Ukrainian Orthodox on the road to reconciliation
Dialogue has been opened between the autocephalous Church and the Orthodox Church that recently broke away from the Moscow Patriarchate. Points of disagreement remain. Personalisms risk derailing the process of rapprochement. Greek Catholics watch with interest.
Moscow (AsiaNews) - The first official dialogue meeting between delegations from the autocephalous Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Pzu) and the Orthodox Church of Ukraine of the Moscow Patriarchate (Uzbekistan), which recently broke off relations with the Russian mother Church, without yet defining its legal-ecclesiastical status, was held in Kiev, in the Metropolitan Palace at the historic St Sophia Cathedral.
The meeting, which lasted three hours, was able to take place thanks to the mediation of the State Service for Ethnic Policy Issues and Freedom of Conscience (Gess), as Pzu priest Andrej Dudčenko announced on social networks. "It was good to see old friends again, and to meet new ones," the cleric added. A total of 21 priests from the two jurisdictions gathered, and the dialogue was moderated by Gess leader Elena Bogdan.
The purpose of the colloquium was "to highlight first of all what unites, which is much more than what divides" the two national Churches. It was thus acknowledged that they have "a common faith and common theological, liturgical and canonical traditions", as well as a common history in which, however, "we differ in our assessments of certain events", so that it is necessary to revise and re-read the entire religious history of Ukraine.
Above all, what unites the two communities today is the condemnation of the "destructive position" of the Moscow Patriarchate, which supported the Russian war in Ukraine. For the rest "there are many common problems", both Churches having emerged from the separation from the Russian one. Insufficiency in the preparation of clergy and bishops was emphasised, and an 'excess of Byzantinism' in the almost exclusive emphasis on ritualism and the emphasis on the attributes given to the authorities of civil power.
A shared conclusion was the "need to revive the Kievan tradition, in the liturgy as in ecclesiastical art, in architecture and in the training of the clergy and episcopate", recalling the great legacy of the Mogilian Theological Academy, dating back to its founder, Kiev Metropolitan Petro Mogila in the early 17th century.
At the very least, the priests of the two groups agreed, 'it is essential to refrain from using mutually hostile language'. Since 1992, when Metropolitan Filaret (Denisenko) decided to break away from Moscow by self-proclaiming himself Patriarch of Kiev, tensions between the two jurisdictions have never been lacking. The two sides fought over churches and monasteries, accusing each other of treason and heresy. The new detachment from Moscow does not automatically erase these long-cultivated, and often highly personalised, hostilities.
In the recent Synod of Feofania, the Upz Church in fact declared that it no longer considers itself bound to the Moscow Patriarchate, but no stance was taken against the 'brothers' of the Pzu, and many bishops, priests, monks and faithful remain resolutely opposed to a reunion. Some maintain allegiance to Russia, as obviously in the occupied areas of the Donbass, not to mention the annexed Crimea, which has declared its total return to the Moscow Patriarchate. In many other cases, despite their opposition to the Russian invasion, there remain mixed feelings of loyalty to tradition and enmity towards the other side.
There are about twice as many Upz parishes as there are Pzu parishes (12,000 versus 6,000, more or less), but many churches have been artfully doubled and tripled by Moscow in recent years to accentuate the historical superiority of the pro-Russians. The question of parishes abroad, which change jurisdiction even more easily than those at home, remains completely open, and in the background is the interested gaze of the Greek Catholics, who share the same traditions as the Orthodox, and are ready to participate in an even broader dialogue on the national integration of Christianity of Byzantine tradition.