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

  • 28 May 2023: Will the Moscow Patriarchate participate in the WCC roundtable & other news

    The website of the World Council of Churches (WCC) has posted additional information concerning the meeting between the WCC’s general secretary Rev. Prof. Dr Jerry Pillay and Patriarch Kirill, held in Moscow on May 17.  First, there is a May 18 news release from the WCC describing the meeting.  Second, there is an interview of Dr. Pillay conducted by the WCC director of communications.  A video of the entire interview in English can be watched at  A slightly shorted and edited transcript of the interview can be read at .  The Moscow Patriarchate has now posted an official English translation of its Russian-language report relating to the meeting.  It has also posted a 21-minute video of the first part of the meeting – primarily the opening remarks of Patriarch Kirill.  (including the voice of the English translator)  At the end of the video, there is less than one minute of the beginning of the general secretary’s introductory remarks.  In the video, one can also see Archpriest Mikhail Gundyaev, who is the Moscow Patriarchate’s long-time representative to the WCC and to international organizations in Geneva and who is also the rector of the Patriarchate’s parish in Geneva.  He is the nephew of Patriarch Kirill.

    According to Dr. Pillay, his meeting with the Patriarch lasted for two and one-half hours of which the last hour was during dinner.  Pillay described the meeting as “tough, very engaging, and very challenging but in a very cordial spirit.”   A major purpose of the General Secretary’s trip to Moscow was to discuss the roundtable proposed by the WCC.  The Secretary General in his interview described the idea of the roundtable as follows:  “The idea of the roundtable is to get the Ukrainian churches [the UOC and the OCU] to a discussion on the first day, and on the second day to have discussions with the Russian Orthodox Church, and on the third day to bring them all together to be able to discuss the issues of the war and to work together to restore the unity of the Orthodox family.”  The interview also describes the WCC’s future plans with respect to the roundtable as follows:  “We have spoken to them about engaging in dialogue, and I will now, as general secretary, be in touch with these respective churches to seek a final commitment toward the process of dialogue.  Once we get that, then we will set up a dialogue—a roundtable.  We are working on a concept paper that will integrate the different views that we have encountered in different visits.  We will put that together and see if there’s an agreement on where it will take place, who will be part of it, and the actual agenda in terms of the discussion.  We will process this.  We are hoping to have the roundtable possibly in October this year—but it will take place as soon as possible.  We have put together these measures.  We are hoping, in a short space of time, that there will be consensus among us concerning the roundtable, and from that, we will start the initial process of dialogue.  We understand it’s not going to be one event.  It’s going to be a continued discussion.”

    The prior week Dr. Pillay and a WCC delegation had met in Kyiv with the primate of the OCU and with representatives of the UOC headed by Metropolitan Anthony of Boryspil and discussed with the two churches the subject of the proposed roundtable.  The WCC news release described the reaction of the two churches as follows: “A WCC leadership delegation that visited Ukraine the preceding week had received confirmation from both the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) and the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU) of their in-principle willingness to engage in dialogue processes convened by the WCC.”  In the interview, Dr. Pillay stated:  “We met with the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and the Orthodox Church of Ukraine.  We put forth the idea of a roundtable and they were showing very keen interest in taking part.”  As far as I can determine, neither the UOC nor the OCU has made any public statements relating to the roundtable.

    With respect the reaction of the Moscow Patriarchate to the proposed roundtable, the posted report by the Moscow Patriarchate refers to the roundtable in only one sentence:  “He [Patriarch Kirill] also emphasized that the Russian Orthodox Church values the desire of the World Council of Churches to enable the cause of peace and proposed discussing the idea put forward by the WWC general secretary Dr Jerry Pillay of organizing a round table to be attended by representatives of the Churches from both Russia and Ukraine.”  The WCC news report states:  “While expressing concerns about the feasibility of a roundtable dialogue because of entrenched external influences, Patriarch Kirill expressed pleasure at the proposal and commended the WCC for working towards peace and unity.  He expressed a willingness to participate in the roundtable dialogue but indicated the need first to consult internally within the ROC.”  With respect to internal consultations, it should be noted that the Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate met the day prior to the meeting with Dr. Pillay.  At the time of the meeting of the Holy Synod, the intention of Dr. Pillay to raise the subject of the roundtable was well known.  Presumably, the subject of the roundtable was discussed at this Synod meeting, although it is not reflected in the minutes.  Also, a “conference” (not a “council”) of the bishops located in the Russian Federation is scheduled for July 19, 2023.  It is possible that the idea of a roundtable could be discussed at this conference. 

    With respect to participation of the Moscow Patriarchate in the roundtable, the remarks by Dr. Pillay in the interview appear to be somewhat more guarded than the news release.  He stated: “The response, as I said, from the Ukraine churches is very good so we put the same to the Russian Orthodox Church. The Patriarch—while affirming the potential of the WCC and acknowledging its role as bridge builder—did express concerns about the possibility of a roundtable, and his focus was specifically on the issue of other external influences—and particularly he mentioned the issue of the USA.  He said unless we resolve those kinds of issues and influences, it would be difficult to come to a roundtable.  But, as I put it to the Patriarch, the task of the WCC is not to get involved in politics even though this is necessary for peaceful solutions to real problems.  We do not have a political agenda, and we believe that the Bible calls us to peace.  Our mandate is to fulfill the will of the Triune God to bring peace to the world.  Jesus Christ is the prince of peace, and he calls us to work for peace and live in peace with each other, so we have to put the scriptures in front of us to be able to put politics aside, to put nationalism aside.  These, important as they are, are not our starting points.  How do we actually understand what the scripture calls us to do?  Let us start thinking spiritually.  Let us start thinking religiously.  Let us open the scriptures and ask what God is calling us to do, before we get influenced by these other forces.  We serve a just God who calls all believers to work for just peace.  WCC wants and calls for a just peace!  In the end, the discussion came to the stage where the Patriarch was able to say that the Russian Orthodox Church will have some internal dialogue while we as the WCC will continue to work on the concept paper of bringing the roundtable together.  That’s a positive indication in terms of the way forward.  I expect and hope that all these things will come together in the end to achieve the purposes we are trying to actually bring together.”  

    If the Moscow Patriarchate follows its own self-interests, it would probably decline to attend the roundtable and hope that a WCC roundtable between the UOC and the OCU would not occur.  It is not in the interests of Moscow that relations between the UOC and the OCU improve because improved relations is the first and indispensable step toward creating an united autocephalous Ukrainian Orthodox Church independent of Moscow.  In fact the Moscow Patriarchate has sought to avoid discussions of improved relations between the UOC and the OCU.  For example, at the meeting of certain primates at Amman in February 2020, Patriarch Kirill specified six issues that should be the subject of inter-Orthodox discussions.  All of these issues relate to questioning the authority of the Ecumenical Patriarch with respect to his actions regarding Ukraine.  Not a word was said about finding ways to improve relations between the UOC and the OCU.  Still it can be hoped that the Moscow Patriarchate will find peace between churches, as expressed by Dr. Pillay, a higher goal than pursuing its own self-interests and will therefore agree to participate in the WCC roundtable.  Also the third day of the proposed WCC roundtable will  involve the higher goal of exploring how the three churches can contribute to a peaceful and just resolution of the Ukraine war.

    In other news, it appears that the fears that the UOC will be immediately evicted from the Lower Lavra have dissipated in view of repeated government assurances that violence will not be used and that the dispute involving the lease will instead be resolved by the courts.  A degree of normalcy has returned.  For example, on May 24, thirty fourth-year students at the Theological Seminary located in the Lower Lavra took their bachelor’s examinations.   With respect to the court litigation, the next hearing on the lawsuit brought by the Lavra Reserve against the UOC is scheduled for June 5.  The next hearing on the lawsuit brought by the UOC against the Lavra Reserve is scheduled for June 7.  On May 29, a court will consider the request of the SBU to extend the house arrest of Metropolitan Pavlo, the vicar of the Lavra monastery.  Whatever the decisions will be in these cases, they will almost certainly be appealed by the losing party.

    A Council of Bishops of the OCU was held in the Tabernacle Church of the Upper Lavra on May 24.  At the Council, Metropolitan Epifany, primate of the OCU, gave a report on the activities of the OCU during the last 12 months.   According to the report the OCU now has the following:  approximately 5,300 clerics, 8,500 communities, 45 dioceses, 61 bishops, 80 men’s and women’s monasteries, 9 institutions of higher religious education, and 1,200 students.  Although these figures have grown in recent years, they are still less than the comparable figures for the UOC.  For latest report by the UOC on its numbers, see (Section VIII, Statistics).  The OCU Council of Bishops also decided to adopt the New Julian Calendar for immovable feast days beginning September 1, 2023.  The days on the New Julian Calendar coincide with the Gregorian Calendar but differ beginning in the 28th century.  The New Julian Calendar has been adopted by a majority of the Local Orthodox Churches (namely Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, Romania, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece, Albania, and Czech Lands and Slovakia) for immovable feast days, such as Christmas.  Like all of the Local Orthodox Churches (except for the autonomous Church of Finland), the OCU will continue to use the Julian Calendar for the calculation of Pascha (using the Paschalion) and for the feast days and periods dependent on the Pascha date.  A OCU parish can opt to retain the Julian Calendar for immovable feast days by a two-thirds vote of its parishioners.  The decision by the Council of Bishops will be submitted for approval to the next Local Council.  Minister of Culture Oleksandr Tkachenko has stated that proposals to amend the observance days by the state will be submitted to the Ukrainian parliament in the near future.   

    The world famous icon of the Holy Trinity by St. Andrei Rublev has been subject to a confusing series of recent events.  The most recent is that on May 27, Patriarch Kirill signed a decree removing Archpriest Leonid Kalinin from his position as chairman of the Expert Council on Church Art, Architecture and Restoration, removing him from his position as rector of St. Clement parish in Moscow, and banning him from serving.  The reason given for this action was obstruction of the bringing of the icon of the Holy Trinity to the Cathedral of Christ the Savior for a prayer worship on the feast of Pentecost (June 4).  The news agency RIA Novosti has reported that Ministry of Culture now says that the icon will be placed in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior for two weeks being June 4, experts will then carry out its planned restoration and conservation, and the icon would then be moved to its historic location at the Holy Trinity – St. Sergius Lavra.  On May 15, President Putin made a decision to return the icon to the Church where it will be exhibited for public worship for a year and will then be transfer to its historic place at the Lavra.  For many years, the icon has been located in a special chapel which is part of the Tretyakov Gallery and has been under the care of experts.  In response to the announced departure of the icon from the Gallery, experts at the Gallery and elsewhere stated that because of the “fragile condition” of the icon, the icon “must not leave” the Galley for its announced public exhibition.  Archpriest Leonid supported the conclusion of the experts that the icon should not be brought to the Cathedral on June 4 and that a miraculous copy should be used instead.   Archpriest Leonid subsequently recanted this position and stated that management decisions are not to be discussed but are to be carried out by the professional community “with dignity.”  Apparently, this was not enough to save him from discipline.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 18 May 2023: UOC fights back on Moscow's absorbing Berdyansk diocese & WCC in Moscow

    On May 11 it was announced that a majority of the clergy of the Berdyansk and Primorsky diocese of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) had asked Patriarch Kirill to accept them under his jurisdiction.  Berdyansk is a diocese located in a portion of the Zaprozhsky region occupied by the Russian Federation.  A media report stated:  It [TASS] says that the Metropolitan of Berdyansk and Primorsky Ephraim, “leaving his flock, fled to the territory controlled by Ukraine,” and without the head of the diocese will not be able to exist. The absolute majority of the clergy voted in favor of accepting the diocese "into the bosom of the Moscow Patriarchate." The corresponding request was sent to Moscow.

    The Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate met on May 16.  The minutes of the entire meeting can be read at .  Journal Entry 30 provides in relevant part as follows:

    On May 1, 2023, a meeting of the clergy of the Berdyansk diocese (76 out of 86 clerics, with 5 absent and 5 against) addressed a letter to His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia, in which, announcing the departure from the diocese of the diocesan bishop, His Grace Metropolitan Ephraim of Berdyansk and Primorsky, such de facto refusing to further fulfill his archpastoral duties, they ask His Holiness the Patriarch "to accept them under his primatial paternal omophorion" in order to "establish a full-fledged life of the diocese."

    Earlier, Metropolitan Ephraim confirmed in a telephone conversation with the head of the affairs of the Moscow Patriarchate, His Grace Metropolitan Dionysius of the Resurrection, that he was leaving the Zaporozhye region for the far abroad.

    The precedent for resolving such a situation is Decree No. 362 of November 7/20, 1920 of St. Tikhon, Patriarch of Moscow, the Holy Synod and the Supreme Church Council. In accordance with paragraph 7 of this decree, the diocesan council or the clergy and laity of a diocese deprived of a bishop due to a shift in the front line or a change in the state border, turn to the nearest or most easily accessible diocesan bishop. Such a person enters into the administration of this diocese himself or sends his vicar to govern this diocese.


    In connection with the fact that His Grace Metropolitan Ephraim of Berdyansk and Primorsky left his see and the lack of an opportunity for an unhindered settlement of the situation of the Berdyansk diocese by the Synod of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, in response to the appeal of the clergy of the Berdyansk diocese:

    1. Accept the diocese of Berdyansk into direct canonical and administrative subordination to the Patriarch of Moscow and All Rus' and the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church, with the subsequent submission of this decision to the Council of Bishops for consideration.

    2. To state that the Berdyansk diocese, due to the above circumstances, was deprived of a diocesan bishop.

    3. His Grace Bronnitsky, Vicar of His Holiness Patriarch of Moscow and All Rus', to be Bishop of Iskitim and Cherepanov Luka with his release from the administration of the Iskitim diocese, expressing gratitude for the labors incurred and entrusting him with the administration of the Berdyansk diocese.

    4. To raise up in the Berdyansk diocese at divine services the names of His Holiness Patriarch of Moscow and All Rus' and His Grace Bronnitsky.

    The following day, May 17, a notice was posted on the website of the UOC.  The notice states as follows:

    The priests of the Berdyansk diocese, who arbitrarily made provocative statements contrary to the official position of the UOC, violated the canons of the Orthodox Church.

    In connection with the situation around the Berdyansk diocese of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, the judgment regarding further administrative actions in it should take place exclusively in the plane of the canon law of the Orthodox Church.

    Metropolitan Ephraim of Berdyansk and Primorsky received the blessing of the Primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, His Beatitude Metropolitan Onufry of Kyiv and All Ukraine, for treatment abroad due to his state of health. He said that during the treatment, the diocese headed by him would be managed by telephone. A full assessment of the current situation is possible after Metropolitan Ephraim provides his detailed explanations after his recovery.

    The clergy of the Berdyansk diocese repeatedly and openly expressed their full support and words of confidence to their ruling bishop. Therefore, the opposite statements voiced by individual priests are sharply dissonant with the previous ones and raise doubts about their sincerity and the absence of coercion to proclaim them.

    The Ukrainian Orthodox Church has constantly and consistently declared its strong support for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine and expressed its condemnation of Russia's aggression, which is an undisguised violation of God's commandment "Thou shalt not kill!"

    The priests of the Berdyansk diocese, who arbitrarily voiced provocative statements in the media that do not correspond to the official position of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, sow confusion and temptation in the hearts of the flock, and in accordance with the canons of the Orthodox Church, they will be banned from serving by their ruling bishop, Metropolitan Ephraim of Berdyansk and Primorsky.

    This is not the first time that Moscow has absorbed a Ukrainian diocese since the war began.  See  However, in those earlier cases the ruling hierarch of each diocese asked to come under Patriarch Kirill, and a new ruling hierarch was not appointed by Moscow.

    On May 17, WCC General Secretary Dr. Jerry Pillay met in Moscow with Patriarch Kirill.  The Moscow Patriarchate’s report on the meeting can be read at .  In this report it is not clear whether the Russian Church is prepared to participate in the roundtable proposed by the WCC.  The WCC has not yet issued its report with respect to the meeting.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 15 May 2023: Productive WCC visit to Ukraine & other news

    A small delegation of the World Council of Churches (WCC), including its new general secretary, Rev. Prof. Dr Jerry Pillay, has now returned from Ukraine after visiting with senior church representatives and government officials there.  The WCC delegation was in Ukraine from May 10 to 13.  The delegation traveled to  Kyiv on a minibus from the Romanian border.  On May 11, the delegation met with representatives of the OCU, including its primate Metropolitan Epifany.  On the same day the WCC delegation met with representatives of the UOC including Metropolitan Anthony of Boryspil.  Metropolitan Onufry, primate of the UOC, was not present.  The WCC delegation did meet with certain members of the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations on May 11.  However, I did not see in the photos of the Council meeting any representatives of the OCU or the UOC.  The WCC delegation also visited the Kyiv Pechersky Lavra and Bucha.  At Bucha the WCC delegation met with Viktor Yelensky, head of the State Service for Ethnopolitics and Freedom of Conscience (DESS).  There was also a meeting with Minister of Culture Oleksandr Tkachenko, but there was nothing in the Ukrainian media about this meeting.

    The most interesting information about the visit comes from the WCC itself.  The WCC website includes the following information:

    The visiting delegation confirmed the WCC’s readiness to host discussions among the two churches for the resolution of the issues between them.  Both Metropolitan Anthony, Chancellor of the UOC, and Metropolitan Epifaniy, Primate of the OCU, have given clear signs of their willingness to engage in dialogue.  This openness to dialogue offers a sign of hope of healing one of the many wounds and divisions which this tragic conflict has deepened…. Harmony among the religious communities of Ukraine is an essential element for the national unity that this crisis demands. The WCC looks forward to working with the churches and with the government of Ukraine to foster this unity, and  to reduce divisions and disunity among the faithful.  In this regard, WCC general secretary Pillay expressed his gratitude and appreciation for the in principle agreement indicated by the UOC and OCU representatives with whom the WCC delegation met to participate in roundtable dialogue meetings to be convened by the WCC.  The WCC will now proceed with work towards an initial roundtable dialogue meeting later this year.

    More details concerning the visit can be found on the Facebook page of a member of the WCC delegation, Bishop Heinrich Bedford-Strohm of the Evangelical Church of Germany.  His comments include the following:  In our conversation, Minister of Culture Oleksandr Tkachenko stressed that the Ukrainian Orthodox Church will not be removed by force from the cave monastery. This is an important assurance.  The bishop also stated:  Discussions with the Ukrainian churches, specifically to prepare a round table, which will then include the Russian Orthodox Church.  An important prerequisite for this is to bring the two Orthodox churches of Ukraine, which are in conflict with each other, the "Ukrainian Orthodox Church" and the "Orthodox Church of Ukraine" to the table.  Our conversations about this have been very encouraging.  Another observation by the Bishop:  A point of conflict between the two churches, besides theological differences, is the question of how the transfer of monasteries and congregations is handled from one church to the other and what is the role of the government or the security forces are playing.  Here it is also the question, who owns the buildings and assets.  We have seen our role as the World Church Council in bringing the two churches into dialogue about this and looking for solutions.  Only if we act together and on that basis the Russian Orthodox Church can also be involved, maybe the churches can also play a role in ending the war.  It also appears that the WCC delegation traveled to ChernivtsI.  The Bishop states:  We had a conversation with Metropolitan Meletius of Chernivtsi, the "Foreign Minister" of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, today in ChernivtsI, a city in southern Ukraine.  Once again, a great openness for our round table initiative has become clear.

    It is also reported that the Bishop stated that “General Secretary Jerry Pillay will be leaving for another trip to Moscow this Wednesday” to meet with Patriarch Kirill.  In this regard, he stated that although the official position of the Russian Orthodox Church does not currently point in the direction of reconciliation, "but it's clear to me that we have to try it."  In March 2023 after meeting with Pope Francis, Dr. Pillay stated in an interview that a three-day meeting was planned in Geneva.  It appears that the first day would involve the UOC and the OCU.  The second day would involve the Moscow Patriarchate.  The third day would involve all participants. 

    On May 13, the Russian state news agency RIA Novosti reported that a diocesan church court in Moscow had decided to defrock Ioann Koval, who is an ethnic Ukrainian and was an assistant priest serving at a church in the Lublino district of Moscow.   The defrocking will go into effect when approved by Patriarch Kirill.  The offense was that Koval had repeatedly substituted the word “peace” for the word “victory” in the Prayer for Holy Rus’ composed by Patriarch Kirill in September 2022 and made a mandatory prayer for all Orthodox parishes in Russia.  The full text of the prayer can be read at .  Sergei Chapnin, a Russian who is now at Fordham University, has written a very detailed account of the Lublino events leading up to the decision of the church court.   Chapnin’s account describes how a majority of the parishioners supported Koval and how only a small number brought the matter to the attention of church authorities.  When one reads Chapnin’s account, one is left with the impression that Koval was very unfairly treated.

    The Novosti article described the justifications given by the Moscow Patriarchate for the decision.  The primary justification is that changing one word in the prayer was in itself an act of disobedience with respect to the instructions received from Patriarch Kirill – “not directly” that Koval changed the word “victory” to “peace.”  However, it is difficult to believe that Koval would still have been defrocked if he had changed in the prayer another word that was far less important than the word “victory.”  As another justification, the article pointed out that Ukrainians were a part of the peoples of historic Rus’  and that the prayer thus includes the Ukrainian people.   However,  the prayer also refers to the “the warriors and all the defenders of our Fatherland,” which is obviously a reference to Russia and not Ukraine.  In spite of the technical argument that the offense was simply disobedience, the defrocking still sends a chilling message to other priests in Russia of the consequences of publicly disagreeing with the positions of President Putin and Patriarch Kirill with respect to Ukraine.  This is especially true as the Russian clergy have most likely heard about other Russian clerics who have received adverse personnel actions from the Church as a result of deviating from the official position of the Putin administration with respect to Ukraine.

    At approximately the same time as Koval’s conviction, an Ukrainian court convicted Metropolitan Ioasaf, who was the head of the UOC diocese of Kirovohrad until November 2022, for violating the equality of citizens based on their religious beliefs.  Ioasaf is the first UOC metropolitan to be convicted at least in recent times.  He admitted his guilt and was given a prison sentence of three years with two of those years suspended.  He was also banned from holding senior church positions for one year.  A well-known religious website in Moscow stated that his “crime” was “reading and sharing information on Orthodox canonical norms and violations.”  On the other hand, websites in Ukraine specify a broader basis for the conviction including the allegation that the Metropolitan was in constant contact with Patriarch Kirill and carried out his instructions regarding the justification of Russian aggression in the eastern and southern territories and Crimea. (website of the SBU).  It appears that no disciplinary action has been imposed on Ioasaf by the UOC.  The UOC has been greatly criticized in Ukraine for not taking disciplinary actions against hierarchs who support certain positions or arguments advanced by Russia.

    The examples involving Koval and Ioasaf both involve situations where the members of the clergy are punished because they publicly expressed views that are inconsistent with the government’s view on the war in Ukraine or on the nature of the relationship between Ukraine and Russia.  The difference is that in Russia the Church actively supports the government’s position by imposing punishment, while in Ukraine the UOC has done nothing or very little in this regard.

    For the millions of people who watched through the media the coronation of King Charles, the Orthodox involvement was very apparent.  Archbishop Nikitas of Thyateira and Great Britain (Ecumenical Patriarchate) was one of church leaders at the coronation to give the blessing   A Greek Orthodox ensemble chanted Psalm 71 during the exchange of swords ritual.  This was an acknowledgement that the father of King Charles was a member of the Greek royal family.  Less obvious to the viewers was the source of the chrism used to anoint the King.  The chrism came from olive oil obtained from the olive groves next to the Monastery of Mary Magdalene and the Monastery of the Ascension (both belonging to the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia) on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem.  The grandmother of King Charles is buried in the Monastery of Mary Magdalene.   The oil was consecrated first by Patriarch Theopilos of Jerusalem and then by Anglican Archbishop for Jerusalem, Hosam Naoum, at the church of the Holy Sepulchre.  Patriarch Theopilos was also present at the coronation ceremony.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA  

  • 2 May 2023: Observations on the Pope Francis - Hilarion meeting & other news

    Pope Francis has now completed his second visit to Hungary, April 28-30.  Prior to the trip, there was speculation as to whether Pope Francis would meet with Metropolitan Hilarion, who in June 2022 had been suddenly and unexpectedly demoted by the Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate and assigned to Budapest.  The official program of the visit did not include such a meeting.  In a press briefing before the visit, Vatican spokesperson Matteo Bruni had stated that he could not say anything about meetings that were not on the official program, but he acknowledged that a meeting with the Metropolitan was possible.   On April 29, the second day of the Pope’s stay in Budapest, a meeting between the Pope and the Metropolitan did in fact take place.  The Vatican News report gave few details about the meeting.  It stated:  “As reported by the Holy See, the audience, which took place with the help of an interpreter, was cordial and lasted about 20 minutes.  The Holy Father greeted the Metropolitan with a hug and kissed his Panagia, the enkolpion worn by Eastern Orthodox bishops.”   The website of the Metropolitan’s diocese gave further information.  It included the following:  “The venue of the meeting was the Apostolic Nunciature in Budapest.  Michael Wallace Banach, Titular Archbishop of Memphis, Apostolic Nuncio of the Holy See, took part in the discussion.  During the conversation, Metropolitan Hilarion explained to Pope Francis the life of the Hungarian Orthodox Diocese of the Moscow Patriarchate, its social and educational activities, as well as its cooperation with the Esztergom-Budapest Archdiocese and representatives of other Christian denominations.  In memory of the meeting, Metropolitan Hilarion presented Pope Francis with four volumes of his six-volume monograph ’Jesus Christ. Life and Teaching,’ translated into Italian.”  I assume that Archbishop Banach, an American, acted as the interpreter, with Metropolitan Hilarion speaking English and the Pope Italian.

    On the Pope’s return flight to Rome on April 30, the Pope followed his usual practice of meeting with journalists.  The official transcript of the questions by journalists and the Pope’s answers in Italian may be read at   An unofficial English transcript is found at  A video of the Pope’s remarks can be watched at .   The meeting with Metropolitan Hilarion was raised in two questions by Eliana Ruggiero, a journalist for the Italian news agency AGI.  The following are excerpts from the transcript:

    [Eliana Ruggiero, AGI]: ….Then, in recent days, you also met Metropolitan Hilarion: Can Hilarion and Orbán himself become channels of openness towards Moscow to accelerate a peace process for Ukraine, or to make a meeting between you and President Putin possible?  Thank you.

    [Holy Father]….Ah, yes, Hilarion: Hilarion is someone I respect very much, and we have always had a good relationship.  And he was kind enough to come and see me, then he came to the Mass, and I saw him here at the airport as well.  Hilarion is an intelligent person with whom one can talk, and these relationships need to be maintained, because if we talk about ecumenism - I like this, I don't like this - we must have an outstretched hand with everyone, even receive their hand.

    With Patriarch Kirill I have spoken only once since the war began, 40 minutes via zoom, then through Anthony, who is in Hilarion's place now, who comes to see me.  He is a bishop who was a parish priest in Rome and knows the environment well, and always through him I am in connection with Kirill.

    There was a meeting that we were to have in Jerusalem in July or June last year, but it was suspended because of the war: that will have to take place.  And then, with the Russians I have a good relationship with the ambassador who is now leaving; he has been the ambassador in the Vatican for seven years, he is a great man, a man comme il faut, a serious, cultured and balanced person.  My relationship with the Russians is mainly with this ambassador…..

    [Eliana Ruggiero]: If somehow Hilarion and also Orbán could accelerate the peace process in Ukraine and also make a meeting between you and Putin possible, if they could act “as intermediaries”?

    [Holy Father]:  You can imagine that in this meeting we not only talked about Little Red Riding Hood, right?  We talked about all these things.  We talked about this because everyone is interested in the road to peace.  I am willing.  I am willing to do whatever needs to be done.  Also, there is a mission going on now, but it is not public yet.  Let's see how ... When it is public I will talk about it.

    In other answers given to journalists, Pope Francis confirmed that he will be visiting Mongolia.  He also stated that the Holy See is willing to be an intermediary in bringing back to Ukraine children taken to Russia.

    Some media have connected the meeting between Pope Francis and Metropolitan Hilarion with the Pope’s remarks about a yet undisclosed peace mission and about a meeting between the Pope and Patriarch Kirill “that will have to take place.”  Perhaps in response to such speculation, the Jesus-Portal, with which Metropolitan Hilarion is closely connected, posted on May 1 a 8-minute YouTube video entitled “What I told the Pope yesterday.”  The Metropolitan speaks in the video in Russian, but the Rome website Il Sismografo has provided an Italian translation at (for English, use the Google translation tool).  The address by the Metropolitan includes the following:  “I answer for those who are interested: there was nothing [at the meeting] concerning bilateral relations between the Roman Catholic Church and the Russian Orthodox Church.  No political issues were discussed. The meeting was of a personal nature between two old friends."

    Other facts support what the Metropolitan stated.  First, in the mere 20 minutes of the meeting, it would be very difficult to cover not only the various subjects mentioned on the website of the Hungarian Diocese, but also the complex Ukrainian situation, considering also the time needed for translation.   Second, in the last answer quoted above relating to a discussion of the peace process in Ukraine, the Pope referred to “this meeting” – in the singular and not in the plural.  It would appear that the reference to “we talked about all these things” relates to the Pope’s meeting with Orbán and not Hilarion.   Third, Hilarion has avoided the subject of Ukraine since his arrival in Budapest.  His sermons and communications, as far as I can determine, relate to strictly religious subjects.  As far as I know, Hilarion has given no media interviews since his arrival in Budapest, perhaps due to his desire to avoid questions relating to Ukraine and the reason for his exile.  As time goes on, I have become more and more convinced that Metropolitan Hilarion suffered his humiliating demotion and exile precisely because he opposed the invasion of Ukraine.  As an exile, he is not a good conduit to the leadership in Moscow, and I do not believe that he would desire to assume that role.

    The reason that Pope Francis met with Metropolitan Hilarion is because, in the Pope’s words, Hilarion “is someone that I respect very much.”  In this regard, the Pope’s action may be similar to those of Patriarch Porfirije of Serbia, who also respects Metropolitan Hilarion and who invited the Metropolitan to be with him for a number of days last fall.  Although assigned to a very minor position far from the power centers in Moscow, Hilarion has not faded into oblivion as the Budapest meeting with Pope Francis demonstrates.  The most-read Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera has expressed an interesting thought with respect to the meeting between the Pope and the Metropolitan.   The article states that Hilarion was “sent to Hungary for his anti-war positions while Patriarch Kirill blessed the invasion of Ukraine.”  It also states:  “Hilarion [before his demotion] was the most likely candidate to succeed Kirill.  And it could still be so in the future , if in the end Putin, and with him the current patriarch, end up in disgrace.”  I have also commented in the past that the demotion of Hilarion not only had the effect of greatly decreasing the likelihood of his becoming patriarch, but also greatly enhanced the chances of Metropolitan Tikhon of Pskov, who has a very close personal relationship with President Putin, to be the next patriarch.

    In other news, there continues to be great uncertainty as to how the situation involving the Kyiv Lavra will be resolved.  The Zelensky administration appears to be reluctant to evict the UOC from the Lower Lavra without judicial approval.  The court’s consideration of the UOC’s lawsuit challenging the termination of its lease to the Lower Lavra has been postponed until May 19.  The court has also postponed the hearing on the lawsuit brought by the Reserve against the UOC until June 5.  Whatever the result, the court’s decisions in these two cases will almost certainly be appealed by one of the parties.  The inspection of the property by the Reserve commission is continuing without violent confrontations.  Although it appeared initially that the commission was sealing all structures after their inspection, it now appears that at least churches and living quarters are not being sealed after inspection.  See, for example,   On May 1 the commission examined the two dormitory buildings (Nos. 55 and 60) of the UOC Theological Academy, found them in good condition, and apparently did not seal them.  The acting director of the Reserve has indicated that the Reserve may have difficulty paying for the cost of maintaining returned structures due to limited funds caused by the war.    

    With respect to North Macedonia, Metropolitan Petar of the Orthodox Church in that country commented on the negotiations between the Church and the Ecumenical Patriarchate concerning the issuance of a tomos of autocephaly.   It appears that two major issues are the insistence of the Phanar that the word “Macedonia” not be used in the title of the Church even internally and that the Church’s jurisdiction be limited to the country of North Macedonia.  On April 27, Patriarch Kirill spoke to Archbishop Stefan, the primate of the Church, by telephone.  In Africa, Archbishop Makarios of Nairobi returned to Kenya after a very long period of medical absence in Cyprus.  On April 27, the Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Antioch “expressed their solidarity with the faithful of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church who are suffering from the scourge of war and the injustice of religious persecution.” 


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 22 April 2023: Interview of Rada Chairman on Draft Law 8371 & other news

    On April 21, Ruslan Stefanchuk, Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada (Ukrainian parliament), gave a long interview to Ukrinform (the Ukrainian state news agency).  I have pasted after the end of this newletter a Google translation of that part of the interview relating to Stefanchuk’s meeting with representatives of the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations (UCCRO) on April 11, 2023.  In the interview, Stefanchuk stated that the first reading of Draft Law 8371 may occur in the near future.  (The text of the current draft law is found at  With respect to amendments proposed by churches and religious organizations, Stefanchuk stated that these proposals will be considered in the second reading of the Draft Law. 

    Stefanchuk also stated that the two representatives of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) at the April 11 meeting “supported everything that I said.”   The two representatives of the UOC at the April 11 meeting were Archbishop Viktor of Khmelnytskyi (previously the representative of the UOC to international organizations) and the head of the Legal Department of the UOC, Archpriest Oleksandr Bakhov.  On April 12, the UCCRO posted on its website a statement concerning the meeting.  The official English version of the statement is found at  In terms of making any statements, it is clear that the charter of UCCRO requires a consensus of all of its members for any of its decision and statements.

    On April 13, the Legal Department of the UOC issued a “Comment” relating to “manipulations” based on the results of the April 11 meeting.  The Comment can be read at It includes that following statement: “The representative of the UOC not only did not support draft law No. 8371, but also criticized other draft laws.  Noting that today 11 draft laws are registered in the VRU [Rada], which are aimed at banning or restricting the activities of the UOC, and none of them will bring unity to our country, but will divide Ukraine along religious lines.”   From this it would seem clear that the representatives of the UOC did not support everything said by Stefanchuk.

    Even more disturbing is Stefanchuk’s two statements (underlined below) that no Ukrainian religious organization should be “linked with” [“пов’язана”] the Russian Church.  The critical language in the current draft of 8371 provides as follows:  “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.”   At least under one interpretation of this ambiguous provision, a Ukrainian church could only have its activities prohibited if its “governing center (control)” is located in the aggressor country.  The language used by Stefanchuk would seem to apply to a Ukrainian church which has any link to the Russian Church even if the actual management and control of the Ukrainian church does not in fact come from the Russian Church.  In my opinion, prohibiting activities of a church organization simply because of a “link” to a church in an aggressor country would be a gross violation of the international norms relating to freedom of religion.

    In terms of international norms, prohibition of the religious activities of a church can only be justified if it is shown that the religious activities constitute an actual threat to the security of Ukraine.  A link does not in itself constitute a genuine security threat to Ukraine.   Interestingly, in the current version of Draft Law 8371, there is absolutely no requirement that the government prove an actual security threat in order to prohibit church activities.  With respect to a country seeking to convince the international community that right is on its side, the adoption of Stefanchuk’s proposal, in my opinion, would leave a big black mark.

    In other news, Father Mykola Danylevych, deputy head of the UOC's Department of External Church Relations, reported that Pascha services were performed in more than 40 parishes of the UOC in 15 European countries (Austria, Belgium, UK, Denmark, Italy, Spain, Ireland, Netherlands, Germany, Norway, Portugal, Hungary, France, Switzerland, Sweden).  On April 19, Metropolitan Pavlo (Lebed), the vicar of the Kyiv Lavra, celebrated his 62nd birthday at his very elegant home in Voronkiv, approximately 40 km southeast of Kyiv.  This home is the location where the Metropolitan has been spending his 60 days of house arrest.  On his birthday, a 23-minute video was made at his home.  In the first part of the video the Metropolitan addresses his viewers from the garden of his home with spring blossoms in the background.  At 8:40 in the video, one can see his preparations for the Liturgy at his home and then the Liturgy with a considerable number of clergy and sisters present.  Aside from being away from the Kyiv Lavra, it appears that the Metropolitan has been living well in very nice surroundings.  The judge has allowed the Metropolitan to make public addresses through videos, and the Metropolitan has done so a number of times each week.  The other videos can be viewed at .  

    On April 21 Metropolitan Pavlo traveled to Kyiv in connection with his appeal to the Kyiv Court of Appeals.  A panel of judges ruled in favor of the Metropolitan on certain points, but continued to impose the house arrest until May 30.  The press release issued by the court can be read at  Pavel also made a video while traveling in a very nice vehicle to the hearing in Kyiv.

    Speaking of videos, Metropolitan Hilarion in Budapest continues to attract a very large number of viewers for his strictly religious sermons and presentations.  For example, a 10-minute sermon given in February has had 262,000 views.  Because of his worldwide audience, JesusPortal has now established an English-language website covering the Metropolitan's sermons and presentations and providing English subtitles.  If you are interested, you can subscribe to it.

    With respect to the Kyiv Lavra, Father Andriy Pinchuk, an UOC priest who is a member of the Sophia dialogue between the UOC and the OCU, has made the following assessment relating to the views of the Lavra monks:  "According to the testimony of those who know the inner kitchen of the monastery, no less than a third of the inhabitants of the Lavra are aggressively pro-Moscow.   Another part supports them."   On April 22, Minister of Culture Oleksandr Tkachenko gave the latest update on the work of the Reserve commission which is inspecting the various buildings in the Lower Lavra.   The commission has been successful in inspecting some of the buidings and will be continuing its work next week.  As far as I can determine, the buildings inspected so far have not included the really important structures in the Lower Lavra.  It also appears that the commission has been locking the buildings after the inspection to prevent continued use by the UOC.  If this continues, it would allow the Reserve to expel the UOC building by building.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA  


    Excerpt from the interview of Ruslan Stefanchuk, Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada:


    - We will discuss individual legislative initiatives.  In January, the Cabinet of Ministers registered in the parliament a draft law on banning the activities of religious organizations whose actual leadership is located in the Russian Federation.  You held a meeting with representatives of the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations regarding this matter. Share your views on this high-profile topic.

    - This is a very difficult topic. It is difficult not only because, according to the Constitution, the state and the church are separated, and the relationship between them can be exclusively partnership, but also because now we are observing many moments that are impossible in a normal society.  For example, when some representatives of certain faiths openly work for the enemy, they create a high level of danger for Ukraine.  This is already a matter of national security.

    Our special services work very efficiently and professionally, revealing these facts.  However, the issue has gained a lot of publicity and has a high temperature in society.  Of course, the state must react.  That is why I held a meeting with representatives of the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations.  We discussed all these issues in private. For approximately 2.5-3 hours, they talked about the real situation in Ukraine, discussed specific cases...

    In the end, I proposed to agree with certain fundamental theses. First, the Russian Federation is an aggressor and is waging war against Ukraine. Secondly, Russia has no right to influence the minds and hearts of Ukrainians. Third, no religious organization, regardless of denomination, should be linked [пов’язана] with the Russian Church or any other Russian religious organizations. Fourthly, legal responsibility is equal for every citizen, so it must come regardless of whether a person is wearing a cassock, with incense and covering himself with a Bible. Everyone agreed with this.

    It was a very frank conversation. The very next day, I received a letter with the decision of the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations to approve all these statements. I emphasize that they make decisions only by consensus, that is, all denominations must support.

    The letter also states that the most suitable for further consideration in the parliament is the government bill "On Amendments to Certain Laws of Ukraine Regarding the Activity of Religious Organizations in Ukraine" (No. 8371).  Of course, they will provide their suggestions regarding various directions of the document, but, in my opinion, this is a very important step to start regulating relations between the state and the church in a civilized way.  We are waiting for proposals for the draft law.  And I think that in the near future we will be able to proceed to the consideration of this document in the Verkhovna Rada.

    - Were representatives of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (UPC MP) present at this meeting?

    - Yes of course.

    - And they supported all your theses?

    - Two representatives of the UOC MP were present at the meeting. They expressed all their arguments. I gave them the opportunity to speak without any restrictions in the regulations. We listened to everything, and then expressed our counterarguments. They supported everything I said.

    - This draft law will be submitted to the parliament hall for consideration after submission of proposals by churches and religious organizations, do I understand correctly?

    - Consideration in the first reading may appear in the near future.  And for the second reading, we are ready to consider the proposals of churches and religious organizations, but they should be universal for any religious organization in Ukraine.

    The principles should be laid down as follows: Russia is an aggressor, Russia has no right to influence Ukrainians, there cannot be religious organizations linked through affiliation [афілійовано пов’язані] with the Russian Church in Ukraine, legal responsibility should apply to everyone, regardless of what religion or the person represents the church. Now is the time to work and pray for Ukraine. 

  • 18 April 2023: Consecration of chrism in Kyiv & the flawed "expert report"

    On April 17, the City Council of Ternopil in Western Ukrainian voted unanimously at an extraordinary session to terminate the right of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) to use the plot of land on which stands the cathedral of the UOC 's Ternopil Eparchy.   In announcing the decision, the mayor of Ternopil, Sergii Nadal, stated:  “The Moscow Church has no place in Ternopil!”  The impressive cathedral and the headquarters of the eparchy are located on a lot which covers .5484 hectares [1.3 acres].  The cathedral was built with the funds donated by UOC parishioners.  It is now the only UOC church in the city of Ternopil.  The announcement of the decision on the website of the City Council can be read at .  The website refers to the “decision to deprive the church of land, which today is governed by Moscow.“  It is not clear what will happen to the church structure now that the City has revoked the use of the land on which the structure stands.  An attorney for the UOC has stated that the City's actions were illegal.

    On April 10, the Rivne City Council unanimously voted at an extraordinary session to suspend the right of the UOC to use plots of land in the city.  The mayor of Rivne, Oleksandr Tretyak, stated: "It is inadmissible for a Church to function in the country during the war, which blesses Russian soldiers for killing Ukrainians.”  With respect to blessing Russian soldiers, the mayor is clearly referring to actions taken by the Moscow Patriarchate in Russia.  For him, the Moscow Patriarchate in Russia and the UOC are one single church and not separate churches.

    The actions taken against the UOC by the local governments in Western Ukraine are based on a rationale which has its genesis in a document entitled: “Conclusion of the religious examination of the Statute on the Administration of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church for the existence of a church-canonical connection with the Moscow Patriarchate” (hereinafter “Conclusion”).  The Conclusion was issued on February 1, 2023, by an “expert group” which had been appointed by the State Service of Ukraine for Ethnopolitics and Freedom of Conscience (DESS).  The group had been formed as a result of the decision of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine, dated December 1, 2022.  The complete text of the “Conclusion” by the “expert group” can be read at   The Conclusion found, inter alia, that the “UOC relative to the Russian Orthodox Church has an ecclesiastical-canonical connection of the part with the whole” and that “the UOC continues to be subordinate to the Russian Orthodox Church.”   This conclusion by “experts” provides local governments with a supposed justification to label the UOC churches in their areas as the “Moscow Church” and to claim that the UOC and the church of Patriarch Kirill are one and the same.  This in turn leads to severe actions against the UOC such have occurred in Ternopil, Rivne, Lviv, Ivano-Frankivsk, and other cities in Western Ukraine.  However, the Conclusion should not be considered as a justification as it is, in my opinion, a flawed document.

    One example of the flaws in the Conclusion relates to the preparation of holy chrism.  Discussion of this aspect is very timely.  On May 27, 2022, the council held by the UOC decided to “consider” the resumption of chrism-making by the UOC.  However, last week the making of chrism by the UOC in fact occurred.  On April 10, Metropolitan Onufry, primate of the UOC, began the process of “brewing” the holy chrism at the St. Panteleimon Monastery in Feofania, located in the southwestern part of Kyiv.  The Monastery is the residence of Metropolitan Onufry and is the location where the UOC Council of May 27, 2022, was held.  On April 13, Holy Thursday, Metropolitan Onufry performed the Liturgy and consecrated the holy chrism.  From the photos, it appears that approximately 50 bishops of the UOC attended the service and obtained the holy chrism for their dioceses.

    The “expert group” considered the intention of the UOC to make its own holy chrism at several points in its Conclusion.  For example, it states at 7.4.5:  “The restoration of chrism-making in Kyiv is not a sign of an ‘independent’ or even ‘autocephalous’ church.”    However, there is an aspect of this issue which the “expert group” chose to ignore.   In reaching this conclusion, the “expert group” did not even mention or discuss the fact that chrism-making in Kyiv is in direct conflict with Chapter 10, Article 13 of the Statute of the Russian Orthodox Church which provides: “The Ukrainian Orthodox Church receives holy chrism from the Patriarch of Moscow and All Rus'”.  Is not the fact that the UOC violates a clear and express mandate in the statute of the Russian Orthodox Church a strong indication that the UOC is actually independent and not subordinate to Moscow?  The “expert group” was obviously aware of this provision as it quoted Chapter 10 in its entirety at the beginning of its Conclusion.  Faced with the strength of this argument and not having a good answer to it, the ”expert group” chose simply to ignore article Chapter 10, Article 13 in its discussion of chrism-making.  In my opinion, this is not intellectual honesty on the part of the “expert group” and demonstrates an intention to reach a certain result in spite of the facts.  There are also other serious flaws in the Conclusion as I have discussed in two earlier reports.  See (2 & 12 Feb. 2023)  Unfortunately, the flawed Conclusion has had, in my opinion, unfortunate effects.  The flawed Conclusion may well have been the match that has ignited the religious fires that are now burning in Western Ukraine.

    Some influential voices in Russia view the chrism-making and other actions by the UOC very differently from the “expert group.”  On April 13, Metropolitan Leonid, the Moscow Patriarchate’s Exarch for Africa, expressed his displeasure at the latest action of the UOC – the making of chrism. (April 13)   On Facebook,  he stated:

    1. Termination of the commemoration of the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, according to the canons.

    2. Declaring itself a completely independent Church.

    3. Unilateral unauthorized change of the Charter with reference to the severing of ties with the Russian Church.

    4. Replacement of antimins with new ones, without the name of the Patriarch.

    5. Unauthorized preparation and consecration of chrism.

    6. Independent creation of parishes abroad.

    De facto, these are all signs of a schism.  De jure - the legal canonical assessment will be given by the Holy Synod and the Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church.

    Metropolitan Leonid also quotes Father Georgy Maximov, who is the principal representative of the Exarchate working in Africa.  Father Georgy stated:  “Even in my student years, I was taught that this [brewing and consecrating chrism] is one of the key signs of autocephaly.  Autonomous Churches do not brew myrrh themselves."

    One must wait and see what, if anything, the Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate will say with respect to these latest events at Feofania.  However, the Holy Synod may do nothing.  Stating that the UOC is now in schism would be a painful admission by Patriarch Kirill that the Moscow Patriarchate is now much smaller than it was previously.  It would also reflect very adversely on President Putin as it would mean that his decision to invade Ukraine has resulted in a huge loss for the Russian Orthodox Church.  Still, the action by the UOC in preparing and consecrating its own holy chrism, in direct violation of Chapter 10, Article 13 of the Statute of the Russian Orthodox Church, clearly shows the independence of the UOC from Moscow.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 13 April 2023 (2): Disturbing use of the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches

    On April 12, the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations posted a statement entitled: “ The Council of Churches condemns Russia's abuse of religious sentiments in its aggressive and unjust war against Ukraine.”  After the title, there is an introductory sentence which reads: “On April 11, 2023, the Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, Ruslan Stefanchuk, met with the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations (VRCiRO), during which a number of issues of state-church relations in the context of the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine were discussed.”   Following this, there is the “unanimous” declaration of the Council of Churches.  Quite frankly, I found parts of the declaration astonishing.  The first part of the declaration reads:

    “VRCiRO unanimously declared:

    o   the inadmissibility of the activities of any organizations in Ukraine, including religious ones, whose centers and leadership are located in the Russian Federation;”

    This language is very similar to the most important provision found in Draft Law 8371.  An English translation of this provision in 8371 is as follows:

    “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.”

    Ukrinform (state news agency) posted an article on April 12 relating to the declaration by the Council of Churches.  ( .   This article has the title:  “The All-Ukrainian Council of Churches supports the bill banning religious organizations associated with the Russian Federation.”

    The first sentence of the article reads:

    “The Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada, Ruslan Stefanchuk, announced that the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations (VRCiRO) supported consideration in the parliament of a draft law that would prevent the activities of any religious organizations with centers of influence in Russia.”

    This obviously is a reference to Draft Law 8371.  The Ukrinform article also includes a photocopy of a letter from the current chairman of the Council of Churches.  Unfortunately, the Google translation tool does not translate this photocopy into English.  However, the letter does contain several references of 8371.

    The declaration by the Council of Churches also states:  “The meeting was attended by the Head of the State Service of Ukraine for Ethnopolitics and Freedom of Conscience (SESS) Viktor Yelensky ,…”  I have a strong suspicion that the drafter of Draft Law 8371 was Viktor Yelensky.  At the present time, Draft Law 8371 has had little progress in the Rada.  See   I have a suspicion that the meeting, which was apparently requested by the Chairman of the Rada, was intended to cause the Council of Churches to adopt a statement which could be said to reflect the support of the Council of Churches for Draft Law 8371.  With this supposed support, the promoters of Draft Law 8371 could perhaps get more support for Draft Law 8371 in the Rada.

    As can be seen above, the statement provides that it was the “unanimous” declaration of the Council of Churches.  The Council of Churches includes the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC).  Later in the statement, there is a provision that states:  “in Ukraine, there are no religious persecutions.”   The actual position of the UOC, stated repeatedly, is that there have been persecutions against it.  To contend that the UOC agreed in the statement that there are “no persecutions” is absolutely preposterous.   The UOC has also strenuously opposed Draft Law 8371.

    On April 13, the Legal Department of the UOC issued a commentary calling the letter a “manipulation.”  The head of the Legal Department of the UOC was actually present during the meeting of the Council of Churches.  Because I believe that this commentary is very relevant, I have pasted a Google translation of the commentary below:

    Comment of the Legal Department of the UOC regarding manipulations based on the results of the meeting of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church with the Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine

    On April 11, 2023, a meeting of the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations (VRCiRO) was held with the Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine (VRU) R. O. Stefanchuk at his request. The meeting was attended by the Ukrainian Orthodox Church: Archbishop Viktor of Khmelnytskyi and Starokostyantynivskyi and Head of the Legal Department of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Archpriest Oleksandr Bakhov.

    The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the issue of the current religious situation and the attitude of VRCIRO to the government bill No. 8371 dated 19.01.2023. "On Amendments to Some Laws of Ukraine Regarding the Activities of Religious Organizations in Ukraine," which, under the pretext of banning the ROC, propose to ban the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

    VRCiRO includes 16 churches and religious organizations, but during the meeting only 6 participants expressed their views on the specified issues, of which only OCU and UGCC supported the adoption of the government draft law No. 8371.

    The representative of the UOC not only did not support draft law No. 8371, but also criticized other draft laws. Noting that today 11 draft laws are registered in the VRU, which are aimed at banning or restricting the activities of the UOC, and none of them will bring unity to our country, but will divide Ukraine along religious lines. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church remains the largest religious association in Ukraine and, despite the seizure of churches, the total number of religious communities is over 12,000. Members of religious communities are citizens of Ukraine who were born, studied and live here with their families. 

    During the meeting, the head of the UGCC, Archbishop Svyatoslav Shevchuk, announced the principles on which state-denominational relations should be based. The Chairman of the VRU supplemented these principles and suggested that the Council of Churches support them in the following version: "1. Religious freedom; 2. Partnership relations between the state and religious organizations; 3. Individual responsibility for everyone for crimes (it was not specified for which crimes); 4. No Russia in Ukraine. No Russian influence on any religious organizations." These principles were supported by the representatives of VRCiRO with a proposal for further discussion at the next meeting to form a position regarding draft law No. 8371.

    However, despite this, on April 12, 2023, news appeared on the VRCiRO website, and the Chairman of the VRU published in his social networks  a letter from the chairman of the VRCiRO No. 121-23 dated April 12, 2023, in which the position of the VRCiRO on the allegedly unanimous support for the adoption of draft law No. 8371. At the same time, the letter contains a request to take into account the provisions of draft law No. 8262 (on the simplified seizure of temples) when preparing for the second reading of draft law No. 8371.

    Thus, in this case, there is a manipulation, where the support of the UOC representatives of the principles of state-confessional relations with an agreement on further discussion at the meeting of the VRCiRO is passed off as support for the government bill No. 8371 and other bills. 

    It should be noted that  the VRCiRO did not hold meetings during which it would discuss draft law No. 8371 or other draft laws and proposals based on the results of the meeting with the Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada. In addition,  VRCiRO letter  No. 121-23 dated April 12, 2023, which allegedly certifies the position of VRCiRO regarding support for the adoption of the draft law,  did not agree with representatives of the UOC .

    According to Clause 11 of the Regulations on the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations, all decisions of the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations are made by consensus. Thus, the position expressed in letter No. 121-23 dated April 12, 2023, signed by the Chairman of the VRCiRO, Bishop of the Ukrainian Lutheran Church Vyacheslav Horpinchuk, addressed to the Chairman of the VRU, cannot be considered the position of the VRCiRO.

    One gets the impression that this meeting was initiated by the leadership of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine in order to present its results in such a way as to cover up or justify before the world community the illegal actions that are being taken against the UOC today, as well as to use the authority of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in order to provide the public with information that allegedly, religious figures of Ukraine support a draft law that plans to ban the activities of one of the religious organizations in Ukraine.

    It is obvious that all the illegal actions that are being committed today against the Ukrainian Orthodox Church by various activists, supporters of certain political parties, with the support of representatives of the authorities, do not bring any benefit to the objective interests of the state, but only play into the hands of the propaganda of the Russian Federation.

    In my opinion, the posting of the declaration and the use of it to support Draft Law 8371 is a very disturbing development. 


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 13 April 2023 (1): Letter from Kyiv Theological Academy to Ecumenical Patriarch

    Archbishop Sylvester, the rector of the Kyiv Theological Academy and Seminary (UOC), has written a letter to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.  The official English translation can be read at  The letter protests the actions taken by the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU).  In discussing the OCU, the letter specifically refers to events relating to three churches: (1) the Church of the Nativity of Christ in Ivano-Frankivsk; (2) the Intercession Cathedral in Khmelnytsky,; and (3) and the Church of St. Prince Volodymyr in Lviv.  In my prior two newsletters, I have discussed each of these three events.  See  Archbishop Sylvester has some good points to make in his letter.  However, his letter does have the defect of oversimplifying complex situations.   As one example, his description of the events in Lviv is very misleading.  With respect to Lviv, the Archbishop stated:

    An even more egregious event occurred in Lviv. In March 2023, the Lviv City Council transferred to the use of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine a land plot on which the church of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in honor of St. Prince Volodymyr, the Equal-to-the-Apostles, had been located for many years. On April 6, 2023, the Orthodox Church of Ukraine initiated the demolition of this church. The Deputy Mayor of Lviv for Urban Development, Lubomyr Zubach, released photos and videos of the demolition process (  These photos and videos clearly show that before the demolition of the church, a priest of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine read some prayers near the church, after which he gave his blessing for the destruction of the church. Thus, the priest explicitly approved the destruction of the church, where for many years a prayer to God was heard and a Bloodless Sacrifice was offered!  This was probably the only case in all the years of Ukraine’s independence when the church was not built but destroyed… The leadership of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine did not react in any way to this sad fact.

    It is interesting to compare the description of the same event made by Metropolitan Filaret of Lviv (UOC) on his Facebook page.  The description includes the following:

    Based on the fact that by the decision of the City Council, the land plot on which the church is located was transferred to the OCU for the construction of the cathedral, a decision was made to demolish the church as an illegal building.   Since the time of the post-Soviet totalitarian regime, it has not happened that Orthodox churches were demolished in Galicia.  A temple is a place where a bloodless sacrifice is made, a place that is a sanctuary.  Unfortunately, this did not stop the radical people and the temple on Sikhov was demolished.  The community left the temple.  In our opinion, it could continue to exist and be used by the OCU community, because the construction of the cathedral will not be started for a long time.

    Archbishop Sylvester does not mention that the simple log church was destroyed so that a cathedral (presumably a much nicer religious structure) could be erected in its place.  Metropolitan Filaret acknowledges that the UOC community previously had “left the temple.”   In fact, the church was officially transferred on June 7 of last year from the UOC to the OCU as the result of an election.  The official document reflecting the transfer can be seen at (see paragraph 2).   With respect to the destruction of the church, Metropolitan Filaret expresses the sadness that if the church had been allowed to stand for a longer period of time, the church could have continued to have been “used by the OCU [emphasis added] community, because the construction of the cathedral will not be started for a long time.”  Thus, the OCU priest was blessing a small wooden church, which had belonged to the OCU since June of last year, so as to allow the construction of a cathedral in its place.  The blessing by the priest would seem to be a sign of respect for the small wooden church, rather a reprehensible act for which the leadership of the OCU should have taken action.

    There are also other examples in the letter where the descriptions of events relating to the three churches omit important facts and are misleading.   Presumably, the description presented by Archbishop Sylvester reflects his good faith understanding of the situations involving these three churches.  However, the reality is that there is so much “news” in the conflict between the UOC and the OCU which is very slanted and omit completely very relevant facts.  In my opinion, both the UOC and the OCU have been guilty in this regard.  The lesson to be learned is not to accept such reports at face value, but to check the facts carefully.  A fine academic institution, such as the Kyiv Theological Academy, should know that alleged facts should be researched carefully.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA 

  • 11 April 2023: Plight of the UOC in Western Ukraine & other news

    The Kyiv Lavra is not the only location in Ukraine where the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) is now being required to defend itself.  Most of the other adverse actions against the UOC are occurring in Western Ukraine and involve UOC cathedrals and churches.  An example is the city of Lviv.  On April 6, Andriy Sadovyi, who has been mayor of Lviv since 2006, made an announcement on his Telegram page stating:  “Thank you to everyone who participated, and in a very dignified manner, without provocations, in the completion of the history of the Moscow Patriarchate in our city in these two days."    The mayor was referring to three events.  The first involved the UOC Cathedral of St. George the Great Martyr, located on Taras Bobanych Street near the center of Lviv.  On April 5, a vote was held at the Cathedral in which it was decided to transfer the Cathedral parish from the UOC to the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU).  The meeting is described at  (includes a video)  On April 9, Palm Sunday, the OCU Liturgy at the cathedral was broadcast on NTA TV.   After the Liturgy, the congregation went to a cemetery and placed 550 willow branches on the graves of fallen Ukrainian soldiers.  As in many cases, the OCU stressed prayers for the Ukrainian armed forces and for the use of the Ukrainian language in the Liturgy.

    UOC Metropolitan Filaret of Lviv has contested the vote and has stated that the religious community of St. George has not made any decision with respect to transferring to the OCU.  Metropolitan Filaret describes the people who voted on April 5 as “unknown.”  In my viewing of the video of the election meeting, it seemed to me that the voters were almost all men and were not the variety of people that one would normally expect to see at a Sunday Liturgy.  As is frequently the case, this transfer raises questions as to who should be eligible to vote and whether adequate notice of the election was given.  I am sure that the entire controversy involving the Cathedral will end up in the courts.

    The second event also occurred on April 5.  It was announced in Lviv that the private party who owns the property occupied by the UOC Church of the Holy Trinity on Antonovych Street in Lviv had decided to cancel the Church’s lease.  The UOC must therefore leave.  The third event occurred on April 6.  The Church of Volodymyr in Sikhov, a suburb southeast of Lviv, was demolished.  It was a small wooden structure.  It was previously a parish of the UOC, but had been in the possession of the OCU since last June.  The OCU plans to build a cathedral at the site.  Saddened by the event, UOC Metropolitan Filaret stated that a church has not been destroyed in Galicia since Soviet times.  He said that “it could have continued to exist and be used by the OCU community, because the construction of the cathedral will not be started for a long time.”  If the transfer of St. George is upheld legally, the UOC will no longer have a church within the city of Lviv.  However, the UOC still has more than 40 parishes in the Lviv Oblast.

    On April 1, Ruslan Marcinkiv, the mayor of city of Ivano-Frankivsk, encouraged citizens to attend the OCU Liturgy on April 2 at the Church of the Nativity of Christ on Dovzhenka Street in the city of Ivano-Frankivsk.  He thanked the people of the city “for the fact that we became the first oblast [not only the city but also the entire region] in Ukraine that is free from the Moscow Patriarchate.”  On the prior Sunday, the Church of the Nativity had been under the control of the UOC.  However, the Church has been subject to a complex controversy since February 2022, at which time the parishioners supposedly voted to transfer to the OCU.  Supporters of the UOC then held a second election with a vote in favor of the UOC, and possession of the church returned to the UOC.  On March 8, 2023, a court ruled in favor of the OCU.   On March 28, 2023, clergy of the OCU and a very large crowd came to the church to hold a service for fallen Ukrainian soldiers. Their entrance into the church was blocked by a much smaller group of UOC clergy and faithful.  The two groups faced each other for approximately 40 minutes without any violence.  Then suddenly there was tear gas.  One version it that the tear gas was used by “one of the Moscow cohort.”  The UOC contends that the tear gas was used by “raiders.” (includes videos)  After a period of chaos and after the tear gas had cleared, the service for the fallen soldiers was held, and the OCU retained possession of the church.  Subsequently, the Sophia dialogue group, which includes clergy of both the OCU and UOC, issued a joint statement condemning “any forceful means of resolving this and other conflicts.”

    One factor which probably weakened the position of the UOC in Ivano-Frankivsk is that its head, Metropolitan Serafim (Zaliznytskyi), left for Russia after the invasion, then served with Patriarch Kirill in Moscow, and has never returned to Ukraine.  In November, the Holy Synod of the UOC replaced Serafim with Bishop Nikita.   Shortly before his appointment, Nikita, then an archimandrite, was involved in alleged sexual conduct involving a young man.

    Aside from Lviv and Ivano­-Frankivsk, events have occurred in other cities in Western Ukraine.  These are described from the perspective of the UOC on its website at  In my opinion, most of these events do not involve simple situations where “raiders” suddenly “capture” UOC churches, but are often complex situations with long histories where it is difficult for me to determine who is right and wrong.  Some of the recent situations in Western Ukraine involve local governments cancelling leases to properties on which UOC churches are located.   

    Fortunately, the current situation at the Kyiv Lavra appears to be peaceful.  On Sunday, April 9, the feast of the Lord's Entry into Jerusalem, thousands attended the outdoor Liturgy (in good weather) lead by Metropolitan Onufy (primate of the UOC) in the Lower Lavra. (includes video).  On the same day in the Upper Lavra, Metropolitan Epifany (primate of the OCU) led the Liturgy in a very crowded Tabernacle Church.  On April 7, Minister of Culture Oleksandr Tkachenko reaffirmed that the government will act in a peaceful way and will await the decision of the courts with respect to the presence of the UOC in the Lower Lavra after the lease termination.  It appears that with perhaps a few exceptions, the monks have physically remained at the Lavra.  Archimandrite Avraamiy, a Lavra monk who was appointed by the OCU to be the temporary head of a future group of OCU monks at the Lavra, celebrated the Liturgy in the Dormition Cathedral of the Upper Lavra on April 7, the feast of the Annunciation.  So far, none of the Lavra monks have publicly joined Avraamiy.  However, some may be waiting to see how future events turn out before making such an important decision.

    Professor Sergii Bortnyk, who teaches at the Academy located in the Lower Lavra and whom I consider a very reliable source, has given an interview concerning the current situation at the Academy. (German)  He stated: “I have already cleared out my closet and books and now only work from home.  There were no lectures last week.”   In viewing videos and photos of church services relating to the Academy, I see relatively few seminarians present.  See, for example,  With no classes being held, many are probably not present at the Academy for the time being.

    The 60-day house arrest of Metropolitan Pavel (Lebed), the UOC vicar for the Lavra, on April 2 was big news.  It was reported by news services across the world, including a photo and article in the Seattle Times.  The appeal by the Metropolitan challenging his house arrest will be heard by an appellate court on April 21.   Metropolitan Pavel is serving his 60 days of house arrest in the village of Voronkiv, approximately 40 km southeast of Kyiv.  The village is Pavel’s legal residence, and one of his several homes is located there.  The following is a drone video of his Voronkiv home:   He also has a luxurious home at 10a Zemlianska Street, bordering on the  M. M. Hryshko National Botanical Garden, 2 km south of the Lavra.   It appears that he is being fairly treated during his house arrest at Voronkiv.  Since April 3, he has been allowed to record three videos there.  See ;  As shown in the last link, he was allowed to celebrate the feast of the Annunciation at the residence.  His attorney has been present during interviews.

    There has been much publicity in the Ukrainian internet concerning the expensive tastes of Metropolitan Pavel – which stand in contrast to Metropolitan Onufry’s far more humble style of living.  For example, the following video is entitled:  “Pasha Mercedes: houses, business and faith in expensive cars.” The video has now been posted for five days and has had over 700,000 views.   The Security Services of Ukraine has also posted a video with English translations of certain telephone calls made by Pavel and intercepted by the Service.  The video includes such statements by Metropolitan Pavel as: “And already today Kherson is to proclaim the great joy, there are Russian flags everywhere…”

    In other news, certain monks and priests of the Orthodox church in North Macedonia were awarded titles from the Ecumenical Patriarchate at a service on the island of Imvros on April 10. ; (English)  This was done with the blessing of Metropolitan Stefan.  At the service, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew stated: “And now we are at the stage of preparing the attribution to this Church, under certain conditions, of the status of Autocephaly.  We are on the right track, negotiations are continuing.” 

    Lastly, in the traditional stations of the cross held at the Roman Colosseum on Good Friday, there was at the tenth station a reading written by a young Russian.  The reading was as follows:  “I, on the other hand, am from Russia… as I say it, I almost feel a sense of guilt, yet at the same time I do not understand why and I feel doubly bad.  I feel stripped of happiness and of dreams for the future.  I have seen my grandmother and mother cry for two years.  A letter informed us that my oldest brother was dead; I still remember him on his eighteenth birthday, smiling and bright like the sun, and all this just a few weeks before leaving for a long journey.   Everyone told us we should be proud, but at home there was only much suffering and sadness.  The same thing happened also to my father and grandfather: they too left and we know nothing more.  Some of my classmates, with great fear, whispered in my ear that there was war.  When I returned home, I wrote a prayer: Jesus, please, let there be peace in the whole world and let us all be brothers and sisters.”

    At this holy time, let us all pray for peace.  For those of you who celebrated Easter last Sunday and for those of you who will be celebrating Pascha next Sunday, I wish you a very blessed feast of the Resurrection of Our Lord!


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 4 April 2023: UOC reaction to Khmelnytskyi crisis -- a double standard?

    Khmelnytskyi (Хмельницький) is a city of 275,000 in Western Ukraine, located approximately 105 km east of Ternopil.   Unlike many other cities of Western Ukraine, the UOC has been the predominant faith here, although there have been a substantial number of transitions to the OCU recently.  The oldest existing building in Khmelnytskyi and the largest church in the city is the UOC’s Cathedral of the Nativity of the Most Holy Theotokos.   The head of the UOC in the city and the surrounding area has been Metropolitan Antony (Fialko) of Khmelnytskyi and Starokostantynivskyi (age 76).

    On Sunday, April 2, a 26-year-old man, Artur Ananiev, entered the Cathedral in military clothes.  After the invasion of Ukraine, Ananiev had volunteered and served in the 2nd company of the 19th rifle battalion.  During the war, he received a contusion and a craniocerebral injury.  He was discharged from the Ukrainian Armed Forces for medical reasons.  At 10:20 a.m., Ananiev had a confrontation in the Cathedral with the person who was doing a reading during the Liturgy.  Ananiev shouted, “How many more people have to die for you to stop going to the Moscow Patriarchate?” According to witnesses in the cathedral, he also threw to the ground the gospel book which was on a table.;  There followed a physical confrontation in which a husky subdeacon (?) and others expelled Ananiev from the cathedral.  A video was taken of much of this.  The video can be watched at the last link.  A video showing an interview of Ananiev following the incident can be watched at  Among other things, Ananiev claims that he was thrown to the ground and could not breathe.  From the video, it appears that excessive force was used against Ananiev.

    The video of Ananiev being expelled from the cathedral was put on Facebook by Viktor Burlyk, a deputy of the Khmelnytskyi Regional Council.  By late afternoon, a large crowd gathered in front of the cathedral.  They formed an assembly, and  1,235 signatures, allegedly from parishioners of the cathedral, were collected in favor of the transition of the cathedral from the UOC to the OCU.  The assembly voted to form an audit committee under the chairmanship of Yury Smal.  The audit committee then requested Metropolitan Anthony for the keys, and the Metropolitan gave the keys to the committee.  That evening some clergy from the OCU conducted a prayer service in the cathedral in the Ukrainian language.  The cathedral has now been sealed by the police and will not be opened until Pascha.   Hopefully, between now and Pascha, a more reasonable and legal approach will be adopted to resolve this local crisis.  In my opinion, both Ananiev and the subdeacon were at fault.

    On Monday, April 3, the television channel TCH posted a very significant 4-minute video.   It included another interview of Ananiev.  It also included an interview of Metropolitan Anthony of Khmelnytskyi.  Anthony strongly condemned the actions of his subordinate who expelled Ananiev so forcefully.  He also stated: “They [his priests] were thinking of staying at the OCU, asking to be with them somehow.  I'm ready, I'll take my things, but they're silent, they ran away, I'm looking for them, let's decide with you. I am the only one left, a hostage.” 

    The Holy Synod of the UOC has now acted very promptly.  A remote meeting of the Synod was specially called on the morning of the next day, April 3.  According to the website of the UOC:  “the Holy Synod released His Eminence Metropolitan Antony of Khmelnytskyi and Starokostantynivskyi from the administration of the Khmelnytskyi Diocese and retired him.  His Eminence Archbishop Victor of Baryshiv, who was the vicar of the Kyiv Metropolis, was appointed as the new head of the Khmelnytskyi diocese.”  Archbishop Victor is a young and very well-know hierarch and has been the representative of the UOC to international organizations.  As far as I can determine, the video of the Anthony interview was first posted after the Synod meeting.  If the Synod believed that Anthony was planning to transfer to the OCU, it is understandable that the Synod replaced him.

    Some will probably argue that the extremely prompt action of the Holy Synod shows how quickly the Holy Synod can act to remove a metropolitan and retire him.  On the other hand, Metropolitan Panteleimon of Luhansk (UOC) in October 2022 attended the formal ceremony at the Kremlin when President Putin signed the “annexation” of Ukrainian territories to Russia.  For this, the Holy Synod took no action against Panteleimon.  Archimandrite Cyril Hovorun in his recent interview ( expressed the belief that the more aggressive actions by the Ukrainian government against the UOC which began in late fall and continues to date were triggered by the active participation by UOC hierarchs in the Russian actions to annex portions of Ukraine.  Hovorun also believes that Metropolitan Onufry, primate of the UOC, gave assurances to Zelensky that he would deal with this situation, and Onufry failed to follow through on these assurances.  In any event, the UOC seems to believe that handing over the keys to a cathedral and showing sympathies to the OCU is a far more serious offense than participating in the annexation ceremony at the Kremlin.  Is this a double standard?  In my opinion, this is a problem for the UOC.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 2 April 2023: Detailed interview of Hovorun on current situation

    This is a very interesting interview today of Father Cyril Hovorun with respect to the current crisis.  (English transcript)  The interview is in English.  The following is a video of the interview.   I thought that Father Cyril was very candid in his remarks.  He criticized both the government and the UOC.  For example, he stated:  “I agree that the violation of the Lavra’s status as a UNESCO site by communities residing on its territory is not the reason but a pretext.  The main reason likely stems from the UOC MP’s leadership being unable to address the issue of the Church’s active or passive collaboration with the Russian aggressor in various ways.”   He also stated:  “The decision to evict all church structures from the Lavra seemed to be the easiest way—a shortcut to solving the problem. However, it may be the most challenging regarding outcomes and results for the common good of Ukrainian society and Ukraine’s international standing. Criticism is growing internationally, coming not only from religious leaders like Pope Francis but also from secular international bodies and institutions. This serves as a warning signal for the Ukrainian state and society, as they need to maintain unanimous international support. Unwise steps and choosing shortcuts instead of lawful ways may prove too costly for Ukraine.”  There are also other interesting observations made by Father Cyril.  I found that his observations helped me to understand a very complicated situation. 


    Peter Anderson

  • 1 Avril 2023: The standoff at the Lavra & other news

    On March 30, the commission of the Reserve, whose responsibilities include the inventory of the property to determine what belongs to the Reserve and what belongs to private persons or organizations such as the UOC, attempted to enter the Church of the Nativity of the Mother of God, located in the area of the Far Caves.  See map at  This is the church used by the Kyiv Theological Academy and Seminary (UOC).  The commission was not able to enter the church due to a large crowd with Archbishop Sylvester, the rector of the Academy, in the front.  Later in the day, the Academy posted an official statement concerning the event as well as a video.  The statement includes the following:

    Today, March 30, 2023, at about 10:30 a.m., people came to the church in honor of the Nativity of the Mother of God on the territory of the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra.  The people, in communications with representatives of the Kyiv Theological Academy and Seminary, called themselves the Commission for the National Historical - Cultural Reserve "Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra."  The mentioned persons declared their intention to visit the Church of the Nativity of the Mother of God. This church today functions as an academic church and is directly subordinate to the rector of the Kyiv Theological Academy and Seminary.  That is why the rector of the Academy, Archbishop Sylvester of  Bilogorodka , came to the church to communicate with the representatives of the Reserve.  The rector asked the representatives of the Reserve to introduce themselves and present the documents on the basis of which they act. The named persons refused to disclose their names and positions. They also did not submit documents certifying their right to act.  For this reason, the representatives of the Reserve were not allowed to enter the temple.  The Kyiv Theological Academy does not deny the right to employees of the Reserve to fulfill their official duties.  However, all actions must be carried out within the legal framework and without violation of the current legislation.

    On the evening of March 30, Minister of Culture Oleksandr Tkachenko commented on these events on Facebook.  He stated:

    We have to state that due to physical obstacles on the part of the UOC-MP, the commission for receiving-transfer of state property of the National Reserve "Kiev-Pechersk Lavra" could not start work today.  Representatives of the Monastery from the Holy Assumption Kiev-Pechersk Lavra, who are part of the Commission, could not explain who had the keys to the building that was scheduled to be inspected.  In addition, many unknown persons prevented the members of the Commission from entering the building.  On the fact of obstructing the work of the commission, a statement was filed to the police.  The rude behavior of the representatives of the UOC-MP towards the representatives of the Commission is greatly inconsistent with their calls to God.  Tomorrow the Commission will continue its work in any case.

    It appears that the commission on March 31 did not return to the Church of the Nativity of the Mother of God, but rather went at 9:30 a.m. to Lavra Building  No. 111 by the Church of St. Agapit in the Lower Lavra.  It was reported that the keys given by the Monastery to the building did not work and that approximately 20 unknown persons in monks' robes blocked passage to the building.  Water was also used against the commission members.  The commission left and plans to resume its work on Monday.  So far, the websites of the UOC and of the Academy have been silent on this latest inability of the commission to do its work.

    Tkachenko has addressed this latest incident on Facebook.   He stated on March 31:

    Today, the Commission for Acceptance-Transfer of State Property of the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra National Reserve failed to start its work again due to resistance to the UOC-MP.  Because of this, the Reserve turned to the Commercial Court of Kyiv to remove the numerous obstacles that the UOC-MP is putting in the way of the legal transfer of the property of the Lavra to the rightful owner – the state.  In accordance with Article 381 of the Civil Code of Ukraine, the owner of the property has the right to claim the elimination of obstacles in its implementation of the right to use and dispose of its property.  We will solve the situation in a legal way.

    From this it appears that the Zelensky government is proceeding cautiously in obtaining possession of the Lower Lavra.  Presumably, it is aware that many are concerned about the Lavra situation and that the Russian media is giving great coverage to the Lavra events.  The government is therefore seeking to obtain possession through the courts and legal processes, where the UOC has the right to argue its case, rather than invoking immediate police intervention (except to keep the peace).  The commission will probably attempt each day to continue its efforts to access property and will back off for the day if it is blocked.  To the extent there is continuing self-help to prevent the work of the commission, this will simply provide more evidence for the government attorneys to present to the court and to support its arguments that judicial intervention is needed.  In this sense, future blockage by monks and others may actually be helping the government.

    With respect to the courts, the UOC has filed a lawsuit in the Commercial Court of Kyiv challenging the Reserve’s termination of the UOC rent-free lease to the Lower Lavra.  In connection with the lawsuit, the UOC sought a court order preventing the Reserve from taking action with respect to the termination until the court has an opportunity to consider the case on its merits.  In American law, this is called a preliminary injunction.  On March 28, the court denied the UOC’s request for this type of order.  The full decision of the court can be read at (the Google translation tool works on this order).   The legal department of the UOC has stated that the UOC will appeal this denial.  The legal department also points out that this is not a decision on the merits and that the merits will be considered by the court on April 26.  Although this is correct, the denial is not a good sign that the court will favor the UOC in deciding the merits.

    On March 30, the Council of Ministers of Ukraine decided that the order of the Council of Ministers (Order No. 519) issued during the Yanukovych administration on July 11, 2013, was no longer valid.  This earlier order had provided for the rent-free use of the Lavra by the UOC and was silent on a termination date.  This Council’s action on March 30 counters an argument by the UOC that the termination of the lease by the Reserve is not valid as it is contrary to a 2013 decision by a higher authority, namely the Council of Ministers.

    In my opinion, the UOC has a weak argument that the State cannot terminate the lease without the approval of UOC and that the UOC has a rent-free lease to the end of time – namely the absence of a termination date means that the lease lasts forever.  A far better argument is based not on contract law, but rather on the guarantees of freedom of religion.  The argument would be:  Even if the Reserve has a legal right to terminate the lease, that right cannot be used as a pretext to discriminate against the UOC and to cause monks to change their affiliation from the UOC to the OCU.  With respect to the buildings built by the UOC in the Lower Lavra without approval, this must have been known by the Reserve for years and still the Reserve did nothing.  Now when great pressure is being exerted against the UOC, the Reserve takes action.

    On March 31, the DECR  of the UOC sent a letter to all foreign embassies in Ukraine relating to the “situation surrounding the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra.”   The letter discusses the position of the UOC with respect to the March 30 decision of the Council of Ministers and also the March 28 decision by the Commercial Court.  A memo from the legal department of the UOC is also attached.

    Metropolitan Sawa, primate of the Orthodox Church of Poland, now joins other primates who have expressed their support for the UOC in the current controversy.   On March 31, the primate sent a letter to Archbishop Sylvester, rector of the Kyiv Academy. (includes photocopy of English letter)    Metropolitan Sawa stated in part:

    The Polish Orthodox Church has always been and is in favor of the canonicity of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.  What is happening today with the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra, other monastic centers, churches and Your Academy is an expression of great enslavement and persecution of the Church.  For this we express our regrets, raise our prayers and join all those who raise prayers and suffer persecution.

    This letter has not  yet been posted on the official website of the Orthodox Church of Poland.  It may never be.  An earlier letter from Metropolitan Sawa to Patriarch Kirill caused an uproar in Poland, and Sawa subsequently issued an apology.  However, a letter from Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to Metropolitan Sawa has been posted by the Polish Church.  In the letter, dated March 24, Ecumenical Patriarch expresses his great sadness “that we have been informed that once again your precious health has deteriorated and you have been admitted to the hospital and in addition to the intensive care unit for therapy and convalescence.”  He also states that “although we differ in our approach to certain current church issues, we love you as a brother and a concelebrant in Christ and we appreciate your long-term contribution to His Church and your struggles for the spiritual uplifting and prosperity of the Orthodox flock in the noble country – Poland….”


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 30 March 2023: Rival Vicar for Kyiv Lavra & other news

    March 29, the day for the demanded departure of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) from the Lower Lavra of the famous Kyiv Monastery of the Caves, has now passed.  It was a peaceful day at the Lavra.  Although certain individuals may have left on their own accord, the main institutions of the UOC in the Lower Lavra – the Monastery, the Theological Academy and Seminary, and the national headquarters of the UOC – are still there and apparently have no intention to depart until their legal recourse to the courts has been exhausted.  There was no effort by the government to remove people from the Lower Larva and apparently no unusual police presence at the Lavra.  Hundreds of people were allowed to enter the Lavra grounds to pray that the UOC be allowed to remain in the Lower Lavra.   Minister of Culture Oleksandr Tkachenko, the government official who has primary responsibility for the Lavra, was not even in Kyiv, but was rather far away on a planned visit to Kharkiv. 

    On March 11, the day after the notice of termination of the UOC lease for the Lavra, Tkachenko had given assurance that force would not be used if the UOC monks refused to leave the Lavra.   However, one never knows, and many are probably breathing a sigh of relief that peace prevailed today.  However, the government has not abandoned its efforts with respect to the UOC presence at the Lavra.  On March 28 the National Reserve for the Lavra (a department under the Ministry of Culture) sent a letter to the UOC at the Lavra informing it in part:  “From March 29, contract No. 2 dated July 19, 2013 is considered to be terminated unilaterally.  The commission on the acceptance and transfer of property of a state institution, created by the Ministry of Culture and Information Policy of Ukraine, will begin work on March 30 according to the plan for the acceptance and transfer of objects in use at the Holy Dormition Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra.”  Presumably, it will take some time to inventory all of the property. 

    The surprising news on March 29 was that one of the UOC brothers at the Lavra has joined the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU) and has been appointed by Metropolitan Epifany (primate of the OCU) to be the vicar (acting governor) of the Monastery of the Caves.  The new vicar is Archimandrite Avraamiy (Latish) [архімандрит Авраамій (Лотиш)], a member of the Spiritual Council of the Holy Dormition Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra.  Archimandrite Avraamiy (Abraham in English) has made a video and written an appeal to the other brothers at the Monastery.  It can be read and seen at   The video plus comments can also be seen at .  I tried to find some background information concerning Archimandrite Avraamiy.  The only article that I found was at  This article states that Archimandrite Avraamiy is the sacristan at the Lavra.  It also appears that Avraamiy is probably from the Cherkasy diocese (160 km. southeast of Kyiv).   It did not take the UOC long to react to this news.  A few hours after the news of the appointment of the vicar, Metropolitan Onufry, primate of the UOC, issued a decree that “ Archimandrite Avraamiy (Latish) is prohibited from religious service without the right to receive the Holy Mysteries of Christ.” 

    As vicar, the OCU has given Avraamiy the same title as held by Metropolitan Pavel (Lebed).  Metropolitan Pavel has been vicar since 1994.  He was not elected by the brothers but rather appointed.  A biography for him can be found in the Ukraine Wikipedia at  Wikipedia describes various reasons why Pavel is considered controversial by much of the Ukrainian media.  Some of the criticism relates to his high living style and behavior toward others.  Recently, Metropolitan Pavel was one of the individuals sanctioned by the Ukrainian government.  It now remains to be seen if the other monks at the Lavra are unhappy with the leadership of Pavel and whether they will remain loyal to Pavel and the UOC.

    On March 26, Father Georgy Kovalenko gave a long interview to with respect to the Lavra situation.  Father Georgy was the official spokesperson for the UOC for many years prior to the time that Metropolitan Onufry became primate.  Father Georgy subsequently founded the “Open Orthodox University” in Kyiv and joined the OCU.   He was also involved in organizing the recent meetings at St. Sophia between the OCU and UOC clergy.  In the interview, Kovalenko was very critical of Metropolitan Pavel.  Among other criticisms, Kovalenko claims that Pavel has established his own “business empire” at the Lavra -- private businesses which caters to the needs of the pilgrims and visitors.  With respect to the monks at the Lavra, Kovalenko states:  “The majority is not subjective [несуб’єктна] even from the point of view of the desire to express one's position.  We know about a certain extreme percentage of sincere lovers of the "Russian world" - it is, I think, 10-15%.  And about 10-15% of people who would like changes and are ready for unity with the Orthodox Church of Ukraine.  But again, the Lavra is a dormitory monastery.  They lived together for many years.  And they will pay attention to each other.”   In my opinion, Archimandrite Avraamiy would not have accepted his new position unless he felt confident that at least some of the monks would join him.  However, in this very dynamic situation, it is difficult to predict how all of this will end.

    The Holy Synod of the OCU held a meeting on March 28.  The results of the meeting can be read at .  The results included the following: “While supporting the state decision to terminate the contract, according to which the structures of the Moscow Patriarchate in Ukraine used part of the complex of the Holy Dormition Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra, at the same time, the Synod considers it necessary to emphasize the importance of preserving monastic life in the Lavra and the continuity of worship.   In this regard, the request sent to the Ukrainian state earlier to provide a religious organization for the monastic life, liturgical and other religious activities of the religious organization ‘Holy Dormition Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra (men's monastery) of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Orthodox Church of Ukraine)’ premises on the territory of the Holy Dormition Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra complex was confirmed.”  In this regard, the OCU has a practical problem.  At the present time there are approximately 200 UOC monks and novices at the Monastery of the Caves.   According to official data as of November 2021, the OCU only had a total of 233 monks in Ukraine while the UOC had 4,620 monks at the end of 2022.  The OCU simply does not have the number of monks available to staff the Monastery at the present levels.  This is why the OCU needs to recruit UOC monks from the Monastery.

    Several primates have expressed their support for the UOC in the present Lavra crisis.  Patriarch Porfirije of Serbia has issued an extremely strong statement (“In light of these facts, the decision of the current state leadership of Ukraine to expel Metropolitan Onuphry, the monastic brotherhood and the Spiritual Academy from the Lavra is nothing but a synonym for horrifying state terror against the Church, as well as the grossest violation of her fundamental rights, religious freedom and freedom of conscience in general.”) (official English translation).  The Metropolitan Tikhon, primate of the Orthodox Church in America, has also expressed his strong support for Metropolitan Onufry (“We once again assure Metropolitan Onufriy, his clergy, and the Ukrainian faithful, who are beset by troubles on all sides, that the Orthodox Church in America stands ready to support the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, both with our prayers and by any other means at our disposal.”)  Patriarch Ilia of Georgia has taken a somewhat different approach in his support of the UOC.  He addressed a letter to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.  The Patriarch’s letter included the following appeal:  “Your All Holiness, everyone remembers numerous steps you have taken with the mission of peace and therefore we presume that in this case also, if it is possible, you might help ease the tension, which, in our opinion, implies the creation of conditions for peaceful coexistence at the first stage, and then, a peaceful move towards mutual rapprochement.”

    The lease termination also affects the Kyiv Theological Academy and Seminary, the main educational institution of the UOC.  The rector of the Academy has posted a very well-written appeal at  (English).  Students whose family members are fighting with the Ukrainian Armed Forces each made short individual appeals in an interesting video with English subtitles at  (a 11-minute video).

    All of this is a very difficult situation which, of course, needs many prayers.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 25 March 2023: Important statement by rector of Kyiv Academy at Lavra

    The following is a statement in English from the rector of the Kyiv Theological Academy and Seminary (UOC).   It was just posted this afternoon.  The controversy relating to the Kyiv Lavra has focused primarily on the monks at the monastery.  However, the termination of the UOC lease to the Lower Lavra also affects the Academy, which is located on the grounds of the Lower Lavra.  The abbot (vicar of the primate) of the monastery, Metropolitan Pavel (Lebed), is a very controversial figure.  On the other hand, the rector of the Academy,  Archbishop Sylvester, is reasonable and balanced -- in my opinion.  I believe that his statement is entitled to considerable weight. 


    Peter Anderson

  • 24 March 2023: Planned WCC roundtable with UOC, OCU, and Moscow Patriarchate & other news

    On the morning of March 23, Pope Francis met with a delegation of the World Council of Churches.  The delegation was led by the new General Secretary of the WCC, Reverend Professor Jerry Pillay, and also included Bishop Dr Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, WCC central committee moderator, and Prof. Dr Vasile-Octavian Mihoc, WCC program executive for Ecumenical Relations and Faith and Order.  

    During the meeting, the WCC discussed with Pope Francis the WCC’s intention to convene a roundtable with Orthodox Church leaders from Ukraine and also from the Moscow Patriarchate.   The tentative plans are as follows:  Day One – meeting between UOC and OCU leaders; Day Two – meeting with Moscow Patriarchate leaders; Day Three – meeting of all three together.  Other church leaders from Ukraine may also participate. The meeting is to take place in Geneva.  It appears that the roundtable will explore how to put “Christ in the center” with respect to Ukraine.  Presumably, the roundtable would not be an attempt to solve the many issues between the three church organizations.  Because this planned roundtable has just been made public, one does not know now whether the UOC, the OCU, and the Moscow Patriarchate would even agree to meet at the same table.  Hopefully, they will.

    A  description of the WCC’s meeting with the Pope is found at the WCC’s website.  The following is a quotation from the description:

    ”It was a wonderful, cordial conversation,” said WCC general secretary Pillay. “We shared with him the aspects of current collaboration we have with the WCC. We expressed the need for continuity of our work together and expressed our appreciation for the participation of the Roman Catholic Church in the work of the WCC, and also now possibly further with the commissions that we are to appoint.”

    The conversation also highlighted very important points, Pillay noted. “The first one was to deal with the Ukraine situation.  We shared with the Holy Father our views about the dynamics of what is happening and expressed our concern. and we shared that we are planning a new roundtable, in which we will bring the Ukraine churches, Orthodox churches, and other church leaders together—and also together with the Russian Orthodox Church.  The idea is to bring them all together into a conversation about what it means, in terms of Christian unity, to deal with the context of the war,” he said. 

    Pillay added that all those present [including Pope Francis] expressed concern about how churches are actually becoming disunited because of other factors, including political and economic ones. “We recognized that some of these aspects are certainly finding their way into churches and into church relationships and affecting them in a negative way,” he said.  “We affirmed the centrality of Christ in our conversations, and how we can focus together on the Gospel, and how that actually helps us in our relationships in the world.” [My emphasis]

    Christopher White, Vatican correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter, interviewed Rev. Dr. Pillay after the meeting.   The following are some quotations from his interesting article:

    The tentative plans, according to Pillay, are for a one-day meeting of Ukrainian Orthodox Church leaders, followed by a one-day meeting of Russian Orthodox leaders, and then a roundtable discussion with all of the participants on the concluding day.  To date, no participants have been announced, though plans are for the meeting to take place in Geneva, where the World Council of Churches is headquartered.

    According to its general secretary, the Rev. Jerry Pillay — who met with Francis at the Vatican on March 23 — the pope gave his blessing to the proposed encounter and reiterated the need to put "Christ in the center" of the conversation ahead of political or national divisions.

    In Kyiv, the appeal to the Ukrainian faithful, adopted by the Holy Synod of the UOC on March 20, has now been posted in English.  A separate appeal to President Zelensky was posted earlier.  Metropolitan Pavel (Lebed), who is the head (vicar of the primate) of the UOC monastic community at the Lavra, has stated that it is physically impossible for the UOC to leave the Lavra by March 29.  He commented: “Today we don't know if they will extend the time for us at least to stay through Pascha and take out our property, but I call everyone to pray, come to the territory of the Lavra.”

    Lastly, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew has completed his stay in Lithuania.  On March 22, he gave a major address at the seminar, “Reaction of Churches and Religious Communities to War and Conflict.”  The entire text of the address can be read in English at  Much of the address focuses on the Moscow Patriarchate and Ukraine.  On March 22, the Ecumenical Patriarch together with the Catholic Archbishop of Vilnius visited the famous Marian shrine of Aušros Vartai (Dawn Gate) and the Museum of Occupations and Freedom Fights (located in the former KGB building in Vilnius). (includes photos).  On his departure on March 23, the Ecumenical Patriarch commented briefly on the invitation posted on the website of the Lithuanian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) for him to come to the Holy Spirit Monastery (Moscow Patriarchate) and venerate the relics of the martyrs of Vilnius there. The Monastery is located less than 150 meters from the Dawn Gate shrine.  The Ecumenical Patriarch stated that he never received an invitation from Metropolitan Innokenty (head of the Lithuanian Church of the Moscow Patriarchate) to visit the Monastery and never saw the Metropolitan at any of the events related to the Ecumenical Patriarch’s visit to Lithuania.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 22 March 2023: Outrageous demand & other news

    On the afternoon of March 21, Ukraine’s Ministry of Culture and Information Policy (MCIP) posted on its official website a notice entitled: “The MCIP established a number of violations by the UOC men's monastery on the territory of the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra.”   This notice includes the following:

    "During the inspection, the Ministry of Culture and Information Policy of Ukraine found a number of violations on the part of the Holy Dormition Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra (men's monastery) of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. 

    These violations may be grounds for terminating the lease agreement for the free use of religious buildings and other state-owned property by a religious organization. 

    Among the established violations:

    ·        arbitrary reconstruction, extension, re-planning of monuments of cultural heritage and construction of new buildings on the territory of the Reserve. This is a violation of the requirements of Part 14 of Article 5, Article 141, Clause 1 of Article 24, Clauses 2, 3 of Article 25, Article 26, Article 32, Clause 4 of Article 33 of the Law of Ukraine "On Protection of Cultural Heritage", part four of Article 26 of the Law of Ukraine "On regulation of urban planning activities", Article 5 of the Law of Ukraine "On the Basics of Urban Planning", Article 28 of the Law of Ukraine "On Architectural Activity", as well as clauses 2.2.3, 2.2.6, 2.2.7 of the Security Agreements.

    ·        inappropriate use of a state-owned object, in particular, it refers to the basement of 1914;

    ·        improper maintenance of an architectural monument of local importance - book warehouse, building 113;

    ·        violation of the terms of sub-clause 4 of clause 3.2 of the agreement No. 2 dated 19.07.2013 regarding the obligation not to transfer property to third parties without the permission of the reserve (state institution) (buildings were subleased to the Metropolis of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and the Kyiv Theological Academy and Seminary; 20 third-party legal entities were registered).

    As a reminder, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC MP) must leave the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra by March 29."  [Emphasis added]

    The foregoing sentence in bold is not limited to certain parts of the Lower Lavra.  Instead its broad language demonstrates that the requirement of the UOC to leave applies to the entire Lavra.  This would include: (1) the monastery with approximately 200 monks and novices who actually live at the monastery; (2) the Kyiv Theological Academy and Seminary with approximately 300 students, most of whom live at dormitories at the Lavra; and (3) the administrative offices of the UOC, including the office of the primate and various departments including the Department of External Church Relations. 

    As a Catholic who has reported on events in the Orthodox world for many years, I am not affiliated with any Local Orthodox Church.  In that sense, I am an “outsider.”   Although I may not always have been successful, I have tried to be balanced and not emotional in my reporting.  In my opinion the demand that a major monastic community, a major educational institution, and the equivalent of the UOC “Vatican” be totally removed from the Lavra grounds by March 29 (a week from now) is simply outrageous.  With such an unreasonable time schedule, perhaps the Zelensky administration is seeking to impose maximum pressure on the UOC monks at the Lavra to switch their affiliation from the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) to the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU).  In this regard, Metropolitan Epifany, primate of the OCU, made a written appeal to the Lavra monks last Saturday asking for them to do just that.  See  In my opinion, use of a threatened eviction as a means of causing the monks to change their religious affiliation is a gross violation of the religious rights of the monks.   

    Prior to the notice above, I had hope that an eviction effective March 29 would not actually occur.  The March 10 letter from the National Reserve of the Lavra terminating the current UOC lease effective March 29 did not expressly state that the UOC must physically leave the Lavra by that date.  On March 11 Minister of Culture Oleksandr Tkachenko stated: “No one is saying that the life of the monks in the Lavra will end after the audit is completed.”  Furthermore, I believed that evicting the entire presence of the UOC in the Lower Lavra by March 29 was so unreasonable that it was not really the intention of the Zelensky administration to require that.  Sadly, the notice above leads me now to believe that the Zelensky administration intends to do just that.

    Pope Francis and Dr Jerry Pillay, the new general secretary of the World Council of Churches, have both raised their concerns about what is happening at the Lavra.  See  It will now be interesting to see whether the various Local Orthodox Churches and various international organizations and governments will also express their concerns before the March 29 eviction deadline.  This should not hinge on whether one is a supporter of the UOC or the OCU.  If the March 29 deadline is a great unfairness, both sides should be concerned.  With more time, perhaps a solution can be negotiated which would be fair to the UOC but would also provide the OCU with some presence in this great Ukrainian national shrine.

    There is some good religious news from Ukraine today.  The Ukraine Rada held plenary sessions on March 20 and 21.  No action was taken by the Rada on draft bill 8371.  See   As you recall, this bill provides in part: 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.”

    Finally, in Lithuania on March 21, an agreement was signed by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Šimonytė governing the relations between Lithuania and the Ecumenical Patriarchate.  The entire agreement may be read in English at .  The text of the addresses made by the Ecumenical Patriarch and by the Prime Minister can be read at


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 21 March 2023: Meeting of UOC Synod & Lithuanian visit of Bartholomew

    The Holy Synod of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) met on Monday, March 20.  The official communique describing the results of the meeting can be read at (English).  During the course of the day, Metropolitan Onufry and members of the Synod traveled to the Office of President Zelensky to present personally to the President a written address and “to explain to him in person what the situation really is.” (English)  They waited in the street in front of the office for approximately two hours until an air raid siren caused them to seek shelter.  A video of their entire wait can be seen at the foregoing link.  A representative of the President’s Office had come to receive the written appeal, but the Synod members insisted on meeting with the President in person.  The Office of the President had noted that the President had not planned a meeting with the UOC on this day.  Of the ten members of the UOC present, three (Metropolitans Pavel, Anthony, and Luke) had recently been individually sanctioned by the Ukrainian government.  Personally, I believe that the chances of meeting with the President would have been much greater if only Metropolitan Onufry and a few others (not sanctioned individuals) had sought a private meeting with the President.  Instead, the UOC had broadcast the entire wait in front of the President’s office live on Facebook from the very beginning of the wait --  an indication that they sought to make a show of the entire event.  It appears that the group refused to give the written address to the representatives of the President's Office, but had rather posted it immediately on the UOC website. 

    Later the same day in Moscow, RIA Novosti gave major coverage to these events.  See   ("Members of the synod of the UOC were demanded to leave the territory of Zelensky's office"); (Patriarch's spokesperson states that "Zelensky, refusing to meet with members of the Synod of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, once again demonstrated disrespect and contempt for millions of Ukrainian believers'').  One wonders what would have happened if a group of religious leaders had gathered unannounced in Red Square and requested to see President Putin immediately.

    The full text of the written appeal to President Zelensky can be read at .  In the appeal, the UOC reaffirms: “we defend the territorial integrity and sovereignty of our State and strongly condemn Russian military aggression against Ukraine.”  The appeal points out that many parishioners of the UOC are now serving in the Armed Forces of Ukraine and that the UOC has done much to provide humanitarian and other aid.  The appeal then states that the UOC is experiencing “how the flames of opposition on religious grounds are being fanned in Ukraine.”  Specifically, the “illegal re-registration” of parishes, the bills pending in the Rada targeting the UOC, and finally the intent to evict the UOC community from the Kyiv Larva are mentioned.  With respect to the Kyiv Lavra, the appeal includes the following statement:

    A special place among the revived shrines is occupied by the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra.  Today, the Kyiv Lavra is a powerful religious, educational and administrative center, because more than two hundred monks perform their ministry on its territory, almost three hundred students of the academy and seminary study, and the administrative center of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church is also located on its territory.  In addition, powerful work is constantly being carried out in the Lavra to provide humanitarian aid to everyone who needs it.  For every clergyman, monk and believer of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra is a priceless shrine nurtured with love.  That is why the news about the unjustified deprivation of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church's right to stay in the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra caused a great wave of indignation among our believers.  Every day we receive an increasing number of appeals about the need to protect our sanctuaries and our legal right to continue to protect them.

    Lastly, there is an appeal to the President to protect religious freedom in Ukraine.  In general the appeal is conciliatory and does not contain such statements as the UOC will never leave the Kyiv Lavra.  The Synod also approved a letter “addressed faithful children of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and the people of Ukraine.”  This letter has apparently not yet been posted.

    The Synod at its meeting also removed Metropolitan Lazar of Simferopol and Crimea as a member of the Holy Synod.  As you recall, the Moscow Patriarchate assumed jurisdiction over his diocese (metropolia) last June.  President Zelensky suspended the Ukrainian citizenship of Lazar last December.  The reason given by the Synod for removing Lazar was “the absence of the possibility to take part in meetings of the Holy Synod.”

    On Saturday, March 18, Metropolitan Epifany, primate of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU), made a written address to the brothers of the Kyiv Lavra and to the public.  The full text of the address in English can be read at .  The address is essentially an appeal to the monks of the Lavra to reject the current leader of the Lavra and to accept Epifany as their head.  In the letter, Epifany uses the title, “Hiero-Archimandrite of the Kyiv-Pechersk Holy Dormition Lavra.”  Epifany apparently justifies the use of that title because the OCU legally registered several months ago a monastic community for the Lavra with an address across the street from the Lavra.  Technically, the current UOC head of the Lavra is Metropolitan Onufry.  However, as a practical matter, Metropolitan Pavel (Lebed) is the primate's vicar and the abbot of the Lavra.  Pavel is appointed to this position and has held it since 1994.  He is not elected by the monastic community.  He has been a permanent member of the Holy Synod of the UOC since 2011.  With respect to the current leader of the Lavra, Epifany states:

    Both society in general and the brothers in particular are well aware of numerous examples of how, under the leadership of the current head of the monastery, the Lavra was consistently and deliberately turned into a center for promoting the ideology of “Russkiy Mir – Russian World”, the ideology that became the foundation and now serves as the justification for Russia’s war against Ukraine.  For this, that leader received and accepted an award from the Kremlin dictator, and the Russian leadership is now employing all its resources to prevent the liberation of the Ukrainian shrine from Moscow’s spiritual occupation…. We will use all our authority and all our resources to protect you from intimidation by the current head of the Lavra.

    Epifany asserts that under him, the new abbot of the monastery will be one of its brothers who possesses appropriate abilities and has not tarnished himself by devotion to the Russian World.  He gives assurance that the brothers can retain their traditions and continue the use of the ancient Slavic language.  The brothers have previously expressed their support for the UOC, but no one really knows what each monk feels in his heart-of-hearts.  Metropolitan Pavel has been a very controversial figure, at least in the Ukrainian media.  Among the UOC metropolitans, he is one of those who has been closest to Moscow. 

    Later on the same day, March 18, the DECR of the UOC issued a “commentary” on the address by Metropolitan Epifany.  The full text in English can be read at .  The commentary points out that the monks in January expressed their support for the UOC and its primate, Metropolitan Onufry.  It asserts that there was not and is not the “power of the Moscow Patriarchate” at the Lavra.  The commentary also discusses other points made by Epifany, but does mention the person of the current abbot.  It makes the following interesting observation:

    The eviction of the monks from the Lavra provokes the Russians to further “protect the Orthodox,” giving them more and more arguments to justify their aggression against Ukraine, as the press secretary of the Russian president Dmitry Peskov recently stated.  He made it clear that “eviction of the monks from the Lavra justifies the goals of the special operation.”  Therefore, when Epifany declares that “the enemy is using this historical event to split Ukrainian unity and sow misunderstandings between us,” the question arises, who is actually giving the enemy reasons for this by such decisions and actions?

    On March 18, Metropolitan Pavel stated in a video (110,000 views): “ We will not be evicted from the Lavra.”  Instructions have been distributed to the monks as to how to respond to a forceful eviction.  On the other hand, representatives of the government have stated that force will not be used.  In my opinion, it would be a complete public relations disaster for Zelensky if news programs throughout the world showed videos of monks being dragged from the Lavra by police.

    On March 17, the General Secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC) released a statement relating to the Lavra.  The statement reads in part: “It is unfortunate that such actions – including with regard to the UOC’s monastic community of the ancient Dormition Kiev Caves Lavra – appear to target the church itself.  The actions being taken against the UOC do appear to raise genuine questions with regard to respect for freedom of religion or belief.”  The General Secretary expresses the intention of the WCC to convene a roundtable of church leaders “to encourage dialogue for peace, including among its member churches and ecumenical partners in Russia, Ukraine and around the world.”

    On a completely different subject, it has been announced that Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew will travel to Lithuania and will meet with Prime Minister Ingrida Šimonytė on Tuesday, March 21.  A very interesting article on the background of this visit can be read at   From the article, it appears that only a part of the visit relates to the five Lithuanian priests who were defrocked by the Moscow Patriarchate, who appealed to the Ecumenical Patriarch, and who were then reinstated and brought under the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.   A more important part relates to the pastoral care of 40,000 Ukrainian refugees in Lithuania.  Many are Orthodox and do not wish to attend services of the Moscow Patriarchate in Lithuania.  It appears that an agreement between Lithuania and the Ecumenical Patriarchate will be signed.  It will provide for the use by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of the church of St. Nicholas in the former Lukiškės prison, now a cultural center and concert venue.  The Ecumenical Patriarchate will also be provided a location in Vilnius for an administration office.  Interestingly, Metropolitan Innokenty of Lithuania (Moscow Patriarchate) has not objected to the visit but has in fact welcomed the Ecumenical Patriarch to come to the Holy Spirit Monastery to venerate the holy martyrs of Vilnius.  According to Metropolitan Innokenty, his "welcome is a sign of honor and reverence for the elevated rank of the Head of the Patriarchate of Constantinople and the Orthodox faith of the members of His delegation.”

    Metropolitan Innokenty has also made a statement that “the process of gaining greater independence by the Lithuanian Orthodox Church is developing positively and consistently, in accordance with church canons.”  Referring to the decision of the Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate (session of March 16, 2023; Journal Entry 2), the Metropolitan stated that “another step has been overcome on the way to our common goal” of becoming a “Self-Governing Church” of the Moscow Patriarchate.  At its March session, the Holy Synod decided that the appeal of the Lithuanian Church would be considered by the next Bishops’ Council which in turn would decide whether the appeal should be considered by the next Local Council.  The fact of the matter is that the next Bishops’ Council will probably not be held until after the end of the war in Ukraine and the next Local Council will probably not be held until it is necessary to elect a new patriarch.  Prior to 2013, a Bishops’ Council had the authority to grant “self-governing” status.  During this earlier period, the Orthodox Churches of Latvia and Estonia had obtained their “self-governing” status.  However, in 2013 the statute of the Russian Orthodox Church was amended so that only a Local Council could grant this status.  This greatly raised the bar to be surmounted and made it extremely difficult for a church to receive greater independence from Moscow.   Metropolitan Innokenty in giving his optimistic report did not mention this harsh reality.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 16 March 2023: Moscow Synod, the Kyiv Lavra & other news

    On March 16, the Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate held its first meeting of the year.  The minutes of the meeting can be read at .  In Journal Entry 2, the Synod considered the appeal of the Latvian Orthodox Church for greater independence.  With respect to this appeal, the Synod stated:  “According to the Statute of the Russian Orthodox Church, decisions relating to the granting of autocephaly, autonomy or self-government to parts of the Russian Orthodox Church fall within the competence of the Local Council (Article 1 of Chapter II; paragraph b of Article 5 of Chapter II). The Council of Bishops is responsible for the preparation of the Local Council (Article 4 of Chapter II), whose duties include, among other things, making proposals on the agenda of the Local Council (paragraph m of Article 5 of Chapter III).”  The Synod then resolved that the appeal from Latvia will be considered by the Bishops’ Council.  The next Bishops’ Council has been repeatedly postponed with the last Synod resolution simply stating that it will be held in “due time” due to the current international situation.   The Synod has scheduled a “Bishops’ Conference” for July 19, 2023, but this is not a Bishops’ Council.  It should also be noted that the holding of a Local Council is an extraordinary event.  The last Local Council was held in 2009 and was convened to elect a new patriarch.  In Journal Entry  3, the Holy Synod considered the appeal from Metropolitan Innokenty for greater independence for the Lithuanian Church.  As in the case for Latvia, the Synod referred to the Statute provision that a change in status can only be granted by a Local Council.  The appeal was therefore referred to the next Bishops’ Council.  All of this means that the likelihood of the Latvian and Lithuanian Churches receiving greater autonomy in the near future approaches zero.

    In Journal Entry 14, the Holy Synod considered the commemoration of Metropolitan Epifany, primate of the OCU, by the newly elected Archbishop Georgios, primate of Cyprus.  The Synod decided that it was impossible to commemorate Georgios “in the diptychs, prayerful and Eucharistic communion with him, as well as with those hierarchs of the Cypriot Orthodox Church who have entered or will enter into church communion with schismatics.” 

    On March 16, Patriarch Kirill issued an appeal “over the situation around the Kiev Lavra of the Caves.” (official English translation).  The appeal includes the following:

    The ultimatum presented by the state authorities to the Kiev Lavra of the Caves constitutes a monstrous deed comparable with the persecutions against the faith at the times of atheism.  As they did at that time, the authorities openly ignore law, not to mention a minimal respect for the rights of fellow citizens.  The work of a certain commission for searching violations in the monastery’s accounting were non-transparent.  Its repressive aim is the full banishment of monks from the Lavra.  This aim was not concealed by public officials and representatives of other religious organizations in Ukraine influenced by the secular authorities.  It is regrettable that while the Ukrainian state leaders declare their commitment to democratic norms, the European way of development and respect for human rights and freedoms, these rights and freedoms are trampled upon today in the most glaring way.

    Unlike the Patriarch’s letter of March 11 (, the appeal says nothing about the Ukrainian authorities demanding that the community of the Lavra leave the territory of the Larva by March 29.  As I stated in my last report, the letter from the Lavra Reserve did in fact give notice to terminate the existing lease on March 29, but it did not constitute a notice of eviction.  In my opinion, a termination of the lease by the state is not necessarily improper.  A copy of the existing lease was obtained by the website  The lease provides for the “free use” of state-owned property, but is completely silent as to the time period in which the lease in effect.  The UOC may contend that this silence means that the UOC has a right to use the property without any rent until the end of time.  However, it is inconceivable that a court would ever hold that an absence of an expiration date in a lease means that the lease runs for eternity.  The lease was signed in 2013 and has been in effect for ten years.  It is therefore not unreasonable, in my opinion, that a new legal document be negotiated.  This new document may specify a definite term, may provide for the payment of some rent, and may require the specific authorization by the state for any new buildings or modifications on this UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

    Although there has been no official announcements, there are indications that some confidential dialogue between the state and the UOC is occurring.  The Holy Synod of the UOC will be meeting on March 20 to discuss the Lavra situation.  In the meantime, there have been many accusations from both sides.  An example of this is a posting by the UOC on March 16.  With respect to the authorities, there is an important interview of Minister of Culture, Oleksandr Tkachenko, which can be watched at  See also  There is also a very long interview of Viktor Yelensky, the new head of the State Service for Ethnopolitics and Freedom of Conscience (DESS).  Until December 1, DESS was a part of the Ministry of Culture, but it now reports directly to the Cabinet of Ministers.   The entire interview can be read at .  In my opinion, if the state is using the lease termination to coerce the monks to change their affiliation to the OCU, it would be a gross violation of the freedom of religion.  The actual facts may be clearer by the time of the Synod meeting on March 20.

    In any event the UOC has stated that it will not leave the Lavra.  The state authorities have stated that force will not be used to evict the monks.  This means that the fight will probably end up in the courts.  Vadym Novinsky, the billionaire supporter of the UOC, has stated that if the Ukrainian courts do not provide relief, the matter will be taken to the European Court of Human Rights.  Apparently in response to the letter of Patriarch Kirill of March 11, Pope Francis referred to Lavra situation in his general audience on March 15.  He stated:  “And I think of the Orthodox nuns of the Kyiv Lavra: I ask the warring parties to respect religious places.  Consecrated nuns, people consecrated to prayer – be they of any denomination – are in support of God's people.”  (actual remarks in Italian)  The letter from Patriarch Kirill referred only to “monks.”  It remains a mystery how the word “nuns” ended up in the written remarks which the Pope read.

    There has been no recent action by the Ukrainian Rada on draft bill 8371.  This controversial bill provides in part: “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.”   The status of the bill can be seen at .  The bill was initially referred to the Rada Committee on Humanitarian and Information Policy.  This committee in turn referred the bill to the scientific – expert department of the Rada for an opinion.  The resulting opinion of the department can be read at  The most important conclusions of the department were that the language quoted above is ambiguous, does not satisfy the requirements of legal certainty, and needs definitions.  After receiving this report of the department, the Committee referred the matter to the plenary session of the Rada with the suggestion that the matter be referred back to the Committee after amendments are made.  The date for the next plenary meeting of the Rada has not yet been set.

    Lastly, President Stevo Pendarovski of North Macedonia met at the Phanar with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.  At the meeting, the President expressed his gratitude to the Ecumenical Patriarch for the special role that he has played in overcoming the church dispute, and the President expressed his expectation that the tomos for the autocephaly of the Ohrid Archdiocese will soon be received.  This meeting gives further support for the speculation that the Ecumenical Patriarch will grant the tomos later this year.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 12 March 2023: Eviction of the monks from the Kyiv Lower Lavra???

    On March 11, Patriarch Kirill sent a letter to Pope Francis, to the Primates of the Local Orthodox Churches, and to other religious and world leaders.  This was reported by the official website of the Moscow Patriarchate.  The website stated in part: “As you know, on March 10 of this year, the leadership of the National Reserve "Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra" of the Ministry of Culture and Information Policy of Ukraine informed the community of the Dormition Kiev-Pechersk Lavra of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church about the termination of the agreement on the use of temples and buildings of the monastery and the requirement to leave the territory of the monastery before 29 March.”  

    A photocopy of the entire letter from the National Reserve can be seen at .  An English translation is provided at and reads as follows: 

    The “Kiev Caves Lavra” National Reserve (hereinafter referred to as the Reserve) and the Holy Dormition-Kiev Caves Lavra (male monastery) of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (hereinafter referred to as the monastery) signed agreement No. 2 of July 19, 2013 on the free use by a religious organization of religious buildings and other property that is state property (hereinafter referred to as the agreement).

    According to the decree of the president of Ukraine No. 820/2022 “On the decision of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine of December 1, 2022 ‘on certain aspects of the activities of religious organizations in Ukraine and the application of personal special economic and other restrictive measures (sanctions),” the resolution of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine of December 23, 2022 No. 1416 established an interdepartmental working group to prepare proposals and recommendations for organizing the implementation of certain tasks related to the activities of religious organizations in Ukraine, which, during its work, found that the monastery violated the terms of the contract for the use of state property.

    Taking into account the conclusions of the interdepartmental working group and the letter of the Ministry of Culture and Information Policy of Ukraine dated 03.09.2023 No. 06/34/2234-23, on the basis of clause 8.1. of the agreement, the Reserve informs of the termination of the agreement starting 03.29.2023.

    In order to carry out the procedure of acceptance and transfer of state property, the monastery must take measures to release buildings and structures (property) that are state property and are on the balance sheet of the Reserve, at the address: Kiev, Lavrskaya St., 11, Kiev, Lavrskaya St., 15 by 03.29.2023.

    Please provide by 03.14.2023 a list of representatives from the monastery (full name) in the amount of two or three people for inclusion in the commission for the acceptance and transfer of state property, which will be formed by order of the management body of the state institution.

    As a retired attorney, it is my personal belief that the foregoing language constitutes a notice of termination of the existing lease but is not an eviction notice.  Thus, the statement on the Moscow Patriarchate’s website that the National Reserve informed the UOC Lavra of the requirement “to leave the territory of the monastery before 29 March” is not correct.  It appears that the source of the contention that the letter requires eviction comes from the website of the UOC Lavra.  The UOC Lavra's website stated:  “On March 10, 2023, knowledge was obtained about a letter from the management of the National Reserve ‘Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra’ to the address of the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra with a demand to move out of the monastery by March 29.”   Again, I do not see in the letter “a demand to move out of the monastery by March 29.”

    In interpreting the letter, I found useful the Facebook entry of March 10 by the Minister of Culture, Oleksandr Tkachenko.  The National Reserve is under his supervision.  In Facebook, Tkachenko states:  

    “The agreement for the use of the UOC Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra is terminated on March 29, 2023.  This applies to all premises rented by the UOC in Lavra.  Today, 10.03.2023, the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra National Reserve sent to the Holy Dormition Kyiv Pechersky Lavra (Men's Monastery) of the UOC a warning of the termination of the contract on the free use by the religious organization of the cult buildings and other property that is state property.”

    From this, it is important to note that the National Reserve letter applies to all of the premises used by the UOC in the Lavra.  This property includes not only the monastery itself, but also the Kyiv Theological Academy and Seminary with its hundreds of students and also the national administrative offices of the UOC.  It is difficult to believe that the letter is requiring the Academy (an important educational institution) with all of its students, faculty, books, files, and personal property to leave the Lavra grounds by March 29.  That would be absurd.  I therefore find it very difficult to believe that the letter from the National Reserve is actually requiring this.  Also the Facebook entry as well as the letter itself refers to the current “free use” of the property.  This may imply that it will be possible for the UOC to negotiate with the National Reserve a lease agreement providing for the payment of rent.

    On the evening of March 11, Minister of Culture Tkachenko provided more insights on the purpose of the letter from the National Reserve.  The Ukrinform news agency reported this as follows: 

    According to the correspondent of Ukrinform, the Minister of Culture and Information Policy of Ukraine, Oleksandr Tkachenko, said this on the air of the telethon.  "No one is saying that the life of the monks in the Lavra will end after the audit is completed.  But this is a reason for the monks to be able to decide how they can stay in the Lavra," he said.  The minister noted that the monks are aware of what options they have for continuing their life in the Lavra.  Tkachenko emphasized that no one will resort to violent actions if the monks refuse to fulfill the conditions and do not want to leave the territory of the Lavra, but the authorities will act within the limits of the law.  According to the head of the Ministry of Culture, the Lavra will remain a place of worship and religious ceremonies. "But at the same time, we must be convinced that the state controls the preservation of all values and renews and revitalizes the life of the Upper and Lower Lavras, which, unfortunately, has been neglected for many years," he emphasized.

    We must now wait and see what will actually happen.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 10 March 2023: Ukraine's fractured Orthodox churches & other news

    The Orthodox faithful in Ukraine are not only divided between the rival Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU) and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC), but there also are serious divisions within each of these churches between the “doves” and the “hawks.”  As I previously reported, a group of clergy and laity from the UOC and the OCU met at Sophia National Sanctuary Complex in Kyiv on February 16 to discuss ways to improve relations between the two churches and to take steps leading to eventual unification.  In my opinion, these participants reflect the views of the “doves” of each church.  One of the participants from the UOC has now written a detailed account of the meeting with some very interesting observations.  His article is available in English and in Russian at (this website is blocked in Russia; if you are in Russia and wish to read the article, I can copy it and send it to you by email).  I found the article extremely interesting.  The following are a few of the author’s observations:

    The option to discuss the question of dialogue is limited by the absence of internal dialogue within the UOC, between clergy and laity on the one hand and the episcopate on the other, and also between the episcopate and the Primate.  The paradox of the situation is that different groups interpret the decisions of the UOC Council in May 2022 in a variety of ways (whether the UOC has already separated from the Russian Orthodox Church or not, whether this is the beginning of separation, or a diversionary maneuver to restore previous relations over time), and almost no one exactly knows what Metropolitan Onufry thinks about these decisions and what his vision for the future of the UOC is.   At the same time, he remains the only person in the UOC able to consolidate the majority of its faithful around a particular task (whether a proclamation of autocephaly or the need for an official dialogue with the OCU).

    The episcopate of both Churches is heterogeneous; I do not know exactly their fears of unification, but I know that for part of the OCU episcopate, it is a fear of being absorbed by the will of the larger UOC episcopate in the conciliar process.  The OCU seems to be more open to dialogue, and the Primate of the OCU has expressed his willingness to engage in dialogue without preconditions.  However, in my opinion, the internal level of unwillingness for unification in it is higher than in the UOC. 

    The case at the annual meeting of the Kyiv diocese, where one of the oldest clergymen, addressing Metropolitan Onufry, called for the proclamation of autocephaly, to seek recognition from the local Churches, and to proclaim Blessed Onufry as patriarch, is telling.  The overwhelming majority of the clergy in the hall met the proposal with thunderous applause and shouts of support.  Among the apolitical part of the UOC and the part for which it is important to preserve the canonical connection with Moscow (these are the followers of a peculiar ecclesiology that equates “proper canonical status” with “grace” and fear breaking with Moscow and non-recognition by the other local Churches, or those who believe in a special Russian messianism, that Russia is “the last outpost of Orthodoxy, resisting the morally decaying West”) most often see the OCU as “schismatics” and “renovationists”….

    From all of this, it appears that only a part of the OCU is interested in pursuing a unification council.  In contrast, there are those in the OCU who advocate calling the UOC a “Moscow church,” obtaining as many churches and monasteries of the UOC as possible, and supporting legislation against the interests of the UOC –- actions that make reconciliation between the two churches extremely difficult.  With respect to the UOC, there are divisions between those seeking reconciliation and unification, those seeking an autocephalous UOC without the OCU, and those wishing to maintain a canonical bond with Moscow.  The article ends:  “The overall background to the dialogue that the Churches have begun is extremely challenging.  However, many participants believe that “The things which are impossible with men are possible with God” (Lk. 27, 18), and there are many people in both Churches who are depressed by this mutual hostility and division.”

    Pinchas Goldschmidt, Chief Rabbi of Moscow from 1993 – 2022, has written an article entitled, “I Was Moscow’s Chief Rabbi.  Russia Forced Me to Flee.”  He describes the attempts of Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) to intimidate Jewish organizations and the heads of religious organizations, including himself.  He also discusses the relationship between the Russian State and the Russian Orthodox Church.  Some of his observations are as follows:

    James Billington, the librarian of the U.S. Library of Congress and expert on the Russian Orthodox Church, wrote in the early 1990s that the Church had two options.  It could choose to become a vehicle of democratization as the Catholic and Protestant churches were in Western Europe, supporting their constituencies in their struggle for a better life; or it could side with the authoritarian strains of the government and reap the benefits coming with it, such as the building of magnificent churches all over the country.  Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Church in Putin’s Russia, chose the second option.  In a country devoid of ideology, the Church paired with the state to provide a new ideology for the regime’s anti-Western propaganda and, to some extent, replaced the Communist party in its creation of culture and values.  The Church’s mandate evolved to provide ideological backing for the regime’s lack of support for human rights, democracy, and free elections, directing it to attack the West’s support for gay rights and sexual permissiveness….And while the practice of KGB recruiting clergy did abate somewhat in the Yeltsin years, with the new FSB secret service—with the ascent of Putin the old tactics returned in full force, and the FSB once again started to hire clergy representatives from every religion, using threats, blackmail, and manipulation to control all religious groups.  It has not stopped at securing the subservience of the Russian Orthodox Church and infiltrating of the Jewish community.  The FSB has also made sure to plant its representatives within Muslim religious leadership….All religious leaders should remember one fundamental principle: Their main asset is the people, not the cathedrals.  And there is a heavy price to pay for a total merger with the state.  Once the state and the church become one, one of them emerges as dangerously, ominously, superfluous.

    When the FSB Public Relations Center was subsequently contacted by the Russian media concerning Goldschmidt’s claim, the Center replied that the press secretary of the Moscow Jewish community had announced that Goldschmidt’s contract had been completed and that he went to Israel to care for his ill father.  I made a Google search of the Russian Internet for the last month to find any references to this article.  Of the few references that I found, all mentioned the FSB contacts with the Jewish community, but I found none that mentioned the criticism in the article directed against the Russian Orthodox Church and Patriarch Kirill.

    On March 5, Archbishop Georgios celebrated the Sunday of Orthodoxy with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew at the Phanar.  It was the Archbishop’s first “peace visit” as the newly elected primate of the Church of Cyprus.  The full text of the remarks by Archbishop Georgios can be read at  He praised the close relationship between the Churches of Cyprus and Constantinople through the centuries.  He also stated:  “In our opinion, the sad situation observed today within Orthodoxy is also due to this wrong perception of things.  Some felt mighty and self-sufficient.  And they wanted to tear apart the woven tunic of the Lord, erasing from the diptychs others, their brothers.”   The various remarks make clear that Georgios is in the “camp” of Constantinople and not Moscow.

    Also on March 5, Metropolitan Epifany, primate of the OCU, made a “peace visit” to Patriarch Theodoros of Alexandria and celebrated the Divine Liturgy with the Patriarch in the Patriarchal Cathedral of the Annunciation in Alexandria.  The official English translation of the Patriarch’s address can be found at  The Patriarch described the great contribution of the Patriarchate to the early church and also the important role played by the Patriarchate in the granting of autocephaly and the creating of a patriarchate for the Russian Church.  Patriarch Theodoros condemns in the strongest words the “punitive reprisals” taken by Moscow against Alexandria and the “blasphemous invasion” of Alexandria’s jurisdiction.  He also states: “No Synodal Decision of a Senior Church gives the right to another Church – and especially a chronologically younger one – to develop innovative ecclesiological-political ‘theories’ about spreading the Russian world around the globe based on nationality, completely unknown in Orthodox ecclesiology, which has already been condemned by the Synod of our Patriarchate.”

    As previously reported, the Romanian Patriarchate issued on February 13 a clarification that provides in part as follows: “After recognising the initial synodal tomos issued on June 5, 2022, by the Patriarchate of Serbia granting autocephaly to the Orthodox Church in the Republic of North Macedonia, the Holy Synod of the Romanian Orthodox Church expects the Ecumenical Patriarchate to initiate (consultations) and issue a final tomos of autocephaly to express a pan-Orthodox consensus on this topic of autocephaly recognition.”  A video has now been posted showing Romanian Patriarch Daniel commemorating “Stefan of Ohrid, Skopje, and North Macedonia” at a Liturgy on March 5 in the Patriarchal Cathedral.   Thus, the Romanian Patriarchate appears now to be implementing its decision to recognize the Church in North Macedonia, at least in the diptychs, and does not feel a need to wait for a “final tomos” to be granted by the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

    With respect to a possible tomos to be issued by the Ecumenical Patriarchate, two hierarchs of the Church of North Macedonia were at the Phanar on March 2 and 3 at the invitation of Patriarch Bartholomew.  The hierarchs were Metropolitan Timotej of Debar-Kichevo and Metropolitan Naum of Strumica.  The metropolitans had several meetings with the Ecumenical Patriarch and attended the reception for Archbishop Georgios.  It is reported that Metropolitan Kyrillos of Imbros and Tenedos (two Turkish islands west of the Dardanelles and part of the Ecumenical Patriarchate) also attended a meeting with the two hierarchs.  Metropolitan Kyrillos was in North Macedonia in the latter part of February and is reported to have said during a service that Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew will visit North Macedonia and Archbishop Stefan this year and will personally hand him the tomos of autocephaly for the Church in North Macedonia.   However, it has now been confirmed that this statement was not made by Kyrillos, but rather by Metropolitan Timotej who expressed the hope that this would happen. 


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 4 March 2023: Article by former Chief Rabbi of Moscow  This is a very interesting article by Pinchas Goldschmidt, Chief Rabbi of Moscow from 1993 – 2022.  It is largely based on his own experiences.  In my opinion, it is definitely worth reading. 

  • 28 February 2023: Decisions by Albanian and Bulgarian Orthodox Churches & other news

    The Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church of Albania on February 24 issued a communique relating to the Orthodox church in North Macedonia.  The official English translation is as follows:

    The Holy Synod of the Orthodox Autocephalous Church of Albania, during her session of February 23, 2023 under the presidency of His Beatitude Archbishop Anastasios, reiterated that she gladly welcomes the decision of the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, of last May 2022, that “She accepts into Eucharistic communion the Hierarchy, the clergy, and laity of the Church under Archbishop Stefan… She recognizes as the name of this Church “Ahridos” (meaning the area of her jurisdiction lies only within the boundaries of the territory of the state of North Macedonia)”.

    During the intervening period the Orthodox Church in Albania did not proceed with any public statements, awaiting the fulfillment of the required ecclesiastical procedures.  Fully agreeing that by the aforementioned decision, widely acceptable,  the wound of the existing schism is healed and that the peace and the unity of the entire pleroma are secured, She awaits the definite regulation of the status of autocephaly and the exact name of the new local Church granted properly by the Revered Center of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

    Significantly, the communique does not mention the “tomos” of autocephaly granted by the Serbian Patriarchate and clearly states that any grant of autocephaly must come from the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

    Also on February 24, the Holy Synod of the Bulgarian Patriarchate “considered a letter received from Patriarch Theodoros II of Alexandria, in which he gave notice concerning the non-canonical actions of Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Rus’ in the canonical (geographical) territories of the Patriarchate of Alexandria, concerning the imposition of ecclesiastical punishment on Metropolitan Leonid Gorbachev of Klin ( Moscow Patriarchate) and his return to the ranks of monks, as well as to suspend for an indefinite period of time the commemoration of the Patriarch of Moscow and All Rus’.”  The Bulgarian Holy Synod unanimously decided:  “The letter should be sent to the Canon Law Commission of the Holy Synod, which will investigate in detail the problem that has arisen on the territory of the Patriarchate of Alexandria, then meet with the Holy Synod in full composition.”  By an 8-3 vote, the Holy Synod also decided: “The clergy of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church - Bulgarian Patriarchate is to refrain from divine services with Metropolitan Leonid Gorbachev of Klin until the final decision of the Holy Synod.”  The names of the Synod members voting for or against the latter decision are given in the announcement.  Of particular interest, Patriarch Neofit voted yes, and Metropolitan Gavriil of Lovech (a well-known friend of the Moscow Patriarchate) voted no.  A very recent RT interview of Metropolitan Leonid, with simultaneous English translation, can be viewed at .

    A good English translation of the appeal made at the meeting on February 16 by priests and lay persons from the UOC and from the OCU is now available.  The meeting was held at the National Sanctuary Complex Kyiv Sophia and was hosted by Viktor Yelensky, head of Ukraine’s State Service for Ethnopolitics and Freedom of Conscience (DESS), and by certain other organizations.   The purpose of the meeting was to create greater understanding between the UOC and the OCU.  Professor Sergii Bortnyk, who is a professor of theology at the Kyiv Theological Academy (UOC) and is a member of the DECR of the UOC, was a participant in the meeting.  He has given an interesting interview concerning the meeting.  Some of his observations are as follows:

    I think that in the communication between representatives of our two Churches, it is important for both sides to understand that the opposite side is not a monolith.  That among "them" there are not only "hawks," but also quite constructively disposed and truly Christian motivated people.  I saw exactly such people from the OCU side at this meeting….I saw representatives of the OCU who were constructive.  At the same time, I had a completely positive impression of the prayer that preceded the communication -- it was a prayer of pious Christians.  For me personally, knowing and seeing with my own eyes that there are such believers in the OCU was psychologically important.  Speaking theologically, I saw the real action of grace among these people….

    I think we need spot actions that destroy common stereotypes.  By the way, when at the beginning of the meeting in Sofia those present briefly spoke about their wishes and expectations, several UOC priests made it quite clear: they are here to destroy myths, break stereotypes, etc…. Regarding the settlement of church conflicts, I think a fair parallel to the search for understanding between the UOC and the OCU is the reconciliation that took place in 2007 between the two branches of Russian Orthodoxy - the Moscow Patriarchate and the Church Abroad.  Let me remind you that they have been at enmity for decades, there were mutual accusations of collaboration with the enemy, statements about the ingratitude of the structures, etc.  This example is important to me because there was a reconciliation of jurisdictions without a merger of structures….

    In fact, I have already formulated my vision: gradual rapprochement and destruction of stereotypes.  Such a path, by the way, is laid out in the Address of the participants of the inter-church dialogue in Sophia of Kyiv, published on Monday, three days after the meeting itself.  On the one hand, a wish is formulated  — the unification of all Orthodox Ukrainians into one church structure.  But on the other hand, there is an awareness that "the path may not be easy, but it is our duty to start this movement."

    On the occasion of the one-year anniversary of the invasion of Ukraine by the Russian Federation, the DECR of the UOC has issued a “commentary.”  The official English translation of the commentary can be read at .  The commentary describes the immediate condemnation of the invasion by the primate of the UOC and the additional condemnations by the Holy Synod, individual bishops, clergy, and laity.  It points out that members of the UOC are engaged in fighting on the front lines, collecting humanitarian aid, and caring for the wounded as well as praying for Ukraine.  On the other hand, the commentary criticizes the current “rhetoric” of politicians and the mass media against the UOC and refers to the “capture” of its churches.  The commentary also states:

    That is why today, more than ever, it is important for us to preserve the unity of the Ukrainian people through supporting inter-confessional peace in Ukraine.  The Ukrainian Orthodox Church is open to dialogue with the state authorities, condemns any attempts to incite enmity on religious grounds, as well as facts of collaboration with the enemies.  It is a pity, but one should recognize that certain members of our Church have committed such violations.  We believe that such cases should be thoroughly investigated and treated impartially in the courts.  At the same time, we emphasize that in a legal democratic state, which Ukraine aspires to be, it is unacceptable to baselessly accuse millions of faithful of our Church of collaborationism or treason.

    Interestingly, the above quotation refers to “dialogue with the state authorities” to support inter-confessional peace, but fails to mention the possibility of dialogue with other churches such as the OCU or the UGCC for the purpose of promoting inter-confessional peace.  The general refusal of the UOC to meet with the OCU or the UGCC (except for meetings of the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches) is one of the reasons why the meeting of priests and others on February 16 at the Sophia represents a ray of hope.

    On February 25, Father Georgy Kovalenko gave a long interview which expressed his perspective on the present state of the UOC.  Father Georgy has been the rector of the Open Orthodox University of Saint Sophia-Wisdom in Kyiv since 2016 and is now a member of the OCU.  From 2008 to 2014, he was the press secretary for the primate of the UOC, Metropolitan Volodymyr (Sabodan), and was the official spokesperson of the UOC.  Father Georgy also had a major role in the February 16 meeting at the Sophia.  In view of his role in trying to improve relations between the OCU and the UOC, I was surprised how negatively he assessed the UOC.  One of his factual statements which I found interesting is the following:

    Even in Kyiv, there are priests who continue to commemorate the Russian patriarch and promote the narrative of the "Russian world."  The clergy of this church speak about it.  Perhaps this is a minority among believers.  Among the clergy - not the majority, but the percentage is noticeable.  But I have doubts that the overwhelming majority of bishops support Ukraine.

    On February 23, the Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Antioch elected Metropolitan Saba as the new Archbishop of New York and Metropolitan of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America.  Metropolitan Saba has been the head of the diocese of Bosra, Hauran and Jabal Al-Arab (located in the most southern part of Syria) since 1999.  He speaks fluent English.  He was chosen from a list of three candidates nominated at a special convention of the Archdiocese of North America, held in Dallas in January.  Aside from Metropolitan Saba, the list included two American bishops.  Perhaps in selecting Metropolitan Saba, the Holy Synod was motivated, at least in part, by a desire to assure that the head of this very important Archdiocese has very strong roots in the mother church in Syria.

    Lastly, the Vatican announced on February 27 that Pope Francis will visit Budapest, April 28-30. 


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 21 February 2023: Ecumenical Patriarchate in Lithuania & other news

    The confrontations between the Moscow Patriarchate and the Ecumenical Patriarchate which have so influenced the Orthodox world in recent decades have now spread to a new country – Lithuania.   On February 17, the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate issued a “Communique on the Petition of Appeal by Clergymen from Lithuania.” (official English translation)   The communique reports the decision on appeals by five Orthodox priests from Lithuania who had been removed from the priesthood by a final decision of Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Rus’.  The communique contains the following three important paragraphs:

    Our Patriarch, who exclusively bears the responsibility of receiving appeals, in accordance with the Holy and Sacred Canons (namely, Canons 9 and 17 of the Fourth Ecumenical Council) and the sanctified practice of the Church, received these submitted petitions.

    Following thorough study of the relevant circumstances, it was ascertained on the one hand that these cases were made final before the ecclesiastical authority that imposed these penalties, and on the other hand that the reasons for which the penalties were imposed do not at all derive from ecclesiastical criteria, but from the justified opposition of these clergymen to the war in Ukraine.  Wherefore, irrevocably adjudicating these petitions of appeal, His All-Holiness recommended to the Holy and Sacred Synod that the imposed deposition from the priesthood be lifted and that they be restored to their former ecclesiastical rank of priesthood, which was unanimously decided.

    Moreover, after the above-mentioned restoration, upon their request, the Ecumenical Patriarch received these clergymen under His venerable omophorion, taking into consideration the long-established right of the Ecumenical Throne, as it is also indicatively reported in the interpretation by Theodore Balsamon of Antioch to Canons 17 and 18 of the Council in Trullo and Canon 10 of the Seventh Ecumenical Council (namely: “From this canon, note explicitly that only the Patriarch of Constantinople is allowed to receive foreign clergy, even without a letter of release from their ordaining hierarch”).

    Some idea of the facts giving rise to these removals from the priesthood may be ascertained from the official website of the Orthodox Metropolis of Vilnius and Lithuania ( and from the websites of Gintaras Sungaila, one of the priests involved (; ).  On March 17, 2022, Metropolitan  Innokenty of Vilnius and Lithuania (Moscow Patriarchate) had issued a statement that “we strongly condemn Russia's war against Ukraine” and that the views of Patriarch Kirill are “his personal opinion” with which “we in Lithuania do not agree.”  On April 18, Metropolitan Innokenty issued another statement which denied the assertion that his priests actually support the war.  The Metropolitan also stated that a group of priests has “plans to move to the Patriarchate of Constantinople.”  The next day seven clergy members published a rebuttal.  It included the following:  “It is very sad, but we have real material evidence to the contrary - there are those among the Lithuanian clergy who justify this aggression.  We do not plan to create a new Church - we want to move from subordination to one Orthodox bishop to another Orthodox bishop so that believers and we do not feel a conflict of conscience.”  Thus, this small group appears to contend that in spite of the official pronouncements condemning the Russian invasion, the opinions in many of the parishes favor Russia.  Last month, one of the priests removed from the priesthood, Vitalis Dauparas, gave an interview.  He made the following observation:  “And the way of thinking, both among the majority of the clergy (it's true, not all) and among a large part of the community, is very similar to that of Moscow.  A conflict of conscience prevents me from participating in such services, as I would feel like betraying what I believe in.”  Dauparas denied the allegation that the priests had been planning to go to the Ecumenical Patriarchate for a long time and only used the war as an excuse.

    The Church Court of the Vilnius-Lithuania Metropolis found the five priests guilty of certain canonical offenses, and on June 23 and 29, Metropolitan Innokenty decreed that the five be deprived of their priesthood.   It appears that the priests did not appear in the court proceedings. The next day, June 30, Patriarch Kirill approved and finalized the decision to defrock the five priests.  The church court had stated that it had considered the case “exclusively in the plane of ecclesiastical canon law, without touching on issues of politics and attitudes towards current international events.”  Apparently, the Ecumenical Patriarchate did not consider this statement to be true as it found the actions had in fact been taken against the priests because of their “justified opposition” to the war in Ukraine.  The specific grounds used by the Moscow Patriarchate for its decision are the following: “violation of the priestly oath and perjury (canon 25 of the Holy Apostles), disobedience to the ruling bishop and conducting public activities without the blessing of his bishop (canon 39 of the Holy Apostles), conspiracy against his bishop and fellow clergymen, as well as the destruction of the church peace (canon 18 of the IV Ecumenical Council and canon 34 of the V-VI Council of Trullo), schismatic activities, the intention and organization of a transfer to another church jurisdiction without the blessing of their bishop (canon 16 of the First Ecumenical Council), as well as the participation of clergy in a campaign to discredit the Church and its bishops (canon 55 of the Holy Apostles), as well as fellow clergymen.”

    Immediately after the announcement by the Ecumenical Patriarchate on February 17, the Vilnius-Lithuania Metropolis issued a communique that it does not accept the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s decision with respect to the five priests.  The communique states that defrocking is “a mystical act” which cannot be reversed.  It also states that the decision by Patriarch Bartholomew must be based on information that is “neither complete, nor reliable, nor objective” because “the attitude of the former priests to the war in Ukraine is no different from the position of the Lithuanian Orthodox Church.”  The communique then lists the various announcements and appeals by the Metropolis condemning the aggression and war.  Bishop Ambrose, vicar bishop of the Metropolis, also gave a news conference explaining the position of the Metropolis on the decision from Constantinople.  On the other hand, Mantas Adomėnas, the deputy foreign minister of Lithuania, has stated:  “I congratulate the Orthodox priest brothers who won this extraordinary victory thanks to their humble and unwavering faith in what is right.”  On  February 19, the “Initiative Group of Orthodox Laity” issued an appeal to the people of Lithuania.  The group “supports our respected priests and contributes in other ways so that parishes of the Ecumenical Patriarchate will take root in Lithuania by the grace of the Lord.”

    The Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate in Lithuania is small.  Although the 2021 census shows that there are 105,326 Orthodox in Lithuania, Metropolitan Innokenty states that the total number of active parishioners in Lithuania is just over 3,000.  In Lithuania, there are now one metropolitan, one vicar bishop, 49 Orthodox priests, and 6 deacons.  There are one male monastery (Holy Spirit), one female monastery (Mary Magdalene), and no seminary.   At the present time, the Metropolis is simply a diocese, like any diocese in Russia, and has no special status such as Latvia and Estonia which are “self-governing churches” under Chapter XII of the charter of the Moscow Patriarchate (   On May 27, 2022, the Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate considered the request by Metropolitan Innokenty to change the status of the Metropolis to a self-governing church.  The Synod established a commission to study the matter. (Journal No. 36).  At the Synod’s meeting on August 25, 2022, the Synod received an interim report from the commission and directed the commission to continue its work. (Journal No. 75)  On December 17, 2022, an assembly of the Metropolis consisting of representatives, clergy and lay, from all the parishes sent an appeal to the Synod expressing support for the granting of self-governing status.  A decision has not yet been made by the Moscow Synod.

    The Lithuanian government has taken an active interest in the situation involving the five priests.  In May 2022, the Lithuanian Prime Minister acknowledged that she had written a letter to the Ecumenical Patriarch in which she stated that the government is ready to restore the activities of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Lithuania.  Mantas Adomėnas, the deputy foreign minister of Lithuania, personally met with the Ecumenical Patriarch on September 19, 2022.  

    It now appears likely that there will be a few parishes of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Lithuania in the future.  The priests who are now under the Ecumenical Patriarchate seem to acknowledge that the majority of the priests and laity of the Metropolis do not share their views and do not object to the Moscow connection.  Thus, a relatively small percentage of the 3,000 active parishioners in Lithuania may join the five priests.  One factor which may change this is the recent influx of Ukrainian refugees in Lithuania.  At the invitation of the priests, Father Georgy Kovalenko of the OCU was in Lithuania to celebrate Christmas with Ukrainian refugees.  

    On February 14, the Holy Synod of the Georgian Orthodox Church met, and the decisions of the Holy Synod were posted on the Church's website.  One of the decisions is as follows:

    4. The issue of the Macedonian Orthodox Church was discussed at the synod session.  The chairman of the foreign department of the Patriarchate of Georgia, His Eminence Metropolitan Gerasim (Sharashenidze) of Zugdidi and Tsaishi made a report.  He introduced the members of the Synod to the letter written to us by the head of the Serbian Church, His Holiness Patriarch Porfirije (Peric), in which it is said that the schism has been healed and the Eucharistic connection with the Orthodox Church of North Macedonia has been restored, and that the Patriarch of Serbia has given the tomos of autocephaly to the mentioned church.  The autocephaly of the Macedonian Church, in addition to the Serbian Church, was also recognized by the churches of Russia, Bulgaria, Romania, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.  However, without recognizing the autocephaly, the following churches of Constantinople, Antioch, Hellas and Poland joined the Eucharistic union with it.
    The Holy Synod decided: the Church of Georgia should enter into a Eucharistic union with the Orthodox Church in North Macedonia, headed by His Beatitude Archbishop Stephen (Velianovski).

    From this, it is quite clear that the Church of Georgia enters into Eucharist communion with the Orthodox Church in North Macedonia but has refrained from recognizing the autocephaly of the North Macedonia Church, at least for now.

    On February 16, 2023, a meeting of priests from the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) and Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU) met to discuss dialogue and cooperation between the two churches.  A similar meeting had been held on July 5, 2022.  An online meeting was then held on January 20, 2023.   A video of some of the presentations at the February 16 meeting, including an address by Viktor Yelensky, head of Ukraine’s State Service for Ethnopolitics and Freedom of Conscience (DESS), can be watched at  A short English summary of his remarks is found at  Father Andriy Pinchuk, a participant from the UOC, described those present at the February meeting as follows:  “Present clergy from different dioceses of the UOC and the OCU, the head and staff of the DESS, the representative of the department of external church relations of the UOC, public organizations that take care of the church problem, teachers of the Volyn Academy of the OCU, Kyiv Seminary and Academy of the UOC.”  Some of these individuals may have been present simply as observers.

    On February 20, an appeal made by the participants in the February 16 meeting was posted.  In my opinion the appeal is an important document that should be read in its entirety.  The appeal includes the following:

    We call without any preconditions to start a direct dialogue for the development of models that would make it possible to unite the UOC and the OCU into a single Local Church in the future.  For this purpose, we propose to create a joint working group, which will include bishops, professional theologians of local Orthodox Churches, to develop a step-by-step plan for unification.  We also expect the leadership of the UOC and OCU to publish a clearer position on inter-Orthodox dialogue.  We express the hope that the unification process will begin in the near future and will take on noticeable outlines already this year.   We are aware that the resolution of the inter-church conflict in Ukraine is impossible without the active mediation of representatives of world Orthodoxy, in particular the Ecumenical Patriarchate, in cooperation with which an international platform for dialogue should be created.

    Finally, President Biden made a surprise visit to Kyiv for a few hours on February 20 after a ten-hour secret train trip from Poland.  During this time, he visited St. Michael’s Cathedral which included a brief meeting with Metropolitan Epifany, primate of the OCU, and a wreath-laying ceremony at the memorial wall by the Cathedral for Ukrainian soldiers who died during the current war.;  


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 14 February 2023: Clarification by Romania on grant of autocephaly & Ukrainian news

    On February 13, the Romanian Patriarchate’s news agency,, issued a clarification relating to the decision of its Holy Synod on February 9 “to approve the recognition of the autocephaly granted to the Church in the Republic of North Macedonia under the name of ‘Archdiocese of Ohrid and North Macedonia, with headquarters in Skopje’ by the Patriarchate of Serbia by its Synodal Tomos issued on June 5, 2022.”   The original decision by the Romanian Patriarchate is reported at  Its clarification is found at  The original statement by the news agency was very significant in that it assigned no special role to the Ecumenical Patriarchate in the granting of autocephaly.  Earlier, the Moscow Patriarchate in recognizing the autocephaly of the church in North Macedonia had also not mentioned the Ecumenical Patriarchate.  The clarification on February 13 by the Romanian Patriarchate now expressly acknowledges an important role played by the Ecumenical Patriarchate.   The clarification is as follows:

    On February 9, 2023, the Holy Synod of the Romanian Orthodox Church approved the recognition of the autocephaly granted to the Orthodox Church in the Republic of North Macedonia by the Patriarchate of Serbia through its synodal tomos issued on June 5, 2022.

    During the synodal session, the decision of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of May 9, 2022, to restore canonical and Eucharistic communion with the Orthodox Church of the Republic of North Macedonia, led by Archbishop Stefan, was taken into account.  Furthermore, the Ecumenical Patriarchate entrusted the Church of Serbia with the regulation of administrative aspects concerning the organisation of the new Church in North Macedonia.

    Another topic considered by the Romanian hierarchs was the issue of autocephaly and the means by which it is granted and recognised, which was analysed during several working meetings of the Inter-Orthodox Committee for the preparation of the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church.

    The point of view of the Romanian Orthodox Church regarding autocephaly, which was also presented at the Meeting of the Preparatory Committee of the Holy and Great Council in Chambesy (2011), is as follows:

    “The Holy Synod of the mother Church is the canonical authority that can grant autocephaly to a daughter Church through a synodal tomos signed by the Primate of the mother Church together with all the bishops of that Holy Synod. The recognition of the new autocephaly belongs to the entire Orthodox Church, achieved through a tomos of recognition of autocephaly signed, without any distinction, by all the Primates of the autocephalous Orthodox Churches, in the order of the Diptychs, within the Synaxis of the Primates of the Orthodox Churches.”

    Given this information, the Holy Synod of the Romanian Orthodox Church respected the decisions of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to receive into Eucharistic communion the hierarchs, clerics, monastics and believers pastored by Archbishop Stefan and to leave it to the Patriarchate of Serbia to regulate the administrative aspects between the two Churches.

    After recognising the initial synodal tomos issued on June 5, 2022, by the Patriarchate of Serbia granting autocephaly to the Orthodox Church in the Republic of North Macedonia, the Holy Synod of the Romanian Orthodox Church expects the Ecumenical Patriarchate to initiate (consultations) and issue a final tomos of autocephaly to express a pan-Orthodox consensus on this topic of autocephaly recognition.

    The clarification thus makes clear that the “synodal tomos” issued by the Serbian Patriarchate is only the first step and that the process of granting autocephaly will be concluded by a “final tomos” issued by the Ecumenical Patriarchate based on a pan-Orthodox consensus.  The last sentence of the clarification appears to be more favorable to the Ecumenical Patriarchate than the Romanian statement at the Chambesy meeting in 2011 because the last sentence specifically provides that the “final tomos” expressing a consensus would be issued by the Ecumenical Patriarchate.   

    On February 7, the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church of Czech Lands and Slovakia made its decision with respect to the Orthodox Church in North Macedonia.  The decision was as follows:

    The Holy Synod took note of the letters of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew on the restoration of Eucharistic communion with the dioceses in North Macedonia, as well as the letters of the Serbian Patriarch Porfirije on the reintegration of the Church in North Macedonia into the canonical structure of the Serbian Orthodox Church and on the granting of the autocephaly to the Orthodox Church in North Macedonia by the Patriarchal and Synodal Tomos of May 20, 2022.  These canonical decisions of the sister Orthodox Churches were adopted with thanks to God for the elimination of the long-standing schism.

    This statement is cautiously worded.  It appears to give equal weight to the letters from Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Serbian Patriarch Porfirije.  Unlike Moscow’s statement, it does not directly say that the Holy Synod recognizes the church in North Macedonia “as an autocephalous” church nor does it say that the name of the church’s primate is inscribed “in the sacred diptychs.”  Rather, the Holy Synod “took note” of the letters from Bartholomew and Porfirije and “adopted” the “canonical decisions of the sister Orthodox Churches.”

    In Ukraine, Archbishop Sylvester of Bilogorod, rector of the UOC’s Kyiv Theological Academy, has now given a third interview.  His first two interviews were discussed in my last report.  In the third interview, the Archbishop acknowledges that there were “shameful cases” of collaborationism by members of the UOC.  He states:

    And these are shameful cases.  But these are cases, not a systemic phenomenon.  However, they are presented in the mass media according to a simple principle: "If there is one traitor among them, then the others are the same."  But this simply contradicts logic, it is an outright manipulation.   The vast majority of our priests have been helping the Ukrainian army in every possible way since the first days of the war, going to the front line with humanitarian missions, supporting those who suffered during the hostilities.   And let's not forget that it was His Beatitude Metropolitan Onufry who condemned the Russian invasion on the very first day of the war!  If I am not mistaken, he was the first religious leader of Ukraine to make a statement condemning Russian aggression.  If we return to the issue of collaborationism, I believe that the Church should openly recognize such cases.  At the same time, responsibility must be individual.  If the priest's guilt is proven, he must be held accountable according to the law.  But this guilt cannot be made collective and put on the whole Church.  This, by the way, is another of the basic principles of European justice.

    The Archbishop acknowledged that public opinion in Ukraine is now generally negative against the UOC.  He stated:

    Yes, public opinion is generally negative.  But how can it be otherwise, when a negative image of our Church is being strongly created?  Of course, there are some things to criticize us.  And there are shameful cases of the behavior of clergymen in the temporarily occupied territories.  But there are also thousands of completely opposite examples.  Have you often seen the news, say, on the leading TV channels, about how our priests took people out of shelling?  How did they distribute food, transfer vehicles and funds to the front, provide churches and church premises for the accommodation of refugees?  You don’t see?   And you won't see.  And you will be told about one priest-collaborator ten times a day on all channels.  And after that, what will be the attitude towards us?

    The entire candid interview is worth reading.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 12 February 2023: Romania recognizes N. Macedonian autocephaly & other news

    The Holy Synod of the Romanian Orthodox Church met on February 9, 2023.  The Press Office of the Romanian Patriarchate has issued an English-language communique summarizing the results of the meeting.  Among the resolutions made by the Holy Synod was the following:

    To approve the recognition of the autocephaly granted to the Church in the Republic of North Macedonia under the name of “Archdiocese of Ohrid and North Macedonia, with headquarters in Skopje” by the Patriarchate of Serbia by its Synodal Tomos issued on June 5, 2022.  Its Primate will be commemorated with the title “His Beatitude Archbishop Stefan of Ohrid, Skopje and North Macedonia”;

    This resolution is extremely important because it clearly indicates that the Romanian Patriarchate supports the position that an autocephalous church (in this case the Serbian Patriarchate) can grant a tomos of autocephaly to a church (in this case the church in North Macedonia) which was part of the church granting the tomos.  This is contrary to the position of the Ecumenical Patriarchate which maintains that only the Ecumenical Patriarch has the power to issue a tomos of autocephaly.  Whether the Ecumenical Patriarch has the exclusive right to grant a tomos of autocephaly is part of the larger issue of whether the Ecumenical Patriarch has greater powers than those held by a primate of a Local Orthodox Church.  The Moscow Patriarchate contends that the Ecumenical Patriarch is only first in honor among the primates and not in authority.  The issue of the greater authority of the Ecumenical Patriarch is at the heart of the great tensions that exist between Moscow and Constantinople in recent decades.

    The decision by the Romanian Patriarchate is particularly significant in that the Romanian Orthodox Church is one of the largest Local Orthodox Churches and is not closely identified with either the Moscow or Constantinople “camps.”  The Romanian Patriarchate is also not an “ally” of the Serbian Patriarchate, which granted the tomos.  As recently as 2019, the Serbian bishops had strongly attacked the Romanian Patriarchate because of the latter’s pastoral care of the Vlach population living within Serbia.  Rather, some may argue that as one of the largest Orthodox churches, Romania, like Moscow, is reluctant to acknowledge a superior authority in Constantinople.  On August 25, 2022, the Moscow Patriarchate became the first Local Orthodox Church to recognize the Serbian tomos and the resulting autocephaly. (journal entry 62).  On October 25, 2022, the Polish Orthodox Church issued a very cautious statement which stated: “The information from the Serbian Patriarch about the independence of the Orthodox Church in North Macedonia was read.  The Holy Council of Bishops joyfully took note of this information and confirmed the prayerful communion with the above-mentioned Church.”  In so doing, the Polish bishops avoided the use of the term autocephaly, which in Polish is “autokefalia.”   Rather, they used the general Polish word for becoming independent, “usamodzielnieniu.”  On December 13, 2022, the Bulgarian Patriarchate “accepted with spiritual joy the Tomos given by the Serbian Patriarchate to the Church in the Republic of North Macedonia” and added its primate Stefan to the diptychs of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church.   On the other hand, the Holy Synod of the Church of Greece at its meeting on June 8-9, 2022, had expressed “its serious objections and reservations… for the possible granting of autocephaly by the Patriarchate of Serbia, given that the most venerable Ecumenical Patriarchate is the only one competent to grant autocephaly.” 

    There have been a number of recent developments relating to Ukraine.  As I previously reported, the Prime Minister of Ukraine has introduced in the Ukrainian parliament  Draft Law 8371.  It provides in part: “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.”  The Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU) at its meeting on February 2 issued a statement that it “supports the need to introduce a legislative ban on subordination (affiliation) of religious organizations in Ukraine to religious associations in the aggressor country - the Russian Federation.”  After a general discussion, the statement focused on the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) and clearly implies that the UOC should be subject to the ban.  This can be seen in the final three sentences of its statement:

    However, as established by the religious examination, the religious association "UOC" actually remains a part of the Russian Orthodox Church.  Its leadership, in concert with the aggressor country, spreads slander against Ukraine regarding alleged "persecutions", while at the same time almost completely ignoring numerous and systematic real facts of violation of the right to freedom of conscience, as well as other human rights and freedoms, in the Ukrainian territories occupied by the Russian Federation. Taking into account all the above, the Holy Synod calls on the Ukrainian state to continue its work aimed at protecting national security in the religious sphere, and the international community to take an understanding and adequate approach to the measures taken by Ukraine in its resistance to Russian hybrid aggression.

    The first sentence quoted above refers to the February 1 decision of the “expert group” appointed by Ukraine’s State Service for Ethnopolitics and Freedom of Conscience.  This decision was discussed in detail in my last report posted at  In simplified terms, the expert group concluded that the UOC following its council on May 27, 2022, was neither an “autocephalous” nor an “autonomous” church under Orthodox ecclesiology.   Therefore, it must be “a structural subdivision” of the Moscow Patriarchate.  However, the fallacy in this reasoning is that the facts since May 27 are totally inconsistent with the UOC being a “subdivision.”  The UOC has made decisions since May 27 which are totally inconsistent with the provisions in Chapter X (entitled “Ukrainian Orthodox Church”) found in the charter of the Moscow Patriarchate.  This includes the requirements that amendments to the charter of the UOC be approved by the patriarch (Article 3), that the patriarch be commemorated in “all churches” of the UOC (Article 6), and that the UOC “receives holy chrism from the Patriarch of Moscow” (Article 13).  Furthermore, the UOC has announced that it is now completely independent from the Moscow Patriarchate, and there is no evidence that the UOC has been following orders from Moscow since May 27.  Thus, the UOC does not fall neatly into any of the three boxes – autocephalous, autonomous, subdivision.  Rather, the actual facts show that the UOC has created a new and ingenious concept – a de facto independent church in transition to autocephaly.

    Archbishop Sylvester of Bilogorod, rector of the UOC’s Kyiv Theological Academy, has recently given two interviews with respect to the present status of the UOC.  At the end of the first interview, the Archbishop was directly asked: “What is the current status of the UOC?”  He responded that “this is a difficult question” and that it can only be resolved in the future “at the pan-Orthodox level.”  He concluded:  “the UOC is a de facto independent Church, but the final registration of this status is still a matter for the future.”  In the second interview, the Archbishop stated that the UOC has the same degree of independence as an autocephalous church but has refrained from declaring its own autocephaly.   According to the Archbishop, the unilateral declaration of autocephaly would create “complications,” and the benefits arising from such a declaration would be “questionable.”  He also pointed out that “there is no universal mechanism for the creation of new autocephalous Churches recognized by all local Churches in the Orthodox world.”  He emphasized that the UOC is not in schism and that no Local Orthodox Church has severed communion with the UOC as a result of the May 27 council.

    The creation of this “de facto independent church” by the UOC was dictated by the present harsh realities.  Certain Local Orthodox Churches would probably now support autocephaly for the UOC.  However, it is almost certain that the Moscow Patriarchate would vigorously object to autocephaly for the UOC as it would violate Moscow’s view of a united church for historic Rus’.  The Ecumenical Patriarch would not consent because it has already recognized the OCU as the autocephalous church for Ukraine.  Thus, a pan-Orthodox consensus on the autocephaly of the UOC will not occur in the near future.  Also, it is almost certain that if the UOC unilaterally declared autocephaly, the Moscow Patriarchate would label the UOC as “schismatic.”  For conservative Orthodox, there is no Divine Grace in a schismatic church, which in turn jeopardizes the eternal salvation of the faithful of that church.  Therefore, the approach advocated by Archbishop Sylvester seems to be the wisest course of action at the present time.

    With respect to Draft Law 8371, this proposed law restricting the religious activity of a church can only be justified in a situation where the church poses a genuine security risk to Ukraine.  The justification cannot be determined by an academic discussion relating to the forms of churches under Orthodox ecclesiology, but only by the actual facts relating to the church.  The decision of the expert group did not discuss or demonstrate an actual security risk on the part of the UOC.  Thus, it would seem that the decision of the expert group does not constitute a proper basis for the decision of the Holy Synod to support Draft Law 8371.  The Holy Synod of the OCU had three options at its meeting on February 2.  It could have expressed reservations concerning the proposed legislative ban as did Major Archbishop Svyatoslav Shevchuk, primate of the UGCC.  It could have remained neutral.  However, it instead chose to support a proposed law aimed at the UOC.  Sergei Chapnin, former editor of the Journal of the Moscow Patriarchate and now a senior fellow at Fordham University, has commented on the decision of the OCU on his Facebook page.  He stated:  “It is a pity that instead of being delicately silent, the OCU is also fully involved in the fight against the UOC.  It is quite possible that Metropolitan Epiphany and his synod really believes that the dividends in case of victory will be huge.  I'm afraid it's the other way around.  By doing so, they only make the wound of separation deeper and more painful.   And in the Christian world, the OCU will gain the reputation of the Church, which advocates religious freedom only in words, and in fact participates in the attempt to destroy the UOC.”

    The famous Orthodox theologian Elder Metropolitan Ioannis Zizioulas of Pergamon died on February 2 at the age of 92.  Among his many responsibilities, he was Co-Chairman of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches from 2005 to 2016.  In a letter of condolences, Patriarch Daniel of Romania referred to the deceased metropolitan as “an old friend of our Church and of ours, personally, and a tireless promoter of inter-Orthodox unity and communion and of the Orthodox values in the inter-Christian dialogue.”  The Patriarch also stated: “ We remember him as the erudite hierarch and an outstanding academic personality, professor of Dogmatic Theology, in particular, in the realm of ecclesiology and that of the theology of the person.” 

    On February 1, Patriarch Kirill celebrated the 14th anniversary of his enthronement as patriarch.  The Divine Liturgy was celebrated in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior with many metropolitans of the Moscow Patriarchate.  The Moscow representatives of the Bulgarian Patriarchate and the Church of Czech Lands and Slovakia also participated.  In his address at the end of the Liturgy, Patriarch Kirill stated that in contrast to political changes, “the Church remains, as I always say, an island of freedom.”  He contrasted the present freedom of the Church to the past when “the Church was not only under the influence, but also had to carefully listen to what the state was saying.”   The Patriarch also thanked God that there are no divisions in the Church.  “There are different people among you - from the highest in position, from the most wise in life experience and education, to simple people - but we are all of one mind.”

    In connection with the enthronement anniversary, the official website of the Patriarch posted one letter of congratulations from a primate of a Local Orthodox Church.  The letter was from Metropolitan Sawa, primate of the Orthodox Church of Poland.  The letter included the following: 

    During your Patriarchal service, the Russian Orthodox Church shone with the labors of Your Holiness with spiritual revival, serving as an example for others.  The enemy of faith does not like church stability, he tries to destroy it.  What happened in Ukraine vividly testifies to this.  However, the Power of God is great, It is invincible.  We deeply believe that the evil that breaks the Divine church organism will be destroyed by the Conqueror of death and hell, Christ.  We pray about this to the Chief Shepherd our Savior.

    The foregoing remarks by Metropolitan Sawa were strongly criticized in the Polish media and elsewhere.   See   Metropolitan Sawa has now taken the unusual step of issuing a long written apology.   The Metropolitan affirms his prior condemnation of “the criminal invasion of independent Ukraine by the Russian Federation” and his “amazement and embarrassment at Patriarch Kirill's words about the war in Ukraine.”  He states in bold print, “we supported and continue to support the need for the Orthodox Church in Ukraine to become independent.”  He explains:  “my cable was sent only to meet the requirements of the protocol, without taking into account the difficult geo-political situation.  The perspective of the last few days and the interpretation by many of my intentions and words in a way contrary to my intentions shows that I was wrong and the situation required more caution.”  In closing, the Metropolitan asks for forgiveness.

    In other news, the UGCC has announced that in Ukraine it will switch to a new style for immovable holidays beginning September 1, 2023, while preserving the current Pascha.  In adopting the new style, the UGCC apparently did not decide whether the new style will be the Gregorian calendar or the “revised Julian calendar” used by the many of the Local Orthodox Churches.  However, this should not be an issue as the two calendars are the same until the year 2800!  A meeting of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Oriental Orthodox Churches was held at the Saint Bishoy Monastery, Egypt, from January 31 to February 4.  After completing a 2022 document on the sacraments, the Commission will now focus on “Aspects of Mariology, The Holy Virgin Mary in the Teaching and the Life of the Church.”  On February 11, Patriarch Theodoros of Alexandria began a 10-day visit to Kenya.  His first stop is the Diocese of Kisumu, the diocese in which the African Exarchate of the Moscow Patriarchate has its greatest concentration of priests in Africa.  Lastly, Sergei Chapnin, mentioned above, has sent an open letter "Why have you forgotten the truth of God" to the bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church. (Italian)


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 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