I can identify as part of the delegation Metropolitan Epifany (head of the OCU), Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk (head of the UGCC), and Archpriest Mykolay Danylevych (deputy head of the DECR of the UOC).  It is reported that the delegation will be meeting with Pope Francis.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 23 January 2023: More on new draft law in Ukraine

    This is to supplement my last email relating to the new draft law relating to religious organizations in Ukraine.  Aside from my own analysis of the new draft law ( ) , the Union of Orthodox Journalists (UOJ) in Kyiv has now posted its own analysis.  See  (English)  A comparison of the latter analysis and my analysis highlights the ambiguities in the draft law.  The most important provision in the new draft law is found in Article 5 and reads as follows:

    Activity of religious organisations affiliated with centres of influence of religious organisation (association), the governing centre (management) of which is located outside Ukraine in the state carrying out an armed aggression against Ukraine, is not allowed.  (English translation by UOJ)

    The UOJ analysis states:

    This wording refers to three entities:

    1. The religious organisations whose activities are not allowed. These are parishes, monasteries, etc.
    2. The centre of influence of a religious organisation (association). This can be an eparchial office but most likely the Kyiv Metropolis of the UOC itself.
    3. A governing centre (management) located outside Ukraine in a state carrying out armed aggression against Ukraine. This is the Moscow Patriarchate.

    In my analysis, I discussed the situation where the “centers of influence” in Article 5 would be the Moscow Patriarchate, not the UOC.  Without a definition of “centers of influence” in the draft law, it is not totally clear if the “centers of influence” would be the Moscow Patriarchate or the UOC.

    The UOJ also quotes the following amendment to Article 30, relating to the powers of DESS, found in the new draft law:

    To conduct religious expertise of the activities of religious organisations to identify subordination in canonical and organisational matters with the centres of influence of a religious organisation (association), the governing centre (management) of which is located outside Ukraine in the state carrying out armed aggression against Ukraine".  (English translation by UOJ)

    After quoting this provision, the UOJ analysis states that DESS will determine “whether the UOC in canonical and organizational matters is subordinate to the Moscow Patriarchate.”   The key language in the amendment to Article 30 is “subordination in canonical and organisational matters with the centres of influence….”  Here, the phrase “centres of influence” refers, according to the UOJ, to the Moscow Patriarchate.  Thus, according to the UOJ analysis, the phrase “centers of influence” in Article 5 refers to the UOC while in Article 30 it refers to the Moscow Patriarchate.  Personally, I agree with the UOJ that it makes sense for the phrase “centers of influence” in Article 30 to be a reference to the Moscow Patriarchate.

    The phrase “centers of influence” should logically have the same meaning throughout the draft law.  This lends support to my analysis of Article 5 where I discussed the situation where the phrase in Article 5 means the Moscow Patriarchate.  Regardless who is correct as to the meaning of “centers of influence,” the conclusion should be reached by all reasonable people that the phrase is too ambiguous.  A definition is needed.  A definition is also needed for the word “affiliated.”  Once it is determined what the draft law really means, one can then proceed to discuss further whether the draft law violates international norms relating to freedom of religion.


    Peter Anderson  

  • 21 January 2023: The problematic new draft law on religion in Ukraine

    On December 1, 2022, the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine, chaired by President Zelensky, made a decision which in part directed the Cabinet of Ministers to “submit to the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine for consideration within a two-month period a draft law on making it impossible to operate in Ukraine religious organizations affiliated with centers of influence in the Russian Federation in accordance with the norms of international law in the field of freedom of conscience and Ukraine's obligations in connection with joining the Council of Europe.”  On January 19 this draft law, given number 8371, was submitted to the Rada by Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal and was assigned to the Rada’s Committee on Humanitarian and Information Policy.  The full text of the draft law, posted on January 20, is found at .

    The draft law seeks to amend the Ukrainian law “On the freedom of conscience and religious organizations” in certain respects.  The full text of the existing law can be read at  By far the most important change is the addition of the following sentence to Article 5 (separation of church and state): “Activities of religious organizations that are affiliated with the centers of influence of a religious organization (association), the governing center (control) of which is located outside of Ukraine in a state that carries out armed aggression against Ukraine, are not allowed.”  [“Не допускається діяльність релігійних організаційякі афілійовані із центрами впливу релігійної організації (об'єднання), керівний центр (управлінняякої знаходиться за межами України в державіяка здійснює збройну агресію проти України.”]

    Another important change relates to Article 16 (termination of activity of a religious organization).  The following ground for termination is added: “In the cases provided for by this Law, the activity of a religious organization may be terminated in a court of law at the request of the central executive body that implements state policy in the field of religion, or the prosecutor.”  There are also amendments to Article 30 which list the responsibilities of “the central body of executive power implementing state policy in the field of religion.”  This central body is the State Service of Ukraine for Ethnopolitics and Freedom of Conscience, which formerly reported to the Ministry of Culture but now reports directly to the Cabinet of Ministers.  One of the responsibilities which the draft law adds is the following:  “Conducting a theological examination of the activity of religious organizations to identify subordination in canonical and organizational issues with the centers of influence of a religious organization (association), the governing center (control) of which is located outside of Ukraine in a state that carries out armed aggression against Ukraine.” 

    The draft law also has an amendment to Article 4, Section 2, of the existing law, “On state registration of legal entities, natural persons - entrepreneurs and public organizations.”  (Full text at  The existing form of the paragraph to be amended is the following: “State registration of natural persons - entrepreneurs on the basis of documents, as well as state registration of legal entities, public organizations that do not have the status of a legal entity, on the basis of documents submitted in electronic form, is carried out regardless of their location.”  This is amended to read as follows:  “State registration of natural persons - entrepreneurs and legal entities-- religious organizations on the basis of documents submitted in paper or electronic form, as well as state registration of legal entities, public organizations that do not have the status of a legal entity, on the basis of documents submitted in electronic form, is carried out regardless of their location.” [new language in bold]  The reason for this amendment is not clear.

    In considering this draft law, I was personally disappointed in its lack of clarity.  I was expecting a carefully drafted law that would artfully protect the security interests of Ukraine while guaranteeing the religious rights of believers.  Instead, the draft law in its proposed amendment of Article 5 simply tracks part of the language of the December I decision by the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine.

    A well-drafted statute would at least define some of the ambiguous words used.  The most important word is “affiliated” as used in the phrase “religious organizations that are affiliated with the centers of influence of a religious organization (association), the governing center (control) of which is located” in an aggressor state.   It is extremely important to note that the phrase “governing center” relates to and modifies the phrase “centers of influence.”  It does not relate to or modify “religious organizations” in Ukraine.  Thus, applying this language to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC), the question under the draft statute is not whether the UOC legal entities have a “governing center” in Russia.  Rather, if it is contended that the Moscow Patriarchate is a “center of influence,” the question would be whether the Moscow Patriarchate has its “governing center” in Russia – which is obviously true and would not be an issue in contention.  Accordingly, the issue for the UOC legal entities would be reduced to the disputed question of whether UOC legal entities are “affiliated” with the Moscow Patriarchate.

    The word “affiliated” can refer to many types of relationships, some of which may be very strong and some very weak.  If this draft law were properly drafted, it would limit the prohibited relationships to ones that pose genuine security risks to Ukraine.  The draft law simply does not do this.  The decision of December 1 mandated that the draft law be “in accordance with the norms of international law in the field of freedom of conscience.”   In my opinion it is very doubtful that this draft law complies with this mandate.  However, one can still hope that the Rada during the legislative process will finalize a law that will receive international respect and not condemnation.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 19 January 2022: Head of UGCC opposes banning of UOC & other news

    On the eve of the Epiphany on the Julian calendar, Major Archbishop Svyatoslav Shevchuk, primate of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC), gave an important interview to Ukrainian Pravda.  The text of the interview can be read at   You can watch the interview at  Although the entire interview is interesting, I found the primate’s remarks particularly timely because the Ukrainian parliament may soon be considering a draft law banning the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC).  The following are the primate’s observations on this topic:

    QUESTION: Should the activities of the UOC be banned?

    ANSWER:  I question it.   I do not want to give prescriptions for our legislators.  Why?  Because we [the UGCC] were banned once too.  We survived underground.   Moreover, the very fact that we were a martyred church that did not become a collaborating church with the Soviet authorities saved our moral authority.  It is important to understand that banning a church does not mean the end of its existence.  Why?   Because the church is not only a religious structure, not some organization that has a charter, a leader, a religious center.  The Church is people who also have constitutional rights.   As long as there will be people who are oriented towards Moscow Orthodoxy in Ukraine, so long will that church exist.   Even when, according to state law, it would be illegal.   And if they are banned, then we will give this church the palm of martyrdom.  We will give them the opportunity to really go into silent opposition and become those who will then claim authenticity.  I recently told one legislator: "If you want to perpetuate the Moscow Patriarchate in Ukraine, ban it."

    But, on the other hand, the state has the right to take care of its national security.  And therefore, if there are traitors, whether among Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Muslims, or Orthodox, who are dangerous for the state, in particular during martial law, they must be identified and, observing all laws, take the next steps.  You should not be persecuted for belonging to some church structure, no.   But for crimes against our country - here we are all equal.  Therefore, perhaps it is necessary to ask the same question in a different way and understand that it is not really about restricting someone's religious freedom.  The point is that our northern neighbor, who is killing us today, cannot use any of the churches for his geo-political purposes. 

    In my last report, I provided a quotation from Archimandrite Cyril Hovorun, a well-known supporter of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU), who essentially stated that individual “villains” should be punished by the state, but not those who participate in a specific church.  Father Mykolay Danylevich, deputy head of the Department of External Church Relations (DECR) of the UOC, has also stated:  “Obviously, if there are individual traitors or collaborators [in the UOC], then let them answer according to the law, but how can the whole Church?” (entry of Dec. 3, 2022)

    With respect to some of the other topics in the interview, Archbishop Svyatoslav commented that he “had many good personal meetings” with Metropolitan Volodymyr (Sabodan), who preceded Metropolitan Onufry as head of the UOC.  With respect to Metropolitan Onufry, the UGCC primate stated:  “Instead, no matter how much I asked for any bilateral meeting with Metropolitan Onufry - never.  We had meetings exclusively at various state events….In a human way, we obviously greeted each other.  But for us to have some kind of bilateral relations as heads of churches, we have not succeeded to this day.  Although we always initiated it from our side.”

    The Archbishop was also asked if there will be UGCC services in the Pochaiv Lavra [the very famous monastery in western Ukraine] in the future, similar to those held by the OCU in the Kyiv Lavra.  His answered:

    We do not claim any property that is in the hands of the Orthodox brothers.  Our church in the Russian Empire was liquidated as early as 1839.  And all our property was given to the Orthodox.  If we started demanding the return of all that property to us today, we would start another wave of religious war.  

    There are national symbols that also speak to minds and hearts.  And such a symbol is St. Sophia of Kyiv, which is the mother temple for all of us.  No one denomination can claim this temple, because there are common roots here.  God willing, one day we will all be united.  That is, all the divisions that exist today between the Orthodox world and the Catholic world, I hope that they will be overcome step by step.  And then it will be a joint temple of all the heirs of the Kyiv Church.  That's why we don't claim the property, but we say: "okay, this is also related to our history, to our identity.  [See for this history.]  We want to feel at home there too." 

    The form of this can be negotiated.  We are talking about the Pochaiv Lavra in the same way.  We do not want to present any property claims to anyone today.  But we say that this is the historically great spiritual center of our church.  Researchers of Kyiv Christianity in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth say that there was once an unwritten agreement between the Orthodox in the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra and the Greek Catholics in the Pochaiv Lavra regarding the printing of liturgical books.  What we printed in Pochaiv was not printed by the Orthodox in the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra.  Why?  Because we exchanged those books.  The Pochaiv Lavra was a unique center of musical, spiritual, religious, and international culture.  Therefore, those who will make decisions as to whom to give access for the opportunity to pray must take into account that the Pochaiv Lavra has a historical relationship with our church.   UGCC cherishes and remembers this history.

    [What specific steps do you take to gain access to the Pochaiv Lavra?]  So far, none, because we have not heard of any concrete steps to change the status of this holy place.  We will see what opportunities will be created, we will be in dialogue with those who will create new circumstances.  One thing is to have property claims, and another is the right to pray where our ancestors prayed.  We do not question the ownership of the state, but we want to have access to this shrine.

    Metropolitan Epifany, head of the OCU, celebrated the Divine Liturgy in the Dormition Cathedral of the Upper Kyiv Lavra on the feast of the Epiphany, January 19.  A large tank of water was blessed outside of the Cathedral.  As was true for the Christmas Liturgy, the Liturgy was celebrated pursuant to an agreement with the State to use the Cathedral on this specific day.  Metropolitan Epifany has given an interview where he states his hopes for a much broader use of the Lavra in the future.  However, it is certainly not clear at this point that his hopes will be realized.

    Patriarch Kirill celebrated the feast of the Epiphany in the Cathedral of the Epiphany in Moscow.  He had some very sobering words to say.  They included the following:

    This desire to defeat Russia today has acquired, as we know, very dangerous forms.  We pray to the Lord that He will enlighten those madmen and help them understand that any desire to destroy Russia will mean the end of the world.  But this is not the only thing to be prayed for, but that instead of such madness the human race will acquire some new consciousness.  Consciousness of our interdependence, consciousness of the fragility of the world in which we all live, and the need to be all together and work for common values and goals that would be aimed primarily at preserving life and, I would also add as an Orthodox Christian, at the preservation of faith in God, without which all other values are either deformed or simply reformatted into opposites and become not values, but factors contributing to the destruction of human life.

    This is such a worrying time.  But we believe that the Lord will not leave the Russian land, will not leave our authorities, our Orthodox President, our army.  That Russia will have enough strength if necessary to protect its land and its people.  But God forbid that things do not come to such a showdown, that the Lord reconciles everyone, calms them down and helps everyone work together to make the world a better place.

    Lastly, Cardinal Kurt Koch, head of the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Promotion of Christian Unity, has just written a very interesting article entitled Synodality and Ecumenism: a Necessary Bond.  Also, the full text of the address of Metropolitan Anthony (head of the DECR of the Moscow Patriarchate) to the Security Council of the United Nations on January 17 can now be read at


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 18 January 2023: Ukrainian "persecution" of UOC brought to UN & other news

    On January 14, the Russian news agency Interfax reported that the Russian Federation had requested a special meeting of the UN Security Council on January 17 at 3 p.m.    In this regard, Vasily Nebenzya, permanent representative of the Russian Federation to the United Nations, stated:  “Recently, the persecution of dissidents and opposition leaders [in Ukraine] has been supplemented by the desire to destroy the only canonical church in Ukraine - the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.  The consequences of such actions for regional peace and security can be most serious, so we believe that this situation deserves close attention from the members of the Security Council.”   Dmitry Polyansky, Russia’s deputy representative to the UN, added in his Telegram channel: “We would like to invite a representative of the Moscow Patriarchate as a speaker.”

    However, on the evening of January 16, the Department of External Church Relations (DECR) of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) issued an announcement relating to this scheduled meeting.  The announcement includes the following:  “In this regard, we would like to inform you that the Ukrainian Orthodox Church at this time has not appealed to any state for assistance in protecting its rights, and even more so to the state that perpetrated a treacherous armed attack on our country.  Also, we did not authorize anyone from the ROC MP to speak on our behalf at the UN.  We are concerned that questions about the Ukrainian Orthodox Church are being raised by structures that have nothing to do with us.  We call on the Russian authorities not to speak on behalf of our Church on international platforms and not to use the religious factor for their own political purposes.  At the same time, we ask our Ukrainian authorities to conduct a balanced religious policy within the country, to ensure equal rights for all religious organizations, so as not to give an excuse to the aggressor state to use the religious policy of our state in its own interests.”

    The meeting of the Security Council was held on January 17 as requested by Russia.  You can watch the entire session in English at  (If this site states that the meeting is closed, simply put your cursor on the right of the horizontal grey line and move it to the left.)  The session was also broadcast live in Ukraine.   Ilze Brands Kehris, Assistant Secretary-General of the UN Human Rights Office, spoke first.  She described human rights violations by the Russian Federation in its invasion of Ukraine, but urged Ukraine to exercise caution and regard for human rights with respect to religion.  RIA Novosti  has reported the concerns that she expressed.   Metropolitan Anthony, head of the DECR of the Moscow Patriarchate, appearing remotely from Moscow, then spoke next.  He enumerated a long list of specific instances in which he contends that the rights of the UOC have been violated by Ukraine.  A summary of his remarks has just been posted by the Moscow Patriarchate's DECR at  Metropolitan Anthony was followed by Vasily Nebenzya of Russia, who spoke not only about religious discrimination in Ukraine but also about Russophobia in Ukraine.  He was followed by short addresses from the representatives of Switzerland, UAE, France, Malta, Albania, Ecuador, China, USA, UK, Gabon, Ghana, Brazil, Mozambique, and Japan – none of whom spoke about the specifics relating to the religious situation in Ukraine.  The final speaker was Ukraine’s representative to the UN.  As part of his address, he read the statement by the UOC quoted above.  After this last speaker, the session ended.

    At the Security Council meeting, almost everyone referred to the great loss of civilian life caused by the Russian missile that hit an apartment building in Dnipro.  On January 15, Metropolitan Onufry, primate of the UOC, had previously issued an appeal to the Russian Federation relating to the Dnipro missile strike.  He stated in part: “I appeal to the leadership of the Russian Federation and ask: for Christ's sake, stop shooting at our people.  God gave us life, it is not necessary to take it from us, because the one who takes someone else's life, the same measure will be measured from God - he will lose his own life.  You will have to answer to God for even one drop of blood.” 

    The statement of the DECR of the UOC was certainly very helpful to Ukraine in defending itself before the Security Council.  One wonders whether Zelensky will appreciate this action by the UOC in considering various measures relating to religion now being discussed in Ukraine.  In my opinion, he should.  As you recall, the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine on December 1 directed that the Cabinet of Ministers submit to the Verkhovna Rada (the parliament of Ukraine) for consideration within a two-month period a draft law on prevention of activity in Ukraine of religious organizations affiliated with centers of influence in the Russian Federation in accordance with the norms of international law in the field of freedom of conscience and Ukraine's obligations in connection with joining the Council of Europe.   That draft law has not yet been made public, and only two weeks remain until the two-month deadline expires.  The well-known Ukrainian priest and supporter of the OCU, Father Cyril Hovorun, has stated on his Facebook page recently:  “The UOC MP has the same Ukrainians as in other Ukrainian churches.  Most of them are also rooting for Ukraine….There are villains in the UOC MP, but they should be punished not for belonging to this church, but only for violating a specific law of Ukraine.”

    Personally, I hope that Zelensky will recognize this.  There is the danger that possible draconian measures against the UOC may be motivated not so much by genuine security concerns, but by a desire to demonize the UOC so as to give an advantage to the Orthodox Church in Ukraine (OCU) in the contest for souls in Ukraine.

    Although the UOC was not able to have its customary Christmas Liturgy in the Dormition Cathedral in the Upper Kyiv Lavra, it did hold Christmas Liturgies at seven churches in the Lower Lavra.  The principal celebrants at the Church of St. Agapit Pechersky in the Lower Lavra were Metropolitan Anthony of Boryspil and Metropolitan Pavel, the vicar of the Lavra.  The website of Patriarch Kirill in Moscow stated that Metropolitan Onufry “did not have the opportunity to lead the festive Liturgy within the walls of this monastery [Kyiv Pechersky Lavra]”  In my opinion, this is misleading as he could certainly have celebrated the Liturgy at the Church of St. Agapit or at one of the six other churches in the Lower Lavra.  I suspect that Metropolitan Onufry chose to be absent from these services in order to dramatize his exclusion from the Dormition Cathedral.

    It has now been announced that Ukraine’s Ministry of Culture has entered into an agreement with the OCU which will allow Metropolitan Epifany, primate of the OCU, to hold the Divine Liturgy in the Dormition Cathedral on the morning of January 19, the feast of the Epiphany.;   It appears that this is a one-day agreement such as was signed by the UOC for the use of the Cathedral on Christmas, January 7.   Presumably, the UOC could also apply for such one-day usages.  However, I suspect that the UOC will not do so for fear that such a request might jeopardize its legal claim that its lease to Cathedral has been extended due to the imposition of martial law and therefore no application by the UOC for use of the Cathedral is needed.

    On January 13, Patriarch Theodoros, primate of the Patriarchate of Alexandria, presided at a Liturgy in Alexandria which included the episcopal ordination of Bishop-Elect Panaretos of Nyeri and Mount Kenya.  Panaretos, who is a native African and was born in Nairobi, spent over 10 years in Cyprus as a monk and a priest.  The following is an interesting English-language interview of him done by the Cyprus-Mail in 2019.  Because of this Cyprus connection, Metropolitan Isaias of Tamasos (Church of Cyprus) co-celebrated the Liturgy and participated in the ordination.  The addresses by Patriarch Theodoros, Metropolitan Isaias, and Bishop Panaretos can be read at

    Bishop Panaretos in his address extended special thanks to Archbishop Makarios (Tillyrides) of Nairobi.  Although one would expect Archbishop Makarios would be at this important event involving a person whom he had spiritually guided for many years, the Archbishop was apparently not there.  A few weeks ago, the Archbishop in his Christmas letter had stated that this was his first Christmas “away from the Diocese and my home: Kenya.”  He explained that “my health has not been great for the last few months” and that this is one of the reasons that he had been away.  He thanked all of those who have been praying for him, and he said that he was feeling better and recovering well.  The last activity of the Archbishop posted on the Facebook page of the Archdiocese was on October 11.  It appears that continuing prayers are needed.

    The Moscow Patriarchate’s Exarchate of Africa has established two dioceses – Diocese of North Africa and Diocese of South Africa.  Although the Exarchate has been in existence for over a year, no bishops have been selected to head these two dioceses.  The Exarchate has accused the Patriarchate of Alexandria of discriminating against native clergy especially with respect to the governance of the Patriarchate.  One would therefore expect that the Exarchate would desire to have native clergy head these two dioceses.  Presumably, the vast majority of the native priests who have joined the Exarchate are married and therefore are not eligible for episcopal ordination.  With respect to unmarried priests, I would expect that the Exarchate is now doing something to train possible candidates to be bishops, but I have read nothing about this.  Obviously, the Patriarchate of Alexandria has had much more time to train future native bishops.  By my count, there are presently in the Patriarchate of Alexandria seven native bishops (including 3 metropolitans): Uganda -3; Kenya – 2; Rwanda & Burundi – 1; Democratic Republic of the Congo – 1. 

    In Cyprus, Archbishop Georgios, the new primate of the Church of Cyprus, celebrated on Sunday, January 15 his first Divine Liturgy after his enthronement.  It occurred at the Monastery of Agios Georgios Alamanou in Limassol.  Metropolitan Athanasios of Limassol, who was the primary competitor of Georgios in the election for primate, participated.  In the Liturgy, Metropolitan Epifany, primate of the OCU, was commemorated as one of the primates of the Local Orthodox Churches.  The official website of the Church of Cyprus states:  “Before the dismissal of the Divine Liturgy, the Metropolitan of Limassol Athanasios addressed the Archbishop with warm words and wished him success in his work for the good of the Church of Cyprus.  The Archbishop expressed his thanks to Metropolitan Athanasios.”  Hopefully, this is a good sign that the two hierarchs will be able to work together in the future.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 9 January 2023: Dispute over the Kyiv Lavra & enthronement in Cyprus

    On January 7, the feast of the Nativity on the Julian calendar, the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU), headed by Metropolitan Epifany, celebrated the Divine Liturgy in the Dormition (Assumption) Cathedral of the historic Kyiv Pechersk (Caves) Lavra.  It was the first religious service ever conducted by the OCU in the Lavra.  Previously, at least since 1988, all religious services had been conducted only by the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC).   The entire Christmas service can be watched on the following video: .  The text of the address of Metropolitan Epifany can be read at .

    Some of the points made by Metropolitan Epifany in his address are as follows:  He notes that “more than two decades ago, this shrine [the Dormition Cathedral] was restored from ruins as a gift to the Ukrainian people for the 2000th anniversary of the birth of Christ.”  He states that according to tradition, exactly 950 years ago, the Mother of God personally sent builders from Constantinople to Kyiv to construct this cathedral.  Epifany renews the “spiritual connection…between the Church of Rus’-Ukraine and the Mother Church of Constantinople and the fullness of Orthodoxy today….”  He expresses the belief that the spirit of Metropolitan Volodymyr (Sabodan) [primate of the UOC, 1992 – 2014] “who condemned the ‘political Orthodoxy’ planted from the north and took real steps towards reconciliation between Orthodox and overcoming church divisions,” rejoices in today’s service.  He appeals to the brothers [monks] of the Lavra to free themselves from Moscow’s rule and to turn a new page of devotion to the “one Church of Christ” and “the Ukrainian people.”  He expresses the conviction that “we owe the present joyful event to the courage of the Ukrainian army, to our newest heroes.”  The entire service, including the Ukrainian dress of the choir, stressed the Ukrainian language and culture.  There were special prayers for the Ukrainian Armed Forces.

    It is important to note that the Lavra complex is owned by the Ukrainian government, and the government’s permission to the OCU to use the Lavra was limited to one location on one day – the Dormition Cathedral on January 7, 2023.   It appears likely that if the OCU wishes to use the Dormition Cathedral in the future, it will be necessary to apply to the Ukrainian government for each of those occasions.  The government body responsible for the Lavra is the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra National Preserve, which is part of the Ministry of Culture and Information Policy.  The Ministry is currently headed by Oleksandr Tkachenko.  The entire Lavra is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

    To understand the current dispute relating to the Lavra, it is helpful to have some knowledge of the various parts of the Lavra.  The Lavra covers 20 hectares and includes over 100 structures.  Good maps showing the structures of the Lavra can be found at (click on the map to enlarge it) and .  It is extremely important to understand the difference between the “Upper Lavra” and the “Lower Lavra.”  The Upper Lavra is essentially a very large museum complex.  It includes museums covering such subjects as the “book and printing,” “theater and cinema,” “folk decorative art,” “historical treasures,” “microminiatures,” and “Lavra history.”  The museum complex in the Upper Lavra also includes the Dormition Cathedral and the Refectory (Trapeza)  Church of Saint Anthony and Theodosius.  The Lower Lavra consists primarily of the active monastery (over 100 monks), the historic “near” and “far” caves, the Kyiv Theological Academy and Seminary (the most important academic institution of the UOC), three hotel buildings for pilgrims, and the administrative headquarters of the entire UOC.

    There are approximately 12 churches in the entire Lavra.  The Dormition Cathedral is the most famous.  Over the course of over 900 years, it has been destroyed and rebuilt a number of times.  In 1941 it was completely destroyed by a great explosion and remained in ruins for almost six decades.  In 1995, Ukrainian President Kuchma decreed that the Cathedral should be built on site with a completion date by Ukrainian Independence Day 2000.  The accelerated construction schedule was met, and the newly-constructed Cathedral was dedicated in 2000.   Although Metropolitan Volodymyr (Sabodan) laid the foundation stone of the new cathedral and later dedicated it, the construction of the cathedral was the work of the government and was financed by it.  The Refectory and its Church are not historic structures, but were constructed in the 1890s.  The Refectory Church is noted for its large dome and its Art Nouveau frescos.  The interior of the Church is the work of artist Alexey Shchusev (1873 – 1947).  Ironically, Shchusev later became the designer of the Lenin Mausoleum in Moscow’s Red Square and was awarded the Stalin Prize on four occasions.

    The UOC has held two leases relating to its use of property in the Lavra.  With respect to the Upper Lavra, it has held a lease that has allowed the UOC to use the Dormition Cathedral and Refectory Church for religious services.  Apparently, the UOC must pay a fee for each hour that one of those churches is used for religious services.  As part of the museum complex, those churches have also been visited by millions of tourists over the years.  The lease with respect to the two churches ran until the end of 2022.  The Ministry of Culture has now announced its intention not to extend this lease.  On January 6, Metropolitan Pavel (Lebed), governor of the monastery at the Lavra, sent a letter to Minister of Culture Tkachenko protesting this decision.  It appears that the Metropolitan’s primary argument is the Cabinet of Ministers last May issued a resolution extending state leases expiring during the period of martial law to after the end of such martial law.  However, such a resolution may not provide the UOC with much protection as the Cabinet has the power to amend this resolution at any time.  Viktor Yelensky, the new head of the State Service of Ukraine for Ethnopolitics and Freedom of Conscience, has stated that there is agreement that the churches should be used for prayer, but maintains that the UOC should not have a monopoly in this regard.  My guess is that the final resolution will be that if either the OCU or the UOC wishes to use one of the churches in the Upper Lavra on specific occasions, it will need to apply to the National Preserve for such use.

    The use of the Lower Lavra by the UOC is governed by a lease which was apparently signed in 2013 and which is for an indefinite term.   On January 8, it was reported that Tkachenko stated that an interdepartmental commission will meet next week to discuss how religious organizations use state property, in particular in the Lower Lavra.  Tkachenko also stated that the government cannot transfer its property to religious organizations for long-term use free of charge.  Personally, I would find it amazing if the government sought to evict the UOC monks from their monastery or to evict the theological academy and seminary from its building.  Rather, it is much more likely that the government will seek rent from the UOC for the use of certain state-owned buildings in the Lower Lavra.

    In Nicosia, Crete, Metropolitan Georgios of Paphos was enthroned on the afternoon of Sunday, January 8, as the new Archbishop of Nea Justiniana and All Cyprus.;  The entire enthronement ceremony can be watched at   Many hierarchs were present including Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens and All Greece.  However, there was no representative present from the Moscow Patriarchate.  This is not surprising as Metropolitan Georgios had commemorated the primate of the OCU during the Liturgy on December 25.  The full text of the address of Archbishop Georgios at the enthronement can be read at  The message from Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew was read by Archbishop Nikitas of Thyatira and Great Britain, and the message from Pope Francis was read by the apostolic nuncio to Cyprus. 

    Lastly, representatives of many of the Local Orthodox Churches were present for the funeral of Pope Emeritus Benedict.  The list of the representatives can be read at .  The representatives included Metropolitan Emmanuel of Chalcedon (Ecumenical Patriarchate) and Metropolitan Anthony of Volokolamsk (Moscow Patriarchate).  The primate of the Orthodox Church in America was also present.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 2 January 2023: Orthodox developments in Ukraine and Africa & other news

    December was a bad month for the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC).  The searches of UOC monasteries, churches, and other locations continued.  The searches of various church facilities and the incriminating evidence found as a result of such searches are describes on the Telegram site of the Security Service of Ukraine (СБУ).   I have personally reviewed all of the entries on this site for November and December 2022.  My conclusion is that nothing was discovered at the UOC facilities that could be considered a major security risk for Ukraine or would incriminate the UOC in general.     You can make the same review and come to your own conclusion.  At the end of this year, the UOC provided statistics relating to its current size.   The UOC now has 114 bishops and 12,551 priests and deacons.  It has 262 monasteries and 4,620 monks and nuns.  With such large numbers, it is not surprising if there are more than a few individuals who favor Russia in the war and even commit acts to betray Ukraine.  However, in my opinion, it is not fair to attribute the attitudes and acts by those individuals to the entire church.

    On December 27, the Constitutional Court of Ukraine upheld the constitutionality of Law No. 2662-VIII (“the Law”).  The Court’s English summary of the decision can be read at   The summary states the key conclusion of the Court as follows:  Therefore, the legislator, standardising the procedure for carrying out registration and accounting activities in relation to religious organisations (associations) that are subordinate [підлеглі] to religious centres (administrations) in the aggressor state, had the right to apply restrictions in the form of the obligation of such religious organisations (associations) to specify their statutory name in this section and reflect this in their statutory acts.  The Law does not specify the UOC or any other religious organization.  However, if it is found that UOC is “subordinate” to the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow, the UOC would need to include the “Russian Orthodox Church” in the UOC’s official title.  Subsequent to the Court’s decision, the UOC has continued vigorously to maintain that the changes made by the UOC at its Council of May 27, 2022, established the “full canonical independence of the UOC and separation from the Moscow Patriarchate” and therefore the Law does not apply to the UOC. 

    Personally, I find the actual decision confusing.  The entire decision of the Court can be read at  The full text of the Law is quoted at the beginning of the decision.  Interestingly, the Law does not use the key word “subordination” [підлеглості ]used by the Court later in its decision.  Rather, the Law provides in pertinent part as follows:  “A religious organization (association), which directly or as a constituent part [частина] of another religious organization (association) is included [входження] in the structure (is part of) a religious organization (association), the management center (management) of which is located outside the country in a state, which is recognized by law as having carried out military aggression against Ukraine and/or temporarily occupied part of the territory of Ukraine, is obliged to reflect the affiliation to the religious organization (association) outside of Ukraine, to which it is a part (of which it is a part), by necessarily reproducing in its name the full statutory name of such a religious organization (association) with the possible addition of the words "in Ukraine" and/or indicating its place in the structure of the foreign religious organization. The inclusion [Входження] of a religious organization (association) into the religious organization (association) specified in part seven of this article is determined in the presence of one [my emphasis] of these features: … 2) in the charter (regulations) of the foreign religious organization (association), the management center (management) of which is located outside Ukraine in a state recognized by law as having carried out military aggression against Ukraine and/or temporarily occupied part of the country's territory, contains instructions on the inclusion into its structure of a religious organization (association) operating on the territory of Ukraine, as well as on the right to adopt decisions on canonical and organizational issues, which are binding, by the statutory governing bodies of the specified foreign religious organization (association) for a religious organization (association) operating on the territory of Ukraine;…”  Applying this literal language of the statute, the mere fact that the charter of the Russian Church provides that the UOC is part of the Russian Church and provides that the UOC is bound by the decisions of the Bishops’ Council of the Russian Church is in itself enough to make the Law applicable to the UOC.  This would be true even in a hypothetical situation where it was totally clear that the UOC had in fact completely severed its relationship with the Russian Church and the Russian Church had simply refused to amend its own charter accordingly.  Because the literal language of the statute is so unreasonable, it appears that the Constitutional Court added completely on its own the requirement of “subordination” even though that word is not used anywhere in the statute.  Thus, the Court seems to require that the UOC be in fact subordinate to the Russian Church for the statute to be applicable.  Interestingly, there are reports that the Court was internally divided in its deliberations and that a draft decision had been earlier prepared by one judge finding the Law unconstitutional. 

    The UOC has long been using the upper portion of the famous Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra, consisting of the Dormition Cathedral and the Refectory Church, pursuant to a lease with the state which runs to December 31, 2022.  Oleksandr Tkachenko, Minister for Culture and Information Policy, stated at the end of December: “We will recommend not to extend such an agreement [the lease for the Upper Lavra] in accordance with the presidential decree regarding the inspection of the state of use of the property of the Lavra.”  He added that religious services will not be allowed in the Upper Lavra until the inspection is complete and that a decision on the future use of the Upper Lavra will be made after the inspection.  With respect to the Lower Lavra, which is subject to a continuing lease which does not expire at the end of 2022, Tkachenko stated that its use by the UOC may continue during the time of the inspection.  As you may recall, the December 1 decision by Zelensky required the Cabinet of Ministers to “ensure that within two months, the existence of legal grounds and compliance with the conditions for religious organizations to use property located on the territory of the National Kyiv-Pechersk Historical and Cultural Reserve is checked.”  On December 29, the monks of the Lavra posted an open letter to Zelensky and others stating that legal ownership of the Lavra should be transferred to the UOC or at least the UOC should be given “permanent gratuitous use” of the Lavra.  In addition, the Legal Department of the UOC has released a statement arguing that existing legislation provides that the lease of state property expiring during the time of martial law is extended to four months after the end of martial law.   Presumably, all of this will be litigated in the courts.

    The Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate met on December 29.  (minutes of the meeting)  One of the items discussed was the repeatedly postponed Bishops’ Council [Архиерейский Собор]. The Council is to be held “at least once every four years.”  (Statute, Chapter III, Sec. 3)  The last Council was held in 2017.  The next Council was first set for November 15-18, 2021; then for May 26-29, 2022; and then for “the autumn or winter period of 2022.”  Now, the Holy Synod simply resolves to consider the dates of the future Council “in due time” because “the international situation continues to hinder the arrival in Moscow of many members of the Council of Bishops.”  The Holy Synod also resolved: “For a fraternal discussion of current issues of church life, to convene on July 19, 2023, a Bishops' Conference [Архиерейское Совещание] consisting of all diocesan and vicar bishops of dioceses in Russia - on a mandatory basis, as well as bishops of dioceses in other countries - depending on the opportunity to arrive in Moscow.”  It should be noted that this is only a “conference,” which does not have the powers of a “council.”

    In Journal Entry 126 the Holy Synod describes illegal actions and anti-religious campaigns being directed against the UOC in Ukraine.  The Synod expresses “support to the bishops, clerics, monastics and laity who are striving to preserve the unity and canonical structure of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church even in the current difficult circumstances.”  The Synod also considers “it important to draw the attention of the Local Orthodox Churches, representatives of Christian denominations and the world religious community, as well as international human rights organizations to violations of the rights of believers in Ukraine.”  This is consistent with the current efforts of the Moscow Patriarchate to be a supporter of the UOC in its current difficult situation rather than take harsh actions against UOC for its independent actions against the interests of the Moscow Patriarchate.  Perhaps the hope is that in the long run, the carrot will be more effective than the stick in retaining the UOC within the Moscow Patriarchate.  In my opinion, it is also possible that if negotiations occur between Russia and Ukraine to end the war, Russia may insist that the use of the Lavra by the UOC be guaranteed.  If that strategy is successful, some in the UOC may be so grateful to Moscow that they will want to stay with the Moscow Patriarchate.

    Metropolitan Leonid of Klin, the Moscow Patriarchate’ Exarch for Africa, held a press conference in Moscow on December 27 to mark the one-year anniversary of the establishment of Exarchate.  At the press conference, Metropolitan Leonid stated: “ Thanks to the personal good contacts of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill and the President of Uganda, Yoweri Museveni, agreements that were unprecedented, in my opinion, were reached.  There is an understanding that an administrative and spiritual center will be built.  Moreover, Mr. President expressed the wish that it be integrated with the construction of the Russian center for science and culture, if it is a church, that there be ‘onion’ domes of a typical Russian style, that there be an elementary school and secondary school, that there would be a hospital.”   According to Metropolitan Leonid,  the President of Uganda allocated 6 hectares [15 acres] of land from his reserve "in the best location of the capital right opposite the presidential palace.”   “Russian centers for culture and science” have been established in many cities of the world and are operated by the Russian Foreign Ministry.  There is not yet one in Uganda.  From the description, I suspect that President Museveni has offered a form of “package deal.”  For the use of the land, Russia would build a Russian center of culture and science into which the Church’s administrative and cultural center would be integrated, and Russia would also build on the site two schools and a hospital.  The hospital and two schools would obviously be beneficial for Uganda.

    It is not clear whether the administrative and spiritual center in Kampala would become the seat of the Exarchate.  Last June, TASS reported that the Russian Orthodox Church and the Russian Foreign Ministry would be making a request to the President of Egypt for land in New Cairo for the administrative and spiritual center of the Church.  Have plans now changed so that the Church’s center will be in Kampala rather than New Cairo?  It should be noted that the Exarchate has recruited in Uganda relatively few priests of the Patriarchate of Alexandria.  Perhaps this is due in part to the fact that the Patriarchate in Uganda is led by native African bishops including the highly-regarded Metropolitan Jeronymos of Kampala.  However, Kenya, where the Exarchate has its greatest concentration of priests is not far away from Kampala.

    Yoweri Museveni, who has been the president of Uganda since 1986, has maintained excellent relations with the Soviet Union and then the Russian Federation.  When President Museveni was visited by Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov last July, the President spoke of the long history of these relations. (video of President’s remarks)  In October 2022, the Russian ambassador to Uganda wrote a long English-language article describing the many areas of cooperation between Uganda and Russia.  According to the ambassador, one of the areas of “closest cooperation” is security.  The defense forces of Uganda are “now mainly equipped with Russian modern military hardware” and “many Ugandan military personnel are trained at specialized institutions” in Russia.  As far as I can determine, Uganda has refrained from any criticism of Russia including the invasion of Ukraine.

    The enthronement of Metropolitan Georgios of Paphos as primate of the Church of Cyprus is set for January 8.  The Church has posted on its website an interview of the new primate.  Georgios indicated that his position on many matters is the same as his predecessor.  This includes a continuation of the Church's current stance on Ukraine.  It has also become known that the bishop who cast the blank ballot at the election held by the Holy Synod on December 24 was Bishop Porphyrios of Neapolis.

    The death of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has been following by expression of condolences by many primates of Local Orthodox Churches.  See, for example: (Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew); (Patriarch Kirill); (Patriarch Daniel); (Patriarch Porfirije); (Patriarch Ilia).

    I wish all of you a very happy and blessed 2023!  For those who are celebrating Christmas on the Julian calendar, I wish you a very blessed feast day of the Nativity of Our Lord!


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA