Constantinople proved its commitment to the National Ukrainian Orthodox Church
While Ecumenical Patriarchate was preparing to start a discussion of prospects of having a representation in Kyiv, Ukrainian government gave up monitoring the current issues around Ukrainian church. However, there's still a possibility that they will change their course and start supporting the process of creation of one national Orthodox Church. First steps have already been made in this direction.
On the 7th of February there was a meeting of the Holy Synod of Constantinople where, according to some sources, the honorable members finally discussed an important issue for Ukraine – reopening of historical metochions (dependencies) of Constantinople Patriarchate in Kyiv and Lviv. That is an important step in the process of restoration of traditional Constantinople jurisdiction in Ukraine and legitimate banning of Moscow Patriarchate – the Fifth Column of Russian aggressors that supported their intervention in Donbass region.
Now is the key moment for the Mother Church to decide whether to give or reject support of the foundation of Autocephalous Orthodox Church in Ukraine. Hierarchs in Fanar surely feel it. However they are wavering because they obviously don't trust their prospective partners in Ukraine.
Patriarch Filaret claimed to be a patriot of Ukraine from the beginning of conflict with Russia. Thus his secret contacts with Moscow Patriarchate and an apologetic letter to the Russian Bishops’ Council caused a wave of confusion and questions. At first Archbishop Evstratiy Zorya denied the existence of the letter then acknowledged it. Finally they explained His Holiness Filaret's position – he, of course, demanded autocephaly for the Ukrainian church and had no intention to reunite with Moscow Patriarchate. Still the text of his letter and requests of forgiveness remain unclear to an ordinary reader.
Nobody knows the motives of the Patriarch, whether he discussed his letter with the clergy of the Kyivan Patriarchate (UOC KP), or decided by himself to send it. Perhaps, as His Holiness says, he was deceived, dragged into negotiations with an ideological opponent and thereby infringed upon his authority as a spiritual symbol of an independent Ukraine.
I don't want to think that it was a moment of Patriarch Filaret's weakness. And it seems that his recent interview for Deutsche Welle allows to dismiss such fears. Right on the eve of the Constantinople Synod seat, Patriarch Filaret highlighted his position again: the UOC KP will never agree to join any other Local Church, even the Ecumenical Patriarchate. When the journalist tried to clarify: if the receipt of the autocephaly from the Patriarch of Constantinople suggests that on the first stage the UOC KP will join the Constantinople Church, His Holiness cut off: "There will be no stages. What difference does it make to obey Moscow or obey Constantinople? Ukraine is independent."
However, it is this aggressive attitude that makes Fanar doubt the prospects of cooperation with the Kyivan Patriarchate. Patriarch Filaret breaks the negotiations of Ukrainian Orthodoxy with Constantinople not for the first time. So he always reacts when he is convinced that it is not an immediate provision of independence for the UOC KP. The steadfast unwillingness of His Holiness Filaret to "bow his head to the omophorion of Constantinople" can be explained by patriotism and a firm belief in "the lucky star" of the Ukrainian nation – the fact that the Kyiv Patriarchate will receive recognition in the Orthodox world sooner or later. He repeatedly says this. But isn't it the same extreme as a reunion with Moscow – both extremes are surreal and counterproductive to the plans of creation of the Autocephalous Church in Ukraine?
Obviously, His Holiness is simply not considering it. In the end, Ukrainian autocephaly is the dream of the last 25 years of his life, and at his age it is difficult to even partially modulate his position even if it is vital for the success.
At least, the authorities could pay not only visits to Fanar but also pay attention to differences between Fanar's vision of Ukrainian question and the position of the leadership of the UOC KP. There are rumors, for example, that on Bankova 11 they learned about the secret negotiations of the UOC KP with Moscow only a few days before the publication of their results. It is unlikely that this could happen if the authorities were interested and involved in the resolution of the issue of the autocephalous Church. Perhaps the actions of the leadership of the UOC KP require much more firm support, prompts and even control.
I make no try to disprove the truth that church and state should be separated. This is important. But there is a hybrid war against Ukraine, and the church is one of the enemy's targets. Under these circumstances, passivity means defeat.
In the end Kyiv came to realize this. And though it was rather late they shortly took the first step to protect Ukrainian sovereignty in the religious sphere. Luckily, the head of the press-center of the UOC KP Archbishop Yevstratiy (Zorya) of Chernigov and Nizhyn proved to be a really clever and understanding hierarch. He personally traveled to Moscow and took part in the negotiations. But after a couple of calls, he found a way to outline the hopelessness of the dialogue with Moscow. Therefore, now everyone is assured that the head of the Kyivan Patriarchate’s press center is a vocal opponent of any talks with terrorists and their supporters.
The second significant contribution of Bankova 11 to support the Ukrainian church is evident in the latest interview of His Holiness Filaret. He visited the editorial office of the official website of the UOC KP to speak to Vladyka Yevstratiy: "According to the Charter, when the Patriarch dies, the Patriarchal locum tenens takes charge of the Kyiv Patriarchate and controls the Church alongside with the Synod. So when I die the Patriarchal governor Metropolitan Epiphany will lead after me. He will be in charge until the next meeting of the Local Council where a new Patriarch will be elected according to the procedure established by the Charter. And I hope that the Council will support Epiphany. "
So we can only hope that the Council will really support Metropolitan Epiphany. This well-educated archpastor speaks Greek and is in excellent relations with the Greeks. More importantly, he's never taken part in negotiations with Moscow. The Primate of the UOC is wisely thinking about his successor in advance, and supporting such a worthy hierarch as Epiphany is Filaret's great merit. This will surely help the dream of His Holiness Filaret about Autocephalous Ukrainian Church come true.