05/14/2018, 19.19
RUSSIA – UKRAINE
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Alexander, a bishop of the Moscow Patriarchate, supports autocephaly for the Kyiv Patriarchate

by Vladimir Rozanskij

In an interview with Levyj Bereg, the prelate expressed his support for the independence of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. Most Ukrainian bishops and faithful also appear to back autocephaly. The prelate is critical of the Moscow Patriarchate’s subordination to Putin: "they are probably already discussing his possible coronation as czar of all the Russias".

(AsiaNews) – Support for the complete separation of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church from Moscow is not limited to politicians seeking a religious reason for the conflict with the country’s big neighbour. Some bishops associated with the Russian patriarchate also seem favourable to the Tomos of autocephaly by Constantinople, this according to Metropolitan Alexander (Drabinko) of Pereiaslav-Khmelnytskyi and Vishnevoe.

Metropolitan Alexander, 40, has held his diocese for 10 years, and is the vicar of the metropolis of Kyiv led by Onufriy (Berezovsky), head of the Ukrainian Church loyal to Moscow. For some years he was also a member of the Permanent Council of the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church (Mezhsobornoe Prisutstvie) and represents the young generation of Orthodox bishops in Ukraine.

On 10 May, in an interview with the magazine Levyj Bereg, he said in no uncertain terms that "regardless of the final decision of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, I want to openly support the idea of ​​the autocephaly of the Ukrainian Church".

When asked about differences with Onufriy, who is ostensibly against independence, Alexander noted that "my opinion is in fact not against that of the Ukrainian Church in general, nor that of its leadership, to the extent that no official position as been expressed on the matter.”

He reiterated that he is not "against" anyone, but in favour of the reunification of the different parts and souls of the country’s Orthodox community so as to go beyond the "schism" that has existed since the 1990s. In doing so, the Ukrainian Church could re-establish its full status as a local Church, "sister in equal rights" within the family of Orthodox Churches in the world.

Whilst criticising the interference of Ukraine’s president and parliament, who are dealing with the issue in a "non-canonical" manner, for him the real question is what Ukrainian Orthodox want. Autocephaly has been in fact the common orientation since 1991, right after the end of Soviet oppression and before the break by Metropolitan Filaret (Denysenko), the self-appointed "patriarch" of the Autonomous Church of Kyiv.

At that time, all Ukrainian bishops (including Onufriy, then metropolitan of Chernivtsi and Bukovyna) turned to Moscow, and the then new patriarch Alexy II, to demand exactly autocephaly, a request that was repeated at the synod of Kharkiv in 1992. It was Moscow’s refusal that led to the decision by Filaret’s and some bishops to break away. According to Alexander, "we have never talked about going beyond this request."

The statement by the young metropolitan seems to be an unofficial way of expressing the will of the bishops without committing Onufriy himself, whilst at the same time challenging the Moscow synod. For Alexander, the opinions expressed are "logical and constructive. The aim is not to provoke more schism, nor confuse or incite people". The responsibility for excesses and false interpretations lies with those individuals who support them.

Whilst waiting for Constantinople to rule on the matter, Alexander's proposal calls for a Synod of all the bishops of the Ukrainian Church, under the chairmanship of Metropolitan Onufriy, to hear the opinions of its members, and determine whether they coincide with what most of the clergy and faithful want, namely autocephaly.

To settle the matter, non-conflictual canonical solutions could be put on the table, bringing in "schismatic" Orthodox. This would also do justice to the initiatives of President Poroshenko, who "as head of state, must guarantee equal rights to all believers", overcoming conflicts and mutual accusations. Solving ecclesiastical divisions, says Drabinko, "is also a problem of national security".

With respect to the Moscow Patriarchate, Alexander points to its total dependence on President Putin, noting that "they are probably already discussing his possible coronation as czar of all the Russias". However, the ideology that supports him, that of the “Russian world" subordinate to Moscow even outside the borders of Russia, is not acceptable to Ukrainians. Conversely, we could talk about a spiritual gathering of all Eastern Slavic Orthodox, children of the baptism of Kyiv in 988, without any political or imperial demands from "big brother" nor mutual acts of aggression.

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