Filaret becomes a “shadow winner” in Ukrainian President Election

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A analysis from the Department for External Church Relations of the UOC.

The Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU) would have never obtained the Tomos of autocephaly, if there were no coincidence of interests of two influential people – the President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko and the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.

Poroshenko’s objective was extremely simple. After launch of visa-free regime, now with the help of Tomos he intended to introduce another significant achievement of Ukrainian government, to mobilize around this achievement his electorate, and to win the Elections in Ukraine. That is why Poroshenko had actively and personally participated in all the events connected with obtaining the Tomos. He organized a “Tomos-tour”, and made the idea of “independent Ukrainian Church” inseparable part of his election company.

Bartholomew chased more complex and long-term goals. He sought for even more sufficient strengthening of the Patriarchate of Constantinople positions with simultaneous weakening the positions of its main rivals, especially of Athos and the Russian Orthodox Church, followed by unconditional acknowledgment of his leadership in the Orthodox World by other Local Orthodox Churches. If the Local Churches have recognized the Tomos, according to which “Orthodox Church of Ukraine, as other Patriarchs and Primates, recognizes the Patriarchate of Constantinople as their Head”, that might have helped him to achieve his goal.

In the beginning, objectives of the Ecumenical Patriarch and the President of Ukraine had been concurring. According to their plans, obtaining the Tomos would have led to the process of quick “unification” between the UOC-KP and UAOC, which thus were to cease their existence, and together with a part of UOC-MP parishes get under the single jurisdiction and administration of the OCU. President Poroshenko promised to get support for this process from the legislative and executive state authorities. In turn, Patriarch Bartholomew had to ensure recognition of the OCU by other Local Churches.

In order not to turn away from the newly established Church both its potential supporters in the Orthodox World, and potential electors of Poroshenko in Ukraine, a process of “unification” had to be organized as nicely and transparently as possible. For the very start, it was planned to hold a “Unification Council” with participation of representatives of all Ukrainian Orthodox confessions, and to elect as a Primate to the OCU an authoritative and neutral to all the confessions hierarch, who had never actively participated in conflicts disturbing Ukrainian Orthodoxy. Next, transition of remaining church communities under the OCU jurisdiction had to be utmost peaceful, with no application of force or violation of the Ukrainian legislation. At last, the OCU had to be demonstrated as a positive example displaying overcoming the schism in Ukrainian Orthodoxy, with following a request to the Local Orthodox Churches for the OCU recognition and support from their side.

However, those primary good intentions dashed against opposition from the side of Filaret, Primate of the UOC-KP, who called himself to be the main “ally” to the President of Ukraine and the Ecumenical Patriarch with regards to the OCU establishment.

First of all, Filaret refused to follow the interests of Bartholomew and Poroshenko, and run his own game, aiming to restore his control over Ukrainian Orthodoxy and transforming the OCU into third “centre of influence” in the Orthodox World comparable in its influence and power only with the Patriarchate of Constantinople and the Russian Orthodox Church. Secondly, being himself an initiator of the schism within Ukrainian Orthodoxy, and thus understanding its depth very well, Filaret did not believe that there was a chance for the faithful to get peacefully united, that is why he decided to take out of this situation everything that was possible, even if that were coming against interests of the Ukrainian faithful and the objectives of Poroshenko and Bartholomew.

Breaking off all the agreements achieved earlier and provoking future conflicts, Filaret advanced to the position of the OCU Primate his own protégé Epifaniy, making uneasy allies from UAOC and pushing away potential supporters from UOC-MP. After that, Filaret “forgot about the unification idea” and became the main ideologist of forcible seizures of UOC-MP churches and parishes that deepened the schism in Ukrainian Orthodoxy. Finally, Filaret came up with an initiative of holding a Local Council of the OCU in order to change those paragraphs in the obtained Tomos that he had found uncomfortable for himself, and to eventually achieve absolute independence of the OCU from the Patriarchate of Constantinople.

According to His Eminence Metropolitan Antoniy, Administrator of UOC-MP, it was from the very start that the Ukrainian Orthodox Church warned Phanar and Ukrainian state authorities that Filaret and the schismatic from UOC-KP and UAOC had no relevant support in the Church environment. The UOC-MP also warned that the Tomos obtained would not unite the faithful, but only deepen the schism in Ukrainian Orthodoxy. However, the Ecumenical Patriarch and the President of Ukraine continued their game. As a result, despite unprecedented pressure against the UOC-MP clergy and parishioners made by the State, only 68 UOC-MP church parishes out of 12 000, and only 2 UOC-MP bishops out of 100, have transferred to the OCU. And those not numerous “transitions” were going alongside with severe violation of legislation, “raider” seizures of churches, beating and insulting the clergy and parishioners. Those events raised negative reaction even among the most active supporters of the new Church. For instance, Metropolitan Oleksandr Drabinko, who transferred to the OCU, in his interview for web-portal said that the OCU is coming to life in the Ukrainian Church environment as a “new child”, but that is going on in the way of “raping” the Ukrainian Orthodox Church headed by Metropolitan Onufriy.

As a result, everything that President Poroshenko achieved instead of expected support was his loss of votes from the side of scared Ukrainian believers, and thus his defeat at the Elections. Patriarch Bartholomew instead of the “Tomos of unity” achieved a “Tomos of schism” and set against himself all Local Orthodox Churches. Only Filaret remained literally the only winner in the game started by the President of Ukraine and the Ecumenical Patriarch. Now, he is taking the second round of his own game, and is looking for his new “allies” within the Ukrainian government and the Orthodox World.