Friday, October 24, 2014

UGCC Patriarch on non-canonical bodies

So, if you want to know what is upsetting Moscow, this is it. Lines like 'Instead, the Ukrainian media spread information that “the hierarch said that the UOC (MP) is the only canonical Orthodox Church in Ukraine.”' are what Russia's External Church Relations group is talking about. Setting aside the polemics associated with the Greek Catholic Churches, I hazard to guess that Rome would be very upset if the Russian Church engaged with sedevacantists and other Catholic splinter groups in the way the UGCC is treating the UOC-KP and UAOC. Again, I'm not entertaining a discussion about the very existence of Greek Catholicism, I'm saying if the UOC-MP is dealing with non-canonical groups and you are giving credence to those groups you should expect the rhetoric to fly. Discuss.

(RISU) - This is the opinion that Patriarch Sviatoslav (Shevchuk) the UGCC expressed on October 23, during a briefing on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of legalization of the UGCC. The head of the UGCC also commented on yesterday’s words of Patriarch Filaret that someone wanted to put at odds Greek Catholics and Orthodox of the Kyiv Patriarchate.

Note that the reason for that was spreading by the media of the UGCC Patriarch’s words taken out of context that referred to “canonicity” of the Orthodox Churches in Ukraine. In an interview with The Catholic Channel Patriarch Sviatoslav said: “Today it is no secret that the only canonical Orthodox Church in Ukraine, that is the one in full communion with World Orthodoxy is the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate. There are other Orthodox religious communities, which have emerged in the time of independence of Ukraine, at different times and for different reasons, and have dissented from this Patriarchate; other Orthodox Churches consider them non-canonical.”

In an interview with Cardinal Timothy Dolan Patriarch Sviatoslav suggested that the religious situation in Ukraine was not so easy for foreigners to understand. “Yes, he said, in Ukraine there really exists the ‘canonical Church’, which the other Orthodox Churches recognize – the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in union with the Moscow Patriarchate. But we also have a large community of the Church of Kyiv Patriarchate, which is non-canonical for Orthodox world. And also there is a small community of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church, which is also considered non-canonical. But despite this, we try to be open to all.”

Instead, the Ukrainian media spread information that “the hierarch said that the UOC (MP) is the only canonical Orthodox Church in Ukraine.”

“I have stressed and I want to stress once again now that we feel absolutely profound respect for all denominations existing in Ukraine,” said the Head of the UGCC.

“It became quite obvious for me that someone really wants to extend this conflict, which now exists in Ukraine between the Ukrainian society and the external aggressor, to religious grounds, thus fuelling the inter-religious and inter-confessional conflict in Ukraine. And here I agree with Patriarch Filaret that someone really wants to put the religious environment at odds. And today I say – you lose! We understand it and won’t rise to provocations,” said Patriarch Sviatoslav.

“Today we, the Orthodox Churches, the Catholic and Protestant Churches, are all unified as never before. This unity in the religious environment, such practical ecumenism that we have today, has probably never existed for the past 25 years,” the hierarch summed up.


  1. I'm saying if the UOC-MP is dealing with non-canonical groups and you are giving credence to those groups you should expect the rhetoric to fly.

    Except that they could criticize the Ukranian Greek Catholic Church for doing this without resorting to general attacks on it?

    1. That is, the rhetoric that Moscow uses does then call into question the existence of the UGCC.

    2. At the heart of it I think the end of Uniatism is what they want.

    3. The problem with the "Uniatism" point of view is, who are the actual Uniates?

      The Antiochian schism in 1724 was an internal affair and the adherents of the legitimate Patriarch became the Melkite Catholic Church. Wouldn't that make the Antiochian Orthodox the Uniates then?

      The UGCC has a legitimate claim as the historical Patriarch of all the Rus. Again who are the uniates?

      Believe it or not, the Greek Catholics actually have a bit of regret over the cases or true uniatism (like the Russian Greek Catholic Church) and don't ever want to see it happen again. On the other hand they realize, "We exist" and desire to be recognized as full Orthodox churches while still retaining their communion with Rome. Expecting some of them to just surrender their existence to Moscow is beyond absurd (though I am of the opinion that the Russian Greek Catholic Church should do so when they are ready).

      Also, does Hilarion extend this dialogue to the Catholic Churches that left the Miaphysite communion?

      Frankly, treated the Byzantine Catholic bodies as oddities in not helpful except in the cases where it applies.

    4. It is factually wrong to say that the Melkite Catholic Patriarchate is the "legitimate" Patriarchate of Antioch. While it is true that the laity of Damascus chose Cyrille Tanas, only one member of the Holy Synod of Antioch was willing to consecrate him. In order to have a 'canonical' consecration, the pro-Roman party had to create two bishops from outside the Synod. Even in the Catholic literature (for example, read Constantine Basha's articles in Echos d'Orient from the turn of the century) treat this election as canonically extremely doubtful...

  2. The situation in the Ukraine is a tricky one and standard Ecclesiology as many Orthodox see it is no longer a possibility. The long term goal should be the see the at least UOC-KP and maybe the UOC-Autocephalous churches united with either the Catholic or the Orthodox communion. Once that is done, the Moscow Patriarchate and the UGCC should be able to talk without hindrance.

    The idea that there will be one "Rus Church" is no longer possible. I propose a Ukrainian/Byelorussian Byzantine Church entirely independent of the Moscow Patriarchate.

    FYI: Trust me on this, you don't want the sedevacantist lunatics. They hate you and think you all are heretics damned for hell.

  3. It's almost impossible not to hold back snark when Orthodox start speaking about "canonicity" as if it were the highest priority in the functioning of world Orthodoxy or the behavior of local Orthodox bodies and jurisdictions around the world. The "canon card," if you will, gets played when it is convenient, and withdrawn even quicker when it is not. If the Orthodox, even Orthodox bloggers with various axes to grind and triumphalisms to promote, would recognize this at the outset, it'd be much easier to have a frank, open, and honest discussion about very complicated, practical problems. The chest thumping and faux indignation has grown stale.

    There is a sizable gulf between the UOC-KP and sedevacantists -- raw numbers not being the least of these. While estimates vary, there are probably less than 50,000 sedevacantists in the world; there are millions of non-MP Ukrainian Orthodox. To simply treat these bodies as non-entities because they don't align with an ever-shifting idea of "canonicity" in Orthodox ecclesiology strikes me as more than a bit silly. Moreover, Rome could certainly claim that the Orthodox have had no compunction about warming up to communions which have gave into schism from her. There is a long, albeit irregular, history of Orthodox relations with Lutherans, Calvinists, Anglicans of various stripes, and Anglo-Catholics. Catholic ecumenical sensibilities being what they are, Rome really doesn't kick up much fuss about this stuff -- but they could. Moreover, if Rome followed what I am going to call "Orthodox territorial logic," then most Orthodox parishes in Western Europe and the Americas should either be closed or restricted from proselytizing "Catholic lands." Again, that's not going to happen, nor do I think it should happen, but there's something to be said for, "What's good for the goose..."

    At this point, the MP has openly played its hand. Nationalism and xenophobia are the twin pillars upon which it has built its "case" against the UGCC (and, to a lesser extent, the UOC-KP). While I used to get vexed about Hilarion and Kirill's unglued rhetoric, at this point I am fine letting them speak; they can hang themselves with their own words. So long as Hilarion continues to point to petty incidents against the UOC-MP without acknowledging and apologizing for the grotesque horrors visited upon the UGCC with the MP's blessing in the 20th C., his moral capital will remain exhausted.

    At the end of the day there is no "need" to resolve the "Uniate question." The UGCC is here to stay and nothing Moscow has done for centuries to destroy it has worked. It is my hope and prayer that the UGCC and UOC-KP can continue to deepen their ties on the way to full communion while remaining unified with Rome. Also, as for this idea of the Catholic Church "handing over" any of the "Uniate" churches, the idea is so ghastly on its face that I can't believe anyone with a soul would even suggest, let alone support, such a pernicious plan. Then again, the venality of some folks never ceases to amaze me.

  4. As a followup to these comments, let me be clear that while I reject the Balamand Declaration and other wrongheaded, even embarrassing, attempts for Rome to cozy up to the Orthodox, I don't believe it is a wise for any of the Eastern Catholic churches to expend resources trying to proselytize the Orthodox right now. (Of course, if an Orthodox Christian wishes to freely unite himself with the Catholic Church, then I see no reason to turn him away.) Of course, what constitutes "proselytizing" is sometimes ambiguous, and it's not hard for such accusations to devolve into silliness. At the same time, however, I believe that the second the Orthodox open their mouths and say the magic words "Uniate" or "illegitimate churches," the talks should end immediately. It's too late in the game for that kind of nonsense.

    Right now Rome, and the rest of the Catholic world, has a choice with respect to the Russian Orthodox Church: (A) Play ball on their terms in the hopes of courting favor with the largest Orthodox body in the world; or (B) Realize that the Russian Orthodox can't even play ball with their own sister churches and so try to forge better ties with them. I am all for (B) at this point. Until the MP can demonstrate meaningfully that it is not a vassal church of the Russian state with ecclesial-imperialist ambitions, then there's no point in pressing ahead. Now, that doesn't mean going to the mat with the MP; it simply means remaining friendly and cautious while Russia continues on what is likely to be a very, very long path of finding its place in the world again. Considering that Russia will lose more than 10% of its current population before 2050, its current posture is in no sense sustainable.

  5. Related to this is the issue of those Roman rite Catholics who become Byzantine Catholic, such as myself and my family. We have no desire to be Orthodox, nor did we become Byzantines to escape issues (liturgical, etc.) or problems in the Roman Church. We became Byzantine to answer a spiritual calling and yet stay in communion with the Bishop of Rome. In fact we attend a Ruthenian parish, but our priest (of Puerto Rican ancestry) is from the Eparchy of Stamford (Ukrainian). So, as a Ukrainian Byzantine, how do we fit in Metropolitan's Hilarion's plans? Does he believe folks such as my family should be placed under Moscow's authority? There are many of us Romans who have no interest in the historic fight with Moscow, nor do we wish to be under Moscow, and we have no cultural link or ties with Moscow (My wife is Polish and views the Russians very dimly). If there was ever restoration with communion, I daresay most of us would gravitate towards Constantinople.