By Taras Dobryanskiy at VT Ukraine (666 words)
Today, Ukrainian media published an article claiming that Filaret (Denysenko), former primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Kyivan Patriarchate (UOC-KP), who left the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU), established by ex-president Poroshenko and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, is negotiating with the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) to remove the anathema imposed on him by it in 1997. The information first appeared in the “Churcher” Telegram channel and was spread by several news outlets.
According to authors, while everyone is discussing the “Steinmeier formula” signed by the Ukrainian delegation for the settlement in Eastern Ukraine, which is considered both a “treason” and “victory” of president Zelensky’s team, Ukraine is about to see another notable event.
In late 2017, the then head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Kyivan Patriarchate, and a former Metropolitan of the Russian Orthodox Church Filaret (Denysenko) contacted representatives of the ROC and Patriarch Kirill and asked for forgiveness. In a letter addressed to the Primate of the ROC Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and the Episcopate of the ROC, Filaret quotes the Bible: “By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one to another” (John 13:35), and speaks of his desire to “stop the divisions and strife between Orthodox Christians.” According to him, it is necessary to restore the Eucharistic communion for life in the world. And since this is hindered because of the Bishops Council of ROC’s decisions, which deprived him and the hierarchs ordained by him after May 27, 1992, of dignity, he asks to abolish them. Thus, “it will put an end to the confrontation and bring the day when Ukrainian and Russian believers will embrace each other and say “brothers”.ˮ
Obviously, such a letter intrigued Patriarch Kirill and the entire episcopate of the «FSB-linked Church», as the Churcher Telegram channel put it, – on the basis of their Department for external Church relations, a Commission was created to hold the negotiations, and it’s still active now.
The authors claim that recently Filaret and his bishops decided to resume the negotiations. If in 2017, it could be interpreted as a desire to obtain canonical recognition, but now it bears an additional meaning. First, it is necessary to “cover up” all his supporters banned by Epiphanius. While they were part of the OCU, they were at least recognized by Constantinople, but after joining Filaret’s “revolt” they actually lost their “canonical cover”. Second, some of Filaret’s ambitions still remain unrealized – His Holiness will never be satisfied either with the status of an “honorary” Patriarch, or an inferior place in the OCU proposed by Patriarch Bartholomew. Given the venerable age of the elder, as well as his resentment at the the Bishops Council of ROC, which anathematized him in 1997, now it’s high time that this anathema is removed by all means.
This, of course, does not mean that the UOC-KP will join the ROC, or the UOC-MP, nor does it mean that all Ukrainian believers will run to “embrace their Russian brothers” – these “brothers” have done Ukrainians too much harm, but it means that Filaret will undoubtedly throw off the heavy burden of “non-canonicity” that has been hanging on his soul for almost 30 years. Moreover, now it’s a perfect moment for this – no Local Church has yet recognized the OCU, and the UOC-KP, despite recent victories in court, is in tatters. Such abolition of excommunication will help Filaret to strengthen his own position in the international arena, because no matter how hostile the Moscow Church is, it is placed in the diptych.
Flirting with Russians is a very dangerous thing, but due to this cancellation, Filaret will receive odds. Especially as now representatives of the European parishes of the UOC-KP, which, according to the UOC-KP first joined the PCU, are coming back because the conditions of Constantinople are not satisfactory for them.
Anyway, a thrilling scenario is being played out. In his life, Filaret has masterminded lots of them, so we are waiting and watching, it must be really entertaining.