Patriarch Kirill (L), Metropolitan Onufriy (R)
Since the onset of the brutal, unprovoked, and ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine three full months ago, the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR) and the Orthodox Church in America (OCA), both of them ‘daughter churches’ of the Russian Orthodox Church, have been consistent in two things: first, their abject cravenness to former KGB agent, now Patriarch Kirill Gundiaev in refusing to name him as fully and unambiguously complicit in the oceans of bloodshed on Ukrainian soil (Archbishop Gabriel of ROCOR’s Canadian diocese openly supports the invasion, as we reported in our ROCOR Archbishop of Canada Justifies Wholesale Slaughter of Ukraine on March 9); and second, their repeated expressions of moral and material support for the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP) and its primate, Metropolitan Onufriy. Their support derives from ROCOR’s, the OCA’s, and the UOC-MP’s shared loyalty to the Moscow Patriarchate and its patriarch, even in the face of the most wanton murder of preborn and newborn children, children, teens, moms, dads, grandmas, grandpas, and other civilians.
As has been reported in countless secular and religious news outlets these past few days, Metropolitan Onufriy and the Synod over which he presides in Kyiv have now taken the unthinkable step of condemning the Moscow patriarch by name for his active role in the invasion. More unthinkably still, they have signaled both their independence from their overlords in the Kremlin and the Moscow Patriarchate and—most astonishing of all—their willingness to dialogue with the recently autocephalous Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU) and its primate, Metropolitan Epifaniy, to find a way forward in forming a united, independent Orthodox Church within Ukraine’s sovereign national borders. (See the Moscow Patriarchate’s swift response to the news.)
This represents a moment of crisis for ROCOR and the OCA. The day is fast approaching when they will have to decide where their loyalties lie, with Kyiv or Moscow. They cannot be loyal to both. Presumably, they will not be able to remain in communion with both, or to commemorate the primates of both.
What now? Will ROCOR and the OCA do the right thing, or continue to sell their soul to Moscow for thirty rubles of silver?
(A word on the supposed absence of ‘apostolic succession’ in the OCU. The ecclesiastical entity that later split into the Greek Catholic Russian Orthodox Metropolia [the pre-OCA] and ROCOR went into schism from the Moscow Patriarchate in 1927 over Patriarch Sergius’ requirement that all Russian hierarchs and clergy everywhere in the world sign a declaration of loyalty to the Soviet Union. The Metropolia-now-OCA remained in schism from Moscow for over forty years; ROCOR, for eighty years. Yet Moscow received both back into communion without quibbling about who ordained whom during the preceding decades of schism. To make an issue of ‘apostolic succession’ re: the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s establishment of communion with a schismatic Ukrainian church and granting it autocephaly—exactly what Moscow did for the OCA in 1970—represents the most astonishing hypocrisy.)