05/17/2024, 09.09
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The Ukrainian Autocephalous Church against the 'Russian World

by Vladimir Rozanskij

The synod of the Orthodox community led by Metropolitan Epifanyj has appealed to Patriarch Bartholomew to condemn Kirill for the "ethno-filetist heresy". The clash with the other Orthodox jurisdiction, which has always been linked to Moscow, despite having formally distanced itself from it after the Russian invasion.

Kiev (AsiaNews) - The Synod of Bishops of the autocephalous Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Pzu), led by Metropolitan Epifanyj (Dumenko), has appealed to the Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew II (Archontonis), on whom it has been canonically dependent since receiving the Tomos of autonomy in January 2019, with a request to condemn the Russian Orthodox Church led by Moscow Patriarch Kirill (Gundjaev) for the heretical ideology of the "Russian World".

Many speakers at the Synod emphasised that such a conception, expressed by the Nakaz (Decree) of the Russian People's Universal Council, an association flanking the Moscow Church, is to be considered a 'Eurasian political ideology' and an 'ethno-filetist heresy' (an expression of 'religious chauvinism'), and support for it by the Patriarchate is a betrayal of the authentic spirit of Orthodoxy. The Ukrainian bishops therefore ask Bartholomew to ask Kirill to publicly disavow this ideology.

The synod met in the Refectory Hall of the Kiev Cave Lavra to reiterate the "particular gravity of these Russian theories, which constitute a crime against God, against the Church of Christ and the whole of humanity, put into practice by the secularist Vladimir Putin, who has thereby excluded himself from ecclesial communion". The meeting of the Ukrainian bishops with the explicit condemnation of the Russians also represents a particularly decisive moment in the internal controversy with the other Orthodox jurisdiction Upz, which has always been linked to Moscow, even though it formally distanced itself from it after the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The civil authorities of Ukraine, from the presidency to the government and parliament, are putting pressure in many ways on the Upz Church, which will be banned on Ukrainian territory if it does not radically break off relations with Russia. Several of its exponents, including metropolitans and bishops, have been arrested on charges of collaborating with the invader, and many churches and monasteries have been cleared of pro-Russian exponents.

Until before the war, the Upz Church represented a clear majority of the Orthodox in Ukraine, with more than 12,000 parishes for about fifty eparchies, twice as many as the Pzu Church. Now the Upz Synod has published the data of the autocephalous, which currently number 45 eparchies and 9 thousand parishes, with more than 80 monasteries, both male and female. It is difficult to make the comparison, since the communities are contested throughout the country, but the impression is that the two Churches are now equivalent in terms of number of structures and faithful. Many Upz churches have switched to the other camp, and Metropolitan Epifanyj has managed to consecrate several new churches in recent years, despite the devastation of the war.

The Autocephalous Church has also opened several institutes of higher education, including five Theological Academies in Kiev, L'vov, Volynsk, Užgorod and Ivano-Frankivsk, and several seminaries and institutes for lay people, including concluding an agreement with the National University of Černovtsy to open the Chair of Theology, in which 1,200 students are enrolled.

There are 5,700 priests serving at Pzu, with 63 bishops and many collaborators in the various sectors. As Epifanyj stated, 'even in the anomalous conditions of our existence, with the ongoing war and the persistence of the non-canonical jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate in Ukraine, our Church is the true spiritual guide of the Ukrainian people'.

The autocephalous Church remains in constant dialogue and collaboration with the Greek-Catholic Church led by Major Archbishop Svjatoslav Ševčuk, which also represents a community with over 3,000 parishes and many faithful, and also with the Latin-rite Catholic Church, with 800 parishes under the leadership of the president of the Bishops' Conference, Bishop Vitalij Skomarovskyj of Luc'k.

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