This brief report should be read alongside Deacon Denysenko’s “The Promise of Autocephaly in Ukraine” and the “Statement of the Permanent Conference of Ukrainian Orthodox Bishops.” The irony of Metropolitan Hilarion’s declaration that “no Constantinople Patriarchate, no other Church can unilaterally declare autocephaly to this or that Church” will not be lost on our readers who recall the unilateral granting of autocephaly to the Orthodox Church in America by the Moscow Patriarchate.
On April 19, Head of the Department for External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate, Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokalamsk [sic], expressed the position of the Russian Orthodox Church at Interfax-Religion regarding the appeal to the Patriarch of Constantinople for the establishment of an Autocephalous Church in Ukraine.
“The creation of an autocephalous Church is a process that cannot be initiated by secular authorities, since, as is known, the Church in modern states is separated from the state, and the state must not manipulate the Church, including in the election struggle or in any other political goals. The whole concept of creating the one local church in Ukraine, separated from the Russian Orthodox Church, is based on the thesis that an independent state should have an independent church. If we acted on this principle, then, for example, the Alexandrian Church would have to be divided into fifty parts, since it embraces all of Africa, and in Africa, more than fifty states, the Antiochian Church should be divided into several parts, as well as the Church of Jerusalem, and so on. Such plans and ideas are beneficial only to the enemies of the Church,” says Metropolitan Hilarion.
According to him, “the church split in Ukraine over the past quarter century has gained momentum due to the support of secular authority and the legitimization of the split – there were no such precedents in the history of the Church. There were precedents for a return from the split of certain hierarchs, clerics, laity, groups, associations through repentance, and only such a way could be offered by the Orthodox Church.”
“We have recently heard about the negotiations between the President of Ukraine Poroshenko with the Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew … But we have heard for many years the very firm position of the Patriarch of Constantinople, who says he will recognize His Beatitude Metropolitan Onufriy as the only head of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church. And the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church does not intend to break the relationship with the Russian Orthodox Church. We are the only Church born in Kyiv, in the Dnipro baptismal font, and, of course, no Constantinople Patriarchate, no other Church can unilaterally declare autocephaly to this or that Church. Therefore, we believe that this initiative, despite all the information noise that has been raised around it, will have the same fate as the initiatives of previous years, and again we remind that the solution of the Ukrainian church problem is possible only in a canonical way,” commented Metropolitan of the Russian Orthodox Church.