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 2024

  • 27 May 2024: Results of important election in Sofia & other news

    On Sunday, May 26, the Holy Synod of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church (BOC) elected Bishop Arseniy of Znepol (vicar bishop under Metropolitan Nikolai of Plovdiv) as the new metropolitan of Sliven.  https://bg-patriarshia.bg/news/sv-sinod-izbra-znepolskia-episkop-arseniy-za-nov-slivenski-m (includes videos and photos)  He will be enthroned on Monday, May 27.  It was a very important election.  Sliven is a very significant eparchy, and the new metropolitan is eligible to vote in the election next month for a new patriarch of the BOC.  On May 19, the Sliven Diocesan Electoral Council had elected a “shortlist” of two bishops.  The Holy Synod had used this shortlist to select the new metropolitan.  The two bishops on the shortlist were Bishop Arseniy and Bishop Gerasim of Melnik, who has been the general secretary of the Holy Synod since 2016. 

    The winner, Bishop Arseniy, is very much the spiritual son of Metropolitan Nikolai of Plovdiv.  Immediately after his election on Sunday, Bishop Arseniy stated to Metropolitan Nikolai:  “I don't have enough words to express all that you have done for me.  I rely on you, on your support, on your wise counsel and prayers.”  https://www.svobodnaevropa.bg/a/sveti-sinod-izbor-sliven-mitropolit/32964274.html  Presumably because of the influence of Metropolitan Nikolai, the Holy Synod made Arseniy a bishop at the age of 28, even though the BOC charter requires one to be 35 years old to be a bishop.  https://www.mediapool.bg/episkop-arseniy-e-izbran-za-nov-slivenski-mitropolit-news359498.html  Arseniy has now been made a metropolitan at the age of 37.  In the entire BOC, there is no younger bishop than he.

    Unlike many Local Orthodox Churches, the BOC gives the exact numbers of the voting results on the various decisions made by its Holy Synod.  With respect to today’s election, there were seven votes for Arseniy and five votes for Gerasim.  *Metropolitan Yosif of the USA, Canada and Australia was not physically present at the election, and members of the Synod did not agree to allow him to cast his vote remotely in real time from New York City.  https://dveri.bg/component/com_content/Itemid,100723/catid,14/id,73348/view,article/   The following is a listing showing how the various metropolitans voted:

    ARSENIY:  (1) *Grigoriy of Veliko Turnovo;  (2) *Ignatii of Pleven; (3) *Nikolai of Plovdiv; (4) Antony of Western and Central Europe; (5) *Naum of Rousse; (6) Cyprian of Stara Zagora; and (7) Yakov of Dorostol.

    GERASIM:  (1) *Grigoriy of Vratsa;  (2) *Gavriil of Lovech;  (3) *Ioan of Varna;  (4) Seraphim of Nevrokop; and (5) *Danill of Vidin. 

    With respect to eligibility to be elected patriarch of the BOC, the charter requires that one must have been a diocesan metropolitan for at least five years and must be at least 50 years of age.  (Article 40)  Above, I have placed an asterisk in front of the names of the metropolitans who are eligible.

    I consider the metropolitans who voted for Arseniy to be the “pro-Nikolai” group.  All three metropolitans (Nikolai, Cyprian, and Yakov) who visited the Phanar recently and who concelebrated with the hierarch of the OCU are members of this group.  Metropolitan Naum is definitely a friend of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.  Naum recently had a work by Bartholomew translated into Bulgarian and personally brought a copy of the book to Bartholomew.  With respect to the non-Nikolai group, Gavriil and Danill are the two most outspoken members of the Synod in favor of the Moscow Patriarchate.  With respect to Grigoriy, he was unanimously elected to head the Synod until the new patriarch assumes office.  This indicates that he is a “middle-of-the-road” candidate.

    Who will be the next patriarch remains very much of an open question.  The new patriarch is not elected by the Holy Synod.  Under Article 45 of the BOC charter, the Holy Synod elects, by secret ballot and by a two-thirds majority, three diocesan metropolitans to be the final candidates.  (Article 45)  A Patriarchal Electoral Church Council then chooses one of three to be the next patriarch.  (Article 47)  The composition of the Patriarchal Electoral Church Council is specified by Articles 41 and 43.  It is a large group consisting of representatives from the dioceses, the monasteries, and the secondary theological schools. With respect to the Holy Synod voting to establish the shortlist of three, there will be 14 metropolitans voting.  To make the two-thirds majority required for placement on the shortlist, a metropolitan will need to receive at least 10 votes.  The pro-Nikolai group will consist of 8 or 9 metropolitans.  Thus the pro-Nikolai group will not be able to dictate the shortlist, but some type of compromise will be necessary.  The Holy Synod will meet on June 20 to prepare its shortlist, and the Electoral Council will meet on June 30.

    In March Metropolitan Nikolai had stated:  “I announce and declare that I do not wish and will not accept to be included as a candidate for the Patriarchal Throne….”  https://orthodoxtimes.com/metropolitan-of-plovdiv-declines-candidacy-for-bulgarian-patriarchal-throne/   However, in an interesting interview posted on May 8, Metropolitan Antony of Western and Central Europe commented on Nikolai’s statement.  https://www.svobodnaevropa.bg/a/32936562.html  The posted article states:  Regarding Nikolai's letter saying that he did not want to be nominated as patriarch, Antony said that "every single metropolitan, when he becomes a bishop, he makes his vows that he will serve God, the Church, he will have obedience to the Bulgarian Patriarch, to the Holy Synod.  From then on, when we take up this cross, we give our whole life to the Church, and whether someone wants it or not, it depends entirely on the Holy Synod of the BOC."  Antony said that at the synod meeting where candidates for patriarch would be nominated, he would nominate Nicholas. "If it were my turn, I would offer it—yes," said Antony.

    On May 22, Cardinal Victor Fernandez met with Pope Tawadros II in Cairo.  The purpose of the visit was to explain the Catholic position on same-sex blessings as stated in the papal declaration Fiducia supplicans.   https://www.vaticannews.va/en/vatican-city/news/2024-05/fiducia-supplicans-fernandez-tawadros-same-sex-blessings.html (report from the Vatican);  https://copticorthodox.church/en/2024/05/22/h-h-pope-tawadros-ii-receives-cardinal-victor-fernandez-envoy-of-the-pope-of-the-vatican-and-head-of-the-vaticans-department-of-doctrine-and-faith/ (report from the Coptic Church)   Earlier it had been reported that the Coptic Church had suspended its theological dialogue because of the papal declaration.  Pope Francis has enjoyed excellent relations with Pope Tawadros, and the trip by Cardinal Fernandez to Cairo was apparently intended to reaffirm these excellent relations and to explain the narrow scope of the declaration. 

    The suspension of the dialogue had occurred on March 7, 2024, at a meeting of the Holy Synod of the Coptic Orthodox Church .  The official English translation of the decrees and recommendations at this meeting are found at https://copticorthodox.church/en/holy-synod/holy-synod-session-march-2024/  One of the decrees reads as follows:  “After consulting with the sister churches of the Eastern Orthodox family, it was decided to suspend the theological dialogue with the Catholic Church, reevaluate the results achieved by the dialogue from its beginning twenty years ago, and establish new standards and mechanisms for the dialogue to proceed in the future.”  In the decrees and recommendations, there is also a statement entitled: “The Belief of the Coptic Orthodox Church on the Issue of Homosexuality.”  There is no specific statement in the decrees and recommendations that relates to same-sex blessings, but following the March 7 meeting, Father Moussa Ibrahim, spokesperson for the Coptic Church, stated that the suspension was caused by the changed Catholic position on the issue of homosexuality.  https://www.ewtnvatican.com/articles/coptic-orthodox-church-confirms-dialogue-with-catholic-church-suspended-over-same-sex-blessings-2273 

    The report issued by the Coptic Church on May 22 concerning the meeting with Cardinal Fernandez states in part: “Cardinal Victor Fernandez stressed that the Catholic Church fully supports this statement ["The Belief of the Coptic Orthodox Church on the Issue of Homosexuality"] and is committed to everything [my emphasis] contained in it, considering that these are the teachings of the Holy Bible.”  If one reads this statement adopted by the Holy Synod in March, one can see that it is a very strong statement.  For example, it states:   “As for those who choose to reconcile with their homosexual tendencies, letting go of themselves to homosexual acts, rejecting spiritual and psychological treatment, and choosing of their own free will to break God’s commandment, their condition becomes worse than the one who lives in [struggle against] adultery/fornication.  Therefore, they must be warned and cut off from communion until they repent.”   I have seen nothing said by the Vatican recently about warning such individuals and cutting them off from communion.  If Cardinal Fernandez actually stated that the Catholic Church is committed to "everything" contained in the statement, it would be big news.

    In my opinion it is very questionable whether the visit by Cardinal Ferandez will cause the Coptic Church to reverse its March 7 decision relating to the temporary suspension of the theological dialogue.  According to the May 22 report of the Coptic Church, Pope Tawadros stressed in the meeting with Cardinal Ferandez the importance of dialogue “after evaluating the accomplishments of the past twenty years and the necessity of developing more effective methods and mechanisms for it.”  This is the same language used in the decree on March 7 to suspend the dialogue.  Thus it appears that the position of the Coptic Church has not changed on this issue.

    Pope Francis has given a very recent interview to the US television network CBS.  In the interview the subject of deaconesses was raised.  The Holy Father's comments on this subject are found at 22:30 in the following video of the interview:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D1rRj2ecNew.   The questions and answers on this subject are as follows:  Question: “You will have many young boys and girls that will come here at the end of next month for World Children’s Day and I am curious.  For a little girl growing up Catholic today, will she ever have the opportunity to be a deacon and participate as a clergy member in the church?"   Pope Francis: “No.”  Question: "I understand you have said no women as priests, but you are studying the idea of women as deacons.  Is that something you're open to?”    Pope Francis:  “If it is deacons with Holy Orders, no.  But women have always had, I would say, the function of deaconesses without being deacons, right?  Women are of great service as women, not as ministers, as ministers in this regard within the Holy Orders.”

    At the end of the first session of the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops last October, a "Synthesis Report" was issued on the results of the first session.  The Report shows that during the first session different positions were expressed regarding women's access to the diaconal ministry.  The Report also states:  “Theological and pastoral research on the access of women to the diaconate should be continued, benefiting from consideration of the results of the commissions specially established by the Holy Father, and from the theological, historical and exegetical research already undertaken.  If possible, the results of this research should be presented to the next Session of the Assembly.”  https://www.synod.va/en/news/a-synodal-church-in-mission.html  (page 41)  Has the Holy Father’s answer in the CBS interview now resolved the key issue that would have otherwise been debated in the second session this fall?  Would it have been more consistent with the principle of synodality to have waited until one saw the results of the second session?   

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 20 May 2024: Bulgarian Patriarchate favors Constantinople

    On May 18, 2024, a large delegation from Bulgaria met with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew at the Phanar.  The meeting occurred immediately after the session of the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.  The Bulgarian delegation included three members of the Holy Synod of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church:  Metropolitan Nikolay of Plovdiv, Metropolitan Cyprian of Stara Zagora, and Metropolitan Yakov of Dorostol.  Metropolitan Nikolay is perhaps the most influential member of the Holy Synod.  Metropolitan Cyprian acts as the spokesman of the Holy Synod.  Metropolitan Yakov has been very close to Metropolitan Nikolay and could be considered his spiritual son.  The official website of the Ecumenical Patriarchate covers the meeting in detail.  https://ec-patr.org/%cf%80%cf%81%cf%8c%cf%83%ce%ba%ce%bb%ce%b7%cf%83%ce%b7-%cf%84%ce%b7%cf%82-%ce%b9%ce%b5%cf%81%ce%b1%cf%81%cf%87%ce%af%ce%b1%cf%82-%cf%84%ce%b7%cf%82-%ce%b5%ce%ba%ce%ba%ce%bb%ce%b7%cf%83%ce%af%ce%b1/?fbclid=IwZXh0bgNhZW0CMTAAAR3PCmHdr-mLVzSHah5S1tDh9_CeveemhyTo7NTWnsxBtKN3HTV46s2u8Ik_aem_AWV5Rmvs8pYWSTCjaxBhTvR7fWZwJyCfp5bOxT9DYcncyz-Bgjnmu-SvQXP9Ye9NJ_tPhQzlciXprrLWT7lIfXMm  The following is an excerpt of the remarks by the Ecumenical Patriarch:

    We pray for the repose of the soul of the blessed Patriarch Neophytos," said the Ecumenical Patriarch, who had presided, last March, at the funeral service of the Primate of the Church of Bulgaria, and continued: "Just yesterday I received a kind letter from brother Metropolitan Gregory of Vratsa, who on behalf of the entire Holy Church of Bulgaria, invites me to be present at the election and enthronement of the new Primate of the sister Church of Bulgaria.  [Metropolitan Gregory is heading the Holy Synod until the election of a new primate.]  Very kind of you to personally invite the Ecumenical Patriarch to a historic moment in the life of your Church."

    As His Holiness said, on June 30, when the election is scheduled to take place, he has planned to visit the Holy Diocese of Artis. “I will try to change the program, because I consider this invitation very great and blessed and my desire to respond is corresponding.  I hope brother Metropolitan of Arta, where I was to officiate that day, will show understanding and we can modify the program.”

    Concluding his speech, the Patriarch pointed out that, "we live in a difficult time in which the testimony of the Orthodox Church is more than necessary and for this testimony we need unity and love, in order to be reliable.  From this point of view, I repeat, that your visit, the meeting of all of us, in the Mother Church is historic, it is very important."

    After the death of Patriarch Neophyte, there was speculation as to whether the new patriarch would lean toward Moscow or Constantinople.  The invitation from the Holy Synod of the Bulgarian Patriarchate for the Ecumenical Patriarch to attend the election is certainly an indication that the Holy Synod believes that a supporter of the Ecumenical Patriarch will be elected as the new Bulgarian primate .  It is difficult to believe that the Holy Synod would place the Ecumenical Patriarch in the very embarrassing situation of being invited to an election where a supporter of Moscow was elected.  The steps for the election for a new patriarch will be as follows:  On June 2 all of the dioceses will hold elections to select their representatives on the Patriarchal Electoral Church Council.  On June 20, the Holy Synod will meet and will select, by secret ballot and a two-thirds majority vote,  a “shortlist” of three metropolitans from the list of metropolitans who meet the eligibility requirements for patriarch.  On June 30 the Patriarchal Electoral Church Council will meet and will select the new patriarch from the “shortlist” of three metropolitans.

    Today, May 19, there was perhaps even bigger news from Constantinople.  Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew presided at the Divine Liturgy for the Sunday of the Holy Myrrhbearing Women in the Church of the Patriarchal Monastery, located in the Balıklı neighborhood of Istanbul.  The church is dedicated to the Mother of God of the Spring.  A holy spring was located nearby.  Not only was the delegation from Bulgaria there, but also a delegation of the OCU.  Those who served with the Ecumenical Patriarch included the three metropolitans from Bulgaria and Metropolitan Yevstratiy of the OCU.  https://ec-patr.org/%CE%B7-%CE%BA%CF%85%CF%81%CE%B9%CE%B1%CE%BA%CE%AE-%CF%84%CF%89%CE%BD-%CE%BC%CF%85%CF%81%CE%BF%CF%86%CF%8C%CF%81%CF%89%CE%BD-%CF%83%CF%84%CE%B7%CE%BD-%CE%B9-%CE%BC%CE%BF%CE%BD%CE%AE-%CE%B2%CE%B1-4/  At the end of the Liturgy, the address of the Ecumenical Patriarch included the following:

    A sign of the eternal presence of the Lord in our midst is the congregation with brother High Priests from two dear daughters of the Church of Constantinople, namely from the Autocephalous Churches of Bulgaria and Ukraine.  Your presence, Venerable brothers, in the Courts of the common Mother Church is a reason for encouragement for us, because the labors of her, eternally emptying and spent for the stability of her children, have not been fruitless.   At the same time, we are certain that for you too the pilgrimage to the Reigning and Great Church is a spiritual return to the pool, which reborn and enlightened your people and was a decisive and beneficial turning point in their history and culture." 

    Metropolitan Yevstratiy has a short video of the service on his Facebook page.  https://www.facebook.com/100001148806070/videos/pcb.7565805516801000/2101529803551404 

    The fact that the hierarchs of the Bulgarian Patriarchate served with a hierarch of the OCU is, of course, extremely significant.  It is a form of de facto recognition of the UOC by the Bulgarian Patriarchate.  Several years ago, the Holy Synod of the Bulgarian Patriarchate established a committee to study the question of the recognition of the OCU.  The head of that committee is Metropolitan Cyprian of Stara Zagora, who has now served with the OCU metropolitan.  I do not believe that the presence of the Ukrainian delegation at the Phanar was a surprise for the metropolitans from Bulgaria, but rather all of this was pre-planned.  Today's events are very good news for the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the OCU, but bad news for Moscow.  If it is confirmed that the Bulgarian Patriarchate has recognized the OCU, it will be the first Slavic Orthodox Church to do so. 

    Also today, the Sliven Diocesan Electoral Council met to elect a “short list” of two bishops, from which the Holy Synod of the Bulgarian Patriarchate will select the new metropolitan of Sliven.  This new metropolitan will be a member of the Holy Synod.  In the first round of voting, Bishop Arseniy of Znepol received a majority of the votes.  Bishop Arseniy is a vicar bishop for Metropolitan Nikolay of Plovdiv.  In the second round of voting, Bishop Gerasim of Melnik became the second candidate on the short list.  Bishop Gerasim has been the general secretary of the Holy Synod since 2016.  On May 25 the Holy Synod will meet to determine whether there are any valid challenges to today’s election.  If there are not, the Holy Synod will select the new metropolitan of Sliven on May 26.  https://sofiaglobe.com/2024/05/19/bulgarian-orthodox-churchs-sliven-diocese-shortlists-two-candidates-in-election-of-metropolitan/

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

     
  • 19 May 2024: Bartholomew and Francis to celebrate Nicaea anniversary together & other news

    On May 18 at the conclusion of a visit to Lisbon, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew celebrated the Divine Liturgy at the Catholic church of Nossa Senhora da Vitória in downtown Lisbon.  The Catholic Patriarch of Lisbon Dom Rui Valério was present for the Liturgy.  The two patriarchs processed into the church together.  The Ecumenical Patriarch recited the Our Father in Greek, while the Catholic Patriarch recited it in Portuguese.  After the Liturgy the two patriarchs walked together to the Church of São Nicolau.  There, the Ecumenical Patriarch recited a prayer before an icon of St. Nicholas, and then went to the library of the church for a 20-minute press conference.  These events are described, with photos, on the website of the Patriarchate of Lisbon.  https://www.patriarcado-lisboa.pt/site/index.php?id=12192  With respect to the press conference, the article states:

    Bartholomew I is then accompanied to the Library, for the press conference, announcing that Pope Francis plans to visit Turkey next year, as part of the celebrations of the anniversary of the Council of Nicaea. “His Holiness Pope Francis wishes to celebrate this important anniversary together and plans to come to our country to visit the Patriarchate of Constantinople, and then we will continue together to Nicaea, to Iznik, for an important historical celebration of this anniversary,” revealed the Orthodox Patriarch, further adding that an organizing committee for the meeting is being formed, made up of Catholics and Orthodox. “It will meet soon,” he said, adding that the Vatican will soon contact the Turkish government regarding this visit.

    According to another website, the Ecumenical Patriarch also stated that a “mixed commission with four Catholics and four Orthodox” will “meet a few days from now in Istanbul, to arrange all the details of this important meeting to take place next year.”  https://www.thetablet.co.uk/news/18770/patriarch-bartholomew-pope-hopes-to-visit-turkey-in-2025  The Ecumenical Patriarch also commented on the situation in Ukraine.  https://agencia.ecclesia.pt/portal/igreja-patriarca-de-constantinopla-pede-cessar-fogo-imediato-na-ucrania-e-no-medio-oriente/  He stated:  “We cannot agree in any way with the ideology of the Russian world and with the prayers that the patriarch prays, not for peace, but for the victory of Russian weapons.  I said this morning that this ideology is pure nationalism and is a heresy.”

    As previously reported, Metropolitan Seraphim of Zimbabwe (Patriarchate of Alexandria) ordained a deaconess on Holy Thursday, May 2.  Carrie Frost, Chair of St. Phoebe Center for the Deaconess, has written a detailed eyewitness account of the event.  https://publicorthodoxy.org/good-reads/ordination-of-deaconess-angelic/  She states that “Deaconess Angelic read petitions, read the Gospel, and distributed communion to the faithful.”  Also, “Deaconess Angelic wore the same vestments as a deacon, modified to fit her smaller frame.”   On May 11, the Patriarchate of Alexandria issued a clarifying statement.  https://www.patriarchateofalexandria.com/anakoinosi-4/  The clarification states in part: 

    The Holy Synod of the Venerable Patriarchate of Alexandria and all Africa made the decision in principle to revive and activate the institution of Deaconesses within its pastoral jurisdiction.  [The decision was made in 2016.]  However, this Decision was referred for further study to establish the details concerning the attire, method of ministry delivery, and liturgical role of deaconesses in the contemporary life of the Church.   However, Metropolitan Seraphim of Zimbabwe, being an experienced missionary to Africa, proceeded with the implementation of the initial decision of the Holy Synod.  However, this decision has yet to be activated as the examination of the matter by the Synod has not been completed for a final decision.

    It therefore appears that the decision to ordain Deaconess Angelic was made at the initiative of Metropolitan Seraphim and that this decision was not directed by the Patriarchate.  One must still wait to see what the Patriarchate will determine will be the liturgical function and vestments of a deaconess.

    On the night of May 17, the National Museum of the History of Ukraine caused the demolition of the UOC’s Church of the Tithe Monastery of the Nativity of the Holy Theotokos, which was location on the Museum’s property in Kyiv.  Metropolitan Onufry called the demolition “a grave sin.”  https://news.church.ua/2024/05/18/blazhennishij-mitropolit-onufrij-visloviv-slova-pidtrimki-bratiji-desyatinnogo-monastirya/#2024-05-18  The destruction has been portrayed as further evidence of the persecution of the UOC by the Ukrainian authorities.  However, in the religious information war in Ukraine, a full and objective presentation of the facts is often absent.  As best as I can determine, the following are the relevant facts.

    On September 14, 2023, the Northern Commercial Court of Appeals issued a decision requiring the UOC to remove the small Church of the Tithe Church of the Nativity of the Most Holy Theotokos, from the grounds of the National Museum of the History of Ukraine.  The small church was located approximately 30 meters from the building of the National Museum, 40 meters from the open area believed to be the location of the historic Tithe Church, and 85 meters from the reconstructed St. Andrew’s Church.  It is inside the UNESCO buffer zone surrounding St. Andrew's.  The reconstruction of the St. Andrew’s Church was completed in 1987 using the drawings of Rastrelli, the original architect.  In August 2001, the Cabinet of Ministers granted permission to the UAOC (now part of the OCU) to use the St. Andrew’s Church on a daily basis for religious services.  https://zakon.rada.gov.ua/laws/show/371-2009-%D0%BF#Text   The presence of the UAOC at St. Andrew’s may have been one of the motivating factors in the decision of the UOC to establish its own church nearby.  The small UOC church is named after the Tithe Church, the first stone church in Rus’.  The Tithe Church was built by St. Volodymyr, who allocated a tenth of his income for its construction and maintenance.  The church was destroyed by the Mongols in 1240.  During the period 1828 to 1840, a new Tithe Church was built at the approximate location of the original Tithe Church.  This building was destroyed by the Soviet authorities in 1935.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Church_of_the_Tithes

    In 2004 the head of the National Museum gave permission to the UOC to build three small kiosks (each covering 20 sq. m.) on the property of the National Museum with ownership of the land remaining with the State.   In 2012 a court upheld the ownership of these three structures by the UOC.  https://www.ukrinform.ua/rubric-kyiv/3761313-apelacijnij-sud-zobovazav-demontuvati-hrammaf-bila-desatinnoi-cerkvi.html  Subsequent to 2012, the UOC, without any authorization by the government, built the present structure which occupied twice the area of the three kiosks.  After the building of the three kiosks, the entire UOC project became the subject of a great public controversy, and dozens of newspaper articles were written about the subject.  The Court of Appeals in its decision of September 14, 2023, concluded that the plot of land on which the present structure was built was not given to the UOC for its ownership or use.  In addition the present structure was built without government approval of the project and was built without obtaining construction permits.  Accordingly, the Court ordered the UOC to remove the structure from the land of the National Museum.   After more than one year of non-compliance by the UOC with the Court’s order, the structure was demolished.  Movable objects from the church were transferred to the Kyiv Lavra National Reserve. 

    On May 11, 2024, the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU) held its annual Bishops’ Council at the Tabernacle Church of the Kyiv Upper Lavra.  https://www.pomisna.info/uk/vsi-novyny/vidbuvsya-arhiyerejskyj-sobor-pravoslavnoyi-tserkvy-ukrayiny-3/  At the Council, Metropolitan Epifany, primate of the OCU, gave his report on the activities of the OCU since last year's Council.  https://www.pomisna.info/uk/document-post/dopovid-predstoyatelya-na-arhiyerejskomu-sobori-11-travnya-2024-r/  (full text)  The report included statistics on the size of the OCU.  The following are the latest numbers for 2024 followed by the corresponding numbers for 2023 and 2019 in parentheses:  communities – 9,000 (8,500, 7,000);    clerics – 5,700 (5,300, 4,500);    dioceses – 45 (45, 44);    bishops – 63 (61, 62);    students – 1,200 (1,200, 1,101);    monasteries – 96+ (80+, 77)

    Metropolitan Epifany in his address gave considerable attention to the “unification process” with respect to Orthodoxy in Ukraine.  He repeats what the OCU has previous said: “we do not put forward any preconditions for the start of the dialogue.”  However, later in the address, Metropolitan Epifany seems to impose the following condition on the dialogue:  “We are ready to conduct a dialogue only while preserving the prescriptions of the Tomos on autocephaly, in which it is determined that all dioceses, monasteries, parishes and other Orthodox church institutions should be under the jurisdiction of the autocephalous Orthodox Church of Ukraine.“  In his remarks, he never mentioned the “Ukrainian Orthodox Church,” but always called it the “Moscow Patriarchate.”   The address does not invite a dialogue, but actually sets up major roadblocks to a dialogue.  Metropolitan Epifany correctly pointed out in his address that the UOC has imposed “clearly unacceptable conditions” for the commencement of a dialogue.  For example, at its Local Council in May 2022, the UOC resolved that for a dialogue to begin, the OCU must acknowledge that it is not an autocephalous church and that it has less independence than the UOC.  Thus, both sides have taken steps which greatly impede the commencement of a dialogue.

    On April 10, Metropolitan Epifany and Metropolitan Yevstratiy met in Geneva with Rev. Prof Dr Jerry Pillay, general secretary of the WCC, and with other WCC officials.  https://www.oikoumene.org/news/his-beatitude-metropolitan-epiphany-of-kyiv-and-all-ukraine-visits-wcc  According to the posting on the website of the WCC, the general secretary stated: “The meeting was a very informative, engaging and enlightening discussion on the issues in Ukraine.  I was deeply impressed with their positive aspirations to end the war, support dialogue and find solutions to encourage good relationships at all levels in spite of the current challenges, including among churches.  We have discussed possible steps forward and plan to act on them as soon as possible.”  For months, the WCC has attempted to sponsor a meeting between the UOC and the OCU.  As I understand it, this would not be a meeting to negotiate unification between the two churches, but rather to improve relations between the two churches.  Personally, I believe that this is a wonderful idea.  However, Metropolitan Epifany’s address on May 11 does not help to improve the climate between the OCU and the UOC so as to encourage the holding of such a meeting.  The UOC must be further alienated by Metropolitan Epifany using a significant portion of his address to call upon the Rada “to speed up" the process of enacting Draft Law 8371.  As far as I can determine, the OCU is the only religious organization in Ukraine which is now actively and vocally promoting the passage of 8371.

    On May 1, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom issued its 2024 Annual Report.  It can be read at  https://www.uscirf.gov/sites/default/files/2024-05/2024%20Annual%20Report.pdf   At page 78 of the Report, the Commission expressed concern about the original version of Ukrainian Draft Law 8371.  It states that 8371 is clearly intended “to target the UOC.”  The Report expressed concerns about Ukraine seeking to impose "collective punishment on the entire religious group, including peaceful, law-abiding citizens.”  If the Commission was concerned about the original version of 8371, it is very likely that the Commission will be even more concerned about the latest version of 8371.  The original version of 8371 (one and one-half pages long) is far milder that the current May 2024 version (24 pages long).  The full text of the May 2024 version can be read in Ukrainian and English at https://www.unifr.ch/orthodoxia/de/dokumentation/anderson/ (click on “16 May 2024: Latest Version of the Complete Text of Draft Law 8371"). 

    In other news, it has been confirmed by Ukrainian President Zelensky that Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew will attend the Ukrainian Peace Summit to be held in Lucerne, Switzerland, June 15-16.  https://kyivindependent.com/zelensky-ecumenical-patriarch-bartholomew-to-attend-switzerland-peace-summit/  Pope Francis has also been invited to attend.  Cardinal Parolin has indicated that a Vatican delegation will attend, but he did not specifically mention the Pope. https://www.vaticannews.va/uk/world/news/2024-05/parolin-pro-samit-myru-v-shvejtsariji-ta-obmin-polonenymy.html   The Finnish Orthodox Church (Ecumenical Patriarchate) has objected to the establishment of UOC parishes in Finland.  https://ort.fi/news/suomen-ortodoksisen-kirkon-autonomista-aluetta-haastetaan/?fbclid=IwZXh0bgNhZW0CMTAAAR38VVpWR9NWyvnuvsxzmbu0vhlnhEN8wNjWlSunaIKuldg0bxD_awb0BpU_aem_Abr0O9lcIlC-Dznz11vPKrd96o7ofO51cIEU8NoqaNOKAWQwOyg9Rk0PKu7GRiMfoEuE8F4-UcCk5y2zXicJSgVk  The Finnish Church has stated that establishing “representative offices of other Orthodox churches that are canonically separated from our own local church in our autonomous region is unsustainable and against canon law.”  The UOC and the Finnish Church are “canonically separated” because the UOC has severed communion with the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA 

     
  • 16 May 2024: Latest Version of the Complete Text of Draft Law 8371
  • 13 May 2024: English translation of full text of latest version of 8371 & commentary

    On May 6, 2024 the Verkhovna Rada (the Ukrainian Parliament) posted on its website a “comparative table” for Draft Law 8371 on the second reading.  https://itd.rada.gov.ua/billInfo/Bills/Card/41219  This comparative table, which is 916 pages long, contains a brief summary of each of the 1,260 amendments that were offered by Rada deputies following the first reading of 8371, which occurred on October 19, 2023.  In addition to the proposed amendments, the table also includes a column on the far-right entitled “Draft Law proposed by the Committee head in the final version.”  In this case, the Committee that has the primary responsibility for 8371 is the Rada’s Committee for Humanitarian and Information Policy (“Committee”).  The far-right column sets forth the full text of the latest version of 8371.  The full text is divided into six segments which are found at pages 1, 3-4, 95-107, 110-118, 120-139, 326-327, and 346-347 of the table.

    I have copied the six segments and placed them in the proper order in a single document.  I have then used the Google translation tool to translate the Ukrainian text into English.  After reading the Google translations, I have made some corrections.  The result is the document that is attached to this newsletter.  In the attached document, I have added some notes and comments which are in red font.  The full text of the latest version of 8371 is in black font.

    The latest version is the third version of 8371.  It was adopted by the Committee at its meeting on April 4, 2024.  It is 22 pages in length.  The first and original version of 8371, which is only one and one-half pages in length, was submitted to the Rada by the Prime Minister of Ukraine on January 20, 2023.  It was then approved by the full Rada for the first reading.  The full text of this first version can be read at blob:https://itd.rada.gov.ua/5fd4caac-835a-4a7b-9795-dad420413f04.  The second version of Draft Law 8371, which is 20 pages in length, was adopted by the Committee on March 5, 2024, after considering the many amendments submitted by deputies to 8371.  The full text of the second version was never posted on the Internet by anyone, although a copy was leaked to certain individuals.

    Although none of the three versions referred to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) by name, both deputies in the Rada and the Ukrainian media have repeatedly referred to 8371 as a law to ban the UOC.  In accomplishing this goal, the second and third versions take a different approach than the original version in establishing the criteria for banning a religious organization.  In the original version, the key provision was 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.”   This ambiguous provision was construed by the UOC and many others to mean that the activities of the UOC could only be prohibited if its “governing center (control)” is located in Russia.  In fact on April 12, 2023, Ruslan Stefanchuk, the speaker of the Rada, met with members of the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations (without the UOC).  At the meeting, the Council declared “the inadmissibility of the activities of any organizations in Ukraine, including religious ones, whose centers and leadership are located in the Russian Federation.”   Thus, the declaration relates to a situation where the Ukrainian church is being controlled from Russia.  This interpretation, involving control coming from Russia, provided some optimism to the UOC that it would escape the sanctions imposed by 8371, because there is no evidence that the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) is in fact controlling the decisions of the UOC after the UOC's Local Council of May 2022.  In fact, the UOC had taken certain actions which constitute gross violations of Chapter X of the ROC’s Charter – the chapter that relates specifically to Ukraine.

    Faced with the possibility that the UOC might escape the sanctions of 8371, the Draft Law was changed to make it certain that the UOC could not escape.  Thus, in the second and third versions, language was added that a religious organization is not allowed to operate if it is simply “affiliated” with a Russian religious organization, even though no actual control exists.  (Attachment, pp. 7-8)   According to these two versions, “affiliation” is found if just one of seven specified “signs” is present.  (p. 8)  The seven signs are described at pages 8-9 of the attached Draft Law.  There is an interesting background with respect to the selection of these seven signs by the Committee in drafting 8371.  On December 22, 2022, the State Service of Ukraine for Ethnic Affairs and Freedom of Conscience (DESS) issued an order to establish an “Expert Group” to determine whether a church-canonical connection exists between the UOC and the ROC.   On February 1, 2023, the “Expert Group” issued its conclusions and found that a church-canonical connection did exist and that the UOC was part of the ROC.  https://dess.gov.ua/vysnovok-relihiieznavchoi-ekspertyzy-statutu-pro-upravlinnia-ukrainskoi-pravoslavnoi-tserkvy/  All of the seven signs adopted by the lawmakers in the second and third versions are apparently taken from the findings and conclusions reached by this “Expert Group.”  In other words, the lawmakers used as signs the same elements that the “Expert Group” relied on in reaching its conclusion that a canonical connection exists between the UOC and the ROC.  It therefore appears that the seven “signs” were specifically tailored by the lawmakers to match the situation of the UOC and to ensure that all of the seven signs would be present with respect to the UOC.  Although various other signs could have been adopted by the lawmakers, only signs that would be applicable to the UOC and answered in the affirmative were adopted.

    The use of each of the seven signs is problematic, but it is especially problematic with respect to the third sign.  (p. 8)  In regard to the third sign, “affiliation” is established if the Charter of the ROC has “provisions regarding the right to adopt by the statutory management bodies” of the ROC “decisions on canonical and organizational issues that are binding for a religious organization (association) operating on the territory of Ukraine.”  One only has to look at Chapter X of the Charter of the ROC to see that this element is satisfied.  Chapter X provides that the “decisions of the Local and Bishops' Councils are binding on the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.”  Thus, the existence of this single provision in Chapter X of the ROC Charter alone mandates that all activities of the UOC be prohibited.  The UOC is without power to require the ROC to remove Chapter X from the Charter of the ROC, so this element cannot be cured by the UOC.  Thus, it is 100% certain that the activities of the UOC will be prohibited under the third sign of the latest version and that the UOC must be terminated. 

    If 8371 becomes law, it will be the responsibility of DESS to investigate whether a religious organization is violating the law.  (pp. 17-18)  Thus, it will be DESS that will determine whether any of the seven signs apply to the UOC.  However, it will hardly be an impartial investigation as DESS’s “Expert Group” has already determined that all seven signs are present with respect to the UOC.  If the religious organization does not eliminate the presence of the signs, DESS applies to a court to enforce a termination order.  The court proceedings are described at pp. 5-7 of the attached Draft Law.  The proceedings are shortened and are extremely expedited.  Instead of the normal two levels of appeal above the court of the first instance, there is only one level.  The court of the first instance must render its decision within one month after the start of the court proceedings.  The appeal court must also render its decision within one month after the beginning of the appellate proceedings.  (p. 7)  As a retired attorney who has litigated court cases, I find these short time limits almost unbelievable when one considers the time necessary for possible preliminary motions, hearings, trials, preparation of written arguments by the attorneys, and deliberations and writing of decisions by the judge or appellate judges.  The consequences following a termination order can be draconian.  The religious organization loses all property rights.  With respect to its existing property, there is a provision: “In the event of termination of the activities of a religious organization due to violation of this Law and other legislative acts of Ukraine, property owned by it, with the exception of cult property, may be transferred to the state free of charge.  Cult property is transferred to other religious organizations.” (pp. 21-22)

    Comments can also be made with respect to many other aspects of the latest version of 8371.  For example, there are lengthy provisions making it easier for religious organizations to transfer to other jurisdictions and harder to challenge the transfer in court.  (pp. 9-15)  A religious organization may be terminated in the event of “detection of repeated facts of the use of a religious organization for the purposes of spreading propaganda of the ideology of the ‘Russian world.’”  (p. 16)  This ideology includes “expansion of the canonical territory of the Russian Orthodox Church beyond the territory of the Russian Federation.”  (p. 24)  A religious organization may also be terminated in the event of “conviction of its authorized persons for committing a crime against the foundations of national security of Ukraine or for committing a criminal offense provided for in Articles 111-1, 161, 190, 209, 258–258-6, 436–438, 442, 447 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine.”  (p. 16)  If you read the attachment, I am sure that you will find other concerns as well.

    The latest version of 8371 has been reviewed by the Main Legal Department of the Rada.  The Department has written a 25-page opinion which concludes that “the draft law can be adopted in the second reading, taking into account the comments of the Main Legal Department.”  It is possible that the Committee may make some changes in the latest version based on those comments.  However, I do not expect that any of the changes will be major.  I have prepared an English translation of the entire 25-page opinion.  If you are interested in receiving a digital copy of this translation, please send me a request by a reply email.

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

     
  • 8 May 2024: Full text of latest (May 2024) version of 8371 in Ukrainian

    Attached is the latest version of Draft Law 8371 in Ukrainian.  This is the version that was approved by the Rada’s Committee on Humanitarian and Information Policy at its meeting on 4 April 2024.  This version was then included by the Committee in its “Comparative Table” which was posted on the website of the Rada on 6 May 2024.  See https://itd.rada.gov.ua/billInfo/Bills/Card/41219

    The “Comparative Table” briefly describes in numerical order all of 1260 proposed amendments that were submitted by the Rada’s deputies to the version of 8371 that was approved by the full Rada on the first reading on 19 October 2023.  Because of the many amendments, the length of the Table is 916 pages.  The column on the far right of the Table has the title “The draft law proposed by the committee head in the final version.”  The final version is not placed in this column in one consecutive document, but is divided into six segments which are found at various places in the 916 page Table.  One must scroll through all of the 916 pages to find all of the segments.  I have personally done so and have copied and pasted the six segments into one complete document which is attached.  In the attached document, I have listed in red font the page numbers of the Table in which each segment is found.   

    The Committee on Humanitarian and Information Policy approved an earlier version of 8371 on 5 March 2024.  This version was never published but was leaked to certain persons.  It was with respect this version that I did my earlier analysis.  Although I have not yet studied the latest version, it appears to differ in certain major respects from the earlier version of 5 March 2024.

    It is possible that based on the comments of Main Legal Department of the Rada, posted by the Rada last weekend, there may still be more changes.  However, I so not expect them to be major.  If you wish my English translation of these comments, please contact me.

    I now plan to do an English translation of the attached document with the Google translation tool.

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 5 May 2024: Orthodox Deaconess ordained by Metropolitan Seraphim of Zimbabwe

    On Thursday, May 2, the day observed this year by the Orthodox as Holy Thursday, Mother Angelic Molen was ordained a deaconess by Metropolitan Seraphim (Kykkotis) of Zimbabwe in St. Nektarios Mission in Waterfalls (a suburb of Harare) with the approval and support of Patriarch Theodoros and the Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Alexandria.  The Facebook page of Metropolitan Seraphim has links to some of the articles covering this historic event.  https://www.facebook.com/giorgos.iakovou/?locale=tl_PH&paipv=0&eav=AfY0GWe45YoXsPebdJZNYA6brxs3xiefJX235VujvlcAX4FmmGoU2SUH5mFwxeHqG0I&_rdr   Dr. Carrie Frost, who is now the chairperson of the Board of the St. Phoebe Center for the Deaconess (a non-profits organization founded in the US and dedicated to educating about and advocating for the revival of deaconesses in the Orthodox Church) witnessed the ordination along with her daughter Annie.  I have pasted below a photograph by Annie Frost showing Deaconess Angelic distributing communion to the faithful.   It should be noted that some Local Orthodox Churches, such as the Moscow Patriarchate, do not even allow male deacons to distribute communion.

    The following is an article about the event posted on the website of the St. Phoebe Center.  https://orthodoxdeaconess.org/the-deaconess/contemporary-orthodox-deaconesses/bishop-ordains-orthodox-christian-woman-as-deaconess/   I found the most interesting report on the website of the Religion News Service (RNS):   https://religionnews.com/2024/05/03/eastern-orthodox-church-ordains-zimbabwan-woman-as-its-first-deaconess/    This article states: “After unanimously voting to revive the female diaconate at its synod in Alexandria in 2016, the Patriarchate ordained six sub-deaconesses in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2017.  Molen’s ordination as a full deaconess goes further.  Her responsibilities, and those of future deaconesses, will include assisting priests in the liturgy and sacraments and addressing the specific needs of parishes in her country, explained Seraphim.”  

    This Orthodox event may have some effect on the Catholic Church.  On October 28, 2023, the members of the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops adopted a Synthesis Report.   https://www.synod.va/en/news/a-synodal-church-in-mission.html  The section of the Synthesis Report on “Women in the Life and Mission of the Church” provides in part as follows:

    j)   Different positions have been expressed regarding women's access to the diaconal ministry.  For some, this step would be unacceptable because they consider it a discontinuity with Tradition.  For others, however, opening access for women to the diaconate would restore the practice of the Early Church.  Others still, discern it as an appropriate and necessary response to the signs of the times, faithful to the Tradition, and one that would find an echo in the hearts of many who seek new energy and vitality in the Church.  Some express concern that the request speaks of a worrying anthropological confusion, which, if granted, would marry the Church to the spirit of the age.

    ….

    Proposals

    ….

    n)   Theological and pastoral research on the access of women to the diaconate should be continued, benefiting from consideration of the results of the commissions specially established by the Holy Father, and from the theological, historical and exegetical research already undertaken.  If possible, the results of this research should be presented to the next Session of the Assembly.

    At the second session of the Assembly to be held October 2-27, 2024, the proponents for the ordination of women to the diaconate will certainly stress this week’s event in Zimbabwe.

    The RNS article quoted certain Orthodox experts that one should not expect this week’s ordination to significantly influence the other Local Orthodox Churches.  I expect that the ordination will spark a strong reaction especially from more conservative Orthodox.  I also believe that the ordination will be used by the Moscow Patriarchate’s Exarchate of Africa in its competition with the Patriarchate of Alexandria for priests and faithful in Africa.  Moscow will argue that the ordination is just further evidence that the Patriarchate of Alexandria has separated itself from the Orthodox faith.  In fact, Father Georgy Maximov, the chief missionary of the Exarchate, has already commented extensively on the ordination on his Telegram channel.  https://t.me/s/OtecGeorgy  Among his statements are the following:  “I don’t know how the priests of the AOC [Alexandrian Orthodox Church] feel about this, but among our African priests (who converted to the Russian Orthodox Church) this causes indignation and rejection.  Actually, they drew my attention to this ‘ordination,’ expressing the hope that we do not have such a thing.  I assured them: no and never will be. This is modernism and a perversion of the Orthodox tradition. The fathers replied: another confirmation that we made the right choice by moving to the Russian Orthodox Church.” 

    Many of you will be celebrating the great feast of Pacha when you read this email.  To all of you, I say:  Christ has Risen!

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

     

  • 29 April 2024 (2): Latest on Draft Law 8371

    The news agency "Ukrainian National News" ("UNN") reported today that Draft Law 8371 is now pending before the Main Scientific-Expert Department of the Rada.   https://unn.ua/en/news/more-than-1000-amendments-have-been-submitted-to-the-draft-law-banning-religious-organizations-affiliated-with-russia  This information was provided by Sergii Yevtushok, the first deputy chairman of the Rada’s Regulatory [Rules] Committee, in a telethon.  According to him, the Department will prepare a table that will “analyze all the amendments that were approved by the Committee [on Humanitarian and Information Policy].”  According to my calculations, this Committee approved, at least in part, 11 proposed amendments at its meeting on April 4, 2024, and 70 proposed amendments at its meeting on March 5, 2024.  Preparing an analysis on this number of adopted amendments will presumably be a time-consuming project.  However, the Department may have begun work on this project as early as the day following the April 4 Committee meeting.  The Department previously analyzed the first version of Draft Law and issued its opinion in February 2023.  blob:https://itd.rada.gov.ua/9127c440-edd2-452a-ad78-e19931f89102  The Department strongly criticized certain aspects of the first version.  This indicates that the Department is not a “rubber-stamp” body.  Below is the UNN’s English translation of the article. 

    Peter Anderson

    More than 1,000 amendments have been submitted to the draft law banning religious organizations affiliated with Russia

    Kyiv   •   UNN

    April 29 2024, 03:48 AM  •  13804 views

    More than 1,000 amendments have been submitted to the draft law banning religious organizations affiliated with Russia, which are awaiting expert review before being put to a vote in parliament.

    More than 1,000 amendments have been submitted to the bill No. 8371 on the ban on religious organizations associated with Russia. This was announced by MP, first deputy chairman of the Regulatory Committee of the Verkhovna Rada Serhiy Yevtushok during a telethon, a correspondent of UNN reports.

    Only one draft law has been voted on, and it has already been developed in the committee. About a thousand amendments have been submitted as of today. The draft law has already passed the committee and is awaiting an expert opinion. That is, our Main Scientific and Expert Department should provide a table that will allow us to find out and analyze all the amendments that were approved in the committee. Then the draft law will be put on the agenda and then we will go through the amendments. I assume that this draft law will not be passed by amendments, but, for example, as the law on mobilization was passed, in blocks

    - Yevtushok said.

    Asked when the draft law might be put to a vote as a whole, Yevtushok said it would happen after the Main Scientific and Expert Department provides a table. "We will look at their comments and then this draft law can be considered on the agenda," he said. 

  • 29 April 2024: Bizarre events in Moldova and Bulgaria & other news

    As previously reported, Metropolitan Vladimir of Chisinau and All Moldova wrote a surpisingly strong letter to Patriarch Kirill on September 5, 2023.  https://cubreacovblog.wordpress.com/2023/10/20/mitropolitul-vladimir-cantarean-ne-aflam-intr-o-situatie-de-faliment-institutional-mitropolia-basarabei-a-demonstrat-ca-este-o-forta-care-nu-mai-poate-fi-oprita/  The letter contained many grievances including the failure of the Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate to elect Archimandrite Filaret (Kuzmin) as a bishop as requested by the Synod of the Orthodox Church of Moldova (OCM).  Some people speculated that such a strong letter might be the first step in the OCM leaving the Moscow Patriarchate.  The Moscow Patriarchate acted quickly.  At its Synod meeting on October 11, 2023, Archimandrite Filaret was elected a bishop with the location of the episcopal ordination to be determined at the discretion of Patriarch Kirill.  http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/6066199.html (Journal entry 97).  The ordination was subsequently held in Chisinau -- the first time in over 200 years that an episcopal ordination of the OCM occurred in Moldova.   Recently, two more Moldovan bishops have been approved at the request of Metropolitan Vladimir.  On March 12, 2024, the Moscow Synod elected Archimandrite Nicolae (Rosca) as the vicar of the Cahul diocese (Journal entry 17) and Archimandrite Patrocl (Porombac) as vicar of the Edinet diocese (Journal entry 18).  http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/6109912.html  In both cases, the locations of the episcopal ordinations were left at the discretion of Patriarch Kirill.  On April 7, 2024, Archimandrite Nicolae was ordained in Chisinau by Metropolitan Vladimir with the participation of Metropolitan Vikenty of Tashkent and Uzbekistan.   https://en.mitropolia.md/his-eminence-metropolitan-vladimir-primate-of-the-orthodox-church-of-moldova-officiated-the-ordination-of-archimandrite-nicolae-rosca-as-bishop/   On April 21, 2024, Archimandrite Patrocl was ordained by Metropolitan Vladimir, but with the participation of no bishops from outside Moldova.  https://en.mitropolia.md/his-eminence-metropolitan-vladimir-primate-of-the-orthodox-church-of-moldova-led-the-ordination-as-bishop-of-archim-patrocl-porombac

    On April 23, 2024, the Holy Synod of the OCM met and took a very important step in regard to establishing a new diocese in Moldova.  The official minutes, which are in the Romanian language (the official state language of Moldova), can be read at https://mitropolia.md/hotararile-sinodului-bisericii-ortodoxe-din-moldova-din-23-aprilie-2024/.  Journal entry 15 reads in part:  “It was decided:  1. To establish the Diocese of Soroca and Drochia of the Orthodox Church of Moldova…. 2.  To elect as titular bishop of the Diocese of Soroca and Drochia His Grace Ioan, Bishop of Soroca and Vicar of the Metropolis of Chisinau and all Moldova.”  This was surprising as the Charter of the Russian Orthodox Churches provides as follows for “self-governing churches” such as the OCM:  “Decisions on the formation or abolition of dioceses included in the Self-Governing Church and on the determination of their territorial boundaries are made by the Patriarch of Moscow and All Rus' and the Holy Synod on the proposal of the Synod of the Self-Governing Church with subsequent approval by the Council of Bishops.”  See Chapter XII, Section 8 of the Charter.  Nevertheless, the official minutes in Romanian clearly provided that the Holy Synod of the OCU made the decision to form the new diocese.  However, the Synod did not go so far as to make the bishop of the new diocese a “ruling” bishop, but only a “titular” bishop.  The Press Service of the OCM’s Synodal Department for Church Relations with Society and the Media issued a press release about the decision in both Romanian and English.  The title of the release in English reads as follows:  “Diocese of Soroca and Drochia of the Orthodox Church of Moldova was founded.”  https://en.mitropolia.md/diocese-of-soroca-and-drochia-of-the-orthodox-church-of-moldova-was-founded/  The release in Romanian has essentially the same language.  This particular release was not issued in Russian.

    And now comes the big surprise!  In the Russian translation of the minutes, posted on the website of the OCM, the language for Journal entry 15 is completely different from the official Romanian entry.  Instead of having only two numbered paragraphs, the Russian translation has five paragraphs.  https://ru.mitropolia.md/%d0%b6%d1%83%d1%80%d0%bd%d0%b0%d0%bb%d1%8b-%d0%b7%d0%b0%d1%81%d0%b5%d0%b4%d0%b0%d0%bd%d0%b8%d1%8f-%d1%81%d0%b8%d0%bd%d0%be%d0%b4%d0%b0-%d0%bf%d1%80%d0%b0%d0%b2%d0%be%d1%81%d0%bb%d0%b0%d0%b2%d0%bd-3/   The first and fifth paragraphs read in part as follows: “DECIDED:  1.  To support the initiative of His Eminence Metropolitan Vladimir of Chisinau and All Moldova to form the Soroca diocese ….5.  His Eminence Metropolitan Vladimir of Chisinau and All Moldova will send a report to His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Rus' and the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church for approval of Journal No. 14 [actually it is No. 15] of the Synod of the Orthodox Church of Moldova on the formation of the Soroca diocese.”   Is this a form of “double bookkeeping” – one version to be read in Moscow and another version to be read in Moldova, where 78% of the population use Romanian as their primary language?

    I have also previously reported on certain events leading up to the June election of a new patriarch for the Bulgarian Orthodox Church (BOC).  One step that must be taken before the June election is to fill the vacant metropolitan see of Sliven.  This is an important step as the new metropolitan will be a member of the Holy Synod, which will prepare a “short list” of three metropolitans from which the Patriarchal Electoral Church Council will select the new patriarch.  With respect to the selection of a new metropolitan, the BOC Charter provides that the Holy Synod will prepare a list of bishops to be considered by a Diocesan Electoral Council.  The Council will then elect a “short list” of two bishops from which the Holy Synod will select the new metropolitan.  At the meeting of the Sliven Diocesan Electoral Council, held on February 18, 2024, the Council elected a short list from a list of 12 bishops provided by the Holy Synod.  In the first round of voting, the following three bishops received the most votes:  Bishop Herotei (vicar of Sliven) received 26 votes, Bishop Arseniy (vicar of Plovdiv) 17, and Bishop Michael (vicar of Lovech) 11.  As the recipient of the most votes, Bishop Herotei, the vicar bishop of Sliven and apparently the local favorite, became one of the two bishops on the short list.  In the second round of voting to determine the second member on the short list, Michael received 22 votes while Arseniy kept his original 17 votes.   The results of this February 18 election were challenged.  It appears that one contention was that the voters were improperly influenced between the first and second rounds of voting.  Supposedly, those who voted for Herotei in the first round were influenced to vote for Michael in the second round – not because he was the best candidate in the second-round race between Michael and Arseniy, but rather because it was clear that the Synod would never select Michael.  With the final two candidates being Herotei and Michael, it would be certain that Herotei would be the next metropolitan of Sliven.  This scheme in effect denied the Synod a meaningful choice and allowed the Electoral Council to determine who the successful candidate will be.

    On February 24, the Holy Synod met and decided to void the election held on February 18.  The Synod also adopted a “regulation” by a vote of 9 to 3.  The nature of the regulation was not specified on the BOC’s website.  https://dveri.bg/component/com_content/Itemid,100723/catid,14/id,73051/view,article/   It appears that the regulation provides that only the metropolitans would select a new metropolitan and that this would be done without the involvement of a diocesan electoral council.  https://dveri.bg/component/com_content/Itemid,100723/catid,14/id,73052/view,article/  This regulation was a clear violation of the Charter of the BOC, and it caused a great public outcry.  On  March 12, the Synod met again and retreated.  It was decided that the first election would be void, but that the new election would be held in accordance with the terms of the Charter with the participation of the Sliven Diocesan Electoral Council.

    And now comes the second surprise!   On April 22 the Holy Synod prepared a new list of candidates to be considered by the Sliven Diocesan Electoral Council in the rerun election.  Unlike the February list which had twelve names, the new list has only six names, and neither Herotei nor Michael, the winners in the first election, are on the new list!!  Anseniy is on the new list.  This surprising event is reported at https://dveri.bg/component/com_content/Itemid,100723/catid,14/id,73253/view,article/.  Perhaps the omission of the two winners of the February election is the Synod’s way of ensuring that what happened in the February election will not reoccur in the rerun election.  However, it is bizarre that Heroei, the local favorite, is now ineligible.  This latest action by the Synod has prompted protests in Sliven.  In response, Bishop Herotei has addressed to the faithful of the Sliven Diocese an appeal urging peace and forgiveness.  https://www.bta.bg/bg/news/bulgaria/661510-agatopolskiyat-episkop-yerotey-otpravi-obrashtenie-kam-miryanite-ot-slivenskata-  The voting by the Sliven Diocesan Electoral Council for the rerun election is now scheduled for May 19 with the Holy Synod choosing the new metropolitan of Sliven on May 26.

    In Ukraine, there is speculation that the voting of the full Rada with respect to the second reading of Draft Law 8371 is imminent.  However, no date has yet been set.  When and if the Draft Law will be considered by the full Rada is determined by the Rada's Conciliation Council of Parliamentary Factions.  As I previously reported, the Rada’s Committee on Humanitarian and Information Policy approved a very major revision of Draft Law 8371 on March 5, 2024.  Now, almost two months later, the text of this March revision has not yet been made public and is not available on the Internet.  On April 4, 2024, the Committee met and adopted more amendments to Draft Law 8371.  The Committee’s minutes for that day can be read at  https://kompkd.rada.gov.ua/uploads/documents/34905.pdf .  The minutes show that a decision was made “[T]o take into account editorially the following amendments: number 314, 1175, 1180, 1183, 1188, 1193, 1216, 1217, 1220, 1234, 1236.”   However, there is no way of knowing what these proposed amendments say or knowing what parts of these proposed amendments were adopted.  With the minutes providing no help, one might expect that the transcript of the Committee's meeting would provide a clue as to the substance of the amendments.  It is logical that there would be some discussion of the substance of the amendments before the vote by the Committee members on the amendments.  The verbatim transcript of the April 4 meeting can be read at  https://kompkd.rada.gov.ua/uploads/documents/34870.pdf.  The transcript shows that there was no discussion, but simply a motion, a roll call vote, and a unanimous adoption.  Thus, the official documents give no information from which one can determine the language or substance of the amendments adopted on April 4.  In my opinion this lack of information was probably intentional.  The effect of withholding from the public the text of the amendments adopted on March 5 and on April 4 means that public criticism of the Draft Law is greatly inhibited.  That result may well be the Committee's hope and purpose in withholding the text.  (The text of the March amendments was leaked to a few people, but the text is apparently nowhere available on the Internet.  To the best of my knowledge, there have been no leaks of the April amendments.)

    In other news, Patriarch Kirill has sent a letter to world religious leaders and international organizations concerning the actions now being taken against the UOC by the Ukrainian government.  Although the entire letter has not been posted, an article was posted on April 27 on the Patriarch’s website concerning the letter.  The article was in both Russian and Ukrainian.   http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/6124407.html  It is possible that the Ukrainian translation was made available immediately as part of an attempt to convince the faithful of the UOC that the Patriarch is their defender.  Two highly regarded German theologians specializing in Eastern Europe have written an excellent statement defending Father Mykola Danylevych.  The statement can be read in English at  https://news.church.ua/2024/04/25/the-uoc-department-for-external-church-relations-has-published-a-statement-by-roman-catholic-theologians-from-germany-in-support-of-archpriest-mykolai-danylevych/?lang=en#2024-04-28 .   

    A blessed Holy Week to all who are observing Pascha on May 5!

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

     
  • 25 April 2024: Statement from Münster theology professors in support of Danylevych

    The statement below was posted today by the official website of the UOC.  https://news.church.ua/2024/04/25/the-uoc-department-for-external-church-relations-has-published-a-statement-by-roman-catholic-theologians-from-germany-in-support-of-archpriest-mykolai-danylevych/?lang=en#2024-04-25 

    Peter Anderson

     

    The UOC Department for External Church Relations has published a statement in support of Archpriest Mykolai Danylevych 

    by Emeritus Professor Dr. Thomas Bremer and Professor Dr. Regina Elsner from the Faculty of Theology of the University of Münster

     

    Statement in support of Fr. Mykolai Danylevych on his criminal persecution

    On April 12, 2024, the private house of Fr. Mykolai Danylevych, a well-known priest and vice chairman of the office for external affairs of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, was searched by the SBU.  In a press statement, the SBU accused him of discrimination on a religious basis (Art 161 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine) and of justification of the Russian aggression (Art 436-2).

    As academic researchers in the field of Christianity in Eastern Europe, we have both always stood and stand in firm solidarity with Ukraine in this Russian war against the country.  We condemned and theologically exposed the Russian ideology behind and the religious legitimation of this war by the Russian Orthodox Church in many academic and popular publications.  We use every possible opportunity to raise awareness for Ukraine’s resistance and bravery in this war.  We have known Fr. Mykolai for many years in the context of our academic and ecumenical work, including joint working groups with European partner organizations on the questions of peaceful religious coexistence in Ukraine and fieldwork on the religious landscape in Ukraine.  We know his public statements in social media, including his personal Telegram account, and we have researched the statements he made on Telegram which—among others—have attracted the attention of the SBU. From our academic perspective, none of his texts justifies accusations of discrimination, of legitimation of the Russian aggression, or of faith-based hate speech. Especially in the two “incriminating” passages, Fr. Mykolai stresses the need for united efforts to defend the country against the Russian aggressor and to avoid any inner-Ukrainian split.  He criticizes takeovers of UOC parishes, which have indeed happened multiple times since the beginning of the full-scale invasion by Russia, and which endanger the needed consolidation of Ukrainian society.  His texts do not contain any inciting of violence or hatred, any degradation of the dignity of others, or any violation of personal rights.  In fact, Fr. Mykolai’s wording is milder than the usual accusations which representatives of both Orthodox Churches in Ukraine regrettably make against each other.  In particular, there is no dismissal of the canonicity of the OCU and no misspelling or intentional misnaming of the OCU, which could be classified as disrespect or denial of the integrity of this religious community.

    We are aware of the official visit of a delegation of the Conference of European Churches (CEC) to Ukraine, which met with several religious communities including the UOC with Fr. Mykolai as its official representative, to learn about the situation of religious communities in the context of Russia’s aggression.  In those meetings, Fr. Mykolai also drew attention to the problematic draft law No. 8371, which plans a ban of the UOC and which has been criticized by international organizations and experts.  Fr. Mykolai participated in the preparation of the joint statement of the CEC and the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations, issued on April 14, 2024.  It calls for a just and lasting peace in Ukraine, unambiguously condemns the Russian military and ideological aggression, and calls for unwavering solidarity with the people of Ukraine.

    Fr. Mykolai is also responsible for the pastoral care of Ukrainian Orthodox refugees in Western Europe, and he participates in establishing of parish structures of the UOC in European countries.  From our work as consultants to the Catholic Bishops’ Conference in Germany and our engagement in other ecumenical networks, we have learned that these parishes are an important spiritual and humanitarian anchor for many refugees.  They are to a large degree publicly open and in contact with humanitarian and ecclesial institutions in Germany and they do not pose any security risk to Ukrainian refugees and European societies.  On the contrary, these parishes enrich the religious landscape in Europe and provide a safe space for Ukrainian Orthodox believers who do not want to attend other Orthodox parishes, above all not those belonging to the Moscow Patriarchate.  It seems that the real reason for the recent accusations against Fr. Mykolai are his statements on draft law 8371 in conversation with foreign church representatives and his vital engagement in the new Ukrainian ecclesial presence in Europe.  This seems to be confirmed by the fact that the two Telegram statements now under suspicion were made in March and August 2022 and it is hard to believe that the SBU needed two years to understand the allegedly pernicious character of these statements.

    Thus, there is neither basis nor evidence for the allegation of the SBU that the parishes in Western countries “distribute the propagandistic narratives of the Russian Federation”, or for the statement that Fr. Mykolai “tried … to discredit our country on the international level”.  Quite the opposite: in fact, from our knowledge of the ecumenical and humanitarian situation in Germany, where the largest community of UOC parishes exists at present, Fr. Mykolai and these parishes have solicited support for Ukraine in Germany and many Western countries.  The parishes of the UOC in Germany are important actors in mobilizing the German society to support Ukraine in spiritual, humanitarian, economic, and military ways.  They inform the public about the reality of the Russian aggression and the severe consequences for the people of Ukraine.  In contrast, unfortunately the public stigmatization of the UOC as a “Russian agent” by Ukrainian political actors—illustrated by such actions as those of the SBU—discredits Ukrainian interests abroad and harms efforts to strengthen international solidarity.

     

  • 19 April 2024: Danylevych in the Kyiv court & other news

    On April 17, 2024, Father Mikola Danylevych, deputy head of the Department of External Church Relations of the UOC, appeared in the Solomyansky District Court of Kyiv.  https://t.me/graty_me/6275  Before the judge of the Court, the prosecutor requested an order placing Danylevych under house arrest as “a preventive measure.”  As you may recall, the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) had searched the residence of Danlevych on April 12.  On the same day, the SBU posted on its Telegram channel its allegations against Danylevych.  https://t.me/SBUkr/11701   It was alleged that he “justified the Russian war against Ukraine and incited religious hatred.”   After hearing from the prosecutor and from Danylevych and his attorneys, the judge denied the request for a house arrest and simply imposed on Danylevych a personal obligation to appear before the investigator.  This constituted a significant victory for Danylevych.  In recent months, Danylevych has been spending the vast majority of his time in Western Europe establishing UOC parishes for the many Ukrainians now living there.  If the request for house arrest had been granted, Danylevych’s work outside Ukraine would have been seriously impeded. 

    In contrast to the sweeping condemnations made by the SBU against Danylevych on April 12, the main evidence presented by the prosecutor in the Solomyansky Court proceedings was limited to one sentence found in Danylevych's Telegram entry for March 26, 2022, and a part of a sentence found in his Telegram entry for August 12, 2022.  Yesterday, I sent my comments on these two entries to certain people who are particularly interested in Ukraine.  To the extent that you also have an interest, I have pasted these comments at the end of this newsletter.  In the comments, I highlighted in yellow the sentence and the half-sentence upon which the prosecutor relied.  In my opinion, the criminal proceedings against Danylevych raise certain questions.  The Telegram entries by Danylevych have been public knowledge and available for anyone to read for approximately two years.  Why has the SBU waited for such a long period of time before taking action on them?  In recent years, the tensions between the OCU and the UOC have been extremely high.  This has resulted in many harsh words by the OCU against the UOC and by the UOC against the OCU.  In view of this very harsh language, why has the SBU chosen to attack the relatively mild comments made by Danylevych?  It appears that the SBU is straining to find something for which Danylevych can be charged.  In my opinion, this lends credence to the theory that the SBU and perhaps other government officials are unhappy with the statements made by Danylevych to a delegation of the Conference of European Churches (CEC) two days before the search, and the criminal proceedings are a way of showing this to Danylevych.

    There have already been statements of concern with respect to these proceedings against Danylevych.   It is my understanding that in the court proceedings, an attorney representing Danylevych read parts of a letter from the World Council of Churches (WCC) expressing concern.  In a YouTube video, over a dozen young people, presumably in Western Europe, have individually given testimonies relating to their high respect for Danylevych.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hfmogBgY_Wo  There has also been a statement from the UOC’s Vicariate of Western Europe. https://vzcz.church.ua/2024/04/17/zayava-zaxidnojevropejskogo-vikariatstva-upc-na-pidtrimku-protoijereya-mikolaya-danilevicha/?lang=en  This statement includes the following:  For example UOC has more than eighty newly formed parishes which largely worship in the buildings of local national churches [such as Catholic parishes in Italy] and promote Ukrainian culture and the image of our country as taking pastoral responsibility for its suffering refugees.  Neither Father Mykolay personally nor any of the foreign parishes of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church has spread any pro-Russian narratives and it is absurd to suggest that this might happen in the future.  On the contrary, precisely because of their strong patriotic stance, foreign parishes of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church are constantly harassed by aggressive representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church abroad.  Danylevych himself has posted a statement denying the charges against him.  https://vzcz.church.ua/2024/04/15/commentary-by-deputy-head-of-the-uoc-decr-archpriest-mykolay-danylevych-on-his-criminal-prosecution/?lang=en  In the statement, Danylevych gives, in my opinion, a very plausible explanation for the documents found by the SBU in the search of his residence.

    Following the visit of the CEC delegation to Ukraine, April 8-10, the CEC and the All-Ukraine Council of Churches and Religious Organizations issued a joint statement.  https://ceceurope.org/storage/app/media/CEC-UCCRO%20Ukraine%20statement.pdf  The joint statement condemns (1) the Russian aggression, (2) “the complicity of the Russian Orthodox Church in legitimising this unjust conflict,” and (3) the “documents recently issued by the World Russian People’s Council, justifying Russian aggression against Ukraine.”  Rev. Prof. Dr Jerry Pillay, General Secretary of the WCC, has also issued a statement with respect to the decree of the World Russian People’s Congress.  https://www.oikoumene.org/resources/documents/wcc-statement-on-decree-of-xxv-world-russian-peoples-council?fbclid=IwAR0TiJtKz0H-lR8eplErujj_JIiy_dpMdPtScjvalUBz2_eFYICELMm2tAA  The statement by Dr. Pillay includes the following sentence:  Among other concerns arising from the recent Decree, the World Council of Churches cannot reconcile the statement that “the special military operation [in Ukraine] is a Holy War” with what we have heard directly from Patriarch Kirill himself, nor with relevant WCC governing body policy pronouncements, nor indeed with the biblical calling for Christians to be peacemakers in the midst of conflict.  In the statement, Dr. Pillay requests “an urgent meeting” with Patriarch Kirill and also directs three written questions to the Patriarch.  Dr. Pillay maintains that in a meeting which he had in Moscow in May 2023, Patriarch Kirill agreed “that no war of armed violence can be ‘holy’.”

    The Atlantic magazine in the United States has published a long article in its May 2024 issue, entitled “Clash of the Patriarchs.”   https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2024/05/russia-ukraine-orthodox-christian-church-bartholomew-kirill/677837/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=the-atlantic-am&utm_term=The+Atlantic+AM  The article was written by Robert F. Worth, a former bureau chief for the New York Times in Beirut.  In researching his article, he traveled to such places as the Phanar and Mt. Athos.  He interviewed such persons as Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, Archbishop Elpidophoros of America, and Metropolitan Gregorios of Cameroon.  His request for interviews with Patriarch Kirill and the Moscow Patriarchate went unanswered.  The author related certain information that was new to me.  For example, he stated:  In late 2021, weary of the conflict and worried that it was damaging all of Orthodoxy, Bartholomew reached out to the Russians—and was rebuffed.  The Moscow Patriarchate “sent us a message saying that there is no way we will engage in any dialogue,” Archbishop Elpidophoros recalled.  The Russians, he went on, declared that “the wound is so deep that we will need at least two generations to overcome.” 

    Protodeacon Andrei Kuraev has posted on his blog a photocopy of the decree which he received from Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.  https://diak-kuraev.livejournal.com/  At the end of the decree, there are three footnotes citing canonical authorities in support of the decree. The decree, which is dated April 3, 2024, provides in part as follows:

    We accepted your appeal and, having carefully considered the case and the issues concerning you, have determined that the canonical punishments imposed on you by your spiritual authority do not in any way flow from ecclesiastical criteria.  Therefore, we have come to the decision that with this Patriarchal charter of ours, in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, we absolve and release you from the punishment of defrocking and restore you to the status of a clergyman and to the rank that you previously had, so that you can fully enjoy everything that befits your sacred status (ιερατικής ίδιότητος) as before.   Moreover, since only We, the Shepherd of Constantinople, bear the responsibility and authority, according to the Divine and Holy Canons and the established practice of the Church, “to receive clergy from other churches, even if they have not received a letter of release from the bishop who ordained them” (cf. interpretation Theodore Balsamon [a famous canonist of the 12th century] to canons 17 and 18 of the Trullo Council and canon 10 of the Seventh Ecumenical Council of Nicaea [3]), having favorably accepted your request, We include you among our holy clerics under our omophorion.

    In the 2024 edition of the Annuario Pontificio, just released by the Vatican, the title “Patriarch of the West” suddenly and unexpectedly reappears among the titles of the pope.  https://www.pillarcatholic.com/p/why-is-pope-francis-embracing-the  This title, used in editions prior to 2006, had disappeared in the 2006 edition during the pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI and has not been listed in the successive editions until now.  The deletion of the title in 2006 caused an uproar in the Orthodox world.  In an apparent attempt of “damage control,” the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity issued a communique in March 2006 seeking to allay the Orthodox fears.  http://www.christianunity.va/content/unitacristiani/en/documenti/altri-testi/comunicato-circa-la-soppressione-del-titolo--patriarca-doccident/comunicato-circa-la-soppressione-del-titolo--patriarca-doccident.html  According to this communique, the omission “changes nothing to the recognition, so solemnly declared by the Second Vatican Council, of the ancient patriarchal Churches.”  Thereafter, the uproar gradually abated.  Why after eighteen years has this title reappeared without any comment by the Vatican?  Personally, I wonder whether Pope Francis desired a positive movement toward the Orthodox after the negative reaction of many Orthodox to his decision on the blessing of same-sex couples. 

    On April 7, I reported on the trend of the Patriarchate of Alexandria to ordain as bishops more native African priests.  On March 31, Patriarch Theodoros of Alexandria ordained a native African as the bishop of Benin and Togo.  Now, on April 7, Patriarch Theodoros ordained another native African,  Archimandrite Constantine Mbonabingi from Uganda, as the bishop of Juba and South Sudan.   https://orthodoxtimes.com/ordination-of-the-bishop-of-juba-and-south-sudan-by-the-patriarch-of-alexandria/   The following is an interesting YouTube video of Bishop Constantine’s jubilant return to Kampala on the day after his ordination.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZQp6_lsuusg   The Moscow Patriarchate has also been active in Africa in the last few days.  The Exarch for Africa, Metropolitan Konstantin, has been in Malawi this past week.  There he gave a video interview, with English subtitles, to RT.  https://www.rt.com/africa/595979-russian-orthodox-church-baptized-malawians/?utm_source=ground.news&utm_medium=referral  It is claimed that thousands have been baptized during his visit.  On April 14, he met with the priests of Malawi.  https://mospat.ru/ru/news/91665/  There are 15 native priests in the group photo.  On April 17, Metropolitan Konstantin was in Zambia.  https://mospat.ru/ru/news/91663/  The best site for following the visit is https://t.me/s/exarchate_mp

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

    MY COMMENTS ON THE EVIDENCE PRESENTED AT APRIL 17 HEARING AGAINST DANYLEVYCH

    The hearing was covered by Kyiv’s Channel 5.  Channel 5 has posted an article with details of the hearing.  https://www.5.ua/suspilstvo/nazyvaie-perekhid-hromad-do-ptsu-tserkovnym-maroderstvom-iak-sud-obyrav-zapobizhnyi-zakhid-zastupnyku-holovy-viddilu-zovnishnikh-zviazkiv-upts-mp-siuzhet-326245.html  It also posted a YouTube video.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7JIpmanqneE&t=33s   During the hearing, the only specific evidence presented by the prosecutor were two entries from the Telegram channel of Danylevych.  https://t.me/s/MykolayDanylevych   The first was a sentence from his Telegram posting of March 26, 2022, and the second was part of a sentence from his posting on August 12, 2022.  I have pasted below an English Google translation (not perfect) of the complete entry of March 26 and the complete entry of August 12.  I have highlighted in yellow the sentence and the part of a sentence on which the prosecutor relied.

    With respect to the March entry, the comment that the actions of the OCU created an “excuse for Putin’s aggression” is in my opinion a fair comment which should not be punishable by imprisonment for up to five years and by confiscation of all of Danylevych’s property (the penalty specified in the SBU Telegram channel).   In my newsletter of February 27, 2022, five days after the invasion, I stated:  “President Putin in his long address on February 21 devoted a paragraph to the subject: ‘Kiev continues to prepare the destruction of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate.’  Rescuing the UOC-MP is one of the purposes of the invasion by the Russian Federation.”   Danylevych's statement that Putin was using the actions against the UOC as an excuse for invading Ukraine is absolutely true.  Danylevych’s statement is not pro-Russia as he said that the actions against the UOC were an “excuse” by Putin and did not say a “justification.”  He also refers to “Putin’s aggression,” a phrase which is not pro-Russia.

    With respect to the allegation of inciting “religious hatred,” Danylevych denied this at the hearing.  In my newsletter of February 27, 2022, I quoted an appeal made by Danylevych on his Telegram channel specifically directed to the OCU:  “I very much hope that this trouble [the war] will motivate us to appreciate peace in general and interfaith peace in particular.  That we will all rethink a lot.  We are all citizens of Ukraine, let us unite in defense of the state and put aside mutual claims.”  As far as I can determine, there was no response by the OCU to this appeal.  The entry by Danylevych on March 26, 2022, appears to reflect his frustration that the OCU did not respond favorably to his appeal but had continued to attack the UOC and to take its churches.

    Danylevych’s entry of August 12, 2022, relates to an incident filmed by TV Rivne.  It shows a woman, who is a supporter of the OCU, pushing away an UOC priest while he was saying a funeral prayer.  As stated by Danylevych, it did involve a quarrel and pushing (Ukrainian against Ukrainian).  According to Danylevych, this animosity is destroying the unity that should exist in Ukraine during the war.  Compared to the very harsh rhetoric coming from both the OCU and the UOC, in recent years, the entry of August 22 is relatively mild. 

    March 26, 2022

    While everyone, regardless of faith and language, united in the fight against the aggressor and defends their country, the OCU, meanwhile, is simply trying to take advantage of this, dragging and capturing our parishes, creating enmity and division on religious grounds, which under the time of war weakens our society in unity in the fight against the enemy.  Banal fishing in the murky waters of war.  Church looting - that's what our people have already called it.
    It is significant that all this is happening in the rear. You go to Mariupol and tell there about the transfer to OCU.  Or in Zaporizhzhia at least, or even here in Kyiv.  Under fire. For some reason, no one here talks about it.  People are busy defending the country and their cities, and they are looting in the rear.
     I also see that their recorded propagandists have already appeared on the airwaves again, and have again begun to shake up the situation in the religious sphere, once again inciting the information space against the UOC.  Have they still not understood that it was they who created an excuse for Putin's aggression during the previous years with such actions?
    It is interesting that in the first days of the war, they all sat quietly and remained silent, and some even heroically escaped from Kyiv.   And now they have emboldened, again slanders, stamps, fakes.
    And this despite the fact that on the very first day of the war, our Primate, His Beatitude Metropolitan Onufriy, clearly called the invasion a war, called the aggression a Cain's sin, and the believers of our Church stood up for the defense of the country, parishes and believers began to help the army, the Teroboron [the Territorial Defense Forces of Ukraine], the displaced and the refugees.  Instead of uniting in the common defense of our country and helping the needy and those affected by the war, those grief experts began to tell how to ban and liquidate the UOC and seize more parishes.  And with this, they try again and again to divide Ukrainian society.

    August 12, 2022 

    What a telling photo (see next post)!  Similar to the paintings of Italian Renaissance artists.   All the figures are in expressive movements and poses, with clear emotions on their faces.  The grandmother (a supporter of the OCU) pushes out the priest of the UOC; behind, people are crying and covering their faces with their hands; in the left part of the image, people are standing with faces on which grief and incomprehension are written.  This all happens during the funeral prayer….
    How much trouble has this OCU already caused - and it continues to stir up quarrels, push people (Ukrainians against Ukrainians) in the villages and cities of Ukraine with its destructive ideology, under the influence of which the mentioned grandmother from the photo is also under the influence.  At a time when there is a war in the country, they continue to do their dirty work.  There are no words to talk about it all again, to comment.  Isn't it obvious that they are destroying Ukraine with such actions?
    When there are no laws in the country, then looking at all this, one can only see in all this some kind of art, tragic and sad art....
    Perhaps this kind of approach will help to psychologically survive this lawlessness against the communities of our Church, which continues....

    [The entry also included a photo of the incident]

  • 13 avril 2024: Ukraine's Security Service accuses Father Mykola Danylevych (UOC)

    A delegation of the Conference of European Churches (CEC) visited Ukraine, April 8-10, 2024.  https://ceceurope.org/cec-visit-ukraine-strengthens-relations-affirming-hope-just-peace   The delegation was led by CEC President Archbishop Nikitas of Thyateira and Great Britain (Ecumenical Patriarchate).  In Kyiv on April 10, the delegation met with representatives of the OCU, the UOC, the UGCC, the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations, and the State Service of Ukraine for Ethnic Affairs and Freedom of Conscience (DESS).  Each of these organizations posted an article about the visit on its website:  https://www.pomisna.info/uk/vsi-novyny/zustrich-z-delegatsiyeyu-konferentsiyi-yevropejskyh-tserkov/ (OCU);  https://news.church.ua/2024/04/11/mitropolit-avgustin-povidomiv-delegativ-konferenciji-jevropejskix-cerkov-pro-poziciyu-upc-shhodo-zakonu-8371/#2024-04-12 (UOC);   https://ugcc.ua/data/religiynyy-myr-e-narizhnym-kamenem-bezpeky-ukrayny-glava-ugkts-na-zustrichi-z-ekumenichnoyu-delegatsieyu-cec-4686/ (UGCC);  https://vrciro.org.ua/ua/news/uccro-meeting-with-the-ctc-delegation (Council of Churches); https://dess.gov.ua/dess-ta-konferentsiia-ievropeyskykh-tserkov-obhovoryly-sytuatsiiu-z-relihiynoiu-svobodoiu-v-ukraini/ (DESS). 

    For me, it was interesting to read that Archpriest Mykola Danylevych, deputy head of the Department of External Church Relations of the UOC, was in Kyiv for the meetings with the CEC on April 10.  For most of the last few months, Danylevych has been in Western Europe, primarily Italy, establishing UOC churches for Ukrainians located there.  In this regard, he has been extremely successful.  In fact, in my last newsletter, I reported an interview of a Ukrainian priest of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Italy who stated:  “The UOC parishes in Italy are the result of the efforts of almost one person - Father Mykola Danylevich.”  The interviewed priest also stated that the Catholic Church in Italy was at first reluctant to allow the UOC to use Catholic churches for services but that Danylevych was able to persuade the Italian Catholic Bishops’ Conference to allow it.  On April 10, three representatives of the UOC met with the CEC delegation:  Metropolitan Augustine of Bila Tserkva, Archpriest Mykola Danylevich, and Prof. Sergii Bortnyk.  Draft Law 8371 was a major topic of discussion.  The UOC was one of the founding members of the All-Ukrainian Council, and Danylevych was also present at the meeting of the CEC delegation with the All-Ukrainian Council.  The article on the website of the CEC states that freedom of religion was discussed at this meeting.  From previous remarks by Danylevych about the lack of religious freedom in Ukraine with respect to the UOC, one can certainly assume that he expressed similar concerns on this topic at the Council's meeting with the CEC.  These comments may well have sounded a discordant note at the meeting, which may not have pleased the Ukrainian authorities.  As you may recall, a delegation of the All-Ukrainian Council visited the United States in October of last year.  On October 30, the delegation participated in a discussion at the United States Institute of Peace in Washington, DC.  As reported in my newsletter of November 7, 2023, the delegation strongly maintained that religious rights are not being violated in Ukraine.  There were no discordant notes from the Ukrainian delegation at the Washington meeting as the UOC had not been included in the delegation that came to the United States.

    Today, April 12, two days after the meetings by Danylevych with the CEC delegation, the Security Service of Ukrainian (SBU) made a startling announcement on its Telegram channel.   https://t.me/SBUkr/11701  The full text of the statement is as follows:

    The SBU informed about the suspicion of one of the leaders of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (MP), who called to pray for the Russian fascists in the war against Ukraine.  The cleric justified the Russian war against Ukraine and incited religious hatred.  After the full-scale invasion of the Russian Federation, the archpriest publicly called for cooperation with the Russian fascists in order to jointly "pray for the health and well-being" of the Russian occupiers.  He wrote about this in his own Telegram channel, which he repeatedly used to spread pro-Kremlin narratives.  According to operational data, the priest oversaw an extensive network of dioceses of the UOC (MP) abroad.  These institutions, under the guise of supposedly spiritual guardianship of Ukrainian immigrants, spread propaganda narratives of the Russian Federation.  In this way, the person involved tried to influence the consciousness of Ukrainians abroad and discredit our country in the international arena.
    Examinations initiated by the Security Service confirmed the facts of his informational and subversive activities against our state.  In addition, during searches of his place of residence, an insurance certificate of mandatory pension insurance of the Russian Federation was found, which indicates that he may have citizenship of the aggressor state. Documents confirming his studies at the diplomatic academy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation were also found.  Based on the collected evidence, the cleric was notified of suspicion under two articles of the Criminal Code of Ukraine:
         ▪️Part 2 of Art. 161 (violation of the equality of citizens depending on their racial, national, regional belonging, religious beliefs and on other grounds);
         ▪️Part 2 of Art. 436-2 (justification, recognition as legitimate, denial of armed aggression of the Russian Federation against Ukraine, glorification of its participants).
    Currently, the issue of selecting a preventive measure for him is being resolved. An investigation is ongoing to establish all the circumstances of the crime.  The perpetrator faces up to 5 years in prison with confiscation of property.

    The actions by the SBU included a search of Danylevych’s residence.  The quotation above states that “a preventative measure” is being resolved.  Undoubtedly, the preventative measure would mean, at the very least, no more trips outside of Ukraine to work with foreign parishes.  Most likely, it will involve remaining in Kyiv with a security bracelet.   The above quotation establishes that the SBU is relying on entries found on Danylevych’s Telegram channel.  I can very honestly say that I have personally read every entry by Danylevych on his Telegram channel since the Russian invasion.  I have frequently quoted from those entries in my newsletters.  Below are a few examples from my past newsletters:

    Newsletter of Feb. 24, 2022 – the day Ukraine invaded:  This morning, Father Mykola Danilevich, deputy head of the DECR of the UOC-MP, who often speaks on behalf of the UOC-MP, made on his Telegram channel a very strong statement which shows that the previous restraint is now gone.  https://t.me/s/MykolayDanylevych  He stated: “Putin treacherously attacked our country!  We bless everyone for the defense of Ukraine!  We pray and defend ourselves!   Church with the people!  God save Ukraine!  Later, he wrote: "Tell your parishioners that there are people in Italy who pray for you," said friends from the Community of Sant'Egidio of Rome.  Priests from Cyprus, Greece, Georgia, and other countries are also calling.  Coptic priest from Egypt.  Pleasant, even joyful, tears well up in my eyes.  Thank you!

    Newsletter of Feb. 27, 2022:  Quoting Napoleon, he [Mykola Danylevych] said:  “’Military forces are not enough to defend the country, while a country defended by the people is invincible.’  Today’s Ukraine.”   He also made a personal appeal: “Personal appeal to the sympathizers and believers of the OCU.  We are all in the same boat. [Here he refers to some negative comments with respect to the UOC-MP on the social media of the OCU, especially in the province of Volyn.]  Brothers and sisters!  Don't do that.  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.  We are all citizens of Ukraine, let us unite in defense of the state and put aside mutual claims.  True patriotism today is in unity and in helping the state.  Remember the words of Christ in the Gospel that "a house divided against itself cannot stand" (Matt. 12:25).   Please do not divide our common Ukrainian home.  Restrain emotions.  Just please.”   For anyone closely following the hostile stance of the UOC-MP toward the OCU over the past few years, the fact that one of the leading spokespersons of the UOC-MP would make a statement advocating uniting with the OCU in defense of the state and putting aside mutual claims is truly amazing.  Also amazing is his remark that “we will all rethink a lot.”

    Newsletter of Mar. 1, 2022:  “The perfidious open invasion of Ukraine is a huge mistake of Russia.  Perfidious, because we have heard earlier assurances from high-ranking Russian officials that ‘there is no invasion and it is not planned.’  In Ukraine, all the people stood up for the defense of the country, namely the country, and not personally for President V. Zelensky or his policies.  In fact, this is a Patriotic War.   War to defend the Fatherland.  And the Church did too.   Like in 1941.  It's a matter of principle.  After all, there is a fact of an open invasion of the territory of a sovereign country.  The defense of the country is the sacred duty of every citizen.  And our Beatitude clearly stated this in his statement on the first day of the war.  Today Russia is at war not with our government, but with the people.   That is how we perceive it.  This means that it is impossible for the aggressor to win such a war.   In addition, people did not hear from the Patriarch a clear assessment of this war and his call to stop this madness.  But people heard these words from His Beatitude Metropolitan Onufry.”

    Newsletter of Jan. 19, 2023:  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.  https://www.facebook.com/hovorun  Father Mykolay Danylevich, deputy head of the 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?”  https://t.me/s/MykolayDanylevych (entry of Dec. 3, 2022)

    Newsletter of Jan. 29, 2023:  Father Mykolay has also given a video interview which covered his Vatican visit.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QTTu6WyEASg   

    On January 29, the UOC posted an article describing another aspect of Father Mykolay Danylevych's trip to Italy.   https://news.church.ua/2023/01/29/nedilna-shkola-kijivskogo-xramu-v-imya-svt-spiridona-zdijsnila-palomnictvo-u-milan/  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.  https://spiridon.in.ua/    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.  https://www.pravmir.ru/protoierey-nikolay-danilevich-samoe-strashnoe-nenavist-mezhdu-hristianami/  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. 

    Newsletter of July 24, 2023:  One of the vicar bishops of Metropolitan Agafangel, Archbishop Viktor (Bykov) of Artsyz, has written what can only be described as a scathing attack on Patriarch Kirill and his Holy Synod.  I believe that it is significant that the deputy head of the DECR of the UOC, Father Mykola Danylevych, who often serves as a spokesperson for the entire UOC, has posted the full text of Archbishop Viktor’s letter on his Telegraph channel.  https://t.me/s/MykolayDanylevych  It is an indication that the strong feelings prompted by the missile attack are not limited to Odesa. 

    In my reading of every entry in Danylevych’s Telegram’s channel since the invasion, I have seen nothing which raises any question in my mind about his loyalty to Ukraine.  Danylevych has spoken out in defense of the UOC with respect to the transfer of UOC churches to the OCU and with respect to Draft Law 8371.  However, this is totally consistent with being loyal to Ukraine.

    Frankly, I read the statement by the SBU with amazement and disbelief.  I am left with certain questions in my mind.  The action by the SBU was taken just two days after the Danylevych, in a meeting with an important foreign delegation, expressed views that are inconsistent with the government’s position that there is complete freedom of religion in Ukraine.  The entries of Danylevych in his Telegram channel have been public knowledge for years.  Why did the SBU wait until two days after the meeting with the CEC to take action against Danylevych?  Were the actions by the SBU motivated in part by a desire to confine in Kyiv a priest who has been so successful in establishing UOC parishes abroad?  In my opinion, people should be concerned.

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA 

  • 8 April 2024: Kuraev reinstated & other news

    Although there is not yet an official announcement from the Phanar, it appears that Andrei Kuraev has been reinstated as a protodeacon by Ecumenical Patriarch Batholomew.  https://novayagazeta.eu/articles/2024/04/06/protodiakon-andrei-kuraev-soobshchil-chto-ego-vosstanovili-v-sane-vo-vselenskom-patriarkhate-news;   https://dveri.bg/component/com_content/Itemid,100724/catid,19/id,73212/view,article/   On his blog, Kuraev notes that the decree relating to him was dated April 3, 2024, and it was received by him via email on April 5, 2024.  https://diak-kuraev.livejournal.com/  He remarks about the coincidences of the dates.  Exactly 15 years earlier, on April 5, 2009, he was elevated to protodeacon by Patriarch Kirill in St. Isaac’s Cathedral in St. Petersburg.  Three years ago, on April 3, 2021, Patriarch Kirill signed a decree defrocking Kuraev (subject to a moratorium).  Kuraev writes in his blog, “Lord, do You really still need me, that you give such ‘coincidences’?”  The blog shows photos of Kuraev at the Basilica of St. Nicholas in Bari, Italy on April 6, 2024.  He immediately went there from Prague after receiving the email.  The caption for the photos reads:  “I went to thank St. Nicholas.”  On April 7, 2024, he visited the shrine of Saints Cosmas and Damian at Alberobello (55 km southeast of Bari).

    As you recall, the Ecumenical Patriarchate had previously reinstated two Moscow priests, Father Ioan Koval and Father Alexy Uminsky, who had been defrocked by the Moscow Patriarchate for modifying or omitting the Patriarch’s Pray for Holy Rus’.  Although Kuraev has been critical of Russia’s war in Ukraine, the decision from the Moscow Diocesan Church Court relating to his defrocking did not mention Ukraine.  http://moseparh.ru/reshenie-eparxialnogo-suda-g-moskvy-po-delu-50-54-2020.html (Dec. 29, 2020)  Rather, the decree was based on his alleged “slanderous” statements.  Anyone who reads Kuraev’s blog knows that he is not hesitant to make accusations.  In some of these accusations, he uses very harsh words.  At one time, Patriarch Kirill had a good relationship with Kuraev, a brilliant person who taught for many years at the Moscow Theological Academy.  Perhaps, because of the regard by Patriarch Kirill for Kuraev’s intellect, the Patriarch added a moratorium to his decree of April 3, 2021.  It provided:  “A moratorium is imposed upon the issuance of the decree for the time being, for Protodeacon Andrei to rethink his position and return to the path of the Church that he chose at one time.”  https://orthochristian.com/138452.html   After the lapse of more than two years, the Patriarch terminated the moratorium, and the defrocking decree went into effect.  https://orthochristian.com/153372.html 

    On his blog, Kuraev has expressed a few thoughts concerning the canonicity of the decree from Constantinople.  He remarked that while he was a member of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Synodal Biblical-Theological Commission from 2007 to 2013, he worked on the document, “The position of the Moscow Patriarchate on the problem of primacy in the Universal Church.”  (The document, approved by the Holy Synod in 2013, can be read at https://mospat.ru/en/news/51892/)  Kuraev states: “[T]his document poses too poor and harsh an alternative: either the full powers of government (jurisdiction), or a purely protocol ‘primacy of honor.’  The issue that has turned out to be so significant since 2018 - the question of the right to receive judicial appeals by Constantinople from other local churches – was not noticed.”

    On March 31, 2024, the day on which most non-Orthodox Christians celebrated Easter this year, the Ecumenical Patriarch delivered a homily at the Church of St. Theodore in the Vlanga community of Istanbul.  https://orthodoxtimes.com/ecumenical-patriarch-its-a-scandal-to-celebrate-separately-the-one-resurrection-of-the-one-lord/  The homily included the following statement:

    But also from this position we extend a heartfelt greeting of love to all Christians around the world who celebrate Holy Easter today.  We beseech the Lord of Glory that the forthcoming Easter celebration next year will not merely be a fortuitous occurrence, but rather the beginning of a unified date for its observance by both Eastern and Western Christianity.

    This aspiration is particularly significant in light of the upcoming 1700th anniversary in 2025, marking the convening of the First Ecumenical Council in Nicaea.  Among its pivotal discussions was the matter of establishing a common timeframe for the Easter festivities.  We are optimistic, as there is goodwill and willingness on both sides.  Because, indeed, it is a scandal to celebrate separately the unique event of the one Resurrection of the One Lord!

    Thus, the Ecumenical Patriarch asks Our Lord that the celebration of the Resurrection in 2025 will be the beginning of “a unified date for its observance by both Eastern and Western Christianity.”  He later adds: “We are optimistic, as there is goodwill and willingness on both sides.”   It is not surprising that the Ecumenical Patriarch is praying for a common date for Pascha.  However, the words in this homily could be interpreted to mean that the Ecumenical Patriarch is optimistic that there will be a common date for Pascha beginning next year.  Under the existing calendars, a common date for Easter/Pascha will in fact occur in 2025 (April 20).  However, to say that there will be a unified date for all years after 2025 is startling.  With the existing tensions in the Orthodox world, it is extremely unlikely that there could be a pan-Orthodox agreement in the next few years on moving the Pascha date.  The only way of having a common Easter date in the near future is for the non-Orthodox churches to accept the Orthodox date.  Before the adoption of the Gregorian calendar in 1582, both the East and the West celebrated Easter/Pascha on the same day, because both used the Julian calendar and the Paschalion to calculate the feast of the Resurrection.   Thus, if Catholics used the Orthodox date, it would not be something new, but rather a reversion to the practice that the Catholic Church had for approximately one thousand years.  Of course accepting the Orthodox method would mean living with a calculation which is now not astronomically correct.

    In Kinshasa DRC on March 31, Patriarch Theodoros of Alexandria ordained as a bishop another native African.    The new native bishop is Archimandrite Athanasios Kayebe, who becomes Bishop Athanasios of Benin and Togo.  https://www.orthodoxianewsagency.gr/patriarxeia/patriarxio_aleksandrias/h-xeirotonia-tou-episkopou-mpeni-athanasiou-stin-kinsasa-tis-kentrikis-afrikis/  This ordination is the latest in what appears to be a trend in the Patriarchate of Alexandria to increase the number of native African bishops.  As far as I can determine, aside from this new bishop, the following are the existing native African bishops in the Patriarchate:  Metropolitan Jeronymos of Kampala (Uganda);  Metropolitan Chariton of Kananga (DRC);  Bishop Neophytos of Eldoret and Northen Kenya  (Kenya); Bishop Sylvester of Jinja and Eastern Uganda (Uganda); Bishop Nektarios of Gulu and Northern Uganda (Uganda); Bishop Panaretos of Nieri and Mount Kenya (Kenya).   Metropolitan Innokentius of Burundi and Rwanda retired last February for health reasons. 

    In contrast, the Moscow Patriarchate’s Exarchate of Africa does not yet have any native African bishops.  This is not surprising as it takes time for a native African priest to learn Russian, to obtain experience in monastic life, and to receive further theological training.  The Moscow Patriarchate is taking steps to accomplish this.  However, the present situation is that the two dioceses formed by the Moscow Patriarchate in Africa still do not have bishops.   The Moscow Patriarchate’s only bishop for Africa is the Patriarchal Exarch of Africa, Metropolitan Konstantin of Zaraisk (he became a metropolitan on March 24), who is a native Russian.  Metropolitan Konstantin has now made trips to Tanzania, Cairo, and South Africa.  However, for a majority of the time, he seems to be in Moscow.  His trip to South Africa in January was the first time that he had ever been to Africa.   The fact that Alexandria is now ahead of Moscow with respect to native African bishops may be helpful for Alexandria in the competition for priests in Africa.

    There is a very interesting interview of Archpriest Volodymyr Melnychuk, a Ukrainian who is the rector of an Orthodox parish, now under the Ecumenical Patriarchate, in Udine, Italy.  https://glavcom.ua/interviews/poljuvannja-za-virjanami-abo-nejmovirni-prihodi-moskovskikh-svjashchennikiv-v-italiji-994307.html  He describes the dynamics of Orthodox churches in Italy that are composed of different national groups.  He also discusses the parishes of the UOC in Italy.  According to Father Volodymyr, the “UOC parishes in Italy are the result of the efforts of almost one person - Father Mykola Danylevich.”  At first, after the invasion of Ukraine, there was a reluctance of the Catholic Church in Italy to allow the UOC to use its churches.  However, through the work of Father Mykola, the Italian Catholic Bishops’ Conference gave permission.  The interview also contains many other interesting observations.

    In other news, the Holy Synod of the Estonian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate on April 2 issued a message including the statement:  “We do not accept the final document of this [Russian People’s] Council, as it does not correspond, in our opinion, to the spirit of the Gospel teaching.”  Among the signatories are the four bishops of the Estonian Orthodox Church (MP), including Metropolitan Eugene.  As you recall, Metropolitan Eugene was required to leave Estonia on February 6 when his temporary residence permit expired.  The official English translation of the message is found at https://ru.orthodox.ee/messages/mpeok-sinodi-lakitus-poslanie-sinoda-epcz-mp/.  On April 3, the Grand Chamber of the Supreme Court in Ukraine issued an important decision relating to the rights of the courts to be involved in the transition of churches from the UOC to the OCU.  https://www.facebook.com/supremecourt.ua/posts/834806852020540/  It appears that the full text of the decision has not yet been made public.  However Metropolitan Yevstratiy (Zoria), the spokesperson of the OCU, has stated on his Facebook page that the decision is “important good news.”  https://www.facebook.com/yevstr?eid=ARAYsOzu1tE3zMtyOrmwuPZ951FrKLNM_N1G4hvjz_yFe20WpAIFoISI-Mk8IA48zdwr5DsM5Bmc9DAW  According to him, the decision decides such issues as: “whether the rights of the former incumbent are violated by the transition decision; how membership in a religious community is defined; how a quorum is determined at general meetings of members of the religious community.”  With respect to Draft Law 8371, a date has not yet been set by the Ukrainian Rada for a vote on the "second reading."

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 6 April 2024: Orthodox Church life in wartime Ukraine - a required reading

    Professor Volodymyr Burega has given an excellent interview to the Bulgarian website "Christianity and Culture,"  published by the Communitas Foundation in Sofia.  The Foundation is described at  https://www.communitas-bg.org/en/.  The title of the interview is "Difficult Dialogue in Wartime:  An Inside Look at Church Life in Ukraine."   https://www.hkultura.com/article/3050-trudniyat-dialog-po-vreme-na-voina-pogled-otvytre-kym-cyrkovniya-zhivot-v-ukraina?fbclid=IwAR0svdzVJHzqDrXjK6hg71r35GpGwjpzU_1SJ6fhaJjWJiP6QMjH4tpQH08_aem_Abm2_WzwBGDwwLMSbikHuUwjh60nKHarlyHaNws12e0WmzJwbMWpI-CSCe-QA2YFHQEXmgQD9cvdidwDCvah3xty   Burega is the vice-rector of the Kyiv Theological Academy and Seminary of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC).  

    I first read an article by Burega in 2019, and I was very impressed by it.  However, in reading his latest interview, I am even more impressed.  I can honestly say that this latest interview is the best description of the present state of the UOC that I have read.  Of course, it is written by an insider.  I am particularly impressed by Burega's objectivity and candor.  In the present "information war" now being conducted in Russia and Ukraine, articles tend to be very one-sided and to paint a picture in black and white.  Although Burega holds a responsible position with the UOC, he is not reluctant to point out the problems that the UOC has created for itself, while at the same time describing the complexity of the situation involving the UOC and the inappropriateness of referring to it as the Moscow church.  He also discusses the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU) and describes how the OCU has disappointed expectations.  On the other hand, he describes the "cruel repression" against the OCU in the occupied territories.  He also mentions his bitterness that respected and educated Orthodox priests in Russian "become full apologists for every decision handed down from above."

    Because I believe that a reading of this interview is so important for a good understanding of the current religious situation in Ukraine, I have pasted below a Google translation of the full text which is in Bulgarian.

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

     

    The tomos for autocephaly of the OCU was perceived by many as an opportunity to build a new church structure that would embody in action the principles of collegiality and Christocentricity.  A few months later, lay people and priests from the newly created Local Church raised 10 theses, among which there were calls for openness and dialogue, rejection of the "symphony" between Church and State and building relations with civil society, internal mission and evangelization, etc. .  To what extent have these expectations and hopes been fulfilled?

    The 2019 issuance of the Tomos for autocephaly was greeted in Ukraine with great enthusiasm, and the expectation was that the new Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU), as a young church unconnected to a previous tradition, would have the opportunity to build itself differently.  To build the way it wants to be.  Therefore, at the beginning, the Tomos was perceived in Ukraine as a great chance for OCU.  Many laymen and priests who joined the OCU had expectations for a large-scale church reform that would reflect on church governance, church life and worship, the dialogue between the Church and society, and theological education.  These expectations were reflected in the so-called "10 theses" for the OCU announced in January 2019 and made public by the OCU.  [https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1IMGiOtHRk68Qv9lOruhwq78PXsDvzVvzE4QDquTVfsg/viewform?edit_requested=true&pli=1]   I myself do not belong to the OCU, so my point of view is that of an observer, but it seems to me that today it can be safely said that these hopes were not justified.  If one looks at the "10 theses" of the OCU published at the time, it will be seen that none of them were fulfilled in full.  In addition, I think that some of these theses contradict the current situation of the OCU, one of them, for example, condemns the "symphony" and talks about the need to create a new model of church-state relations.  But we see that this is not happening, and although the Church is officially separated from the state, today the OCU actively relies on state support. Therefore, I think that the expected positive internal development in the OCU after receiving autocephaly almost did not happen.  Unfortunately, in my opinion, the OCU suffers from too many of the traditional diseases of Orthodoxy that it has never been able to overcome.  I'm not just talking about the symphony, but other things as well.  At least that's my feeling.

    And does the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) manage to discover its identity after the local council of May 2022, at which it announced its separation from the Moscow Patriarchate, but without using the uncomfortable term "autocephaly"?  Does it manage to win the support of the Ukrainian society and what kind of trust does she enjoy?

    After the start of the war, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC), which was previously part of the Moscow Patriarchate, made serious changes to its statutes. This happened at a Council on May 27, 2022.  After that date, the UOC is no longer considered part of the Moscow Patriarchate, without, however, then declaring autocephaly.  I will say right away that, in my opinion, the UOC deliberately refused to proclaim autocephaly in order not to come into conflict with other Local Churches, because if it had declared autocephaly, it can be confidently predicted that it would not have been recognized by any Local Church, and this would lead to a rupture in the relations between the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and the other Local Churches. Therefore, the leadership of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church limited itself to saying that it is "completely self-governing and independent", without using the word "autocephaly".  Indeed, this gave rise to a serious problem with its identity, because today its status is neither autocephaly nor autonomy, and the term used is not traditional in canon law, because no such term exists there.  I will immediately add that the term "autocephaly" also does not exist in the decrees of the ecumenical councils, i.e. the term "autocephaly" is also not clearly defined in the canons of the Church.  We take it the way it was defined in the 19th and 20th centuries, i.e. and this term as a principle is a new phenomenon. But this is another, big problem, which we will not discuss now.

    Inside the UOC, in my opinion, one cannot speak of a single identity.   More precisely, in the UOC there are different groups that interpret the decisions of the Council of May 27, 2022 in different ways. There is a group of those who believe that the connection with the Moscow Patriarchate was not completely severed, and even in Kyiv there are monasteries and temples, which continue to mention Patriarch Kirill in the Liturgy.  There is also the group that believes that these decisions have led to a complete severance of ties and that the UOC is de facto autocephalous, although it does not use that term.

    There are also a large number of priests and laymen who are simply confused, who do not understand what the status of our Church is, whether we are with Moscow or no longer with Moscow.  The main problem, in my opinion, is that after the adoption by the Council of the new Statute, the leadership of the UOC did not publish any clarifications on this matter.  The leadership of the Church did not even officially publish the new statute, it was published only on the website of the State Service of Ukraine for Ethnic Policy and Freedom of Conscience. The statute is published by the state because by law it is filed for information in the relevant state office.  So the Church itself did not even publish the statutes, did not make the relevant clarifications, that is why even today different people interpret these decisions in different ways. This is the problem, that is why it is difficult to talk about a single identity.  Such decisions allow people with a pro-Moscow identity, people with a Ukrainian identity, those who support the idea of autocephaly, but also those who are against, to coexist within the UOC.  Both groups find confirmation of their views in the Council's decisions. I believe that this represents a weakness of the conciliar decision, because today the UOC is to some extent divided. On the other hand, with these decisions, management has determined the direction in which we are moving. The direction is towards complete independence. But today the priests do not see a clear plan and do not understand how we should behave now, how to position ourselves in the dialogue with the state.

    Understandably, this also creates a problem in relations with society.  Because it was not clearly said that we were on the path to autocephaly - the term used in the document was "disengagement" ("otmeživanie") from the MP, not even "rupture", but the mildest possible term.  Ukrainian society, which today is radically opposed to Russia and Moscow, generally reacted negatively to these decisions.  The UOC failed to give the public a clear sign of a break with Moscow, the softest possible expressions were used, which are not sufficient in a time of war.  This conflict with society exists, and if we follow the Ukrainian media, a generally negative attitude towards the UOC prevails in them.  Usually, the Council's decisions are interpreted in the sense that the leadership of the UOC is afraid of a conflict with Moscow and therefore adopts the softest possible decisions, and hopes that way it will be able to preserve its obedience or its ties with Patriarch Kirill; that there is some secret connection with Moscow, even if it is not declared.  Although today it has no relations with Moscow, and the UOC does not implement any decrees of the Moscow Synod, the public remains suspicious of the UOC.  So the relationship between the UOC and public opinion remains strained.

    Is there an alternative or a way out of this situation where society is much more radical than the church leadership?

    That part of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which advocates complete independence from Moscow, for autocephaly, outlines an alternative plan.  It consists of the UOC first restoring relations with the Patriarchate of Constantinople, which are now severed, and restoring Eucharistic communion with Constantinople.  Second, to send a delegation to Constantinople and start negotiations for the regulation of the status of the UOC, and at the same time, inside Ukraine, the UOC should also start negotiations with the OCU.  These steps would be comprehensible to society, and thus the rift with Constantinople could be overcome.  Of course, it is clear that these steps will provoke a sharp response from Moscow in the form of an ecclesiastical court, bans or even excommunication.  It seems to me that the bishops do not want to take this path because they fear severe sanctions from the Moscow Patriarchate.  More radical priests insist that these measures should not be heeded because the Moscow Patriarchate is increasingly losing its legitimacy.

    As far as I understand, the leadership of the UOC adheres to the opinion that the maximum of what can be done has already been done.  This is the maximum in the situation of war, and the decision should be postponed until peacetime.  This is the position of the leadership, but underneath there is a radical party of the clergy, which exerts pressure, but for now cannot change the situation.

    How active is the process of transition of Orthodox parishes from the jurisdiction of the UOC to the OCU?  Is it a movement "from below" among believers, or rather a movement "from above"?  Is this process voluntary and free, or are there cases of violent acts?  What is the state of religious freedom in Ukrainian society after two years of hostilities?

    I think that after the issuance of the Tomos for autocephaly of the OCU, a part of the UOC priests quite sincerely switched to the OCU.  I know such priests who, together with their parishes, quite sincerely and freely made a decision to join the newly created autocephalous church.  Their expectations at the time were that it would be a younger, open and dynamic church, so they switched to OCU quite sincerely.  In addition, after 2019 there were conflicts in some places, in many parishes there were internal schisms, some of the laity supported the transition to the new church, others were against it. These conflicts mostly concern parishes in villages, not cities.  Because there is usually one temple in the villages, the whole village goes there, and when opinions are divided in the village, it means a fight for the temple.  There is no such problem in the cities, because there are many temples in the cities, and if a person does not want to go to church in one jurisdiction, he can go to another.  In the villages, however, this leads to division, it has led to conflicts, in some cases to violent actions, illegal decisions to change jurisdiction.  Before the war, there were more than 250 lawsuits over the status of individual temples, and the situation in many places was uncertain.  According to the statistics of the OCU before the war, there were about 600–700 temples that passed from the UOC to the OCU.  The UOC does not accept this statistic and cites the number of trials.

    After the start of the war, the sentiments in society became much more radical, then there were cases of forceful seizure of temples, and videos appeared on the Internet. There were such serious cases in Ivano-Frankivsk, then in Cherkasy, in Khmelnytskyi, in this way the cathedral was taken over.  And this led to a change of mood in the UOC.  If in 2022 the priests of our Church spoke about the need for dialogue with the OCU, then in 2023 the idea of dialogue became less popular, more and more people began to say that dialogue with the OCU is impossible, because they tend to use violence. Therefore, in 2023, the situation in the relations between the UOC and the OCU deteriorated. Today, the leaders of both churches do not see dialogue as a priority task.  I think that anyone who has wanted to voluntarily transfer by this point has already done so. That is why it seems to me that today there are no longer any prerequisites for a mass transfer of parishes.  Especially since in some regions of Ukraine, there are cases of violence on a religious basis.  That is why today there is no constructive dialogue between the UOC and the OCU.

    Let me clarify something that seems important to me. In the media, the UOC is usually presented as the pro-Russian church in Ukraine, while I understand from your words that this is not entirely correct.  Apparently, there is also some tolerance on the part of the state towards the UOC.  The situation appears to be much more complicated than is usually presented.

    It is true that today the opinion has been established in Ukrainian society that the UOC is a pro-Moscow force that should not be present in Ukraine. The cliché pro-Moscow church has very visibly stuck to the UOC, although in fact, if you look at the facts, this statement is problematic, because Metropolitan Onufry condemned the Russian aggression on the very first day of the war and has repeatedly made such statements. But as I said, the UOC has never been uniform because, on the one hand, we are witnessing the condemnation of aggression by Metropolitan Onufry, but on the other hand, we also see trials against UOC priests who directly declared support for the aggression.  Just a few days ago, it was reported that a priest from the Dnipropetrovsk diocese was sentenced to 5 years in prison for supporting aggression.

    In individual dioceses, the sentiments among priests are very different, and they can hardly be brought under a common denominator. That is why the society accepts with indignation any news about a priest who has been arrested, and the court has condemned him for cooperation with the Russian authorities.  We know that several UOC bishops who found themselves in the temporarily occupied territories collaborated directly with the occupation authorities.  Such was the case of Metropolitan Eliseus from Izyum, who fled to Russia with the Russian troops after the liberation of Izyum.

    The problem lies in the fact that the leadership of the UOC never condemned the collaborationists outright. There is no decision that not only expresses support for the integrity of Ukraine, but also clearly condemns cooperation with the Russian occupation authorities. The UOC Synod nowhere directly condemned the cases of collaboration, and the radicalized Ukrainian society immediately interpreted it to mean that this was hardly supported.  That is why the struggle against the UOC is perceived as a legitimate struggle with those who may turn out to be potential collaborators.  And the UOC, for its part, gets confused in its internal heterogeneity and refrains from condemning the obvious cases of collaboration...

    What is the situation in the occupied territories?  At first glance, the old principle from the time of the Reformation and the Counter-Reformation prevailed in the Orthodox Church - who is in power, his is the faith.  The episcopate and clergy from almost all territories occupied by Russia are now part of the ROC-MP, including the three dioceses of the Crimean Peninsula, which even after 2014 formally remained part of the UOC.

    After the Council of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which declared that it was severing relations with the Moscow Patriarchate, probably already in June 2022, the principle decision was made in Moscow that all dioceses in the occupied territories should pass under direct subordination to the Patriarch. On May 27, 2022, the Council was held in Kyiv, and already on June 7, 10 days later, the first decision was made, with which the three dioceses in Crimea passed to the direct subordination of Patriarch Kirill, and the Crimean Metropolis was immediately established as part of the Moscow Patriarchate. Thus a sign was given of what Moscow's response to the Kyiv Council would be.

    This was most easily accomplished in the Crimea.  As far as we can judge from the media reports, it was assumed that this would also happen to the dioceses of Donetsk and Luhansk regions.  But at least as far as I know, the Donetsk bishop, Hilarion, has refused such a step.  He attended the Council of the UOC on May 27 remotely, and there he stated that the Donetsk Diocese will not leave the UOC and wants to remain part of the Church, although he cannot agree with the decisions made.  As far as I know, he has refused to go under the direct subordination of the patriarch, arguing that part of the territories of his diocese are controlled by Ukraine. There is another diocese there, the Horliv Diocese, which also follows the example of the Donetsk Metropolitan.  That's why I don't think that a transition to the Moscow Patriarchate is being prepared there.

    The Diocese of Luhansk behaves in the same way. The only diocese in the region that has said it wants to switch to Moscow is the Rovenkiv Diocese in the Luhansk Region, which, like Crimea, passed to the patriarch directly in 2022.  All other dioceses in Donetsk and Luhansk Regions have not turned to the patriarch with such a request.  But they were forced to re-register under Russian legislation.  Thus, they remain part of the UOC, but they are legally registered under Russian legislation, because without this registration they cannot have any activity, bank account, etc.   Even on the website of the Moscow Patriarchate they are listed as part of the UOC.  There are reports in the Ukrainian media that these bishops are resisting pressure and refusing to go over to the Moscow Patriarchate, so my impression is that the situation on the ground is tense, they are under pressure.

    There are also priests who served in the occupied territories and managed to escape, who talk about the very heavy pressure exerted on the people and on the diocese.  We also have the case in the Berdyansk Diocese, where the bishop went abroad, and when he left, a new ruler was immediately appointed from Moscow.  It can be assumed that there was pressure on him and that is why he left the diocese, publicly he himself did not talk about it, officially he left for health reasons.  But it is obvious that there is pressure, and it is strong.

    It should be added here that the priests of the OCU, who found themselves in the occupied territories, were subjected to cruel repression. There are known cases of priests who were arrested and sent to prison.  Not long ago, the even more terrible news was received that on February 13, 2024, in the occupied Kherson Region, Archpriest Stephan Podolchak, who was a cleric of the OCU, was shot. Therefore, there is no question of any freedom of religion in the territories occupied by Russia.

    Recently, OCU switched to the New Julian calendar. How is this change received in church circles and in Ukrainian society?  Is there a danger of a new dividing line, already because of the calendar issue, such examples as we have seen in other Local Churches, including the Bulgarian one.

    This transition was an expected event, it had been talked about for several years, and even before the start of the war, Christmas both old and new style were holidays.  Thus, not only the Roman Catholics, but also the state accepted that both dates should be holidays.  So society got used to having two Christmases in our country. There were also attempts in some Orthodox municipalities to celebrate Christmas on December 25.  Last year, the Greek Catholics and the Orthodox Church in Ukraine made an almost simultaneous decision to switch to the new calendar.  As far as I understand, the situation with the Greek Catholics is specific, because in Ukraine there is the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC), but there is also the Mukachevo Diocese, which is Greek Catholic and is located in Transcarpathia, but which is not part of the UGCC, but is directly subordinated to Rome. This year, the Mukachevo Diocese announced its transition to the Western Easter, i.e. they fully adopted the Gregorian calendar.  This caused some tension among the rest of the Greek Catholics, because it turned out that this year the Greek Catholics will not celebrate Easter together, but on different days, which caused some misunderstanding on the part of the Greek Catholics in Lviv, for example.

    But the important thing is that this process started even before the war, and society accepts it as another marker of separation from Moscow.  This is not just a ecclesiastical matter, but a matter of civil choice.  The public mood in Ukraine is that with the adoption of the new calendar, we are returning to the family of European nations and abandoning the tradition imposed by Russia.

    I don't see any reasons for internal problems in OCU, nor do I see any dissatisfaction with the transition to the new calendar.  There are specific parishes that would probably like to continue serving in the old style, I don't know how many there are, but according to the leadership of the OCU, they are very few.  According to my observations, the parishes from the UOC that switched to the OCU have a more conservative attitude, but I don't know what the sentiments are among them.

    The danger I see is that the old style will become a new marker of the UOC's identity and thus this issue will become a new dividing line.  This will further limit the possibilities for dialogue.

    And on a household level, I can say, at least in the eastern part of Ukraine, there are many people who preserve the tradition of celebrating in the old style, because Christmas, among other things, is also tradition, folk customs and rites.

    I am sure that you follow the developments in the Russian Orthodox Church as well, we see what happened to Fr. Alexey Uminsky, the transformation of the Moscow Patriarchate into a bearer of the regime's ideology.  How do you explain and evaluate the events in the Russian Church?

    It seems to me that very serious changes are taking place in the Russian Orthodox Church now, which I don't even know how to describe.  It is commonly said that Patriarch Kirill has adopted an authoritarian approach, does not allow any dissent, and any statement, even the most careful, that does not coincide with the general line, is punished. The case of Fr. Alexey Uminsky, Fr. Ioan Koval, formerly of Fr. Joan Burdin - they are the tip of the iceberg.  In some dioceses in Russia, there are cases of other priests who have been removed from ministry, but these cases are not so much talked about in the public space.

    What amazes me, my deep inner bitterness, is due to how priests who are part of the Moscow Church Court, among whom there are respected priests who know canon law, how they become full apologists for every decision handed down from above.  It gives the impression that every task assigned by the patriarchate is immediately carried out by the ecclesiastical court.  There are many literate and educated priests in the ROC.  I am therefore now struck that I do not see below any disagreement with this course, on the contrary, I see a complete agreement which leads to the automaticity of the decisions of the ecclesiastical court on perfectly fictitious charges.  For me, the problem is not that there is one person at the top who has become authoritarian, but that there is an infrastructure below that is ready to condemn priests.  There is an apparatus at the top that feels completely confident, has the ability to adopt and impose repressive measures without fear of a reaction from below.  For me, this is the scariest symptom, because it means that the disease is deeper.  I am surprised by this.  Because I remember another Russian church that was much more adequate for the intellectual elite. Unfortunately, today inside the Russian Church we do not see a force to oppose what is happening.

  • 29 March 2024: Russian World and the UOC & other news

    On March 27, 2024, the World Russian People’s Council (“Council”) held an extraordinary congress in the Hall of Church Councils of the Cathedral  of Christ the Savior in Moscow.  The congress was held under the chairmanship of Patriarch Kirill, who is also the head of the Council.   https://vrns.ru/news/pod-predsedatelstvom-svyateyshego-patriarkha-kirilla-sostoyalsya-vneocherednoy-sobornyy-sezd-vsemirn/    The Council was created in May 1993 and was the idea of the then Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk, the chairman of the Department of External Church Relations (DECR) of the Moscow Patriarchate.  On the day that Kirill was installed as patriarch in 2009, he also became the head of the Council.   https://vrns.ru/o-vrns.php  At the extraordinary congress on March 27, the Patriarch gave the keynote address.  The full text of the Patriarch’s address can be read at http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/6116021.html.  Patriarch said almost nothing about Ukraine, but did refer to the document which the Council has now produced.  He also said that it is impossible to consider the crime [the Crocus City Hall tragedy] that occurred in isolation, outside the general context of current military events…..”

    The extraordinary congress produced a document entitled, “The Present and Future of the Russian World.”  The complete text of the document can be read at http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/6116189.html .  The document is divided into eight sections.  The first section is devoted to the “special military operation” and states:

    The special military operation is a new stage in the national liberation struggle of the Russian people against the criminal Kyiv regime and the collective West behind it, waged on the lands of Southwestern Rus' since 2014.  During the SVO [special military operation], the Russian people, with arms in hand, defend their lives, freedom, statehood, civilizational, religious, national and cultural identity, as well as the right to live on their own land within the borders of a single Russian state.  From a spiritual and moral point of view, a special military operation is a Holy War, in which Russia and its people, defending the single spiritual space of Holy Rus', fulfill the mission of “Holding”, protecting the world from the onslaught of globalism and the victory of the West, which has fallen into Satanism.

    After the completion of the Northeast Military District, the entire territory of modern Ukraine should enter the zone of exclusive influence of Russia.  The possibility of the existence in this territory of a Russophobic political regime hostile to Russia and its people, as well as a political regime controlled from an external center hostile to Russia, must be completely excluded.

    The second section relates to the “Russian world.”  It includes the following paragraph:  The highest meaning of the existence of Russia and the Russian world it created - their spiritual mission - is to be the global “Holder”, protecting the world from evil.  The historical mission is to over and over again destroy attempts to establish universal hegemony in the world - attempts to subjugate humanity to a single evil principle.  The third section relates to foreign policy.  A part of this section provides: The reunification of the Russian people should become one of the priorities of Russian foreign policy.  Russia should return to the doctrine of the trinity of the Russian people, which has existed for more than three centuries, according to which the Russian people consist of Great Russians, Little Russians and Belarusians, who are branches (sub-ethnicities) of one people, and the concept “Russian” covers all the Eastern Slavs - the descendants of historical Rus'.  The other sections of the document cover family and demographic policy, migration policy, education and upbringing, spatial and urban developments, and economic development.

    The next day, March 28, the website of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) issued a statement that had been prepared by its DECR.  The full text is at https://news.church.ua/2024/03/28/zakliki-znishhennya-ukrajini-ta-vipravdannya-vijskovoji-agresiji-nespivstavni-z-jevangelskim-vchennyam-zayava-vzcz-upc/#2024-03-28  The statement in ten numbered paragraphs strongly attacks the Council’s document.  The UOC statement concludes:  Summing up, we state that the mentioned text contains an apology for violence, a justification of violations of spiritual and moral and evangelical principles, which threatens the Ukrainian identity and sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.  We believe that the ideas discussed from the above mentioned document cannot be supported by a religious organization that claims to be called Christian.  

    The Wall Street Journal, one the leading US newspapers, has run a long opinion article relating to the situation of the UOC in Ukraine.   https://www.wsj.com/articles/is-religious-liberty-under-attack-in-ukraine-russia-war-82b1f198?st=e4r9l2rixsc3f1s&reflink=desktopwebshare_permalink  The article describes the UOC as a church “controlled by Russia” and concludes that the actions of the Ukrainian government, including Draft Law 8371, do not violate freedom of religion.   However, the article failed to provide any evidence that the UOC has in fact been controlled by Russia or the Moscow Patriarchate since the Local Council of the UOC held in May 2022.  I even wrote an email to the author asking for the factual basis for her “controlled” statement and have not received an answer.  I personally believe that the UOC, like the OCU, can be criticized for many things.  However, if one looks at the actual proof, there is nothing that merits the penalty of “capital punishment” (banning and the confiscation of all property) mandated by Draft Law 8371.  Aside from the lack of evidence of any control from Russia since May 2022, there are a number of statements from the UOC, such as the one above, which are inconsistent with any attempt to portray the UOC as a Russian puppet following May 2022.

    In Bulgaria, the Holy Synod on March 19 set the dates for the election of a new patriarch.  On June 2 all of the dioceses will hold elections to select their representatives on the Patriarchal Electoral Church Council.  On June 20, the Holy Synod will meet and will select, by secret ballot and a two-thirds majority vote,  a “shortlist” of three metropolitans from the list of metropolitans who meet the eligibility requirements for patriarch.  On June 30 the Patriarchal Electoral Church Council will meet and will select the new patriarch from the “shortlist” of three metropolitans.  https://sofiaglobe.com/2024/03/19/bulgarian-orthodox-church-to-elect-new-patriarch-on-june-30/  There were nine metropolitans who met the eligibility requirement for patriarch.  However, in an unexpected development, Metropolitan Nikolai of Plovdiv, who was considered one of the top contenders, announced that he “will not accept to be included as a candidate for the Patriarchal Throne.”  https://orthodoxtimes.com/metropolitan-of-plovdiv-declines-candidacy-for-bulgarian-patriarchal-throne/  Accordingly, there are now eight contenders.

    At the meeting on March 19, the Holy Synod also elected Metropolitan Grigorii of Vratsa, by a unanimous vote, to head the Holy Synod and the Sofia metropolis during the time period prior to the election of a new patriarch.  https://orthodoxtimes.com/holy-synod-of-bulgarian-church-elects-metropolitan-of-vratsa-as-vice-president/  Metropolitan Grigorii, age 53, is a graduate of the Theological Faculty of the University of Athens.   https://bg.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D0%93%D1%80%D0%B8%D0%B3%D0%BE%D1%80%D0%B8%D0%B9_%D0%92%D1%80%D0%B0%D1%87%D0%B0%D0%BD%D1%81%D0%BA%D0%B8  Presumably he knows Greek.  Perhaps for that reason, he represented the Bulgarian Patriarchate at such events as the enthronement of Archbishop George of Cyprus and the celebration in Athens of 100th anniversary of the journal Theologia.  The fact that Grigorii was elected unanimously indicates, in my opinion, that this temporary position is not considered by the members of the Synod as an important stepping stone in becoming patriarch in June.

    On March 19 the Holy Synod also determined the dates for the selection of a new metropolitan for the diocese of Sliven.  On May 19 the Sliven Diocesan Electoral Council (42 voters from seven districts – six voters per district) will elect a “shortlist” of two candidates, and on May 26, the Holy Synod will select one of the two to be the new Metropolitan of Sliven.  Sliven is an important diocese and borders on the Black Sea.  The Sliven diocese has been very much in the news recently because this will be the second time that the Sliven Diocesan Electoral Council  has met to elect a “shortlist” of two candidates.  The first election by the Diocesan Electoral Council, consisting of both clergy and laypersons, was held on February 18, 2024.  In order to be one of the bishops on the shortlist, a candidate must receive a majority of the votes from the Electoral Council.  In the first round of the February vote, Bishop Herotei (vicar of Sliven) received 26 votes, Bishop Arseniy (vicar of Plovdiv) 17, and Bishop Michael (vicar of Lovech) 11.  Having received a majority vote, Herotei became one of the two members on the shortlist, and then a second round of voting was held in order to select the second member of the shortlist.  In the second round of voting, Michael received 22 while Arseniy kept his original 17 votes.  Thus, it appeared that the Synod would choose between Herotei and Michael.  

    After the election of the two finalists by the Diocesan Electoral Council, two complaints were filed with the Holy Synod by a Sliven priest, Father Evgeniy Yanakiev.   https://boulevardbulgaria.bg/articles/kasiraniyat-izbor-za-slivenski-mitropolit-koy-koy-e-v-bitkata-na-lobitata-v-bpts  On February 24, the Holy Synod met and decided to void the election held on February 18.  The Synod also adopted a “regulation” by a vote of 9 to 3.  The nature of the regulation was not specified on the Patriarchate’s website.  https://dveri.bg/component/com_content/Itemid,100723/catid,14/id,73051/view,article/   It appears that the regulation provides that only metropolitans would select a new metropolitan and that this would be done without the involvement of a diocesan electoral council.  https://dveri.bg/component/com_content/Itemid,100723/catid,14/id,73052/view,article/;  https://dveri.bg/images/Kosio/Predlozhenie_za_priemane_na_Sinodalna_naredba_otnosno_izbiraneto_na_eparhiyski_mitropoliti.pdf (photocopy of the actual 3-page regulation).  This was contrary to the charter of the Bulgarian Patriarchate, and it caused a great public outcry.    On  March 12, the Synod met again.  It was decided that the first election would be void, but that the new election would be held in accordance with the terms of the charter.   However, before the election there will be a complete financial audit including the property of the Sliven diocese and a verification of the list of delegates.

    What was behind this bizarre behavior by the Holy Synod?  To me, it is not entirely clear.  One contention is that the voters were improperly influenced between the first and second rounds of voting.  Supposedly, those who voted for Herotei in the first round were influenced to vote for Michael in the second round – not because he was the best candidate in the second-round race between Michael and Arseniy, but rather because it was clear that the Synod would never select Michael.  With the final two candidates being Herotei and Michael, it would be certain that Herotei would be the next metropolitan of Sliven.  This scheme in effect denied the Synod a meaningful choice and allowed the electoral council to determine who the  successful candidate will be.  In a reaction to this scheme, the Holy Synod adopted the regulation giving it the sole power to determine a new metropolitan.  In addition to this scheme, there were contentions of outside influences who were interested in the valuable property owned by the diocese near the Black Sea.  The election of a new metropolitan of Sliven in May is now especially important because the new metropolitan will be able to vote for the new patriarch in June.

    In other news, the Synodal Biblical-Theological Commission of the Moscow Patriarchate has now posted its full written document criticizing the Vatican’s declaration "Fiducia supplicans."   The entire document written by the Commission can be read at http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/6115422.html.  A complete list of all representatives from other churches attending the funeral services of Patriarch Neophyte is found at http://www.plovdivskamitropolia.bg/index.php.  Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew presided at the funeral service following the Liturgy at which only Bulgarian hierarchs served.  The full text of the address by the Ecumenical Patriarch is found at  https://orthodoxtimes.com/address-by-ecumenical-patriarch-at-the-funeral-service-for-patriarch-neophyte/  Russian Presidential Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov had been asked about reports by some Internet sites that Pope Francis has been invited to visit Moscow this summer.  Although Peskov could have simply denied these reports, he stated:  “We cannot comment at all yet.”  https://ria.ru/20240320/priglashenie-1934445865.html 

    For those of you celebrating Easter this Sunday, I wish all of you a very blessed and joyful feast of the Resurrection of Our Lord!   

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 27 March 2024: Fiducia supplicans - full text of critique by Moscow Theological Commission

    The full text of the Document of the Synodal Biblical-Theological Commission of the Moscow Patriarchate in response to the Declaration "Fiducia supplicans" has now been posted.   A number of websites have reported the release of this document but have not provided a link to the full text.  The following is the link to the full text in Russian on which the Google translation tool works quite well:  http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/6115422.html    The following is a French translation of the full text:    https://orthodoxie.com/document-de-leglise-orthodoxe-russe-au-sujet-de-fiducia-supplicans/       

     

    Peter Anderson

     

  • 15 March 2024: Death of Patriarch Neophyte & other news

    There is the very sad news that Patriarch Neophyte died on the evening of March 13 at the age of 78 after a long illness.  https://bg-patriarshia.bg/news/saobshtenie-po-povod-konchinata-na-negovo-sveteyshestvo-balg  He had been patriarch for 11 years.  The funeral service will begin at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, March 16 at the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Sofia.  https://bg-patriarshia.bg/news/sv-sinod-na-bpts-bp-opredeli-datite-za-poklonenieto-opeloto  Patriarch Neophyte seems to have been highly regarded by everyone, and his condolences have poured in.  On the morning of March 14, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew conducted a Trisagion service for the repose of the soul of Patriarch Neophyte.  https://orthodoxtimes.com/patriarchal-trisagion-for-the-late-patriarch-of-bulgaria-and-bishop-of-efkarpia/  The following are the condolences sent from Patriarch Kirill:  https://mospat.ru/ru/news/91526/ 

    The election of a new patriarch is governed by Articles 40 -48 of the Statutes of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church (BOC). https://bg-patriarshia.bg/statute (full text of the Statutes); https://orthodoxtimes.com/the-election-of-the-next-patriarch-of-bulgaria-an-insight-into-the-process (English translation).  Among the eligibility requirements for a new patriarch is that the bishop must have been a diocesan metropolitan for at least five years and must be at least 50 years of age.  (Article 40)  There are now 15 dioceses of the BOC, and there are nine diocean metropolitans who satisfy the eligibility requirements.  The nine are:   Yosi, Metropolitan of the United States;  Grigorii of Veliko Turnovo;   Ignatii of Pleven;  Gavriil of Lovech;  Nikolai of Plovdiv;  Yoan of Varna;  Naum of Rousse;  Grigorii of Vratsa; and Daniil of Vidin.  https://sofiaglobe.com/2024/03/14/late-bulgarian-orthodox-church-patriarch-neofits-funeral-to-be-on-march-16/   Under Article 45 the Holy Synod elects, by secret ballot and by a two-thirds majority, three diocesan metropolitans to be the final candidates.  (Article 45)  A Patriarchal Electoral Church Council then chooses one of three to be the next patriarch.  (Article 47)  The composition of the Patriarchal Electoral Church Council is specified by Articles 41 and 43.  It is a large group consisting of representatives from the dioceses, the monasteries, and the secondary theological schools.  A theologian of the BOC describes what to expect in an article at https://www.bta.bg/bg/news/bulgaria/635504-do-yuli-se-ochakva-da-bade-izbran-noviyat-balgarski-patriarh-kaza-za-bta-bogosl.

    With respect to relations with Catholics, Neophyte as a metropolitan represented the BOC at the funeral of Pope John Paul II, and he was one of three bishops to show the Pope the St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Sofia in 2002.  He accompanied the President of Bulgaria in a meeting with Pope Benedict on May 22, 2009.  As Patriarch, he warmly greeted Pope Francis on his visit to Sofia in May 2019.  On the return flight from Sofia to Rome, Pope Francis stated: “Then the conversation with Patriarch Neophyte edified me greatly; he is a man of God!”  However, the Patriarch’s warmness was not true for all of the nine metropolitans who are now eligible to be the next patriarch.  After the visit by Pope Francis, Metropolitan Nikolai of Plovdiv stated: “The visit by the Pope of Rome is a political act.  The goal is to unite all the churches around Rome, and when the Antichrist comes, for the Pope to meet him.”  https://sofiaglobe.com/2019/05/06/bulgarian-orthodox-church-plovdiv-metropolitan-nikolai-launches-stinging-attack-on-popes-visit/   On the other hand, another candidate, Metropolitan Naum of Rousse, strongly defended Pope Francis.  There is also the question of where the future patriarch will stand with respect to the current tensions between Moscow and Constantinople.  Metropolitan Gavriil of Lovech and Metropolitan Daniil of Vadim seem to be close to the Moscow Patriarchate. 

    n March 12 the Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate met in Moscow.  The minutes of the meeting are found at https://mospat.ru/ru/news/91510/.  These are some of the important decisions:  (1)  With respect to Romania, the Holy Synod criticized the action of the Romanian Patriarchate on February 29 to bless the formation of a “Romanian Orthodox Church in Ukraine.”  The Moscow Synod also criticized the action by the Romanian Patriarchate to declare invalid the sanctions imposed by the Orthodox Church of Moldova (Moscow Patriarchate) on priests transferring to the Romanian Patriarchate’s Metropolis of Bessarabia.  (Journal entry 29)  The Holy Synod in Moscow stated that these actions “are in direct contradiction with the sacred canons.”  It also stated that if these actions are “further implemented,” it will “inevitably entail grave consequences both for the bilateral relations of the Russian and Romanian Orthodox Churches, and for the unity of the Orthodox Church as a whole.”  Metropolitan Anthony of Volokolamsk, head of the DECR, was instructed to study the matter further and to submit promptly proposals for consideration by the Holy Synod.  (2)  With respect to certain occupied areas of the Zaporozhye Region of Ukraine, the Holy Synod made these areas a part of the Berdyansk diocese on a temporary basis.   (Journal entry 7)  The Berdyansk diocese is also on occupied territory, and the Moscow Holy Synod had assumed direct jurisdiction over it on May 11, 2023.  With respect to the areas now added to it, the Holy Synod directs that both the head of the Berdyansk diocese and the UOC’s Metropolitan Luke of Zaporozhe of and Melitopol are to be commemorated.  (3)  With respect to Moldova, two new vicar bishops were elected.  (Journal entries 17 and 18)  One, at least, is a native of Moldova.  https://mitropolia.md/arhimandritul-nicolae-rosca-duhovnicul-manastirii-sf-m-mc-teodor-tiron-a-fost-ales-episcop-vicar-al-eparhiei-de-cahul-si-comrat/  Patriarch Kirill will determine the places of the two ordinations.  (4)  With respect to Africa,  Bishop Konstantin of Zaraisk was confirmed as the Patriarchal Exarch of Africa and is no longer “acting” in this capacity.  The Holy Synod stated that the action of the Patriarchate of Alexandria in defrocking him was “illegal and invalid.”  (Journal entry 30)

    In Ukraine, the time for the full Rada to vote on the revised version of Draft Law 8371 on the “second reading” has not yet been announced, but it is expected to be soon.  For final approval by the Rada, a “third reading” is also required, but this may occur immediately after the “second reading.”  I have received a machine-translated English text of the full text of the revised Draft Law 8371.  The revised Draft Law is more than ten times longer than the original draft law.  I have now annotated in green font on the English translation my personal observations (available on request) with respect to all of the Draft Law.  Frankly, I am alarmed by what I read.  I could understand a law which prohibits a Ukrainian religious organization which is a mere puppet with Moscow pulling the strings.  However, the revised Draft Law prohibits the activities of religious organizations which are “in any way affiliated” with the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC).  Later in the revised Draft Law it states that “a religious organization is affiliated” with the ROC “if one or more” of seven enumerated subparagraphs are satisfied.  The provisions of these seven enumerated subparagraphs seem generally to follow the elements used by the DESS “expert” commission in finding that the UOC is part of the ROC.  Under subparagraph 3, “affiliation” is established if the charter of the ROC has “provisions regarding the right to adopt by the statutory management bodies” of the ROC “decisions on canonical and organizational issues that are binding for a religious organization (association) operating on the territory of Ukraine.”  One only has to look at Chapter X of the charter of the ROC to see that this element is satisfied.  Chapter X provides that the “ decisions of the Local and Bishops' Councils are binding on the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.”  Thus, the existence of this single provision in Chapter X of the ROC Charter alone mandates that all activities of the UOC are prohibited.  The UOC is without power to require the ROC to remove Chapter X from the Charter of the ROC, so this element cannot be cured by the UOC.  Thus, it is 100% certain that the activities of the UOC will be prohibited under the revised Draft Law and that the UOC will be subject to termination.  Furthermore, there is a provision in the revised Draft Law that activities of religious organizations that are affiliated with the affiliated religious organization are also prohibited.

    The penalties imposed by the revised Draft Law on an affiliated religious organization subject to termination are draconian.  All of the assets and property, except religious property, of the organization become the property of the state.  With respect to religious property, this property “is transferred to other religious organizations."  It can be expected that in almost all situations the other religious organization will be the OCU.  Thus, it seems that all or almost all of the churches of the UOC will be given to the OCU.

    Aside from affiliation, there are other grounds on which a religious organization can be terminated.  There is a provision that an entire religious organization can be terminated if there is a “conviction of its authorized persons for committing on behalf of a religious organization a crime against the foundations of national security of Ukraine” or for committing certain specified criminal offenses.  It reported that this provision was added at the request of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU).

    A very new element in the revised Draft Law relates to propagating the ideology of the Russian world.  A provision states: “A religious organization that is found to be spreading propaganda of the Russian world ideology, either in whole or in part, is subject to termination in accordance with the law.”  The revised Draft Law contains a definition of the Russian world which enumerates certain statements but ends with “etc.”  This is unlawfully vague.  One of the enumerated statements is “expansion of the canonical territory of the Russian Orthodox Church beyond the territory of the Russian Federation.”  Because termination of a religious organization under the revised Draft Law can result from propagating only “part” of the Russian world ideology, that part could be simply advocating the quoted statement that the canonical territory of the ROC extends beyond the Russian Federation.

    The foregoing are just some of the highlights of my concerns relating to the revised Draft Law.  So far the revised Draft Law is only the product of a Rada committee.  Hopefully, the full Rada will not approve such an unreasonable law.  If the full Rada approves it, hopefully President Zelensky will not sign the law.  If the revised Draft Law does become law, there is a danger, in my opinion, that some Ukrainians may begin to believe that Russia is their only hope to save their beloved UOC.   Also I believe that many members of the UOC will not watch passively to see their UOC destroyed and their church buildings given to the OCU.  Ukrainians need to focus on saving their country and do not need a chaotic situation behind the front.  Hopefully, reason will prevail.  That at least is my fervent prayer.

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 14 March 2024: Patriarch Neophyte of Bulgaria dies
  • 6 March 2024: Rada committee approves "stronger" version of 8371 & other news

    On the morning of March 5, 2024, the Committee on Humanitarian and Information Policy of the Rada (the Ukrainian parliament) approved a revised version of Draft Law 8371 which will be presented to the full Rada for the second reading.  This was confirmed by the Committee’s official website.  https://www.rada.gov.ua/news/news_kom/247245.html   As far as I can determine, the text of the revised version is not yet available.  I am attempting to obtain a copy.  According to the Committee’s website, the revised version includes the following elements: (1) the Russian Orthodox Church will be banned by law; (2) the activity of all religious organizations that are affiliated with the Russian Orthodox Church will be terminated according to a clear procedure, which will include an investigation, an order for the implementation of the Law and a court injunction; (3) the Russian Orthodox Church and its affiliated structures will not be able to use state and communal property; (4) a simplified procedure for the transition of religious communities.

    Following the approval by the Committee, the chair of the Committee, Mykyta Poturayev, spoke to RBC-Ukraine.  https://newsukraine.rbc.ua/news/russian-orthodox-church-banned-not-ukrainian-1709651357.html  This article, which is in English, should be read in its entirety.  Poturayev states that the revised version “has become more effective and stricter” and that “now it will be impossible to criticize, as before the first reading, that it was toothless and inefficient, that its implementation would take a lot of time, and that it could be challenged indefinitely.”  The new law “includes a declaration that Ukraine prohibits the ROC [Russian Orthodox Church].”  According to Poturayev, [t]he religious organization of Ukraine has no right to be affiliated and to be in hierarchical relationships of subordination with those religious organizations that have governing centers in the aggressor state.”  He maintains that the revised law complies with European standards relating to freedom of conscience and human rights.  Because the Rada is now preoccupied with a law concerning mobilization, he estimates that the revised version will be considered by the full Rada at the end of March or early April.

    Deputy Volodymyr Viatrovych, who is a member of the Committee, has made certain remarks on his Facebook page concerning the revised version.  https://www.facebook.com/1217668243/posts/10224793614487181/  He stated:

    Just now, the Committee on Humanitarian and Information Policy of the Verkhovna Rada unanimously recommended to the Parliament to support in the second reading the entire bill 8371, which should put an end to the activities of the Russian Church in Ukraine.  The text of the bill has become much stronger compared to the version supported by the government.  The Russian Orthodox Church should be banned by law, and the activities of all religious organizations affiliated with it will be stopped by a clear procedure that will include research, a law enforcement order and injunction.  The ROC and affiliated structures will not be able to use state and communal property, and the transition of communities to the Ukrainian Local Orthodox Church will be greatly simplified.  Now the decision is up to the Verkhovna Rada.  I hope my colleagues will have enough political will without delay to approve this important law.

    The foregoing quotation implies that the revised version is really the work of the Rada and not the Ukrainian government which sponsored the first version.

    It is best to delay a critique of the revised law until the text of the revised law becomes available.  However, the fact that the revised law is now “stricter” and “stronger” than the first version is very troublesome.  The first version raised concerns from such organizations as the World Council of Churches, the United Nations' Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), and the Church of England (Mission & Public Affairs Council and Bishop Nicholas Baines of Leeds – head bishop on foreign affairs).  Rather than heeding such concerns, it appears that the Rada committee has made 8371 even stricter.

    As previously reported, the Holy Synod of the Romanian Patriarchate on February 29 approved “the initiatives of the Romanian Orthodox communities in Ukraine” to establish a Romanian Orthodox Church in Ukraine under the jurisdiction of the Romanian Patriarchate.   https://basilica.ro/comunicat-noi-hotarari-ale-sfantului-sinod-al-bisericii-ortodoxe-romane-2024/ (item 11)  Since that time, there has been no official elaboration from the Romanian Patriarchate with respect to this action.   However, Teodor Baconschi, a theologian and past foreign minister of Romania (2009-2012), has given a interview on the subject.  https://www.stiripesurse.ro/decizie-istorica-a-sfantului-sinod-ce-inseamna-infiintarea-bisericii-ortodoxe-romane-din-ucraina-implicatiile_3249851.html  He refers to the millions of Romanians living outside Romania who are served by metropolitans and bishops of the Romanian Patriarchate.  (In fact, Italy and Spain each have over one million Romanians living within their respective borders.)  He mentions the presence of the Romanian Patriarchate in Serbia.  (The Romanian Patriarchate has the diocese of Dacia Felix in Serbia; the Serbian Patriarchate has the diocese of Timișoara in Romania.)  Baconschi expresses optimism that Ukraine will agree with the presence of the Romanian Patriarchate in Ukraine because of the support Romania is giving Ukraine in the war and because of the better relations which now exist between the two countries.  It appears that the Romanian Patriarchate does not agree with the strict concept of “canonical territory,” which is often used by the Moscow Patriarchate to protect its interests.

    To date, there is nothing on the main websites of the Moscow Patriarchate, the OCU, or the UOC with respect to the decision of February 29.  According to the Russian news agency RIA Novosti,  a “source” within the Moscow Patriarchate has stated that the actions of the Romanian Patriarchate violate the canons and indicate an intention to continue expansion into the canonical territory of another Local Church.  https://ria.ru/20240301/rpts-1930575907.html   Bishop Kliment, the head of the Synodal Information and Educational Department of the UOC, has indicated that the Romanian actions reflect an effort of the Romanian communities, now under the UOC,  to avoid the adverse actions being taken against the UOC by the Ukrainian authorities.  https://spzh.media/en/news/79099-uoc-comments-on-the-creation-of-the-romanian-church-of-ukraine  However, he adds that these Romanian actions also carry “a danger not only to the church integrity but also to the state sovereignty on Ukrainian territory, historically associated with the Romanian state.”   Bishop Viktor of Mukachevo and Carpathia (OCU) claims that the actions of the Romanian Patriarchate are dictated by the influence of the structures of the Russian Federal Security Services on the Romanian authorities and the Church.   https://raskolam.net/en/77518-u-pczu-zvynuvatyly-rumunsku-czerkvu-v-roboti-na-fsb-cherez-stvorennya-rumunskoyi-pravoslavnoyi-czerkvy-ukrayiny/   It should be noted that in 2019 the OCU established a special vicarate for the Romanian communities, but this recruiting effort has been unsuccessful.

    In other news: (1) the Supreme Church Court of the Moscow Patriarchate has dropped proceedings against Metropolitan Leonid, former exarch of Africa. https://ria.ru/20240301/rpts-1930573368.html   His retirement location has been determined to be Krasnodar (a Russian city east of Crimea).  (2) At a meeting of the Plenary Assembly of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of Russia, held February 28-29, it was decided: “To avoid temptation and confusion, the KKER [Conference of Catholic Bishops of Russia] draws attention to the fact that blessings of any kind of couples who persist in unresolved relationships from the point of view of Christian morality (cohabiting, second-married, same-sex) are unacceptable.”   https://cathmos.ru/soobshhenie-o-lix-kker/  (3)  The Orthodox Church in North Macedonia has established a committee to examine the issue of the status of the OCU and the issue of the proper name of the Orthodox Church in North Macedonia.  https://orthodoxtimes.com/ohrid-archdiocese-sets-up-committee-to-address-ukrainian-issue-and-its-name-with-greek-speaking-churches/  It appears that these are two issues on which agreement has not been reached in discussions between the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the North Macedonia Church with respect to the granting of autocephaly.

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 1 March 2024: Romanian Patriarchate enters Ukraine & other news

    On February 29, the Holy Synod of the Romanian Patriarchate decided to bless, encourage and support “the initiatives of the Romanian Orthodox communities in Ukraine to restore communion with the Mother Church, the Romanian Patriarchate, through their legal organization in the religious structure called the Romanian Orthodox Church of Ukraine https://basilica.ro/comunicat-noi-hotarari-ale-sfantului-sinod-al-bisericii-ortodoxe-romane-2024/ (item 11).  In my opinion, this is big news.  These Romanian communities are presently under the jurisdiction of the UOC.  Now the Romanian Patriarchate assumes direct jurisdiction over these Romanian communities in Ukraine.   The Romanian media referred to this development as an "historic decision."    https://r3media.ro/bor-biserica-ortodoxa-romana-ucraina-romani-episcopia-marii-britanii/   Perhaps the rationale for this action is to remove these Romanian communities from the adverse effect of actions now being taken against the UOC, such as Draft Law 8371.  The largest concentration of Romanians in Ukraine are in the Chernivtsi Oblast.  Metropolitan Onufry, primate of the UOC, was previously the Bishop of Chernivtsi for more than 20 years.  In general, the Romanian Patriarchate has a very strong presence with respect to the Romanians living in other countries.  For statistics relating to this diaspora, see https://basilica.ro/patriarhul-daniel-a-prezentat-activitatea-bisericii-canonizari-si-secifre-relevante-pentru-anul-2023/

    Also on February 29, the Russian news agency RIA Novosti posted an exclusive interview with Metropolitan Hilarion of Budapest.  https://ria.ru/20240229/ilarion-1930145202.html   Most of the interview relates to the Vatican document Fiducia supplicans and elaborates on the unanimous conclusion of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Synodal Biblical-Theological Commission, reached on February 20, that the Vatican document was an “innovation” which reflects “a sharp departure from Christian moral teaching.”  One of the observations made by Metropolitan Hilarion in the interview is that “neither repentance nor correction of lifestyle is offered to those people who come for blessing specifically as a couple.”  I have pasted below a Google translation of the Metropolitan’s entire interview relating to the Vatican declaration.

    On February 27, the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate announced that Patriarch Bartholomew had accepted the appeal of Archpriest Alexei Uminsky.  Uminsky is restored to the priesthood and is assumed under the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.  The official announcement in Greek can be read at https://fosfanariou.gr/index.php/2024/02/27/anakoinothen-agias-kai-ieras-synodou-27-2-2024/.  The Orthodox Times has briefly summarized the decision as follows:  The Holy and Sacred Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate also decided to lift the defrocking penalty imposed on the priest Alexey Uminskiy, formerly a clergyman of the Moscow Patriarchate, because the reasons for the penalty “are not at all related to ecclesiastical criteria, but to the just opposition of the said cleric to the war in Ukraine.”  https://orthodoxtimes.com/phanar-decisions-for-the-archdiocese-of-australia-and-former-moscow-patriarchate-clergymans-defrocking-lifted/   As you probably recall, the court of the Moscow diocese on January 13 ruled that Uminsky was subject to defrocking for refusing to recite the Patriarch’s “Prayer for Holy Rus’” (which asks for “victory”) in the Divine Liturgy.  http://moseparh.ru/cerkovnyj-sud-g-moskvy-prinyal-reshenie-po-delu-prot-aleksiya-uminskogo.html  Patriarch Kirill confirmed the defrocking of Uminsky on February 8.  http://moseparh.ru/ukaz-u-0222-ot-8-fevralya-2024.html   Archpriest Vladislav Tsypin, deputy head of the Moscow church court, has stated that the actions of the Ecumenical Patriarchate with respect to Uminsky “are not canonical.”  https://tass.ru/obschestvo/20109113  Metropolitan Hilarion in his Novosti interview states that the action by Constantinople reflects “an attempt to impose on the Orthodox Church on a universal scale a new model of governance, similar to the one that exists in the Catholic Church.”  The Metropolitan’s complete answer is pasted at the very end of this report.

    The Ukrainian Rada (parliament) has announced that the Rada’s Committee on Humanitarian and Information Policy will meet on March 5 via teleconferencing to consider Draft Law 8371.  https://www.rada.gov.ua/preview/anonsy_podij/247096.html   The Chairman of the Committee, Deputy Mykyta Poturaev, has stated: There was an initiative from my colleagues from “European Solidarity” [a political party in Ukraine] so that we could finalize certain points together.  We worked for about two weeks, we already have a completely ready text for consideration by the committee, we have full consensus on this document.  It so happened that committee members Mykola Knyazhytskyi and Yevgenia Kravchuk were on business trips abroad, and then I was at the OSCE winter session and returned only on February 26.  I believe that we have a very powerful text, this is the case when we are not ashamed of our joint work.  The lobbyists of Moscow priests will try to discredit the law abroad, but it will be considered by the parliament.  https://holka.org.ua/lobisty-moskovskyh-popiv-sprobuyut-dyskredytuvaty-zakon-za-kordonom-ale-vin-pide-na-rozglyad-parlamentu-poturayev/   The Committee has been considering amendments proposed by Rada deputies to Draft 8371 as approved in the “first reading.”  From the foregoing quotation, it appears that the Committee may approve on March 5 a new amended version of the Draft Law to be submitted to the full Rada for the “second reading.”  If the Committee approves a version of 8371 for the second reading, it is my understanding that the Conciliation Council of Parliamentary Factions will decide if and when 8371 will be placed before the full Rada for approval on the second reading.  On February 27 the Moscow Patriarchate posted an article about a letter sent by Patriarch Porfirije, primate of the Serbian Orthodox Church, expressing his concerns about Draft Law 8371.  https://mospat.ru/ru/news/91438/   The letter from Patriarch Porfirije was in response to a October 19 letter from Patriarch Kirill concerning the Draft Law. 

    The General Synod of the Church of England, which met February 23-27, has approved a four-point resolution relating to Ukraine.   https://www.churchofengland.org/media/press-releases/ukraine-paying-our-security-money-and-blood-archbishop-justin-tells-synod  (scroll to the end).  Several people have pointed out to me that the resolution, which is very pro-Ukraine, never uses the word “Russia.”  The entire discussion relating to the resolution can be watched at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sLujozTlAEI (beginning at 2:13:24).  Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury addresses the General Synod concerning Ukraine and his very recent trip to Ukraine beginning at 2:25:30.  In expressing strong support for Ukraine, the Archbishop stated, “I am not neutral.”  Unlike the resolution, he does expressly refer to Russia.

    In other news, John Allen, who is probably the leading American Catholic commentator on the Vatican, has written an interesting article entitled, “On war’s anniversary, is ‘Fiducia’ a new obstacle to Vatican’s peace push on Ukraine?”  https://cruxnow.com/news-analysis/2024/02/on-wars-anniversary-is-fiducia-a-new-obstacle-to-vaticans-peace-push-on-ukraine  Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew has sent a letter to Pope Francis congratulating him on the 10th anniversary of his pontificate.  The text can be read at https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/2023-03/bartholomew-i-patriarch-constantinople-message-pope-anniversary.html#:~:text=%23TENYEARSPOPEFRANCIS-,Patriarch%20Bartholomew%20I%20sends%20anniversary%20wishes%20to%20Pope%20Francis,promote%20the%20care%20of%20Creation.  Metropolitan Onufry, primate of the UOC, has written an address to all Ukrainians on the second anniversary of the invasion.  https://news.church.ua/2024/02/24/zvernennya-blazhennishogo-mitropolita-onufriya-u-zvyazku-z-drugoyu-richniceyu-vid-pochatku-povnomasshtabnogo-rosijskogo-vtorgnennya-v-ukrajinu/#2024-02-29  The address begins:  Today marks two years since the Russian authorities launched a large-scale military invasion of the territory of our Motherland.  The witnesses and victims of the consequences of this sinful act are all our compatriots, to whose homes this terrible war came, bringing great sorrow, full of tears and suffering, horror and despair, but most importantly and the most terrible — taking away the life given to us by God.  He thanked all of the servicemen of the Armed Forces of Ukraine and stated that the “feat of each and every one of them is an invaluable contribution to the victory over the enemy.”  At the end he refers to religious policies directed against the UOC.  He concludes:  The [Ukrainian] forces are capable of repulsing the Russian army.  Today, more than ever before, we desperately need the internal solidarity of society and the realization that unity is our strength.  The horror that the war brought us will not break our society if each of us works for unity and looks for ways to be together and not do anything that would destroy this unity.  In this difficult period, I call on all of us to be united in the common desire for a spiritual, free and constructive future for our Ukraine.  And may the Lord help us in this!

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

     

    METROPOLITAN HILARION’S INTERVIEW

    Vladyka Hilarion, how did the commission headed by you begin to consider the declaration “Fiducia supplicans”?

    We studied this document on behalf of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Rus'.  We held a plenum of the Synodal Biblical Theological Commission, and I had the opportunity to present the results of the plenum personally to His Holiness the Patriarch.

    Why did the Russian Orthodox Church even take up this declaration , since this is an internal document of the Roman Catholic Church?

    Because we have a dialogue with the Catholic Church, interaction.  And we considered it our duty to respond to such a radical innovation.

    There are many different interpretations of the declaration: some say that this is an intermediate step towards the wedding of same-sex couples, others say that the document opens up the opportunity for people to receive help from the Church, including in the fight against their passions, that those who come are blessed in turn, Imitation of a wedding is not allowed. What is your opinion?

    The declaration “Fiducia supplicans” caused an unambiguously very negative reaction from our commission.  We were unanimous that this document reflected a very serious departure from Christian moral standards.  You said that the blessing can be performed one by one, but in fact this is not in the document.  The document specifically talks about blessing couples.  Moreover, two categories of couples are mentioned.  One is couples who are in a so-called unsettled situation.  That is, this is a man and woman who live in an unmarried marriage or in a civil union.  There are a lot of such situations in the Catholic Church, because the divorce process is very complex and it is difficult, almost impossible, to receive a blessing from the Church for divorce.  But another category of persons referred to in the document are same-sex couples.  And so, the same criteria are now applied to both.

    What, according to the commission, is the main contradiction with Christianity here?

     Same-sex couples are spoken of as people who need the blessing of the Church for healing and upliftment. That is, you can bless them in pairs, and not each individually.  Yes, the declaration expresses, repeatedly and in different forms, concern that such blessings should not be ritualized, that they should be spontaneous and not outwardly resemble a wedding.  Because of this concern, various specific recommendations are offered for how to make such blessings different from weddings.  The document postulates that the Church's teaching on marriage as a union of a man and a woman open to procreation remains unchanged.  But at the same time, this practice of blessing same-sex couples, from our point of view, is in radical contradiction with Christian moral teaching.

    Could you explain in more detail?

    The document says nothing, for example, about the sacrament of confession, nothing about repentance or the fight against sin.  That is, the pastoral assistance that is provided to people in an unsettled situation or in same-sex cohabitation, according to this document, does not at all imply that, for example, a priest tells these people about the sinfulness of their lifestyle.  This especially applies, of course, to same-sex couples.  And in general, the word “sin” is mentioned several times in this document, but exclusively in the context of the thought that human sins cannot exceed the love of God, that God’s grace acts despite our sins.  And neither repentance nor correction of lifestyle is offered to those people who come for blessing specifically as a couple.

    Then, in your opinion, why did the Catholic Church adopt such a document - for the further recognition of unregistered cohabitation and the wedding of same-sex couples?

    I don’t think that we can talk about the wedding of same-sex couples, because so far it has been declared that the teaching of the Catholic Church on marriage as a union of a man and a woman remains unchanged.  However, we see what is happening in Protestant communities: it all started with the same thing, with some non-ritualized, spontaneous blessings, and then in some Protestant communities they simply introduced the ritual of blessing same-sex couples.  I don't think the Catholic Church will come to that.  But all this is perceived as a very dangerous signal and as a concession by the leadership of the Catholic Church to those liberal circles who are trying to dictate their agenda.

    You said that this was a “concession from the leadership,” but how did the Catholic world as a whole, priests and parishioners react to this document - what do you know?

    The declaration has already caused a very controversial reaction in the Catholic world.  Of course, she was approved, and various gay activists and representatives of sexual minorities rejoiced at her.  But, for example, local structures of the Catholic Church in some cases openly opposed this declaration.

    In which countries did this happen?

    The Hungarian Bishops' Conference has decided that the blessing of same-sex couples is impossible under any circumstances.  The document will not be implemented in Hungary.  And also, for example, in Nigeria, Kazakhstan, and Belarus.  I think it will definitely not be implemented in African countries.  That is, this document has already created a serious division within the Catholic Church itself.

    What will happen in the future with the “document about the document” - with the results of the discussion of the Synodal Biblical-Theological Commission of the Vatican Declaration?

    The Synodal Biblical Theological Commission always works on behalf of His Holiness the Patriarch or the Patriarch and the Holy Synod.  When we prepare a text, we then give it to the patriarch, and then His Holiness decides its future fate.  Either this document is published, or it is published with amendments, or it forms the basis for some decisions, actions, letters...

    What kind of reaction would you expect from Catholics to the conclusion of the commission of the Russian Church?

    “I wouldn’t want to predict the reaction, but we did our job.”   Our commission is called biblical-theological, and we drew attention to the fact that there is no way to justify this new practice with Holy Scripture.   Because the Holy Scripture expresses a completely unambiguous view of same-sex cohabitation.   We have drawn attention to the fact that, from our point of view, these new decisions of the Catholic Church are contrary to basic Christian moral standards.  We've covered our part of the journey. It is difficult for me to predict what the future fate of the commission’s document will be, and if it is published, what the reaction to it will be in the Catholic Church. But we can already see the reaction in the Catholic Church and in the world to the declaration itself (“Fiducia supplicans” – ed.).

    ….

    You have repeatedly noted that the Patriarch of Constantinople lays claim to the role of “pope” in the Orthodox world.  How would you comment on the reports that this week he reinstated Archpriest Alexy Uminsky, who was deprived of his rank in the Russian Church for violating the priestly oath - refusing to fulfill the patriarchal blessing to read a prayer for Holy Rus', in which there is a petition for the granting of victory?

    The previous project of the Synodal Biblical-Theological Commission was the preparation of a detailed document on the new ecclesiology of Constantinople, that is, on innovations in the doctrine of the Church.  They, in our opinion, very seriously deviate from the Orthodox Holy Tradition; they are essentially an attempt to impose on the Orthodox Church on a universal scale a new model of governance, similar to the one that exists in the Catholic Church.  Our document is called “On the distortion of the Orthodox teaching about the Church in the actions of the hierarchy of the Patriarchate of Constantinople and the speeches of its representatives” (approved by the Bishops’ Conference of the Russian Orthodox Church in 2023 – ed.).  We show in this document that for centuries the Orthodox, including the Patriarchs of Constantinople, in polemics with Catholics, defended the point of view that local Orthodox Churches are equal to each other, that there cannot be one earthly head for the entire Ecumenical Church.  But those specific actions that Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople is carrying out, in particular, to legalize the Ukrainian schism, to “restorate in rank” those who have lost this rank for one reason or another, are actions that follow from his new doctrine.  After all, Constantinople now proclaims itself the supreme court of appeal.  That is, any cleric of any local Church, dissatisfied with the decision of his clergy, can now turn to Constantinople, and Constantinople will make a decision at its own discretion.  Moreover, this cleric can remain geographically in the same position, as was the case in Lithuania, when Constantinople “restored the rank” of the clergy who had lost this rank, and they continue to be in Lithuania.  Based on them, a parallel structure of the Patriarchate of Constantinople in Lithuania has now been created, while this country is part of the canonical territory of the Russian Orthodox Church.

  • 28 February 2024: Committee to approve 8371 on March 5 ???

    https://holka.org.ua/lobisty-moskovskyh-popiv-sprobuyut-dyskredytuvaty-zakon-za-kordonom-ale-vin-pide-na-rozglyad-parlamentu-poturayev/ 

    Lobbyists of Moscow priests will try to discredit the law abroad, but it will be considered by the parliament – Poturaev

    On March 5, the government draft law (8371) on the release of some religious organizations from subordination to the aggressor state will be considered by the Committee on Humanitarian and Information Policy.  The chairman of the committee, Mykyta Poturaev ("Servant of the People"), informed the community initiative "Holka " about this.  It is noteworthy that earlier the people's deputy stated that the draft law could be considered by the Verkhovna Rada in February, but the terms have changed.  "There was an initiative from my colleagues from ‘European Solidarity’ so that we could finalize certain points together.  We worked for about two weeks, we already have a completely ready text for consideration by the committee, we have full consensus on this document.  It so happened that committee members Mykola Knyazhytskyi and Yevgenia Kravchuk were on business trips abroad, and then I was at the OSCE winter session and returned only on February 26.  I believe that we have a very powerful text, this is the case when we are not ashamed of our joint work.  The lobbyists of Moscow priests will try to discredit the law abroad, but it will be considered by the parliament," Poturaev notes.

    See also:  https://spzh.media/ru/news/79055-zakonoproekt-o-zaprete-upts-5-marta-rassmotrit-profilnyj-komitet-nardep;    https://glavcom.ua/country/politics/zaborona-moskovskoji-tserkvi-soratnik-zelenskoho-dav-obitsjanku-988324.html ; https://uanews.net/ru/post/355785  ;  https://zn.ua/ukr/POLITICS/zaborona-moskovskoho-patriarkhatu-koli-komitet-radi-rozpochne-rozhljad-zakonoprojektu.html 

    The Rada’s official website has noted the meeting for 11 a.m. on March 5.  https://www.rada.gov.ua/preview/anonsy_podij/247096.html   The notice states:

    The Committee of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine on humanitarian and information policy will hold a regular meeting in videoconference mode.

    Agenda (project):

      I. Bills for which the Committee is in charge:

    1. Draft Law on Amendments to Certain Laws of Ukraine Regarding Activities of Religious Organizations in Ukraine (Reg. No. 8371, Second Reading).

    2. Draft Law on the Use of the English Language in Ukraine (Reg. No. 9432, second reading).

    III. Other questions:

    3. About the announcement of the selection of candidates for the position of a member of the National Council of Ukraine on television and radio broadcasting according to the quota of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine.

    4. Various.

    If Draft Law 8371 is approved by the Committee, it is almost certain to be an amended version of 8371.  It is also possible that the amended version will be harsher than the original version.  If the Committee approves a version of 8371 for the second reading, it is my understanding that the Conciliation Council of Parliamentary Factions will decide if and when 8371 will be placed before the full Rada for approval on the second reading.

     

    Peter Anderson

  • 23 February 2024: Thank you Bishop Brian Farrell LC!!

    Today, February 23, 2024, marks the last day for Bishop Brian Farrell LC as Secretary of the Dicastery for the Promotion of Christian Unity.  The Apostolic Constitution Praedicate Evangelium (2022) now mandates the retirement of all Curia officials at age 80, and Bishop Farrell celebrated his 80th birthday on February 8.  This morning,  the Vatican Press Office made the following official announcement:  “The Holy Father has appointed the Reverend Flavio Pace, until now under-secretary of the Dicastery for the Eastern Churches, as secretary of the Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity, assigning him the titular see of Dolia and conferring to him the personal title of archbishop.”   https://press.vatican.va/content/salastampa/en/bollettino/pubblico/2024/02/23/240223a.html   With the naming of a successor, Bishop Farrell is now officially retired.

    Bishop Farrell has served as secretary for the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and more recently for the Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity since December 2002 – a span of over 21 years.  His biography can be read at   http://www.christianunity.va/content/unitacristiani/en/dicastero/organico/segretario.html .  Prior to his appointment as secretary, he had been the Department Head of the English-language Section of the Vatican’s Secretariat of State.  In this capacity, he had accompanied Pope John Paul II on many international trips, and he was ordained a bishop by Pope John Paul II in January 2003.  Bishop Farrell’s longevity at the Pontifical Council and later at the Dicastery has provided invaluable continuity.  He has been a member of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches since the time that the dialogue was reconvened in 2006 after a six-year hiatus.  He has been co-chairman of the official Catholic dialogues with certain of the Oriental Orthodox Churches.  He has also been greatly involved in the official Anglican – Catholic dialogue, in the International Catholic–Jewish Liaison Committee, and in contacts with the WCC and Protestant churches.  Aside from these many responsibilities, those who know him can attest that he is a wonderful person and Christian.  Bishop Farrell is a native of Ireland, and I assumed that he will spend much of his retirement in his homeland.  However, he will probably come to Rome to visit his younger brother, Cardinal Kevin Farrell, prefect of the Dicastery for the Laity, the Family and Life.

    On January 29, Bishop Farrell received a very well-deserved honor.  The University of Notre Dame, the most well-known Catholic university in the United States, held a special academic convocation in Rome to confer honorary doctorate degrees on Bishop Farrell, Barbara Jatta (director of the Vatican Museums), and Roberto Benigni (internationally acclaimed actor, director and poet).  The degrees were conferred by the chair of the University’s Board of Trustees, John Brennan, and the University’s president, Father John Jenkins CSC.  https://news.nd.edu/news/notre-dame-confers-honorary-degrees-at-academic-convocation-in-rome/  You can watch the entire convocation at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w6wxtqr6XQc .  The introduction of Bishop Farrell can be seen in the video beginning at 21:15 and the remarks by Bishop Farrell beginning at 23:05.  In the front row of the audience, you can see two proud cardinals – Cardinal Kurt Koch, current prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity, and his predecessor, Cardinal Walter Kasper.  I have pasted below a photo of Bishop Farrell at the convocation.

    The introduction of Bishop Farrell at the convocation included the following:  “This gentle and dedicated successor of the apostles has held fast to the conviction that the message of the Gospel is diminished by divisions among believers, that unity is a fruit of the Spirit, which must be cultivated by all the faithful, and that the imperative of ecumenism, by its very nature, calls us to attentive reverence to the worldwide oneness of Christ’s followers.”  At the Phanar on the Feast of Saint Andrew 2023, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew noted that Bishop Farrell would soon be retiring.  The Ecumenical Patriarch stated: “In this context, we express our particular and distinct appreciation and honor to His Grace Bishop Brian Farrell, Secretary of your Dicastery, who will soon be retiring, and we thank him wholeheartedly for his creative contribution to our bilateral dialogue, as well and for his wisdom, fraternal love and sincere friendship.”  https://fosfanariou.gr/index.php/2023/12/01/omilia-ecum-patr-sti-throniki-eorti-2023/

    A biography of the new Secretary of the Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity, Father (Don) Flavio Pace, is found at   https://press.vatican.va/content/salastampa/en/bollettino/pubblico/2024/02/23/240223a.html.  He was born in Monzo, Italy (14 km northeast of Milan) in 1977.  In 2011 he began working in the Congregation (now Dicastery) for the Eastern Churches as special assistant to its head, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri.  The prior year Father Pace had received a certificate in Islamic studies.  In February 2020, he was promoted to under-secretary of this Congregation (now Dicastery).   The Dicastery for the Eastern Churches deals with matters that affect the eastern Catholic churches.  Although the jurisdiction of the Dicastery for the Eastern Churches deals with matters relating to eastern church in communion with Rome and not with Orthodox and other non-Catholic eastern churches, it still carries out its work in close coordination with the Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity.   Father Pace is also a member of the Joint Working Group for Cooperation between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Holy See.  https://mospat.ru/en/news/60980/   Father Pace will receive his episcopal ordination in the Cathedral of Milan on Saturday, May 4 at 3pm. https://www.chiesadimilano.it/news/chiesa-diocesi/don-flavio-pace-segretario-del-dicastero-per-la-promozione-dellunita-dei-cristiani-2795712.html  A five-minute video (2021) of an address by Father Pace in Italian can be watched at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z9bo9OsfnCA.   

    Lastly, I would like to extend my personal thanks to Bishop Farrell.  I first met him when he was in Seattle in February 2004 for the plenary meeting of the Anglican - Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC), which finalized a document in Seattle on "Mary: Grace and Hope in Christ."  Since that time, I have followed him closely and have been his “fan.”  In my opinion, his quiet and effective manner plus his knowledge have made him an outstanding bridge builder.  THANK YOU SO MUCH, BISHOP FARRELL, FOR ALL OF YOUR YEARS OF SERVICE IN THE CAUSE OF CHRISTIAN UNITY!!  God bless you in your retirement and grant you many years!

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

     

  • 22 February 2024: Moscow Patriarchate on "Fiducia supplicans" & other news

    On February 20, the Synodal Biblical-Theological Commission of the Moscow Patriarchate held a plenary meeting through teleconferencing.  The meeting was conducted by the Commission's chairman, Metropolitan Hilarion of Budapest.  A brief report of the plenary meeting has been posted on the official website of the Moscow Patriarchate.  http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/6104515.html  The most relevant part of the report states as follows:

    The main item on the agenda of the meeting was a discussion of the text of the declaration “Fiducia supplicans,” adopted by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith of the Roman Catholic Church.  The document, signed by the Prefect of the Congregation, Cardinal Manuel Fernandez and the Secretary of the Doctrinal Department, Armando Matteo, approved and signed by Pope Francis, was published on official Vatican resources on December 18, 2023.  The order to analyze the document was given to the Synodal Biblical-Theological Commission by His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Rus'.

    ….

    The meeting participants expressed their positions regarding the theological content of the declaration “Fiducia supplicans,” which for the first time in the history of the Catholic Church proposed forms of blessing “same-sex unions”.  Members of the Synodal Biblical-Theological Commission were unanimous that this innovation reflected a sharp departure from Christian moral teaching.

    The results of the work of the Synodal Biblical-Theological Commission on this issue will be sent for consideration to His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Rus'.

    It is my understanding that the Commission is still working on the text of its final report, and therefore it is not available at the present time.  To the best of my knowledge, the Synodal Commission is the first official Orthodox body to criticize the Vatican document.  Although most Orthodox would disagree with the Vatican document, the other Local Orthodox Churches have not officially stated their disagreement.

    In my opinion, it is particularly significant that Patriarch Kirill was the person who ordered the Synodal Commission to analyze this issue and that the results of the Commission’s work will be sent to the Patriarch for his consideration.  It is highly likely that the results of the Commission’s work will not end there but will be referred by the Patriarch to the Holy Synod for its approval.  The likelihood that the Holy Synod will approve the unanimous opinion of the Synodal Commission is overwhelming.  One can expect that the report of the Commission will be a scholarly work, even if one disagrees with it.  Just three days after the publication of Fiducia supplicans, Metropolitan Hilarion, chairman of the Commission, gave a video interview in English concerning the Vatican document.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UTh9m9DR6WI&t=55s  (96,000 views)   He stated that his reaction after reading the full text of the document was “a kind of a shock.” 

    In Africa, the Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Alexandria on February 16 extensively discussed the entry of the Russian Church into the jurisdiction of the Alexandrian Patriarchate.  https://www.patriarchateofalexandria.com/apofaseis-tis-ieras-synodoy-toy-patriarcheioy-alexandreias/  The Synod also deposed from the priesthood the present acting Patriarchal Exarch of Africa, Bishop Konstantin of Zaraisk (Moscow Patriarchate).  This comes as no surprise as the Holy Synod in 2022 had deposed the predecessor of Bishop Konstantin, namely Metropolitan Leonid of Klin.  On February 7 the Russian news agency RIA Novosti posted a long interview of Bishop Konstantin.  https://ria.ru/20240207/ekzarkhat_afriki-1925686144.html  It was his first interview since becoming the acting exarch.  He provided some interesting numbers:  We currently have 218 priests from Africa on our list.  This figure will change upward literally in the near future.  They live in 17 countries in Africa and minister to communities from 29 countries: that is, a priest can minister to several countries.  There are also Russian priests: there are five of them, they are sent from Russia.  And there are more than 200 parishes, but these are not parishes in the Russian sense: where such a temple is beautiful with golden domes.  Often the word “parish” can simply mean a settlement, it can literally be a tent or a hut, a room.  Based on the interview, Konstantin appears to me to be far less bombastic than Leonid.  Leonid has now been involuntarily “retired” from the Moscow Patriarchate and is being charged before the Supreme Church Court in Moscow with canonical offences.   Archimandrite Cyril Hovorun has recently stated:  I know both Leonid and Konstantin personally.  If the former is an obsessive supporter of Z-orthodoxy [“Z” – the symbol placed on Russian military equipment in Ukraine], the latter is more calm and prudent.  https://www.religion.in.ua/news/foreign_news/50920-aleksandrijskij-patriarxat-pozbaviv-sanu-vo-ekzarxa-afrikanskogo-ekzarxatu-rpc-komentar-arximandrita-kirila-govoruna.html?fbclid=IwAR3VTb-DASdE-EJjVgiLhX5JE2wExU6vhvN54jppHSYEX7VJs4zRKoHLYHE 

    The Mission & Public Affairs Council of the Church of England has submitted a report on the war in Ukraine to the General Synod of the Church of England.  https://www.churchofengland.org/sites/default/files/2024-02/gs-2348-war-in-ukraine-final-final.pdf  The General Synod will be held February 23-27.  The Mission & Public Affairs Council of the Church is the body responsible for overseeing research and comment on social and political issues on behalf of the Church.  Paragraphs 16-18 of the Report strongly criticize Ukrainian Draft Law 8371.  The Report also discloses that Bishop Nicholas Baines of Leeds, who is the Church of England’s head bishop on foreign policy, wrote a letter to the Ukrainian government and the speaker of the Rada expressing concern about the Draft Law.  The full text of the letter, dated November 13, 2023, can be read at  https://spzh.media/en/news/78889-church-of-england-urges-ukraine-to-withdraw-bill-on-banning-uoc .   As I previously reported, the  Rada’s Committee on Humanitarian and Information Policy had a scheduled meeting for January 29 to consider proposed amendments to the Draft Law and to prepare a final version to be submitted to the full Rada for the “second reading.”  However, the meeting was suddenly cancelled, and a new meeting has not yet been scheduled.  https://kompkd.rada.gov.ua/   According to Mikita Poturaev, Chairperson of the Committee, the delay in passing the Draft Law on the second reading is due to the fact that the work on the document requires special care.  He stated that if the future law is peppered with contradictory norms, then as a result, the European Commission can force the already adopted law to be canceled altogether.  https://glavcom.ua/country/society/sjurpriz-vid-jes-zaboronu-moskovskoji-tserkvi-mozhut-skasuvati--986177.html 

    Robert Amsterdam, with some members of his legal team, are now in Kyiv for a week-long visit to Ukraine.  Amsterdam and his law firm (offices in Washington DC and London) are representing the UOC on the international front with respect to the UOC’s problems with the Ukrainian government.  Amsterdam has been particularly critical of Draft Law 8371, and his firm has prepared a detailed legal memorandum comparing the Draft Law with the decisions of the Venice Commission and finding a conflict between the two.   https://savetheuoc.com/wp-content/uploads/2024/01/Legal-Analysis-of-Draft-Law-8371-Final.pdf  On February 21, Amsterdam posted on Twitter (“X”) a photo of his meeting in Kyiv with Metropolitan Onufry, primate of the UOC.  https://twitter.com/robertamsterdam/status/1760332642866655622?ref_src=twsrc%5Egoogle%7Ctwcamp%5Eserp%7Ctwgr%5Etweet  It will be interesting to see what activities, if any, Amsterdam will undertake with respect to the Draft Law in the coming week.

    In Lithuania, state funds are allocated each year by the Minister of Finance to the “traditional” religious communities in Lithuania.  Last year, 81,300 euros were allocated to the Lithuanian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate).   On February 19, the Minister of Finance ordered that the Lithuanian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) and the “Exarchate of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Lithuania” would each received 77,000 euros.  https://www.lrt.lt/naujienos/lietuvoje/2/2199364/lietuva-skyre-po-vienodai-lesu-konstantinopolio-ir-maskvos-ortodoksams-77-6-tukst-euru  Following approval by the Ministry of Justice, the Exarchate had been entered into the official Register of Legal Entities on February 7.  https://www.bns.lt/topic/1911/news/70535305/  On February 6, Elder Metropolitan Emmanuel of Chalcedon (Ecumenical Patriarchate) was in Lithuania and met with Prime Minister Ingrida Šimonytė.  https://orthodoxtimes.com/elder-metropolitan-of-chalcedon-met-the-prime-minister-of-lithuania/  After the registration of the Exarchate, Metropolitan Innokenty , head of the Lithuanian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate), was asked about his reaction to it.  https://www.orthodoxy.lt/novosti/4525-mitropolit-innokentii-or-budem-vzyvat-k-milosti-gospodnei-i-upovat-na-ego-blagoi-promysl  His reaction was relatively mild.  With respect to the new Exarch (transferred from Estonia), he stated: “I would like to note his friendly tone and sober judgment on very complex issues, such as church property.”  The Metropolitan assessed positively the Exarch’s advocating peaceful coexistence between the two churches.  However, the Metropolitan was adamant that his defrocking of the five clergy members who left his church to form the nucleus of the Exarchate was justified.

    The following are other news developments:  (1)  The text of the official decree by Patriarch Kirill defrocking Archimandrite Alexei Uminsky has now been posted.  http://moseparh.ru/ukaz-u-0222-ot-8-fevralya-2024.html   Sergei Chapnin has written an article discussing and criticizing the actions taken against Uminsky.   https://publicorthodoxy.org/good-reads/patriarch-kirills-ideological-ultimatum/   (2)  On January 22, the Government of Ukraine provided a response to specific questions raised by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.  https://spcommreports.ohchr.org/TMResultsBase/DownLoadFile?gId=38094 (full response in English)   Eight pages of the response relate to the actions by the Ukrainian government with respect to the Kyiv Lavra.  The monks of the Lavra have now issued a statement criticizing this response.  https://lavra.ua/uk/zayava-shhodo-vidpovidi-ministerstv-ta-vidomstv-ukrayini-na-mizhnarodnij-zapit-shhodo-diskriminatsiyi-ta-porushen-prav-viryan-upts/  (English translation: https://urldefense.com/v3/__https://news.church.ua/2024/02/16/the-kyiv-caves-lavra-has-published-a-statement-in-connection-with-ukrainian-ministries-untrue-response-to-a-un-inquiry-on-violations-of-the-rights-of-uoc-believers/?lang=en*2024-02-16__;Iw!!Dc8iu7o!yNHrPnxo3TcNS1vjYm9TLsqLuHtOivpPPId09dhFikMQt_jiie9BpM2ddfqpw1Al10DFp0hQvLA--HUAAMF929VMhJc$ (3)  Bishop Timotej, who functions as a spokesperson for the Orthodox Church in North Macedonia, has stated that the failure of the North Macedonian Church to recognize the OCU is an issue separating the Church and the Ecumenical Patriarchate in their negotiations concerning the granting of autocephaly to the North Macedonian Church.  https://religija.mk/vladikata-timotej-otkri-shto-bara-vselenskata-patrijarshija-od-mpc-oa-ukrainskata-crkva-e-prichinata-za-zastoj-na-nashata-celosna-avtokefalnost/  

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 15 Februar 2024: General Synod of the Church of England & Draft Law 8371

    https://www.churchofengland.org/sites/default/files/2024-02/gs-2332-agenda-feb-24_0.pdf  The General Synod of the Church of England will meet February 23 – 27.  On the afternoon of February 27, the General Synod will consider the following motion:

    TUESDAY 27 FEBRUARY 2024 2.00 p.m. to 4.30 p.m. WAR IN UKRAINE AND CHALLENGE TO INTERNATIONAL ORDER (GS 2348) Mr. Mark Sheard (ex officio) to move: 22 ‘That this Synod, recognising the ongoing suffering and terror caused by the war in Ukraine and the repercussions and anxiety felt globally for our common future: (a) affirm with gratitude the churches work with others to support conflict parties and mediators and call for continued efforts to develop pathways to peace, justice and reconciliation in Ukraine; (b) call on all parties to the conflict to ensure that everyone in Ukraine has full freedom to manifest and practice their religion or belief, in line with international human rights law. (c) call on all UK political parties to set out ahead of the General Election their vision for a desirable international order and their strategies for ensuring that existing international rules and principles are attractive both domestically and to a broader global constituency.’

    Mr. Mark Sheard, who will make the motion, is Chair of the Mission & Public Affairs Council of the Church of England.  The Mission & Public Affairs Council of the Church is the body responsible for overseeing research and comment on social and political issues on behalf of the Church.  The Council comprises a representative group of bishops, clergy and lay people with interest and expertise in the relevant areas, and reports to the General Synod through the Archbishops’ Council.  The Mission & Public Affairs Council has submitted to the General Synod a paper entitled, “The War in Ukraine and the Challenge to International Order.”  https://www.churchofengland.org/sites/default/files/2024-02/gs-2348-war-in-ukraine-final-final.pdf  In paragraphs 16-18 of this paper, Ukrainian Draft Law 8371 is strongly criticized as follows:

    16. There are also concerns that recent legislative developments in Ukraine may impact enjoyment of FoRB [Freedom of Religion and Belief].  In October 2023, Ukraine’s Parliament approved in its first reading a set of draft amendments (Draft Law 8371) to the law on religious organisations, which would establish a procedure for the dissolution of “religious organisations affiliated with influence centres, the management of which is located in a country, which carries out armed aggression against Ukraine.”

    17. The Bishop of Leeds, the Church’s Lead Bishop on Foreign Policy, has written to the Ukrainian Government and the Chair of the Ukrainian Parliament to remind them that international law permits restrictions on the freedom to manifest religion only if they are prescribed by law and necessary to protect public safety, order, health or morals, or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others.  While recognising the emergency situation that Ukraine find itself in, many of the amendment’s key terms are vague, lack definition and are open to discriminatory interpretation in ways that violate international norms on FoRB.  At its most basic, this amendment threatens collective punishment.  Arguably, this Draft Law is unnecessary: where individuals have committed treason or other criminal actions against the interests of the state, then they can be held accountable under existing criminal Ukrainian law through due process.

    18. Draft Law 8371 threatens Ukraine’s social cohesion at a time when it needs a unified societal response to Russian aggression.  It encourages an ethno-religious nationalism that will be detrimental to Ukraine’s long term Western trajectory.  It does not recognise the great lengths that the Ukrainian Orthodox Church has taken to distance itself from the Russian Orthodox Church or the fact that many of its members serve faithfully as Ukrainian citizens in the country’s armed forces - often with immense cost.  This Draft Law has impeded efforts by the World Council of Churches to foster dialogue between the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and the Orthodox Church of Ukraine as there is now little incentive for the latter to engage in facilitated dialogue when the Ukrainian Orthodox Church is on the cusp of being outlawed and when such a move will reinforce its own role as the defender of the faith in Ukraine.

    The foregoing is a document produced by the an important body of the Church of England.  It does not appear that the motion to be made by Mr. Sheard calls upon the entire General Synod formally to adopt this document.  However, the motion will include the statement that the General Synod calls upon “all parties to the conflict to ensure that everyone in Ukraine has full freedom to manifest and practice their religion or belief, in line with international human rights law.”

    The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby will address the General Synod on the afternoon of February 23.  The Archbishop has just completed a five-day trip to Ukraine.  The trip included meetings with the OCU, the UOC, and with Viktor Yelensky (the head of DESS).  It is possible that the Archbishop will mention in his address Draft Law 8371.

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 8 February 2024: Metropolitan Evgeniy has left Estonia & other news

    On February 6, Metropolitan Evgeniy (Reshetnikov) of Tallinn and All Estonia (Moscow Patriarchate) left Estonia on the date that his temporary residence permit expired.  Metropolitan Evgeniy is a Russian citizen and had been in Estonia since 2018.  The Metropolitan was first informed on approximately January 11 that his application for an extension of his permit would be denied.  On January 18, the Estonian Police and Border Guard Board issued a press release providing the reasons for the denial.  The full text of the press release can be read at   https://www.politsei.ee/et/uudised/eesti-riik-ei-pikenda-valeri-reshetnikovi-elamisluba-11729 .   The press release includes the following statement:  “[T]he representatives of the Ministry of the Interior have repeatedly spoken to Reshetnikov and explained to him that he must give up justifying the Kremlin regime and Russia's military activities in his public activities and speeches.  Despite previous warnings, Reshetnikov continued activities deemed incompatible with Estonia’s values and legal system.  Therefore, Reshetnikov's actions are a security threat to the country.”

    A special Council of the Estonian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) was held on January 30 and adopted a resolution requesting that the Metropolitan’s permit be extended.  https://ru.orthodox.ee/news/mpeok-taiskogu-otsus-postanovlenie-sobora-epczmp-30012024/  The resolution included the following:  “From the very first days of the military conflict in Ukraine, the Church, with the blessing of Metropolitan Evgeniy, began to provide all possible material assistance to refugees, console the suffering and offer prayers for the long-awaited peace to come to Ukraine.  At every Liturgy in the churches of the Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, they pray for our God-protected country of Estonia, its authorities and army, for a quiet and silent life.  Today, when unfounded claims are made against Metropolitan Evgeniy that he poses a threat to the security of Estonia, we testify that the Primate of the EOC MP has always taken his words responsibly, which has prevented the division of his large flock, which includes people with very different views. The Gospel calls us to unity in Christ, love and patience.  And this, as well as the call for peace and stability in Estonian society, was the main thing in the sermons of Metropolitan Evgeniy.”  As far as I can see, the resolution did not address or deny the accusation by the Estonian authorities that the Metropolitan justified Russia’s military activities in his speeches.

    In spite of appeals by the Metropolitan and by the Council, the Police and Border Guard Board officially notified the Metropolitan on February 5 that his permit would not be renewed.  On February 6, the Metropolitan issued a message to his flock.  https://ru.orthodox.ee/messages/slovo-mitropolita-evgeniya-po-otezde-iz-estonii/   The message included the following statement:  “We hope that, with God’s help, church life will not change and will continue at its own pace.  There remain two vicar bishops in Estonia who, with my blessing, can exercise the full powers of the Primate of our Church.  In turn, I will stay in touch and continue to care for the Church entrusted to me, even remotely.”  In the morning of February 6, Metropolitan Evgeniy first visited the famous Pukhtitsa Dormition Stavropegic Women’s Monastery.   https://ria.ru/20240206/estoniya-1925715648.html  He was then driven to Narva where he walked across the border into the Leningrad Region of the Russian Federation.  https://pravda-en.com/world/2024/02/06/304657.html

    After the departure, there remain in Estonia three bishops of the Moscow Patriarchate – two vicar bishops of Tallinn (Sergei and Daniel) and Bishop Lazarus of Narva.   https://ru.orthodox.ee/clergy/  Bishop Daniel was consecrated a bishop on February 4, 2024, just two days before the departure of Metropolitan Evgeniy from Estonia.  https://ru.orthodox.ee/news/sostoyalas-hirotoniya-arhimandrita-daniila-lepiska-vo-episkopa-tartuskogo/  The Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate had approved the consecration at a specially called remote meeting on February 3 where the only item on the agenda was the consecration.  http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/6100447.html   Daniel had been elected at a meeting of the Estonian Synod on January 29.  There has been no official explanation as to why the election and consecration occurred at such great speed immediately before the Metropolitan’s departure.  My guess is that Daniel is a native-born Estonian while Sergei and Lazarus are not.  The biography of Daniel can be read at https://ru.orthodox.ee/clergy/episkop-daniil/.  He is apparently not an ethnic Russian and converted to Orthodoxy when he was 20 years old.  Although it may be possible for the Estonian government to deport Sergei and Lazarus, it is likely that Daniel cannot be legally deported because he is a native Estonian. 

    Although the metropolitan and vicar bishop from Lithuania participated in the ordination of Bishop Daniel, there were no bishops or representatives present from Latvia.  It is difficult to determine whether this absence was due to a genuine rejection of the Moscow Patriarchate by the Latvian Church or whether the absence was the result of an effort to appease the Latvian government.  As you recall, the Latvian parliament on September 8, 2022, enacted a law amending the legal statute of the Latvian Orthodox Church to make the Church autocephalous.  The next day, September 9, the Church issued a statement calling on the faithful “to maintain a peaceful dispensation of spirit, to maintain the unity of our Church, strictly observing the laws of our Latvian State.”   https://www.pareizticiba.lv/index.php?newid=9660   On August 13, 2023, Metropolitan Alexander of Riga and All Latvia ordained in Riga a new vicar bishop, Bishop John of Valmiera.  https://www.pareizticiba.lv/index.php?newid=10000&id=6  Bishop John is a native Latvian.  He is the first Orthodox bishop ordained in Riga in the last 80 years.  There is no indication that the Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate ever approved the ordination.   However, on October 6, a delegation of the Latvian church met in Moscow with certain members of the Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate – Metropolitan Pavel (patriarchal vicar of the Moscow Diocese), Metropolitan Dionysius (chancellor of the Moscow Patriarchate), and Metropolitan Anthony (head of the DECR).  Also present was Father Nikolai Balashov, the personal advisor to Patriarch Kirill.  On September 7, 2022, Father Nikolai had issued a commentary attacking the actions of the Latvian government with respect to creating an autocephalous church.  https://mospat.ru/en/news/89610/  After this meeting on October 6, the Latvian Church posted on its website a statement which included the following:  “The Latvian delegation was given a warm welcome.  During a long conversation, which took place in the Small Hall of the Department for External Church Relations, a fruitful exchange of views took place on a wide range of issues of mutual interest.  The conversation took place in a constructive and Christian atmosphere of trust.”  https://www.pareizticiba.lv/index.php?newid=10043  Assuming this statement is correct, it does not appear that Moscow was greatly displeased with the ordination of the Latvian bishop.  One therefore wonders if the Latvian Church has truly embarked on the road to autocephaly and is seeking such status from other Local Orthodox Churches.   Perhaps the Moscow Patriarchate believes that the Latvian Church has taken actions simply to comply with the law, but that the canonical bond between the Moscow Patriarchate and the Latvian Church remains unchanged.  This may also be the belief of the Latvian Church.  All of this remains unclear.

    In other news, there was a long meeting on January 26 at the "Grand Mansion" of the Russian Foreign Ministry involving the Working Group of the Russian Orthodox Church and the Russian Foreign Ministry.  https://mospat.ru/ru/news/91301/  The meeting was chaired by Patriarch Kirill and Foreign Minister Lavrov.  At the end of the meeting, Lavrov presented awards to Metropolitan Anthony (head of the DECR) and Father Nikolai Balashov (advisor to Patriarch Kirill) for “contribution to international cooperation.”  Awards for “cooperation” were presented to certain members of the DECR.  In turn, church awards were given to three members of the Foreign Ministry.   All of this is further evidence of the close ties between the Foreign Ministry and the Church which are especially evident in such areas as Africa.  

    Metropolitan Leonid (Gorbachev) has received a summons to appear before the Supreme Church Court in Moscow for “ecclesiastical offenses revealed during the transfer of affairs when released from the position of the rector of the Church of All Saints at Kulishki.”  https://spzh.media/ua/news/78506-mitropolita-leonida-horbachova-suditime-vishchij-tserkovnij-sud-rpts   As you recall, the Holy Synod removed Leonid from his position as Exarch of Africa on October 11, 2023, and then involuntarily retired him on December 27.  He ceased to be rector of the Kulishki parish on September 8, 2023.  http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/3010995.html  At the request of Leonid, his hearing before the Court, previously scheduled for January 31, has been postponed.   https://t.me/s/exarchleonid (January 30)

    The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, arrived in Kyiv on February 5 for a five-day visit.  https://www.archbishopofcanterbury.org/news/news-and-statements/archbishop-canterbury-returns-ukraine  On February 6 he met with Viktor Yelensky, the head of DESS (the government agency relating to matters of religion).  https://dess.gov.ua/zustrich-hlavy-dess-z-arkhyiepyskopom-kenterberiyskym/  On the same day, the Archbishop met with Metropolitan Epifany and others of the OCU.  https://www.pomisna.info/uk/vsi-novyny/mytropolyt-epifanij-zustrivsya-z-arhiyepyskopom-kenterberijskym-dzhastinom-velbi/  It is clear from the statement posted by the OCU that the Archbishop raised the issue of Draft Law 8371.  In what appears to be the response of Epifany, the statement provides: “And what concerns the regulation of administrative relations of religious organizations affiliated with the center in the aggressor country, in particular the Moscow Patriarchate, is exclusively a matter of national security.  Therefore, the state is forced to react in a completely civilized way, through the adoption of the appropriate law, and prevent Russia from using the religious sphere for its aggression.  After all, it is here that Ukraine still remains unprotected from destructive Russian influence.”  The fact that the Archbishop raised a question with respect to 8371 is, in my opinion, a good sign.  Also on February 6, the Archbishop met with representatives of the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations.   https://vrciro.org.ua/ua/events/ukrainian-council-of-churches-meets-with-the-spiritual-head-of-the-church-of-england  The UOC was represented at this meeting by Sergii Bortnyk, a member of the UOC’s DECR and a professor at the UOC’s Kyiv Theological Academy.  Bortnyk gave a presentation in which he stressed the importance of avoiding the Russian model which leads to limiting the existence of certain denominations and even to a possible ban on their legal functioning.  He also gave the example of Archbishop Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109), who was twice forced to leave England due to the efforts of the then state authorities to regulate the church.  https://vzcz.church.ua/2024/02/07/spivrobitnik-vzcz-upc-vzyav-uchast-u-zustrichi-vrciro-z-arxijepiskopom-kenterberijskim/   There was also a separate meeting between the Archbishop and some of the leading professors at the UOC’s Kyiv Theological Academy.  http://kdais.kiev.ua/event/zustrich-07-02-2024/?fbclid=IwAR1nU4WE2Y6ufsIIzUH_XSALeJQW1ffmGWWaVw3ru0Z98JNJg4EdJ85Y_CY  On February 7, the Archbishop was awoken by alarms shortly before 6:00 a.m. and had to seek refuge in an air-raid shelter for almost three hours.  https://www.churchtimes.co.uk/articles/2024/9-february/news/world/archbishop-of-canterbury-shelters-as-russians-bombard-kyiv-in-early-morning-attack

    The DECR of the Moscow Patriarchate has posted a study on the relationship between the Constantinople and Moscow Patriarchates during the 1960s and the early 1970s.  https://mospat.ru/ru/authors-analytics/91303/   Lastly, Archimandrite Cyril Hovorun has given a long interview which includes some very candid observations with respect to the OCU and the UOC.  https://www.orthodoxtimes.gr/archim-kyrillos-govoroun-stous-orthodox-times-giati-me-kathairese-o-patriarchis-moschas/    

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA 

  • 3 February 2024: Interview of Archimandrite Cyril Hovorun

    Archimandrite Cyril Hovorun has given an interview to the Orthodox Times.  With respect to Ukraine, he has made some very candid comments – which I believe are absolutely true.  The following are two questions and answers that I found especially interesting:

    In the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (of Metropolitan Onufry), they claim to have severed all ties with the Moscow Patriarchate and operate autonomously.  Do you agree with this?  

    They have made a sincere effort to distance themselves from Moscow, but they have not completely succeeded. I believe that, from a purely canonical point of view, this church continues to consist of dioceses of the Moscow Patriarchate.

    Do you think that the two Churches (Onufry and Epifany) could coexist in Ukraine as separate structures?  Is the world ready for a possible union of these two Churches?  

    Ideally the two churches should be united into one.  But realistically this is not going to happen in the near future.  In fact, these churches are much further apart from each other than they were in 2018, when the Autocephalous Church of Ukraine was founded.  Unfortunately both churches contributed to this drift. The Church of Onufry accuses the Church of Epifany of remaining schismatic, while the Church of Epifany accuses the Church of Onufry of being a projector of Kremlin politics.  Both accusations are wrong and do not help the reconciliation of the Ukrainian Orthodox at all.  The Church of Epifany would like to suppress the other church, but that is not going to happen.  First, because the second remains greater than the first.  And secondly, the violence which the former has exercised against the latter has created an animosity which is difficult to overcome.  However, I foresee a reconciliation of the two churches in the distant future.  To do this, however, each of them must first recognize the existence of the other, then learn to coexist peacefully, and then find a model of union.

    Here are some of the key points in my opinion:  (1) the UOC has “made a sincere effort” to distance itself from Moscow; (2) both the OCU and the UOC are at fault for the current extremely bad relations between the two churches; (3) the UOC continues to accuse the OCU publicly as being schismatic [even if you believe that a person from another church is a heretic or a schismatic, you need not repeatedly call them that in public]; (4) the accusation that the UOC is a projector of Kremlin politics is false;  (5) the OCU desires to suppress the UOC and has used violence at times; (6) the UOC remains greater in size that the OCU; (7) to improve relations between the UOC and the OCU, the churches must “learn to coexist peacefully.”  I believe that the current sad inter-church situation in Ukraine would be improved if both churches exercised a similar candor as opposed to making the other church appear as bad as possible.

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

     

  • 29 January 2024: Committee postpones consideration of 8371 without a new date set

    In Ukraine, the Rada’s Committee on Humanitarian and Information Policy scheduled a meeting for Friday, January  26 to consider the controversial Draft Law 8371 relating to religion.  This meeting was suddenly postponed, and a new meeting (via video conference) was set for the morning of Monday, January 29.  This meeting has now again been postponed.  The following notice has been posted on the Committee’s website:  “The meeting of the Committee on January 29 was postponed.  The date and time of the event will be announced later.”    https://kompkd.rada.gov.ua/   The notice was posted at 9:30 a.m. on January 29, and the meeting was supposed to begin at 10:00 a.m.  A search of the Internet a few minutes ago has disclosed no explanation for this third postponement.

    For those who have concerns that Draft Law 8371 may infringe on freedom of religion, this postponement without a new meeting being set is good news.  The delay will probably make it unlikely for Draft Law 8371 to be considered for the second reading by the full Rada at its February session.  One may speculate that the further delay may be due to a concern by the Zelensky government that approval of the Draft Law for the second reading may provide an additional argument by those who are not supporting Ukraine’s request for immediate financial help, especially from the United States.

    The Russian news agency RIA Novosti posted an article on January 29 relating to a possible softening of the approach of Ukraine’s legal system against the UOC.  https://ria.ru/20240129/kiev-1923735589.html 

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 25 January 2024: Friday - Rada Committee may approve amended Draft Law 8371

    Ukrainian Draft Law 8371 has been the primary responsibility of the Committee on Humanitarian and Information Policy of the Verkhovna Rada.  The Chairperson of the Committee, People's Deputy Mykyta Poturaev, has stated that on Friday, January 26, 2024, the Committee will consider Draft Law 8371 and that the work on the amendments has been completed.  https://risu.ua/obmezhennya-diyalnosti-moskovskogo-patriarhatu-parlament-mozhe-rozglyanuti-v-lyutomu---poturayev_n145735  The expectation is that the Draft Law will be ready for presentation to the full Rada in February.  My personal hope is that a copy of the amended Draft Law 8371 will be immediately available after Friday’s meeting so that people and organizations, both inside and outside of Ukraine, can review it critically and provide input prior to any vote before the full Rada.  The following are some quotations (Google translation) from the article linked above:

    On Friday, January 26, the Committee on Humanitarian and Information Policy of the Verkhovna Rada will consider a draft law on limiting the activities of the Moscow Patriarchate in Ukraine.  The chairman of the committee, People's Deputy Mykyta Poturaev ("Servant of the People"), informed the public initiative "Holka" about this . [ https://holka.org.ua/fsb-v-ryasah-zaboronu-parlament-mozhe-rozglyanuty-v-lyutomu-poturayev/?fbclid=IwAR2359PU0LCexnqNquBUyrwxHFpDN3iMy7dVYYtPZ9npvWLxv7TX8uDFvto  ]   "Tomorrow at the Committee we will consider this issue.  We have two projects planned for development.  One legislative initiative from the president regarding the English language (9432) and a government bill (8371) regarding the activities of religious organizations.  I hope that the review will be productive, and we will agree on everything.  For the amendments, everything has already been completed.  The table is ready, but it must be transferred to the Rada's apparatus and then the Conciliation Council will decide," comments Poturaev.  [The Conciliation Council of Parliamentary Factions will decide if the draft law will be placed on the Rada’s agenda for February.]….

    Member of the Committee, People's Deputy Mykola Knyazhytskyi (“European Solidarity”), tells how the review of the amendments took place. "We rejected the amendments from the followers of the Russian world.  The Committee supported part of my proposals to ban the activities of this agency in Ukraine.   We need to get through the committee as soon as possible and consider this draft law in the session hall," Knyazhytskyi said.

    People's deputy Oleksandr Aliksiichuk ("Servant of the People"), who together with his colleague Yulia Klymenko ("Holos"), collected the signatures of parliamentarians to bring the issue to the floor for the first reading last fall, emphasizes that the Verkhovna Rada should support the initiative in February, before the second anniversary of the full-scale invasion.  "I hope that the draft law will leave the specialized committee and will be included in the agenda of the Conciliation Council at the next meeting of the Verkhovna Rada.  I believe that the heads of factions and groups understand all the responsibility and demands of society in the adoption of this draft law and none, God forbid, the personal interests or relations of someone with someone will prevail on the scales of the interests of the country, society, and every conscientious Ukrainian.  The fight for faith is another front with Moscow, which we have no right to lose," said Aliksiichuk.

    Yulia Klymenko briefly summarized why this project should be voted on urgently: "it should be accepted by the second anniversary, because Muscovites are crawling out of all the holes."

    The head of the "Servant of the People" faction, Davyd Arakhamia, has not yet answered the question of the prospects for the government bill to be included in the agenda of the February meeting of the Verkhovna Rada.  It is he or his deputy Andrii Motovylovets who has a decisive influence on the formation of the agenda.

    See also   https://lb.ua/society/2024/01/25/595417_nardepi_rozrahovuyut_priynyati.html ; https://spzh.media/en/news/78562-mp-we-will-vote-to-ban-the-uoc-by-the-anniversary-of-the-invasion 

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 21 January 2024: New legal analysis of Ukrainian Draft Law 8371

    Since last October, the international law firm of Amsterdam & Partners (with offices in London and Washington DC) has been representing the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) with respect to an international response to the attacks against the UOC by the Ukrainian government.    https://amsterdamandpartners.com/press-release-ukrainian-orthodox-church-appoints-amsterdam-partners-llp-to-defend-against-attack-on-religious-freedoms/   The law firm has established a specific website with respect to this representation.  https://savetheuoc.com  On January 3, 2024,  the law firm released and posted on its website a “white paper” with the title Freedom of Religion under Attack in Ukraine.  The full text of the 25-page “white paper” can be read at https://savetheuoc.com/wp-content/uploads/2024/01/Save-the-UOC-White-Paper.pdf.  On January 17, the law firm released a second document entitled Legal Analysis of Ukrainian Draft Law 8371.  This is intended to be a supplement to the “white paper.”  The full text of the Legal Analysis can be read at https://savetheuoc.com/wp-content/uploads/2024/01/Legal-Analysis-of-Draft-Law-8371-Final.pdf .

    The Legal Analysis is in the form of a legal memorandum.  In my practice as an attorney for over 40 years, I have reviewed a great number of legal memoranda.  I read the entire Legal Analysis and can say without reservation that it is a very professional and serious work.  It is not a piece of propaganda.  The Legal Analysis provides to the best of my knowledge the only professional English translation of Draft Law 8371 available anywhere on the Internet.  See page 37 of the Legal Analysis.  The Legal Analysis contains an excellent discussion of the applicable cases of the Venice Commission (European Commission for Democracy through Law) relating to freedom of religion.  The Legal Analysis then applies the principles established by the Venice Commission to the language of Draft Law 8371.  In applying the principles to the actual terms of Draft Law 8371, the Legal Analysis concludes that the draft law completely fails to comply with these principles.

    To the best of my knowledge, the Ukrainian government has not provided any legal study showing that the Draft Law complies with the principles enunciated by the Venice Commission.  During the period November 23-25, over 50 deputies of the Ukrainian Rada signed an appeal to Ruslan Stefanchuk, the speaker of the Rada, asking him to refer Draft Law 8371 to the Venice Commission for its opinion.   https://interfax.com.ua/news/political/950256.html   Stefanchuk refused to do so and still refuses to do so.  https://interfax.com.ua/news/interview/958773.html   The Venice Commission has a procedure for providing “urgent opinions”    https://www.venice.coe.int/webforms/documents/?pdf=CDL-AD(2018)019-e  A publication of the Venice Commission states:  “For example, if an opinion is needed before an impending referendum or a debate in parliament, it can be issued as ‘urgent opinion’ outside the period of an official plenary session in Venice, so that the authorities in question can make use of Venice Commission legal expertise in time.” https://www.venice.coe.int/WebForms/pages/?p=01_Media&lang=EN  One can review the opinions of the Venice Commission, including those involving urgent opinions, at    https://www.venice.coe.int/WebForms/documents/by_opinion.aspx?v=all  The following are samples showing the time period between a request for an urgent opinion and the issuance of the urgent opinion:  CDL-AD(2022)017-e (requested 27 April 2022 and issued 27 May 2022); CDL-AD(2022)034 (requested 14 September 2022 and issued 7 October 2022); CDL-AD(2022)037  (requested 1 July 2022 and issued 26 Aug 2022); CDL-AD(2022)045 (requested 15 September 2022 and issued 18 November 2022); CDL-AD(2022)053-e (requested 9 November 2022 and issued 9 December 2022). 

    From the foregoing, it is likely that if Stefanchuk had submitted a request for an urgent opinion at the time the Rada deputies made an appeal for him to seek an opinion from the Venice Commission, there would now be available an issued opinion from the Commission with respect to the Draft Law.  One is left with the question of why Ukraine has not referred Draft Law 8371 to the Venice Commission as an opinion by the Commission could settle much of the controversy surrounding Draft Law 8371.  The only reason that comes to my mind is that Ukraine is concerned that a referral of Draft Law 8371 to the Commission would result in an opinion that the Draft Law does not comply with the principles adopted by the Vienna Commission with respect to freedom of religion.  

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 20 January 2024: Latest sanctions on Hovorun and Uminsky & other news

    On December 29, 2023, Patriarch Kirill issued the following decree relating to Archimandrite Cyril Hovorun:  “Hereby, on the basis of the decision of the diocesan church court of the Moscow diocese dated October 31, 2023, you are deposed from the priesthood in connection with violation of the 25th rule of the Holy Apostles.”  http://moseparh.ru/ukaz-u-02216-ot-29-dekabrya-2023.html (first posted on Jan. 17, 2024)  On October 31, 2023, the Moscow diocesan court had ruled:  “Recognize that, on the basis of the 25th Rule of the Holy Apostles, Archimandrite Kirill (Govorun) is subject to canonical reprimand in the form of demotion from the priesthood.”  http://moseparh.ru/reshenie-eparxialnogo-cerkovnogo-suda-moskovskoj-gorodskoj-eparxii-po-delu-zapreshhennogo-klirika-arximandrita-kirilla-govoruna.html   On September 25, 2023, Patriarch Kirill had issued a decree suspending Archimandrite Cyril.  http://moseparh.ru/ukaz-u-02152-ot-25-sentyabrya-2023.html   It provided as follows:

    “The written commitment of fidelity to the Russian Orthodox Church given by you was repeatedly violated, which was expressed, among other things, in your concelebration with the bishops and clergy of the Church of Constantinople, with which Eucharistic communion was interrupted by the decision of the Holy Synod due to a gross invasion of the canonical territory of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.  In this regard, you, as having violated the priestly oath given by you, in accordance with the 25th rule of the Holy Apostles, are hereby prohibited from serving in the priesthood without the right to wear a cassock and a priestly cross and give a priestly blessing during the consideration of your case in the diocesan court of the Moscow diocese.”

    On January 13, 2024, the Moscow diocesan court issued a decision relating to Archpriest Alexei Uminsky.  http://moseparh.ru/cerkovnyj-sud-g-moskvy-prinyal-reshenie-po-delu-prot-aleksiya-uminskogo.html  This decision provides in relevant part as follows:

    “At the meeting in accordance with Art. 45, paragraph 3 of the Regulations on the Church Court of the Russian Orthodox Church, it is recognized that, on the basis of the 25th Rule of the Holy Apostles, Archpriest Alexei Uminsky is subject to expulsion from the priesthood for violating the priestly oath (oath-breaking) - refusal to fulfill the Patriarchal blessing to read the Prayer for Holy Rus' in the Divine Liturgy.  According to the regulations, the decision is sent for approval to His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Rus'.” 

    Both Archimandrite Cyril and Archpriest Alexei Uminsky are well-known personalities, and both are opposed to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.  I have described their backgrounds in prior newsletters.   https://www.unifr.ch/orthodoxia/de/dokumentation/anderson/ (Uminsky – 13 Jan. 2024; Hovorun – 2 Oct. 2023).  Both were found guilty of violating their priestly oath for not following the instructions of the Patriarch or the Holy Synod.  There was a long time period between their taking of the priestly oath and the alleged violations of the oath.  Uminsky was ordained in 1990 – over 30 years before the alleged violation.  Hovorun was ordained in approximately 2002 – over 20 years before the alleged violation.  The following is the text of the priestly oath used in Moscow in 2006:  https://ustav.livejournal.com/3462.html   The canonical basis for defrocking both priests was the 25th canon of the Holy Apostles.

    The 25th canon provides in relevant part: “If a bishop, presbyter, or deacon be found guilty of fornication, perjury, or theft, let him be deposed….”  https://orthochristian.com/158256.html   Because the alleged violations did not constitute “fornication” or “theft” and because the alleged violations involve violating the priestly oath, the defrocking must have been based on the findings that Hovorun and Uminsky engaged in “perjury.”  As a retired attorney, I know that violation of an oath at a much later date is not “perjury.”  Rather, perjury involves stating under oath something that one knows is false.   See generally https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perjury  If one says under oath he will “ try in every possible way to carry out the service [of a priest] in everything consistent with the word of God, with the rules of the church and the instructions of the hierarchy” and then decades later fails to follow the instructions of a hierarch, he is not guilty of perjury. 

    An important question is how the 25th canon is stated in the original Greek.  What is the word in Ancient Greek which is translated into English as “perjury”?  The word is “ἐπιορκία.”   The translation of this word into English is “1. false swearing 2. perjury.”  https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/%E1%BC%90%CF%80%CE%B9%CE%BF%CF%81%CE%BA%CE%AF%CE%B1  See also https://morphological_el.en-academic.com/781950/%E1%BC%90%CF%80%CE%B9%CE%BF%CF%81%CE%BA%E1%BD%B7%CE%B1;  https://vocab.perseus.org/lemma/32660/?filter=urn:cts:greekLit:tlg2048.tlg001.1st1K-grc1   Again, this shows that the Greek word means saying under oath something that is not true.  It is also logical that those who originally wrote canon 25 did not intend the canon to apply to situations such as those involving Hovorun and Uminsky.  It would mean that a church could make any conduct subject to defrocking simply by prohibiting the conduct in the priestly oath.  In this regard it should also be remembered a person becoming a priest does not have the right to negotiate the terms of the priestly oath.   If one does not sign the printed oath presented to him, one is not ordained.   The priestly oath apparently used in Moscow required that the signer act consistently with the instructions of the hierarchy.  If canon 25 is applied to situations where a priest does not follow an instruction of a bishop as required by the priestly oath, it would mean that a bishop could make any conduct subject to defrocking simply by prohibiting it.  In drafting canon 25, the bishops specified only three offenses.  Two of the offenses, “fornication” and “theft,” are very specific serious offenses.  I believe that it is very doubtful that the drafting bishops intended the third offense listed in canon 25, namely "perjury," to be so flexible as to allow a subsequent bishop to make any conduct subject to defrocking simply by the subsequent bishop prohibiting it.  I am not an expert in canon law or ancient Greek.  However, I have practiced law for over forty years, and I believe that the application of canon 25 to Hovorun and Uminsky raises some genuine doubts as to whether canon 25 was properly applied to these cases.

    In other news, a priest has been appointed by the Ecumenical Patriarchate to be the exarch of its newly formed Orthodox Church in Lithuania.  The priest is an Estonian, Father Justinus Kiviloo.  On January 6, he held his first public liturgy in Lithuania as exarch.  Kiviloo was born of a Lutheran family in 1962 in northwestern Estonia.  He converted to Orthodoxy when he was a young adult.  For over 20 years, he served as the deacon for Metropolitan Stephanos of Tallinn and All Estonia (Ecumenical Patriarchate).  In 2013 he was ordained a priest and subsequently served in two different Estonian towns.  Kiviloo has given a long interview at https://novayagazeta.ee/articles/2024/01/15/vselenskii-patriarkhat-dal-liudiam-v-litve-vozmozhnost-molitsia-po-sovesti-interviu-konstantinopolskogo-pravoslavnogo-ekzarkha-iustinusa-kiviloo  He stated that last summer Metropolitan Stephanos had recommended him to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew as the exarch for Lithuania.   This is because Kiviloo had worked closely with Stephanos in creating the structure of the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s church in Estonia.  In the interview, Kiviloo made the following interesting statement:  “There were even statements from some Lithuanian politicians that the property of the church, where the Moscow Patriarchate now holds its services, should be taken away.  I was also asked for my opinion - I am categorically against it.  We need to build our own churches and serve there.”  The new exarchate will include ten clergymen and ten communities in different towns across Lithuania.  https://www.lrt.lt/en/news-in-english/19/2162671/constantinople-patriarchate-sets-up-church-structure-in-lithuania  In comparison, the Moscow Patriarchate’s church in Lithuania presently consists of “2 monasteries and 50 parishes, in which 62 clergy serve, including 53 priests and 9 deacons.”  https://www.orthodoxy.lt/novosti/4479-sostoyalos-ezhegodnoe-vseobshee-sobranie-litovskoi-pravoslavnoi-cerkvi   Interestingly, nine clerics of the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s church in Lithuania have received awards from the U.S. State Department for their roles in promoting religious freedom in Lithuania.  https://www.state.gov/international-religious-freedom-awards/?fbclid=IwAR1pcPNCW0BDUkM7M2EkLYEShETjDzx2buHxrit4cajCr2q61n30XZeYfQU 

    In Estonia, it was reported on January 11, 2024, that Metropolitan Evgeniy (Reshetnikov) of Tallinn and All Estonia (Moscow Patriarchate) must leave Estonia by February 6 when his temporary residency permit expires.  https://ria.ru/20240118/estoniya-1922068636.html  Metropolitan Evgeniy is Russian and has been in Estonia since 2018.  The head of the north prefecture of the Estonian Border Guards issued the following statement:  “Representatives of the Ministry of the Interior have repeatedly met with Reshetnikov to explain to him that he needs to stop vindicating the Kremlin regime and Russia's military actions in his statements.  But despite past warnings, Reshetnikov has not altered his conduct, which is found to be incompatible with Estonia's values and legal environment.  That is why Reshetnikov's actions pose a threat to security.”  The Estonian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate has responded to this action as follows: “Today, an official letter was received from the Police and Border Guard Department regarding the decision not to renew the temporary residence permit of Metropolitan Evgeniy of Tallinn and All Estonia.  We are not giving any comments now, but we ask all the faithful children of our Estonian Orthodox Church to strengthen their prayers both for our Primate, Metropolitan Evgeniy, and for our Church.”  https://ru.orthodox.ee/news/palume-tugevdada-palveid-prosim-sugubyh-molitv/

    In Bulgaria on January 6, Patriarch Neophyte “sprinkled the warriors and battle flags of the Bulgarian Army with consecrated Epiphany water.”  https://bg-patriarshia.bg/news/patriarshesko-blagoslovenie-za-velikia-bogoyavlenski-vodosve  In his address, he stated:  “The destructive war against brotherly Ukraine, followed by the no less terrifying for our Christian conscience military clash in the lands sanctified by the God-man presence of the Savior, once again reminded us all of the importance of the army for every nation and state.”  It has been pointed out on the Internet that Patriarch Kirill subsequently addressed a letter of condolence upon the death of Bulgarian Metropolitan Ioannikis of Sliven to the “Holy Synod of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church” and made no mention at all to Patriarch Neophyte.  This stands in sharp contrast to the normal practice of addressing such a letter of condolence to the patriarch under whom the deceased bishop served.  See, for example, https://mospat.ru/ru/news/90351/ (Patriarch Kirill addresses his letter of condolence to Patriarch Theophilos upon the death of Metropolitan Cornelius of Petra.)  It has been speculated on the Internet that this failure to address Patriarch Neophyte was due to his prior reference to the "destructive war against brotherly Ukraine."

    Metropolitan Anthony, head of the Moscow Patriarchate’s DECR, took part in Moscow in the presentation of the Russian-language edition of Pope Benedict XVI’s book, Jesus of Nazareth.   https://mospat.ru/ru/news/91257/  Metropolitan Anthony also wrote one of the prefaces to the Russian-language edition.  Metropolitan Anthony had high praise for Pope Benedict.  For example, the Metropolitan stated:  “However, opening it [Benedict’s book], it is impossible not to be amazed by the colossal erudition of Joseph Ratzinger, who shows in the full sense a ‘universal’ example of mastery of all the riches of traditional Christian exegesis and at the same time an excellent orientation in the problems of modern philosophical hermeneutics, textual criticism and biblical studies in general.”  At the Moscow presentation, Metropolitan Anthony also commented on his many personal communications with Pope Benedict.  The Metropolitan stated:  “I remember the last such meeting very well: we stood at the window, from which there was a beautiful view of the [Russian Orthodox] Church of St. Catherine, where I then served, and the Pope told me that he begins and ends every day by looking at the Russian church.”  https://ria.ru/20240118/mitropolit-1922039747.html

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 13 January 2024: Sanctions involving well-known Moscow priest & other news

    On January 12, the Russian news agency Novosti reported that Archpriest Alexey Uminsky failed to appear for the second time before a Moscow diocesan court.  https://ria.ru/20240112/uminskiy-1920898216.html  Novosti interviewed Archpriest Vladislav Tsypin, deputy chairman of the diocesan court.  Tsypin stated:  Yesterday we waited for him [Uminsky] for 4-5 hours.  He is being summoned to court due to failure to comply with the instructions of the hierarchy, the Patriarch, to read a prayer for Holy Rus.'  This quotation is the most authoritative information to date that the current proceedings against Uminsky are based on his failure to recite this prayer.  The full text of the prayer, composed by Patriarch Kirill in September 2022, can be read at  http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/5962654.html.   Among other petitions, the prayer requests God to “give us victory” and to “confirm the warriors and all the defenders of our Fatherland.”  On January 3, Patriarch Kirill had issued a decree releasing Uminsky as rector of the Church of the Life Giving Trinity in Khokhly [center of Moscow] and prohibiting him from serving in the priesthood until the end of proceedings before the Moscow diocesan court.  http://moseparh.ru/ukaz-u-0201-ot-3-yanvarya-2024.html

    The Church of the Life Giving Trinity is more than 400 years old.  Uminsky has been rector of the Church since 1993.  He is a well-known personality and has appeared often on television.  The very popular religious website Pravmir gives his biography and links to some of his many articles appearing on the website.   https://www.pravmir.ru/author/user_2139/   His videos on YouTube seem to be countless.  https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=%D0%9F%D1%80%D0%BE%D1%82%D0%BE%D0%B8%D0%B5%D1%80%D0%B5%D0%B9+%D0%90%D0%BB%D0%B5%D0%BA%D1%81%D0%B8%D0%B9+%D0%A3%D0%BC%D0%B8%D0%BD%D1%81%D0%BA%D0%B8%D0%B9  He has hosted various television series, including the popular program “Orthodox Encyclopedia.”

    The action against Uminsky has been big news in Russia.  The following are long articles from some of the more liberal publications:  https://novayagazeta.ru/articles/2024/01/06/kazn-na-rozhdestvo;  https://www.moscowtimes.ru/2024/01/08/zachistka-tserkvi-prodolzhaetsya-patriarhu-kirillu-ne-nuzhni-svobodnie-i-zhivie-lyudi-a117794  (article by Sergei Chapnin).  The following is an article from a very conservative website applauding the action against Uminsky: https://tsargrad.tv/news/gromkoe-otstranenie-protoiereja-aleksija-uminskogo-pochemu-na-nego-pojavilsja-zapret_941282  A petition to Patriarch Kirill has been posted online requesting him to reconsider the ban imposed on Uminsky.  The following is an excerpt from the petition:  The decree banning priest Alexei Uminsky from serving will deprive thousands of people of spiritual support.  This is a great tragedy for many believers, for children's hospice patients, for hundreds of prisoners and thousands of homeless people.  In our difficult times, it is important to preserve the opportunity for people to receive spiritual support from a beloved and important priest.  To date, more than 10,000 persons have listed their names on the online petition.  https://letter-patriarch.tilda.ws/ 

    On January 11 the website of the Union of Orthodox Journalists published an article arguing that the act of Patriarch Kirill requiring by his own authority the recitation of the prayer for Holy Rus’ was actually a form of “papism.”  https://spzh.news/ru/zashhita-very/77938-zapret-uminskoho-kak-iskushenie-pravoslavnym-papizmom  The article states:  In this sense, Father Alexey Uminsky, like any other priest, had every right not to read the “special” prayer for the reasons already indicated: it is not in the Service Book, it does not have conciliar origin, it is not approved by the Holy Synod, but is the desire of one person.  The article also states:  To ban a priest from ministry simply for refusing to read a prayer that contradicts his ethical or even political views, clearly has nothing to do with the Kingdom of Heaven, and therefore brings enormous harm to the Church.

    The action against Uminsky is not the first time that the Moscow Patriarchate has taken action against a cleric for protesting or not supporting the position of the Russian Church with respect to Ukraine.  As you recall, Father Ioann Koval, a priest in the Lublino district of Moscow, was found guilty of disobedience by the Moscow diocesan court for repeatedly substituting the word “peace” for the word “victory” in the prayer for Holy Rus’.   https://ria.ru/20230513/svyaschennik-1871542337.html   The diocese court ruled that Koval should be defrocked.  Last June, the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate lifted the penalty of defrocking and restored Koval to the priestly ranks.  Koval is now a priest of the Ecumenical Patriarchate apparently serving in Antalya, Turkey.  Andrey Kuraev, now living in Prague, is compiling on his blog a list of the priests of the Moscow Patriarchate who have been subject to adverse actions because of their positions with respect to Ukraine.  https://diak-kuraev.livejournal.com/ (entry of January 11).  So far, there are ten priests on the list.  Of the listed priests, Uminsky is by far the most well-known.

    On December 27, 2023, the Orthodox feast of St. Stephen, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew presided over the Divine Liturgy at the Church of St. Stephen, used by the Bulgarian-speaking Orthodox community in the Balat district of Istanbul. https://orthodoxtimes.com/ecumenical-patriarch-celebrates-historic-liturgy-at-bulgarian-speaking-orthodox-community-church-in-constantinople/  It was at the Church of St. Stephen in 1860 that Bulgarian bishop Hilarion rejected dependence on the Ecumenical Patriarchate and announced an independent Bulgarian church organization.  It was not until 1945 that the Ecumenical Patriarchate recognized the autocephaly of the Bulgarian Church and ceased considering it to be a schismatic church.  Subsequently, the Church of St. Stephen came under the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.  However, the Liturgy last month was the first occasion that an ecumenical patriarch has ever celebrated a service in this church.  In the homily on December 27, Patriarch Bartholomew used this occasion to stress that “only in unity and harmony does the Church fulfill its God-given mission to the world.”   https://ec-patr.org/%cf%80%cf%81%cf%8e%cf%84%ce%b7-%cf%80%ce%b1%cf%84%cf%81%ce%b9%ce%b1%cf%81%cf%87%ce%b9%ce%ba%ce%ae-%ce%b8%ce%b5%ce%af%ce%b1-%ce%bb%ce%b5%ce%b9%cf%84%ce%bf%cf%85%cf%81%ce%b3%ce%af%ce%b1-%cf%83%cf%84/  The homily included the following remarks:

    Today from the sanctuary of this Temple, once a point of problematic reference, we send to everyone an invitation of love and fellowship in unity, not only theoretically in the divine Eucharist, but in all aspects of church life.  We declare our desire for direct contact with all of the local Orthodox Churches and our willingness at the same time to contribute to finding solutions to everything that concerns the Orthodox body, always within the handed-down principles, terms and limits of the ecclesiology of the Eastern Orthodox Church.

    In my opinion this is an interesting invitation.  One must wait and see whether there is a response from other Local Orthodox Churches.

    In Ukraine, Ruslan Stefanchuk, Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, gave on January 5 a long interview to Interfax - Ukraine.  https://interfax.com.ua/news/interview/958773.html  He confirmed that he has refused to send the controversial Draft Law 8371 to the Venice Commission.  He was asked whether the Rada would take into account before the second reading of Draft Law 8371 the concerns about the Draft Law expressed by Volker Türk, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.  The High Commissioner had stated on December 19 that the “proposed restrictions to the right to freedom of religion [in Draft Law 8371] do not appear to comply with international human rights law.”  See https://www.ohchr.org/en/statements-and-speeches/2023/12/russia-should-immediately-cease-its-use-force-against-ukraine-turk   Stefanchuk did not directly answer this question.  However, he did state:  Therefore, I would like that in this particular case, if there are any reservations, let them make them in some form that can be added to the existing draft law.  And for that you need to read it.  That is, I want the logic of the discussion and criticism to begin with the fact of familiarization with the text of this or that legislative act.  And I will be more than happy to consider all of these suggestions for anything.  It is also reported that the Rada’s Committee on Humanitarian and Information Policy hopes to submit the Draft Law to the full Rada for the second reading in February.  https://interfax.com.ua/news/political/957721.html 

    The UOC has retained the law firm of Amsterdam & Partners (offices in London and Washington, DC) to represent its interests on the international stage with respect to the actions being taken by the Ukrainian government against the UOC.  The law firm has established a website with the most recent news relating to this topic:  https://savetheuoc.com/  The firm has also authored a 25-page “white paper” entitled “Freedom of Religion Under Attack in Ukraine.”   https://savetheuoc.com/wp-content/uploads/2024/01/Save-the-UOC-White-Paper.pdf (full text)    The “white paper” is quite specific and includes many footnotes.  The following is a 6-minute video available on the firm’s website.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NUmzCAWZh08&t=65s

    In other news relating to Ukraine, the UOC has issued a statement on December 28 that the ruling UOC bishop of Kherson remains responsible for the entire diocese including the parts now occupied by Russia and that changes in the structure of the diocese can only be made by the UOC.  https://news.church.ua/2023/12/28/xersonska-jeparxiya-dije-v-mezhax-viznachenoji-jiji-statutom-teritoriji-xersonskoji-oblasti/#2024-01-12  As you recall, the Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate decided on December 27 to create a new diocese consisting of the part of the Kherson diocese presently under the control of the Russian Federation.  According to this Moscow decision, the new diocese is placed under the temporary administration of one of the Crimean bishops who has left the UOC.  http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/6087932.html (entry  120)  Although the statement of the UOC contradicts the decision of the Holy Synod in Moscow, it is a mild statement and makes no direct reference to the Moscow decision itself.  The mildness of the statement is perhaps due to the desire of the UOC not to irritate the Moscow Patriarchate unnecessarily for fear that the Patriarchate might declare the UOC to be a “schismatic” church.  From the viewpoint of many in the UOC, being a “schismatic” church would mean that the UOC’s sacraments are no longer valid.

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 8 January 2024: Draft Law 8371 - Response of Rada Speaker to comments by UN High Commissioner

    On January 5, Ruslan Stefanchuk, Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, gave a long interview to Interfax - Ukraine.  https://interfax.com.ua/news/interview/958773.html  Below are two questions and answers from the interview relating to Draft Law 8371.  In the first answer, Stefanchuk makes clear that he will not seek the opinion of the Venice Commission.  In the second, he answers a question relating to criticism of Draft Law 8371 made by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.  On December 19,  Volker Türk, the High Commissioner, had stated:  “A draft law would set out a procedure for dissolving any religious organization with ties to the Russian Federation.  These proposed restrictions to the right to freedom of religion do not appear to comply with international human rights law.”  https://www.ohchr.org/en/statements-and-speeches/2023/12/russia-should-immediately-cease-its-use-force-against-ukraine-turk   Earlier, Ilze Brands Kehris, the UN’s Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, at a meeting of the Security Council on November 17, issued an invitation to the Ukrainian lawmakers to make use of the expertise of the UN’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights “to assess whether the proposed means are clearly defined and the least intrusive ones possible for achieving the specific aim, and whether the proposed amendments comply with international legal standards.”   https://www.ohchr.org/en/statements-and-speeches/2023/11/asg-brands-kehris-briefs-security-council-ukraine   The following is a Google translation of the two Q&As:

    Another debatable issue is related to the draft law on banning religious organizations affiliated with the Russian Orthodox Church .  After the adoption of this document in the first reading, fifty people's deputies , headed by the first deputy head of the "Servants of the People" faction Andrii Motovylovets appealed to you to send it to the Venice Commission for examination.  Did you fulfill their request?  When does the Council plan to adopt the draft law in the second reading?

    As far as I am informed, Motovylovets withdrew his signature from this appeal.  Secondly, we proceed from the fact that the Venice Commission is not a parliamentary GNEU [Main scientific and expert department of the apparatus of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine] or the main legal department, and that we should send everything there.  We use this mechanism when there are really complex bills.

    I received this appeal and refused to forward it to the Venice Commission.  Moreover, in my opinion, the committee on humanitarian and information policy, which was designated as the main one in the preparation of this draft law, should continue to work professionally and professionally.

    As far as I know, its head Nikita Poturaev has already stated that they will become more active on this issue at the beginning of this year: they will hold a committee and make a decision that will provide an opportunity to ensure a fair approach in the implementation of the law.  It should not apply to one person, selectively, but should be a principle.  Any denomination, any religious organization, any church - as soon as evidence of their cooperation with the Russian Federation appears, they should be subjected to appropriate legislative and democratic measures of influence, with the possibility of a court appeal.  This cannot be done arbitrarily.  Because this is no longer a matter of faith or religion, but of national security.

    That is why I expect such a bill.  As soon as it is ready, I think we will immediately bring it into the hall.

    At the same time, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk, called this draft law inconsistent with international legislation on the protection of human rights.  Ukrainian ombudsman Dmytro Lubinets considers this criticism from the UN to be undeserved.  Is the Verkhovna Rada going to take into account the "concerns" expressed by Turk when preparing the document for the second reading? 

    I will touch on a problem of a slightly larger variety.  It's a matter of we all live in a world of myths and clickbait headlines [content whose main purpose is to attract attention and encourage visitors to click on a link to a particular web page]  at times. In order to hold discussions, one must be very deep in the topic. This applies to everything.  And the issue of business trips, and the issue of denominations.

    Immediately, a whole series of myths that are produced are sealed with clickbait headlines, and society begins to form its own vision of it.

    It was very easy for me to work on European integration draft laws, because we had acquis communautaire [a French term referring to the cumulative body of European Community laws, rules, treaties, etc.] standards, and when the discussion began at the level of the general philosophy of myths, we broke them all down with specific norms.  Therefore, I would like that in this particular case, if there are any reservations, let them make them in some form that can be added to the existing draft law.  And for that you need to read it.  That is, I want the logic of the discussion and criticism to begin with the fact of familiarization with the text of this or that legislative act.  And I will be more than happy to consider all of these suggestions for anything.  That is, give specific proposals, because non-specificity kills the essence of the conversation. [My emphasis in large font]

    In response to this invitation, I believe that the first step would be to request a copy of Draft Law 8371 as passed on the first reading.  I have personally spent a number of hours on the Internet seeking to find a copy of Draft Law 8371 as passed on the first reading.  I could not find it on the Rada website or anywhere else.  The version of the Draft Law as it was submitted to the Rada on January 19, 2023, is available at https://itd.rada.gov.ua/billInfo/Bills/pubFile/1622350.  However, certain changes may have been made after the submission and before the first reading. 

    If one can be sure that one has the latest version of Draft Law 8371, one can then make comments or express reservations on the latest version.  Stefanchuk has stated that he would “be more than happy to consider all of these suggestions for anything.”  In my opinion, it would be sad if the Office of the High Commissioner, or a similar body, does not take advantage of this opportunity to study the latest version and to make specific comments which Stefanchuk has promised “to consider.” 

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA 

  • 4 January 2024: "White paper" in support of UOC

    With respect to international matters, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) is now being represented by the law firm of Amersterdam & Partners LLP with offices in London and Washington DC.  On January 3, the law firm released and posted on its website a “white paper” with the title Freedom of Religion under Attack in Ukraine.  The firm’s website is https://amsterdamandpartners.com/.  The press release relating to the white paper is at  https://amsterdamandpartners.com/amsterdam-partners-llp-releases-new-white-paper-detailing-violations-of-religious-freedoms-in-ukraine/ .  The link to the full text of the white paper is https://savetheuoc.com/wp-content/uploads/2024/01/Save-the-UOC-White-Paper.pdf.  The following is a 6-minute video available on the firm’s website.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NUmzCAWZh08&t=65s  A separate website,  https://savetheuoc.com/, has also been established.  All of the foregoing are in English.

    I have read the entire white paper.  As a lawyer, Robert Amsterdam has the obligation to represent his client and to present the best arguments in support of his client.  Without agreeing with all of Amsterdam’s arguments, I believe that he did an excellent job as a lawyer in preparing the white paper.  The white paper is worth reading, regardless whether you agree with it or not.

     

    Peter Anderson