Filaret breaks with Ukrainian autocephalous Church. Epifanyj closer to Greek Catholics
by Vladimir Rozanskij

The Patriarch Emeritus concerned by lack of attention to him and fears the new president Volodymyr Zelensky. The Metropolitan of Kiev meets the Major Archbishop Svjatoslav Shevchuk and dreams of union.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - For the past few weeks the Patriarch Emeritus of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Church, the 90-year-old Filaret (Denisenko), has been in conflict with the new Metropolitan Epifanyj (Dumenko), his former secretary and successor at the helm of the "national" Orthodox Church .

Filaret has threatened to separate from Epifanyj, to create an independent patriarchy, of which he intends to convene a founding synod. The elderly hierarch of Soviet times, who was the first to separate from the patriarchate of Moscow in the 1990s, complains about the young metropolitan's lack of attention to him, despite having retained the primatial name. From the establishment of the new autocephalous Church in early February, Epifanyj would have met Filaret no more than five times.

Instead, the patriarch emeritus would like to remain at the side of the successor and first metropolitan of the new Church, to guide the flock of the faithful together and "defend our Church", especially after the April elections in which the president "protector of the Church", Petro Poroshenko, was replaced with the much more secular Volodymyr Zelensky. The new president has already met Epifanyj, without however making promises to the local Orthodox, who nonetheless declared that they wanted to support him.

Filaret claims to be named as patriarch in all liturgies of the Orthodox Church, which happens only in some churches, while the name Epifanyj is mentioned in litanies everywhere. The old patriarch continues to deem the jurisdiction he founded to be active, separating himself from Moscow in 1992, and sends his letters on the headed paper of the "Patriarchate of Kiev". He claims to have been "forced" by Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople not to advance his candidacy to the founding council last December, otherwise the new Church would now have him as its guide, and he would make use of patriarchal status.

The patriarch is not even satisfied with the statute approved by Constantinople with the Tomos of autocephaly, which effectively puts the Ukrainian Church in close dependence on the ecumenical patriarchate, as happens in variable mode for all the other Orthodox Churches, except the Russian one. It is not by chance that the only patriarchies that have the title "metropolitan" are the ancient ones of Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem (apart from the papacy of Rome), to which Moscow then forced its addition. The other autocephalous churches have different titles, even patriarchal, but always "national" (patriarchate of Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania, Albania, etc.), to indicate a more local function, where as the "holy cities" have rather a universal value. It is the historical claim of Moscow to be the "Third Rome", and Filaret would like to attribute this symbolic value also to Kiev, the ancient "mother of Russian cities".

Filaret's statements are creating a lot of confusion among the faithful, where a good part of the clergy is still very attached to the patriarch emeritus, while some groups of lay people have already circulated protests against the interference of the old Soviet hierarch. Someone even puts forward the hypothesis of a revocation of the Tomos, in the event of excessive internal divisions of the new Church.

For his part, Metropolitan Epifanyj has not commented on the criticisms and threats of his former mentor turned opponent, but some of his statements have created further discussions. According to the Metropolitan of Kiev, "the union with the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church, headed by Major Archbishop Svyatoslav (Shevchuk), with whom he has found considerable synthesis. Speaking to Espresso.TV, Epipanyj recalled that "with the Greek-Catholics we are carrying out many important projects, and we are participating together in many demonstrations", and apparently there is already discussion of a possible unification. "In a meeting with His Beatitude Svjatoslav, we talked about further deepening our collaboration. In it we develop a dialogue, and we do not know how far it will take us; theoretically, it is even ultimately possible to reach union ". In the opinion of the head of the autocephalous church, all the Ukrainian Orthodox are destined to unify, meaning both those of Muscovite obedience, and Greek-Catholics.