KIEV – As “Patriarch” Philaret Denisenko continues to prepare for the Local Council of the “Kiev Patriarchate” (KP) to be held in Kiev on Thursday, the self-interested schismatic has stepped up the level of his rhetoric, calling into question the status of the “Orthodox Church of Ukraine” (OCU) and its primate “Metropolitan” Epiphany Dumenko.
Philaret has spoken about his displeasure with both the terms dictated in the OCU’s tomos of autocephaly by the Patriarchate of Constantinople and his status as simple diocesan bishop many times, though he only recently declared that he fully rejects the tomos granted by Constantinople on January 6.
His KP jurisdiction united with the schismatic “Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church” (UAOC) in December to create the OCU, though it was later revealed that neither the KP nor the UAOC were dissolved as Constantinople had required, and Philaret is now devoting all his energy to drawing Ukrainian schismatics back into his KP.
In a recent interview with the Ukrainian radio program “Persona Grata,” Philaret launched a full-on verbal attack against the OCU and its creators in the Patriarchate of Constantinople. And, while the 90-year-old schismatic hierarch was speaking, as always, out of his own self-interest, his stance against the OCU nevertheless led him to speak certain truths that have been expressed by a number of Local Churches and hierarchs from throughout the Orthodox world.
While December 15’s “unification council” was hailed by the Ukrainian schismatics and government and the Patriarchate of Constantinople as a unification of the three branches of Ukrainian Orthodoxy, Philaret has declared that no true unification can be spoken of, given that only 2 of the 90 bishops of the Ukrainian Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC) participated have joined the OCU—a point that OrthoChristian has made many times.
Moreover, these two hierarchs brought almost no parishes with them, Philaret notes, and thus they cannot in any reasonable way be said to represent the whole of the UOC.
“The autocephalous church [UAOC—ed.] came with 500 or 600 parishes. And these two hierarchs of the Moscow Patriarchate? One came with one parish, Drabinko, and the other [Simeon Shostatsky—ed.] came with 20 parishes, but there were 300 parishes in his diocese, so what kind of unification is this?! It’s purely a formality,” Philaret declared.
As the Union of Orthodox Journalists clarifies, in reality less than 10 parishes have thrown their support behind Shostatsky, formerly the hierarch of the Vinnitsa Diocese of the canonical Church.
And not only does the OCU not represent a true unification, it is not even a canonical Church, as none of the Local Orthodox Churches recognize it, besides the Patriarchate of Constantinople, Philaret now confesses.
“Don’t call the OCU a canonical Church, do not claim a falsehood,” Philaret told the radio correspondent. “It is not recognized as canonical by the other Churches; it is recognized by the Ecumenical Patriarch alone. It has a tomos in name, but it is not autocephalous in content, and 13 Local Churches do not recognize the OCU as a canonical Church. So how is it canonical, when no one serves with Metropolitan Epiphany except the Ecumenical Patriarch?”
Several Local Churches, including the Serbian and Polish Churches and the OCA, have explicitly recognized the OCU as schismatic, while none, as Philaret says, have recognized it as canonical, despite the pressure from the Patriarchate of Constantinople.
“Not a single Church recognizes it, not only the Russian Church… Therefore, to boast that we have a tomos of autocephaly is not worth it. We have been deceived,” Philaret declared.
Philaret specifically noted that although Epiphany was in Istanbul on June 10 to congratulate Patriarch Bartholomew on his name’s day at the same time as representatives from the Churches of Alexandria, Jerusalem, and Greece, no one served with Epiphany.
Ironically, the KP that Philaret is trying to revive was recognized by none of the Local Churches, not even Constantinople.
Further, Philaret rejects the status of “former Metropolitan of Kiev” that Constantinople gave him when in October it lifted the anathema placed upon him in 1997 by the Russian Orthodox Church, of which he was once a canonical hierarch, stating again, as he has many times, that he is and always will be a patriarch.
He has never recognized the anathema placed upon him and with this self-confidence he ordained a large number of hierarchs for the KP, Philaret explains. He therefore argues that if Constantinople lifted the anathema against him, that means it acknowledges that there truly was an anathema placed upon him, and this undermines all of the ordinations and consecrations that he celebrated during his years under ecclesiastical sanction.
“Okay, if the Ecumenical Patriarch removed the anathema from me in 2018, then until 2018 was I under anathema or not? If I was under anathema, that means that all these bishops are illegitimate, and Epiphany is not only not a metropolitan—he’s not even a priest. If the Ecumenical Patriarch removed the anathema from me in 2018, then the entire episcopate is invalid!” Philaret declared.
Meanwhile, Philaret has invited all the bishops of the OCU to attend the KP Local Council on Thursday, despite declarations from the OCU that he has no right to do so, that he is provoking a schism, that he is destroying the centuries-long aspirations of the Ukrainian people for autocephaly, and that he could be punished with retirement.
Epiphany Dumenko chalks Philaret’s declarations and actions up to “power ambitions,” while “Archbishop” Evstraty Zorya chalks them up to old age. Ironically, in rejecting Philaret’s self-interested ambitions, Epiphany thus rejects the entire history of the KP in which he was ordained and consecrated. And while Zorya points to Philaret’s age, he was his right hand man, as speaker of the KP, less than one year ago, constantly at his side.
Philaret’s KP Local Council will be held on Thursday, though it is expected, even by Philaret, to be poorly attended.