The Council will be held tomorrow. The bishops of the three Churches (Kiev, Moscow, "autocephalous") should be present to elect the primate who will receive the tomos of independence from Bartholomew I. Moscow has already threatened excommunications. Poroshenko offers the Church of Saint Sophie as the cathedral of the new primate. In Ternopol, a violent brawl between bishop Tikhon ("autocephalous") and the faithful who want to move to the patriarchate of Kiev. The parish priest hospitalized with concussion and broken ribs.
Moscow (AsiaNews) - On 15 December the "Unification Council" of the new Ukrainian Orthodox autocephalous Church will gather in Kiev. It is supposed to resolve conflicts between the various communities, instead it seems that it could actually further intensify them, and even arouse new ones. Meanwhile, in the region of Ternopol (Ukraine), on December 12, a massive brawl broke out between clergy and faithful of different orientation, during which a bishop’s pastoral staff was broken, as well as a priest’s ribs (see video) .
The bishops of all three jurisdictions recognized by Constantinople are invited to the Kiev Council: the jurisdiction loyal to Moscow, the one independent of Kiev and the one already self-defining as "autocephalous". Someone has also proposed to open in the presence of priests and lay people.
On the eve of the summit, it is still not known which bishops will participate, especially from the pro-Russian Church given that the patriarchate of Moscow has threatened automatic excommunication. The synod has the task of electing the primate of the new Church, who will then have to go to Istanbul to the Tomos and the statute of the autocephaly receive from the patriarch Bartholomew.
The head of the Church of Kiev, Filaret (Denisenko), is reportedly out of running for the office, also because of his advanced age (91 years), and it is difficult to predict who will be chosen for a position that should not have the status of patriarch . Filaret has however declared that "he will die patriarch", continuing to wear the long white papal with the side bands (a partial imitation of that of the Pope of Rome), identical to that of his "great enemy" Kirill (Gundjaev), the patriarch of Moscow.
The head of the Security Service of Ukraine (the SBU) Vasilij Gritsak declared yesterday that the ecclesiastical conflicts can lead to real acts of war. In his opinion, "the inspiration programmed by the Russian Services in inter-confessional conflicts in Ukraine (which are accompanied by provocative acts of a terrorist nature), can become a motive for a military invasion of the Russian armed forces in our country".
By decision of President Petro Poroshenko, the Council will be held in the historic St. Sophia Cathedral in Kiev, built 1000 years ago to celebrate the Christian baptism of Kievan Rus', the medieval state that gave life to three countries: Russia, Belarus and Ukraine. The cathedral was transformed into a museum in the Soviet period and is still owned by the state, which allows the liturgical celebration only on the day of Ukrainian independence, on 24 August. On the occasion of the imminent autocephaly, the President of the Ukrainian Senate (Verkhovnaja Rada) Andrej Parubij proposed to grant the place of worship to the new Church, returning it to the function of primatial church; the divisions between the Orthodox had so far prevented this restitution. For the past 25 years, the main church of Filaret Denisenko's jurisdiction was the nearby church of St. Andrew, which has now been directly entrusted to the patriarchate of Constantinople as its ecumenical "stavropigial" representation.
The new Ukrainian Church, according to the forecasts, should depend in a strict manner from Constantinople, which would thus inaugurate a new season of affirmation of its "ecumenical" or universal primacy over the other Orthodox Churches. The arrangement of the Ukrainian rebus will require a redefinition of the canonical territories, as some parts of the ancient Kiev metropolis are now found on the national territory of Russia and Belarus.
Later on, Constantinople could also demand a reorganization of the territories and conditions of autonomy from other autocephalous Churches. For example, the Orthodox Church in the Czech and Slovak territories has long been in discussion with the ecumenical patriarchate, also due to the excessive dependence of the local Church on the patriarchate of Moscow.
Bartholomew could claim the dependence on the Fanar of all the territories not traditionally Orthodox, as in the Americas and in Australia, where there are other national jurisdictions. The Orthodox Church of America in the United States, one of the largest, was constituted by the Russians and later self-proclaimed autocephalous, without obtaining the blessing of Constantinople.
The passage to autocephaly is not painless. On 12 December, a massive brawl broke out in the church of the Assumption in the village of Vinjatnitsy, in the Ternopol region, between the archbishop of the Ukrainian "autocephalous" church Tikhon (Petranjuk) and the parish priest of the church Fr. Ioann Bojko, involving the parishioners present. The reason was precisely the passage of the parish priest and his faithful to the Church of Kiev, in anticipation of unification.
Bishop Tikhon presented himself in church during the liturgical celebration, arousing the resentful reactions of the parishioners present, who closed the doors of the church in his face. The bishop, however, managed to enter, reading aloud his decree of excommunication of the parish priest; the faithful ripped the pastoral cross from his hands, smashing it to pieces. At this point the brawl began in the church between the faithful and the bishop’s delegation, following which the parish priest was hospitalized for concussion and rupture of some ribs.
It is evident that in addition to the military plans of Russians and Ukrainians, who are only waiting for any excuse to take action, several local conflicts are going to happen in almost all Ukrainian Orthodox parishes, where clergy and laity are often divided in between one tradition or ecclesiastical jurisdiction an another.