KIEV – The conflict between the leaders of the schismatic Orthodox Churches in Ukraine has turned into a public debacle. The heads of the now abolished UOC Kyiv led by Patriarchate Filaret and the new OCU led by Epiphanius Dumenko that has Poroshenko’s clear support – neither of which have recognition by most world Orthodoxy nor the Moscow Patriarchate, are now in an open fight.
FRN recalls that the new Poroshenko project to unify a church against the Moscow Patriarchate, and pushed into being by Patriarchate Bartholomew of Constantinople, is called the OCU – Orthodox Church of Ukraine. This church was established by a unification council on 15 December 2018, and received its Tomos of autocephaly (decree of ecclesial independence) on 5 January 2019 from Bartholomew. The council voted to unite the existing Ukrainian Orthodox jurisdictions: the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Kiev Patriarchate (UOC-KP) led by Filaret, the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAOC) and any part of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP) that would join. The primate of the church is the Metropolitan of Kiev and all Ukraine. The unification council elected Epiphanius Dumenko as its primate, previously the Metropolitan of Pereiaslav-Khmelnytskyi and Bila Tserkva (UOC-KP).
As a result, the UOC Kyiv Patriarchate led by Filaret no longer is supposed to exist. In a strange twist, Filaret’s schismatics were granted full communion with the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, which was restored in October, 2018 but yet was not canonically recognized by any church (Ecumenical Patriarchate of Bartholomew included). This opened the door for Poroshenko and Bartholomew to work towards heavy state interference in the establishment of a state church where Filaret increasingly saw himself angled out. Instead, schismatic Epipchanius Dumenko was tapped by Poroshenko, in an an greement with Bartholomew, to create the OCU.
Last night schismatic Filaret who appeared in full robes surprised viewers and said in an interview with Ukrainian TSN that “the Kiev Patriarchate still exists.” The head of the Patriarchate, dissolved in December 2018, sent out invitations to the fraternal conversation to the Bishops of the OCU (with the exception of Epiphanius). Apparently, Filaret gathered bishops to discuss the prospects for the restoration of the Kyiv Patriarchate.
In turn, the head of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, Metropolitan Epiphanius, stated that “now it’s inappropriate to speak of some kind of return.”
“If we return to the past, this is automatically a road to nowhere, this is a road to isolation, this is a return to the state in which we were until October 11, before the relevant decisions by the Constantinople Patriarchate,” the schismatic Epiphanius said.
Filaret’s new found courage can be explained by the loss of political positions of Epiphanius, who, as Ukrainian media have written, “is nourished in every way around President Petro Poroshenko”. In the winter of 2019, political analyst Mikhail Pogrebinsky in an interview with the FAN said:
“Epiphanius gives the impression of a secular man whom Poroshenko could well buy. In addition, judging by his public statements, Epiphanius is a Ukrainian nationalist, and for such people Ukrainian identity is more important than Jesus Christ. It all lives next to corruption, bribery. Therefore, Poroshenko could well agree with Epiphanius. ”
Thus, with Poroshenko’s departure from the political arena, it can be assumed that Epiphania will also be weakened, which, following the saying “Strike the iron while it’s hot,”, Filaret intends to eliminate his rival.