Source: Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
On September 1, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew celebrated at the Phanar the Feast of Indiction, which marks the beginning of the church year. September 1 is also the Day of Prayer for the Protection of the Environment, instituted by the late Ecumenical Patriarch Demetrios in 1989. The Ecumenical Patriarch’s letter for this year can be read in English at https://ec-patr.org/patriarchal-message-for-the-beginning-of-the-ecclesiastical-year-and-the-solemn-day-of-prayers-for-natural-environment-1st-september-2023/. This year’s letter includes a paragraph devoted to the “horrible ecological devastation” caused by the war in Ukraine. In view of the fact that “the people and ecosystem of Ukraine have undergone and continue to undergo incalculable losses,” the Ecumenical Patriarch emphasizes again: “The war should cease at once and sincere dialogue should begin.” The Ecumenical Patriarch was joined in the Liturgy for the feast day not only by many bishops of the Ecumenical Patriarchate but also by Metropolitan Epifany, primate of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine. On the prior day, the Ecumenical Patriarch met with Metropolitan Epifany and hosted a dinner in his honor. https://www.pomisna.info/uk/vsi-novyny/blazhennijshyj-mytropolyt-epifanij-zustrivsya-zi-vselenskym-patriarhom-varfolomiyem/
Of particular interest are the words of the Ecumenical Patriarch during a reception following the Liturgy on September 1. https://ec-patr.org/%ce%bf%ce%b9%ce%ba%ce%bf%cf%85%ce%bc%ce%b5%ce%bd%ce%b9%ce%ba%cf%8c%cf%82-%cf%80%ce%b1%cf%84%cf%81%ce%b9%ce%ac%cf%81%cf%87%ce%b7%cf%82-%ce%ba%ce%ac%ce%b8%ce%b5-%cf%80%ce%bf%ce%bb%ce%b5%ce%bc/; https://orthodoxtimes.com/bartholomews-message-we-dont-put-our-decisions-to-the-judgment-of-the-other-churches/ At the reception, the Ecumenical Patriarch first welcomed a delegation of the Interparliamentary Assembly on Orthodoxy. In a speech that followed, he referred to the efforts by the Ecumenical Patriarchate to strengthen the unity and cooperation of the Local Orthodox Churches, especially through the Crete Council in 2016. He then stated:
“Unfortunately, this effort of unity and cooperation has been destroyed in recent years by a new ecclesiology, which comes from the north, and by a new theology, the theology of war. It is this theology, which the sister Church of Russia began to teach trying to justify one unjustified, unholy, unprovoked, diabolical war against a sovereign and independent country, Ukraine. We have been witnessing a tragedy for almost two years now. Not just in the relations of two Orthodox Churches, but in the center of Europe, we see a daily bloodshed…. I repeat that this is a tragedy. This of course also has an impact on the relations of the corresponding Orthodox sister Churches, brothers by euphemism now. The disruption of Communion by the Church of Russia at the expense of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, as Mr. President [of the Interparliamentary Assembly on Orthodoxy] said, is unacceptable, inexplicable. We cannot have the Eucharist as a tool to pressure each other and force other Churches to go along with this new ecclesiology….”
The Ecumenical Patriarch then continued:
“In the face of this tragedy, we call for the participation of the Interparliamentary Assembly on Orthodoxy in an effort to restore things. We, for our part, do what we believe is right. We are challenged and invited by various sister Churches for the Ecumenical Patriarchate to convene again a Pan-Orthodox Conference or a Synaxis of Orthodox Primates to deal with the Ukrainian ecclesiastical issue, and our Patriarchate rejects these proposals because it is not willing to put under the judgment of the other Churches a Canonical Act, which it carried out itself. And I say Canonical Act, because the granting of the Autocephaly to the Church of Ukraine, with its 44 million believers, was within the framework of the rights and ministerial responsibilities of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. If we exclude the Ancient Patriarchates of the East, all the newer Orthodox Churches, first of all the Church of Russia, received Autocephaly from Constantinople. Why shouldn’t Ukraine get it too? That is the point, very simple and very clear. Well, we are not going to convene a Pan-Orthodox Synod, nor a Synaxis of Primates, because we have no inclination to put the decisions and initiatives of the Ecumenical Patriarchate under the judgment of the new ecclesiology.”
In developments relating to the Kyiv Lavra, a representative of the Human Rights Commissioner of the Verkhovna Rada (Parliament) of Ukraine is now investigating the situation in the Lower Lavra. Under Article 55 of the Constitution of Ukraine, persons can apply to the Commissioner if they believe that their rights and freedoms have been violated by a governmental entity. https://ombudsman.gov.ua/about In this case, it was the attorney for the UOC who submitted the claim of violations. https://lavra.ua/uk/kiyevo-pechersku-lavru-vidvidav-predstavnik-upovnovazhenogo-verhovnoyi-radi-ukrayini-z-prav-lyudini/# On September 1, Mykhailo Spasov, who works for the Commissioner, came to the Lower Lavra to investigate the claim. The Commissioner’s office has seven “representatives,” each responsible for a different subject area. Spasov is responsible for rights relating to national minorities and to political and religious views. It appears that the OCU claim relates primarily to a denial of freedom of movement for the persons occupying the Lavra’s three hotels. Spasov spoke to at least several occupants. Although the hotel is for pilgrims, there is one monk, Archimandrite Varnava, who resides in Building 58. Father Varnava stated that he had been informed by Reserve representatives that if he left the building, he would not be allowed to return to the building. Although the occupants have water from the tap, persons have been prohibited from bringing in food for the occupants. Aside from Father Varnava, there are seven other persons now residing in Building 58. https://ria.ru/20230901/ugrozy-1893768427.html On August 11, there were approximately 15 persons residing in Building 58. It therefore appears that the occupants are gradually leaving.
In general, events are proceeding fairly slowly in the Lower Lavra. In March 2023, Metropolitan Pavlo, vicar of the Lavra, stated that he did not know whether the brothers would be allowed to stay in the Lower Lavra until Pascha. https://www.ukrinform.ua/rubric-society/3686382-namisnik-kievopecerskoi-lavri-vid-upc-mp-zaaviv-so-jogo-cenci-ne-viselatsa-do-29-berezna.html It is now almost six months later, and there is no immediate sign that the monks will be evicted. On July 6 the Reserve gave notice to the UOC to vacate Buildings 57 and 58 by July 10. https://ria.ru/20230706/lavra-1882694014.html As reported above, there are still some occupants in these buildings.
On September 1, Metropolitan Pavlo, who recently had a heart attack, appeared in proceedings at the Solomyanskyi District Court of Kyiv by video. https://t.me/s/nikita_chekman Metropolitan Pavlo is no longer hospitalized, but is being treated on an outpatient basis. The Court will reconvene on September 12. On August 25, the UOC’s Kyiv Metropolia initiated a lawsuit in the Kyiv District Administrative Court against the State Service for Ethnopolitics and Freedom of Conscience (DESS). The lawsuit relates to the findings of the “expert group” appointed by DESS to examine the ecclesiastical-canonical connection between the UOC and the Moscow Patriarchate. The group found on February 1 that such a connection exists even after the UOC’s Local Council in May 2022. The UOC claims in the lawsuit that “the religious examination was conducted in violation of the law, by biased and hostile experts against the UOC, who arbitrarily changed the subject and object of the study, resorting to manipulations.” https://law.church.ua/2023/08/30/komentar-yuridichnogo-viddilu-upc-pro-sudove-oskarzhennya-religijeznavchoji-ekspertizi-statutu-pro-upravlinnya-ukrajinskoji-pravoslavnoji-cerkvi/ On August 30, the Moscow Patriarchate issued a statement, blessed by the Patriarch, expressing “a strong protest against the expulsion of the Kyiv Theological Academy from the walls of the Holy Dormition Kiev-Pechersk Lavra.” http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/6055117.html The Moscow Patriarchate, the Russian government, and the Russian media continue to be extremely active in protesting various actions being taken against the UOC. Perhaps the hope is that Russia can now win back the hearts of UOC members in spite of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
On August 30, the press office of the Orthodox Church of Albania issued a sharp denial to an article by a resident of the United States, Ilias Damianakis, that the Albanian Orthodox Church is “under the influence of the Russian Orthodox Church.” https://orthodoxalbania.org/2020/en/2023/08/30/essential-refutation-from-the-press-office-of-orthodox-autocephalous-church-of-albania/ (press statement in English) The statement also denied the claim that “international oligarchs” were involved in the restoration of Albanian churches. However, the statement does not comment on another recent article criticizing Archbishop Anastasios, primate of the Albanian Church. Andreas Loudaros , the editor of the orthodoxia.info website, highly praises the past accomplishments of the Archbishop. https://orthodoxia.info/news/poios-telika-o-anastasios/ Loudaros then contends: “…if Anastasios had realized the scope of the dynamics of his name and the weight of his words, he would not have behaved like this in the matter of Ukrainian autocephaly. He would not have allowed the Russians to use his speech and attitude as cheap communication tools.”
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA