Friday, February 22, 2019

Church of Cyprus on EP's Ukrainian Church

(Orthodox Synaxis) - This translation is very preliminary. The Greek original can be found here. There is also a factual error in the statement, as the Patriarchate of Antioch did not agree to the 2016 agreement convoking the Council of Crete.


The Holy Synod of the Church of Cyprus met today, Monday, February 18, 2019 in an extraordinary session under the presidency of His Beatitude the Archbishop of Cyprus, Chrysostomos and extensively discussed the issue relating to the autocephaly of the Church of Ukraine and which, as it has developed, addresses the issue of unity within the Orthodox Church.

Reflecting on the responsibilities of the Church of Cyprus, as one of the ancient Autocephalous Churches which have autocephaly from an Ecumenical Council, across the entire Orthodox Church, beyond any phylitistic affinity and mingling in jurisdictions and rights, and not desiring any anticipated benefit, the Synod decided to express its views about the principles that should govern the relations of the Orthodox Churches, believing that observing these principles may lead to an exit from the crisis.
  1. Every nation is entitled, along with the acquisition of its national independence, to also request its ecclesiastical autocephaly. This is established by the holy canons. (It is customary for ecclesiastical matters to change alongside political matters). On the one side some will say, "But this was not the will of the people. Many people in the UOC-MP wanted to stay there!" How many is enough? How much push back should stop such a process? Another side will say, "This is all about politics!" Yes. As have been many of the moves to autonomy and autocephaly in the past. If you aren't aware of what prompted many of the autocephalous churches to become so, you might be very surprised just how "purely political" some of them were. 
  2. If honesty is a sine qua non for the smooth coexistence of the faithful, while self-interested calculation ruins relations between them, this applies all the more so to relations between the Churches. How steadfast and sincere is the relationship between our Churches when, despite the unanimous decisions of the 2012 and 2016 meetings of the Primates of the Orthodox Churches about the convocation of the Holy and Great Council, without any real reason, four Churches did not attend the Synod? How do we respond to the Lord’s Exhortation “Let your yes be yes and your no be no” (Matthew 5:37)? All the more astonishing is the subsequent recourse to “consensus” [NB: the English word is used in the original text, alongside the Greek gloss ὁμοφωνία] by the churches which fail to observe it and invoke it as they please. A very satisfactory answer was given to this stipulation, which was accepted by all at the the 2016 meeting of the Primates. Consensus refers on each occasion to the Churches present and does not mean the arbitrary obstruction of decision-making by some. If one or two Churches disagree with a decision, their disagreement is registered but they nevertheless sign the decision. The voice of the canons is clear: “let the opinion of the many prevail.” And one might ponder how this weighs in when the voice that clearly disagrees is the one being disjoined from (which as you might expect is the norm).
  3. What seriousness do we convey as Orthodox to the rest of the Christian and non-Christian world when, in resolving serious problems, we disagree about the manner of signing agreements? How are we persuaded to apply in our own lives the Lord’s instruction, “If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all” (Mark 9:35)? If the agreement which was reached at the Fourth Preparatory Conference about the declaration of Autocephaly had not been cancelled due to a failure of agreement about the manner of signing the tomos of Autocephaly, would the present problem exist?
  4. How much are we risking with regard to the faith when we interrupt Eucharistic communion between our Churches? Is it possible for an ecclesiastical command to cancel the activity of the Holy Spirit in temples where services are performed under the jurisdiction of another Church? The Apostle Paul is clear how we prove that we “endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” and that we prove that we are “one body and one Spirit… one Lord, one faith, one baptism” (Ephesians 4:3-5). The Holy Eucharist, through which the people is sanctified, must remain outside Ecclesiastical disputes. Some have said that Moscow's cessation of communion with the EP is about not only Ukraine, but of Constantinople's increasingly "papal" character. Breaking communion then is also a line drawn in the sand that Moscow will not acquiesce to the added powers that Constantinople has given herself. If a council is indeed called, this part of the discussion would most certainly be part of the resolutions penned and would have real ramifications.
  5. The interruption of commemoration of a Primate by another Church for any administrative or jurisdictional reason whatsoever, does not bear witness to the Orthodox ethos of humility. While so many temptations and scandals are besetting our faithful, we as Ecclesiastical leadership are giving them a poor example. This is not, unfortunately, the first time that this is the case. There is also the case of the Patriarchates of Antioch and Jerusalem, as well as the previous cases between the Ecumenical Patriarchate and Jerusalem as well as between the Ecumenical Patriarchate and Athens. I am reminded of the neologism "rage-quitting."
  6. The two-thousand year experience of the Church of Cyprus, as indeed, that of the entire Orthodox Church, creates doubts for us about the possibility of retroactively validating ordinations that were made by deposed, excommunicated and anathematized bishops. The deposition, excommunication and anathematization of certain persons who took the lead in the Ukrainian crises was accepted by all Orthodox. Appeal, when it occurs, must have some time constraints with regard to submission and examination. An interesting point. These men were deposed for a reason (if you follow Russian news sources they have made these reasons abundantly clear). Can you just bless over the whole thing? If you know that the UAOC/UOC-KP would not accept the autocephalic deal if it meant losing important leaders in their organizations, is the juice worth the squeeze?
If we sincerely uphold the above Principles and demonstrate an attitude of compliance toward the Canons of the Orthodox Church, not only the Ukrainian, but also all the other issues afflicting the Church will be resolved.

On the specific issue of the autocephaly of the Church in Ukraine, we consider that:

The proclamation of the granting of autocephaly to the Church of Ukraine by the Ecumenical Patriarchate was done with the purpose of restoring peace and realizing the unity of the Church there. We do not dispute that purpose. So far, this purpose has not been achieved. It is natural to give a reasonable period of time for the result to appear. If this objective is not achieved, we expect that the Ecumenical Patriarch, making use of his regulatory role given to him by his position as First in Orthodoxy, will convene either a Pan-Orthodox Council or a Synaxis of the Primates to act upon the matter. The primary concern of all must be the salvation of the people of God abiding there.

Also in the case of the achievement of unity around the new Leadership, the Ecumenical Patriarchate must find a way of reassuring the conscience of the faithful about the validity of the ordination and sacraments performed by this leadership. Moreover, taking into account the sensitivity of the Russian people regarding the country where their ancestors were baptized, it should arrange that its [sc., the Russian people’s] relative jurisdiction there is safeguarded.

The Church of Cyprus places itself at the disposal of all those concerned with the purpose or restoring the peace of the Church, “which the Lord has purchased with His own blood.”

Holy Archbishopric of Cyprus
February 18, 2019


  1. "Also in the case of the achievement of unity around the new Leadership, the Ecumenical Patriarchate must find a way of reassuring the conscience of the faithful about the validity of the ordination and sacraments performed by this leadership."

    How could they possibly do that? Only if every current member of the UCO who had come from a schismatic body repented their having gone knto schism. It would also involve them stopping these games about not commemorating Patriarch Kirill, of "Philaret" dressing as and referrinh to himself as, this point, I believe is impossible for the EP to put into action. To follow it to its logical end would involve them (the EP and the UCO) being required to admit that they had gravely mistreated Metropolitan Onuphriy and his flock. After all, how could the EP talk about the magically canonical schismatics (the KP and the UAOC) without treating the issue of the magically illegitmate canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church and her head, Met. Onuphriy?