Source: Peter Anderson, Seattle, WA USA
Today, several websites have posted the news that Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew has written a letter to Montenegro President Milo Đukanović expressing “consternation” that the President supports the creation of a separate Orthodox Church of Montenegro. In this regard, the letter states that the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and all other Orthodox Churches, recognize as the only canonical Orthodox jurisdiction in Montenegro, the jurisdiction under Metropolitan Amfilohije of the Serbian Patriarchate. A photocopy of the letter in English can be read at https://cerkvarium.org/novyny/pomistni-tserkvy/vselenskij-patriarkhat-viznae-chornogoriyu-kanonichnoyu-teritorieyu-serbskoji-tserkvi-varfolomij-prezidentu-chornogoriji . Today, the Serbian Patriarchate posted on its website a Serbian translation of the letter. http://www.spc.rs/sr/patrijarh_vartolomej_o_pravoslavnoj_crkvi_u_crnoj_gori
The letter comes at a critical time when there is a fear that the Montenegro government may nationalize certain church properties of the Serbian Patriarchate. See http://www.dtt-net.com/en/news/578/39/Venice-Commission-OKs-Montenegro-draft-law-on-church-protested-by-Serbia/ The letter also counters a fear by the Serbian Patriarchate that the Ecumenical Patriarchate may recognize an autocephalous church in Montenegro, as occurred in Ukraine.
On June 23, Metropolitan Tikhon, primate of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA), celebrated the Divine Liturgy with Ecumenical Patriarchate Bartholomew in Cappadocia. https://oca.org/news/headline-news/metropolitan-tikhon-guest-of-ecumenical-patriarchate-at-annual-pilgrimage-to-cappadocia Metropolitan Tikhon had been invited by the Ecumenical Patriarch to join him on a three-day pilgrimage to Cappadocia. As you know, the Moscow Patriarchate granted autocephaly to the OCA in 1970, but the Ecumenical Patriarchate, believing that the granting of autocephaly was its prerogative, has never recognized the autocephaly of the OCA. To my knowledge, the Ecumenical Patriarch has not reached out to the OCA in such a special manner before.
Following the “local council” of the “Kyiv Patriarchate” held by Filaret on Thursday, June 20, Filaret immediately ordained the two priests who had been elected bishops at the council. On Saturday, Filaret and Archbishop Joseph (responsible for UOC-KP parishes in Russia) ordained Hieromonk Elijah Zelensky. On Sunday they ordained Archimandrite Andrei Marutsak. http://orthochristian.com/122029.html Zelensky is a priest of the OCU Kharkov diocese, and Marutsak is the only monk at the Kyiv Theodosius Monastery who voted against affiliation with the OCU.
On Monday, June 24, the Holy Synod of the OCU met and responded to the “local council,” held by Filaret on Thursday. The minutes of the meeting of the Holy Synod can be read at https://www.pomisna.info/uk/vsi-novyny/zhurnaly-zasidannya-svyashhennogo-synodu-vid-24-chervnya-2019-r/. With respect to Filaret, the Holy Synod took a very moderate approach. It retained Filaret as a bishop and apparently did not remove him from his position on the Holy Synod. However, he “lost his canonical rights and duties related to the administration of the [Kyiv] diocese.” Administration of the Kyiv Diocese was given to Metropolitan Epifany. According to the minutes, this was done, at least in part, because Filaret had failed to comply with the May 24 mandate of the Holy Synod to submit within one month the papers necessary to register the diocese as part of the OCU. It should also be remembered that the Holy Synod at its February 5, 2019 meeting had placed the Kyiv diocese under the administration of Filaret, even though one would have expected that Epifany, as Metropolitan of Kyiv, would have that responsibility. Epifany’s jurisdiction was limited to the Kyiv monastery in which he resides. Now, Epifany does have the Kyiv diocese under his jurisdiction. The minutes provide that by a letter to Epifany, Filaret can turn to the Holy Synod for a consideration of his future position.
The Holy Synod also expelled from the episcopate of the OCU the two bishops who came to Filaret’s council – Joseph and Peter. They were given one month to appeal this decision to the Holy Synod. The two clerics who had been elected bishops had each been banned by the bishop of Kharkov and by Epifany from practicing their priesthood one day prior to their respective episcopal ordinations. The Synod also gave them one month to appeal. In addition, the Synod held that decisions, orders, or documents issued on behalf of the UOC-KP have no canonical or legal effect after January 30, 2019.
On Tuesday, June 25, Filaret held a press conference. The entire conference can be watched at https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=1247&v=wmLW_9ucYlI . To the extent that the OCU Synod left the door partially open for Filaret, he closed it in his press conference. He made it clear that his church is separate from the OCU and “their resolutions do not apply to us.” He indicated his intention to increase the number of UOC-KP bishops to 12 (the number specified by the statute of the UOC-KP for its Holy Synod) over time. https://www.bbc.com/ukrainian/news-48755950 It has been reported that several Ukrainian parishes in Germany (which cannot be part of the OCU under the terms of the tomos) have elected to follow Filaret rather than join the Ecumenical Patriarchate. https://glavcom.ua/news/svjashchennik-upts-v-nimechchini-petro-bokanov-tomos-ne-zrobiv-ukrajinsku-tserkvu-nezalezhnoju-603721.html However, aside from this, I have not seen reports of other parishes seeking to follow Filaret.
Also on June 25, the saint’s name day of Metropolitan Onufry was celebrated at the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra in Kyiv. It was also the celebration of the fifth anniversary of his enthronement as primate of the UOC-MP. At the celebration, all of the Local Orthodox Churches were represented except for the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Patriarchate of Antioch, the Church of Greece, and the Church of Albania. Also the Georgian Patriarchate had accepted the invitation to come, but local events in Georgia prevented the delegation’s attendance. https://mospat.ru/en/2019/06/26/news175657/ As reported on the website of the Union of Orthodox Journalists, a number of the delegates made strong statements that the UOC-MP was the only canonical church in Ukraine. https://spzh.news/en/news?page=1
In recent weeks, I have been amazed at the speed at which the website of the Union of Orthodox Journalists (UOJ) provides articles in English. For example, within approximately three hours of the end of Filaret’s council, the UOJ posted a perfect English translation of the ten-paragraph resolution adopted by the council. https://spzh.news/en/news/63015-v-seti-opublikovano-postanovlenije-pomestnogo-sobora-upc-kp The UOJ also posts with great speed many articles in English each day relating to the church crisis in Ukraine. Aside from Ukrainian and Russian, the website has pages with many reports in Greek and Romanian. Reading the articles leaves no doubt on which side of the Moscow – Constantinople dispute the UOJ stands. Out of curiosity, I have done some research in an attempt to learn something about the UOJ. In fact, very little information exists about it. The UOJ was registered in 2015 by Donetsk businessman Viktor Vishnevetsky. It does not appear to be a professional organization which carries on activities aside from the website. However, based on the output and speed evident on its website, a considerable amount of financial resources must be coming to this organization. It shows that the use of the media has become an extremely important and influential weapon in religious disputes, just as it is in political disputes.
In other news, Metropolitan Hilarion, who is on a pilgrimage in Greece, met with Archbishop Hieronymus, primate of the Church of Greece, during a break between sessions of the Holy Synod of the Church of Greece. https://mospat.ru/en/2019/06/26/news175698/ An English translation of an interesting interview of Father Nikolay Danilevich, deputy head of the DECR of the UOC-MP, has been posted at https://mospat.ru/en/2019/06/22/news175576/. He comments on the Filaret council. He also states that “isolated attempts to capture our churches have continued in villages.” Finally, Archbishop Job of Telmessos will head the Ecumenical Patriarch’s delegation for the celebration at the Vatican of the feast of Saints Peter and Paul on June 29. The delegation will met with Pope Francis tomorrow. https://www.romfea.news/delegation-of-the-ecumenical-patriarchate-to-the-thronal-feast-of-the-roman-catholic-church/