This report of Protopresbyter Anastasios Gotsopoulos was supposed to be delivered at the Diakideios School of the People1 in Patras on Wednesday, January 8, 2020—but his speech was canceled. Reportedly, this happened after the interference of certain highly positioned individuals. We publish here a translation of the report with minor redactions.
Dedicated to the Ever-Memorable Father George Metallinos
To start out, I will ask you one question. A new priest comes to the parish. The first impression of him is the most favorable: He is highly educated, and has excellent connections and acquaintances with professors, archbishops, and even Patriarchs. You decide to invite him into the house, and entrust him with a matter of the greatest importance: that he perform the sacrament of the Unction, and confess your father, who, despite his advanced years, has never confessed before.
But when you speak with this priest, you experience a real shock, because you find out that he does not possess the grace of the priesthood, since he received “ordination” from a pseudo-bishop named Victor, with an extremely murky past. At first, this Victor (a.k.a Viktor Chekalin, Vincent Berg, Vikenty) was a deacon in the canonical Orthodox Church, but was cast out of the clerical rank, because he was convicted and imprisoned for pedophilia. After leaving prison, he joined a schismatic group, to which he introduced himself as a bishop, although he was not ordained—never by anyone—even as a priest, and began to ordain others as “priests” and “bishops”.
He then later left the schismatic group and became a bishop with the Uniates. However, they found out that he was completely un-ordained, and drove him away. The Pope even punished the Uniate archbishop for accepting him. Subsequently, the pseudo-bishop Victor became a Protestant—an Anglican pastor. In the end, after his “church” career, he ended up in Australia, where he posed as a “psychiatrist of the secret school of the KGB”! However, he was soon arrested and sentenced to 4 years and 3 months in prison for fraud and falsification of documents, because he presented himself as a psychiatrist with fake diplomas.
If you really knew that your new parish priest, educated and such, but was in essence, not ordained, because he was consecrated by Victor, a charlatan and a fraud, would you allow him to confess your elderly father? Would you take a blessing from him? Would you have him baptize your child? Would you go to a Divine Liturgy performed by him? Would you take communion from the un-ordained?
You’d tell me that this wouldn’t happen, and that it’s a figment of my imagination. Unfortunately, my dear brothers and sisters, all that I have presented to you is a reality; it’s true, down to the smallest detail.
This is exactly what happened in the new autocephalous church, created last year by the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Ukraine. A whole series of “bishops” have no trace of apostolic succession, because their consecration comes from a pseudo-bishop, a charlatan, a child rapist, a Uniate, an Anglican pastor, a self-proclaimed KGB psychiatrist, and now Victor Chekalin, convicted of fraud and falsification of documents! They were recognized—yes, dear friends—these people were recognized as canonical bishops, and honored with the highest ecclesiastical status—autocephaly—by our Ecumenical Patriarchate; unfortunately, they were also recognized by the Greek Church and the Patriarchate of Alexandria!
That is why, my dears, we are afflicted, we suffer and cry from pain, because, despite our many sins, we do not want to serve under the authority of pseudo-bishops, the un-ordained charlatans. Christ condescends to ensure that we sinners serve at His altar, but I think that He will not tolerate the un-ordained to pose as bishops, and deceive His people. Christ allows even the most sinful priest and bishop to celebrate the Divine Eucharist, and the offering they make—bread and wine—is transubstantiated into His Body and Blood by the Holy Spirit!
Yet for the sacrament to be performed by the un-ordained, this can never happen! The un-ordained cannot perform any real sacrament. They deceive and mock the people of God! Ultimately, it is unacceptable, that a handful of un-ordained schismatics without apostolic succession, defile (not the Church, which always remains holy and immaculate), but the Orthodox Episcopate of the Ecumenical Church.
We declare this publicly—and we will continue to do it, no matter what the local and foreign pundits say, voicing someone else’s opinion and repeating it like parrots.
We are not Russophiles, we are not following the instructions of Russian centers, we are not receiving rubles, we have not become traitors to Hellenism.
These slanderous characterizations do not hurt us, and we return them to those who utter them… These ad hominem labels that they hang on us only strengthen our conviction that we are not mistaken in the matter of Ukrainian autocephaly. If they had any real theological counterarguments, they would not have resorted to use slander against us. Or perhaps someone has actually heard any serious theological objections from them?
Our Lord, shortly before His death on the Cross, in His High Priestly Prayer2 paid special attention to the unity of the members of the Church. And in the future, the apostles, the holy fathers of the Church and all of our Church Tradition, as the apple of our eye, preserved the unity of our Church in truth.
In this context, a whole canonical tradition has been formed, in connection with which church institutions do not operate autonomously, on their own, but have a definite purpose: unity and communion in truth between members of the Church and between Local Churches.
The same applies to the institution of autocephaly. It also serves church unity. In briefly defining the concept of autocephaly, we can say that it has two dimensions: (a) the local level and (b) the pan-Orthodox level.
1 At the local level, it manifests itself in the fullness of the canonical jurisdiction of a Local Church, without any dependence on another church center; therefore, in order to provide autocephaly, the consent of the Mother Church (from which the new Church is to be separated) is required;
1 at the pan-Orthodox level, it manifests itself through the direct communion of the autocephalous Church with the family of Orthodox Local Churches, and therefore pan-Orthodox consent is required for the provision of autocephaly.
That is to say, the process of obtaining autocephaly ends with the entry of the new Church into fellowship with the other Local Churches, in the status of an equal sister church. This moment is of key importance, because it concerns the unity of the universal Orthodox Church, and not simply one part of it. Therefore, as an insufficient, flawed jurisdiction does not imply autocephaly, so an autocephaly which challenges the pan-Orthodox ecumenical (universal) unity of the Orthodox Church, is truly “malcephaly”.
On the serious issue of granting autocephaly to Ukraine, three fundamental questions were raised; among other things, the conclusion on the canonicity or non-canonicity of this Ukrainian autocephaly depends on the study of them:
1 Is Ukraine canonically subordinate to the Ecumenical Patriarchate or the Moscow Patriarchate?
2 Does the Ecumenical Patriarchate have the right to grant autocephaly [in this case—Trans.]?
3 Who was/would be given autocephaly?
1. Is Ukraine subordinate to the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Throne?
Kiev Caves Lavra
The question of whether the Church of Ukraine is subordinate to the Ecumenical Patriarchate is of key importance, because otherwise, the Ecumenical Patriarchate has no canonical right to intervene in the jurisdiction of another Local Church. Otherwise, he commits serious canonical crimes (the invasion of a different jurisdiction, etc.), which is condemned by many holy canons (The 2nd Canon of the Second Ecumenical Council, 8th Canon of the Third Ecumenical Council, 39th Canon of the Quinisext [Fifth-Sixth] Ecumenical Council [in Trullo], 13th and 22nd Canons of the Council of Antioch, 3rd Canon of the Sardinian Council, etc.) as well as all the precedent of the Holy Tradition of the Orthodox Church.
Of course, initially—after the Baptism of the Russians in Kiev, on the Dnieper River, in 998—the territory of what is now Ukraine, or the “Kievan Metropolia”, or the so-called “Little Russia—Malorossia”, like all of Rus’, was subject to the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
Later, in the 17th century, Patriarch Dionysius IV, at the request of the Russian rulers, and following the principle of respect for the unity of the peoples of Rus’, which all Orthodox Patriarchs of Constantinople adhered to, transferred Ukraine to the jurisdiction of the Russian Orthodox Church. It should be noted that the first Patriarchs of Constantinople who tried to destroy the church unity of Little and Great Russia were Latin-minded Patriarchs, John Kalekas and Gregory Mammas in the XIV – XV centuries. And now we’ve come to this end in the XXI century…
As we have shown in our recent work, according to official data, documents and publications, including even from the Ecumenical Patriarchate itself, published by its own “Patriarchal Printing House” in Constantinople, according to studies by representatives of the leadership and members of the Ecumenical Patriarchate (archivists of the Ecumenical throne such as Archbishop Kallinikos Delikanis, Archpriest Theodoros Zisis, Vasilios Stavridis, Vlasios Pheidas,3 G. Larentzakis), as well as according to officially stated theses of the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, (in letters and speeches), it follows that in the ecclesiastical-canonical consciousness of the Ecumenical Throne during the last three and a half centuries, until 2018, Ukraine was not considered its canonical territory.
They explicitly and officially recognized that it belongs to the canonical jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate, which had full canonical jurisdiction in all aspects of church life.
At the same time, the inhabitants of Ukraine themselves were actively a part of all the manifestations of the church life of the Moscow Patriarchate (parish life, [being] persecuted for their faith, monasticism, theological research, leadership).
And, finally, the most important point: The fact that the Ukrainian Church is subordinate to the Moscow Patriarchate was unambiguously resolved in the pan-Orthodox consciousness. Without exception, all Local Autocephalous Orthodox Churches and Patriarchates recognize that the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which has the status of broad and wide autonomy,4 is subject to the canonical jurisdiction of Moscow. Without exception, all Churches consider the only canonical Metropolitan of Kiev to be His Beatitude Onuphry. Only with him and with his Synod did all Orthodox Churches communicate in inter-Orthodox and pan-Orthodox services and in various commissions. Such unanimity expresses the pan-Orthodox ecumenical consciousness of the Orthodox Church, which no one can neglect without serious consequences.
Let’s not forget: When on July 26–28, 2013 a large delegation of clergy, led by our Most Reverend Hierarch, brought the cross of the Holy Apostle Andrew the First-Called from our city of Patras to Kiev, whom did they commemorate? The Ecumenical Patriarch? Of course not! They commemorated the Patriarch of Moscow, Kirill, because Ukraine is subordinate to the Moscow Patriarchate, and the Patriarchal Church, like all Orthodoxy, recognized His Beatitude Met. Onuphry as the only canonical Metropolitan of Kiev and all Ukraine!
For three and a half centuries, this unanimous, continuous, and indispensable experience of the life of the Church has formed, what canonical tradition calls, “church custom or canonical president,”5 which is respected along with canon law and, therefore, applies even in matters relating to canonical jurisdiction. For example, the autocephaly of the Cypriot Orthodox Church is based on this ecclesiastical precedent, which was approved by the Third Ecumenical Council in its 8th Canon.
In any case, both the removal of East Illyria (Illyricum orientale—Crete, Achaia, Thessaly, Epirus, Albania, and Macedonia) from the jurisdiction of the Roman Patriarchate, and its submission to the Patriarchate of Constantinople, did not occur on the basis of the proclamation of a Tomos, as was customary, but on the basis of this church custom. Eastern Illyria until 731, was canonically subordinate to the jurisdiction of the Roman Patriarchate which was then Orthodox. In 731, the iconoclast emperor Leo III the Isaurian, despite the sharp objections of the Orthodox Pope Gregory III,6 separated Eastern Illyria by imperial decision, and subjugated it to the Patriarchate of Constantinople, in order to punish the Pope, who was Orthodox, and did not agree with him on the matter the destruction of Holy Icons!
Consequently, while Eastern Illyria was subject to Constantinople by ecclesiastical precedent, despite the fact that there was no church act (“tomos”) transferring jurisdiction over it from Rome, then the Kievan Metropolia is subordinate to the Moscow Patriarchate as there was a patriarchal and synodal decision in 1686, which was adopted by the church consciousness both in Constantinople, and at the pan-Orthodox level, thereby establishing a canonical, ecclesiastical precedent for 332 consecutive years.
Consequently, the Ecumenical Patriarchate, honoring the ecclesiastical canonical order, had no right to intervene in the affairs of Ukraine, without the consent of the head of the Russian Orthodox Church. Only the Ecumenical or Pan-Orthodox Council could authorize the Ecumenical Patriarch to intervene. However, exactly the opposite was happening: all the Orthodox Churches urged him not to intervene.
By what canon law does he neglect this pan-Orthodox consciousness and precedent, expressed “multilaterally and diversely”?
Under what canon law does the Ecumenical Patriarch place himself above pan-Orthodox consciousness?
2. Does the Ecumenical Patriarchate have the right to grant autocephaly this way?
In order to avoid misunderstandings and misinterpretations, it is necessary to clarify the following:
• Of course, the Ecumenical Patriarch has the right to grant autocephaly, but on certain conditions!
• Of course, the Ukrainian Church has the right to autocephaly, but, again, on certain conditions.
Everything in the Orthodox Church occurs subject to the conditions established by Church Tradition and canonical order. The same applies to the provision of autocephaly.
In the case of Ukraine, the basic conditions put forward by ecclesiastical tradition and order were not met. Unfortunately, the Ecumenical Patriarchate not only did not fulfill these conditions, but also contradicted itself! For decades, at Pan-Orthodox meetings, he declared and strongly supported one position, but later in Ukraine he did exactly the opposite.
All Pan-Orthodox conferences, all historians and canonists who collaborate with the Ecumenical Patriarchate and occupy leading positions in it, and even the Ecumenical throne until April 2018, unanimously proclaimed that church tradition and the procedure for proclaiming autocephaly of a particular Church imply a number of conditions, which were summarized from the official rostrum of the Inter-Orthodox Preparatory Commission (Geneva, December 9–17, 2009) via its chairman, the representative of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, Metropolitan John of Pergamon (Zizioulas):
“Since the Ecumenical Patriarch is concerned for the consensus of the Local Autocephalous Orthodox Churches, then, having received a document confirming their consent, he can sign a Patriarchal Tomos on his own… If the Ecumenical Patriarch alone signs a tomos of autocephaly, this does not detract from the pan-Orthodox consent, because, according to what has been resolved, it required that the consent of all the Primates be given in advance; of course, including the Primate of the Mother Church… The Ecumenical Patriarch fulfills a coordinating function and can express the opinion of all Orthodoxy. And he does this after the deliberation and discussion with the other Primates. This has nothing to do with Papal Primacy. A Pope expresses his own opinion without asking others. The Ecumenical Patriarch seeks to enlist the opinions of others, and expresses that opinion.”
This was said by Metropolitan of Pergamon John Zizioulas as a representative of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and chairman of the Inter-Orthodox Commission!
Unfortunately, none of the above was observed in the case of Ukraine. Obviously, not one of the conditions that the Ecumenical Patriarchate itself recognized as elements of church tradition and canonical order was fulfilled:
1 No petition was filed from the Church itself, requesting autocephaly—the canonical autonomous Ukrainian Orthodox Church, recognized by the pan-Orthodox Church consciousness and the Ecumenical Patriarchate itself, which has 53 dioceses, 90 bishops, 12,000 parishes with priests, 250 holy monasteries, 5,000 monks and nuns, did not ask for it, but on the contrary, categorically refused autocephaly, and did not participate in this process. Moreover, about 400 thousand signatures of Ukrainian citizens refusing autocephaly were collected and sent to the Ecumenical Patriarchate!
2 The necessary consent was not obtained from the Mother Church, from which a Church asking for autocephaly would be separated; to the contrary, the Mother Church was categorically against the provision of autocephaly.
3 There was no communal, conciliar discussion with other Churches, and, above all, not a single Local Orthodox Church advocated the provision of autocephaly. The pressure exerted by America on the Local Churches in favor of recognizing autocephaly does not honor all those who planned the provision of Ukrainian autocephaly and participated in it. This is a shame for the Orthodox Church and its pastors.
4 Thus, the Ecumenical Patriarch in the case of Ukraine acted not as a proponent of pan-Orthodox consent and consensus, but in the exact opposite way.
Unfortunately, we are bitterly convinced that the Ecumenical Patriarchate neglected the cry for help from the canonical Church and the Ukrainian people, neglected the opinion of the Mother Church, as well as the unanimous refusal of all Orthodox Churches—and listened to whom? To two Ukrainian groups: a) the political leadership of Ukraine, headed by then-President Poroshenko (who received only 17 percent support in the new elections!) And the speaker of the Verkhovna Rada, which are both Uniates, and b) two groups which erupted from the ranks of excommunicated and self-ordained pseudo-clergy. These pseudo-clergy created schismatic organizations, which, despite state and other support and assistance, found little response from the people.7
There is disregard for Church Tradition and the canonical order in the granting of Ukrainian autocephaly.
Is it possible for autocephaly based on such a foundation to bear spiritual fruit and prosperity? Obviously, it will only create problems.
3. Who was granted autocephaly?
If in the previous two paragraphs, we considered the neglect of Church Tradition and the canonical order, as well as serious canonical violations, the situation is significantly exacerbated if we consider who was granted autocephaly!
Here we are dealing with a disregard for the innermost essence of the Christian priesthood, for the very sacrament of the transmission of divine grace, through the continuous apostolic succession possessed by Orthodox bishops. In fact, we were faced with a violation not of just one church canon, but of the dogmatic teaching of the Church on the priesthood, which is continuously transmitted from the apostles to our days.
In an unprecedented and unheard-of act, the Ecumenical Patriarchate recognized and restored in the rank of bishop:
1 Philaret Denisenko, the defrocked and anathematized former bishop of the Russian Orthodox Church. Philaret’s eruption and anathematization was recognized and accepted without objection for 26 years by the pan-Orthodox church consciousness, including the Patriarchate of Constantinople.8 At the same time, Philaret, right after being defrocked in June 1992, exercised his right of appeal [ἔκκλητος—Trans.] and applied to the Ecumenical Patriarchate, which sent a delegation to Moscow to study the circumstances of his defrocking. The appeal of Philaret was rejected, and Patriarch Bartholomew in August 1992, in his letter to the Patriarch of Moscow, recognized the defrocking of Philaret as consistent with the canons.9
2 Makary Maletich, who actually was never defrocked as a bishop…because he never received canonical ordination as bishop! In fact, Makary is completely un-ordained as a bishop, since those who ordained him were ordained by only one bishop, who was defrocked and never restored, as well as Viktor Chekalin, the former deacon, charlatan, fraudster and person involved in a criminal case (child molestation), who never even had a priestly ordination.
The new Autocephalous Ukrainian Church has approximately 50 bishops. Unfortunately, today 2/3 of these hierarchs received consecration from defrocked schismatics, and 1/3 of the consecrations (approximately 15 bishops) is traced back to the false bishop Chekalin!
However, in the restoration of defrocked, excommunicated and self-ordained clergy, the Ecumenical Patriarchate did not follow Church tradition, as was correctly noted by the bishops and Primates of many Local Churches:
A. There was no repentance on the part of the schismatics, therefore it is quite natural that Philaret can at any moment create a new schism. Let’s pay attention to the fact that the introduction of heretics and schismatics into the Church is, first of all, a spiritual process that takes place in the spirit of the patristic tradition. It is not committed by one administrative act of a particular institutional body, like the inclusion of any association! Professor Demetrios Tselengidis very accurately noted that repentance is the basic, fundamental, and mandatory prerequisite for the grace of God to take effect, and it cannot be replaced by an act signed in official authority, no matter what the authority. In the absence of repentance, when a sinner, stagnant in sins, deliberately rejects the saving word of the Church, grace cannot act, and the formal adoption of a synodal decision will not help here. And in this case, there was no repentance—even if external, even only formally, brought forward by anyone.
B. The schismatics did not show the slightest readiness to return to fellowship with the Church from which they broke away. Thus, the Local Church is ignored, and the basic and fundamental principle of Church Tradition is violated, according to which communion with the whole Church occurs only via the Local Church, and the indictment on church crimes made by one Local Church is valid in the whole Ecumenical Church (12th and 32nd Apostolic Canons, the 6th Canon of Antioch and 9th Canon of the Carthage Local Council).
This fundamental canonical principle is crucial for the restoration of schismatics. Their restoration is not accomplished unconditionally, through their communion and recognition by certain “friends” belonging to canonical Churches. Communion with schismatics does not help heal the schism, but leads to the fact that those who communed with schismatics in the sacraments are subject to ecclesiastical court, for violating the holy canons! Canonical tradition gives a clear answer:
“Furthermore, we decree that communion with those excluded from communion is not allowed, nor in another church is it to be allowed to admit those who have no admittance to another church. If anyone among the Bishops, or Presbyters, or Deacons, or anyone of the Canon, should appear to be communing with those who have been excluded from communion, he too is to be excluded from communion, on the grounds of seemingly confusing the Canon of the Church”10 (The 2nd Canon of the Council of Antioch).
“If any one shall pray, even in a private house, with an excommunicated person, let him also be excommunicated.”11 (The 10th Canon of the Holy Apostles)
“[One] must not join in prayer with heretics or schismatics.”12 (The 33rd Canon of the Council of Laodicea)
Thus, according to the Tradition of our Church, the restoration of schismatics always takes place either through the Local Church from which they separated, or by convening an Ecumenical Council (for example, as happened with the Meletian schism at the First Ecumenical Council). Never has a single Local Church restored a schismatic group, separated from another church’s jurisdiction. This is how “confusing the Canon of the Church” (2nd Rule of the Council of Antioch) is essentially meant to be understood.
C.) No proper concern or care was taken regarding the lack of apostolic succession among the unappointed “bishops” of the new Church, namely:
• Those who received false consecration in schism were not re-ordained;
• Those who received false consecration from defrocked and anathematized clergy were not re-ordained;
• Those who received false consecration from the self-ordained and generally non-ordained, were not re-ordained.
After all, it was precisely this that was prescribed by the corresponding decision of the First Ecumenical Council, regarding the Meletian schism, and this is precisely what the Ecumenical Patriarchate did recently, when two “bishops” of the Old Calendarists entered its jurisdiction in the USA. He ordained them as like the un-ordained!
Approximately 35 of the 50 “bishops” of the new Church belong to the group of Philaret, who received canonical ordination in the Russian Orthodox Church, but later on, despite the fact that he was defrocked and anathematized, continued to “ordain”. The remaining “bishops” (about 15) belonged to Makary’s group, and their “episcopal ordinations” are traced back to the unrighteous charlatan and swindler Viktor Chekalin.
Some, unfortunately, including official figures, in order to calm their conscience and justify their inaction and silence, characterize our persistence in the issue of the un-ordained as an obsession. But until they answer us seriously and responsibly, we will continue to publicly declare this issue in the hope that at some point their conscience will become our ally… Frankly, we are particularly concerned that neither the Ecumenical Patriarchate nor the new church answers the most important question: “From whom did the “bishops” of Makary’s group receive the episcopal ordination and apostolic succession?”
Why do these officials not answer this question? Maybe this question concerns details, which are not worth discussing? The question of the apostolic succession of Orthodox bishops is not important? Four to five versions are unofficially distributed on the Internet, trying to justify the “canonicity” of their ordination. However, they achieve the exact opposite effect, because:
a) The data they each present does not correspond to the others. Each version is fundamentally different from the others and refutes the rest;
b) they are based not on official statements of competent church authorities, but on the words of Ukrainian journalists or even on an anonymous (!) researcher who published an unsigned text! Is it possible for competent institutions and persons to remain silent on such serious issues, and the answers to come from… “journalists”?
• The new Autocephalous Church is silent, as if there was no problem at all!
• The Ecumenical Patriarchate is also silent, as if there were no problems!
• The Alexandrian Patriarchate is also silent on this issue!
• The Special Rapporteur of the Synodal Commissions, Professor Vlasios Pheidas, is silent about this in his report!
• And the Synodal Commission on Dogmatic and Canonical Issues is silent about this in its conclusion addressed to the Holy Synod!
• The Synodal Commission on Inter-Orthodox and Inter-Christian Relations is also silent about this in its conclusion addressed to the Holy Synod!
• The Archbishop of Athens in his statement to the Council of Bishops of the Greek Orthodox Church did not say anything about this issue!
• During a meeting of the Council of Bishops of the Church of Greece on November 7, 2019, none of the bishops who supported autocephaly addressed the issue of healing the problem of those who were not ordained from the Makary group. And they are silent!
• Finally, in the decision of the Council of Bishops of the Greek Orthodox Church—complete silence…
None of the above seemed to have ever heard or thought that the lack of apostolic succession among the un-ordained is a problem! And at the same time, they accuse us of “asking too many questions”. It’s a pity that everything happens this way…
So, who in the end confuses the people of God: those who try to understand what is happening, and ask questions, or those who, being competent and responsible persons, remain silent? Is it a manifestation of church ethics to demand that the people of God not ask questions or ask officials about anything? If authorized approved pastors do not answer us, who will answer us?
And most importantly: these questions about how the non-ordained received the “priesthood” are not raised by us with our “obsessions,” but by bishops, Primate and Synods of Local Churches.
Can anyone blame the bishops and the Primates for embarrassing the fullness of the Church when they do not recognize the hierarchal rank of the un-ordained?
Can anyone blame the Archbishop of Albania, Anastasius, for embarrassing the fullness of the Church when he answers the Ecumenical Patriarch, citing irrefutable theological arguments, and denying the canonicity of even [the defrocked] Philaret’s episcopate, not to mention Makary, who has no ordination at all!
The same problems and the same questions are raised by the defender of the rights of the Ecumenical See, who is a supporter of Ukrainian autocephaly, His Grace Metropolitan Hierotheos (Vlachos) of Nafpaktos. As a leading theologian and expert in the field of dogmatic theology and ecclesiastical canonical order, he does not “recon” on the way in which “restoration” was accomplished. So, on March 30, 2009, in his letter to the Holy Synod of the Church of Greece, he notes:
“With regard to the question of how the Ecumenical Patriarchate recognized the “episcopate” of bishops, who were “ordained” as such by defrocked or schismatic “bishops”, or otherwise the “self-ordained”, our Church, before making any decision, must ask the Ecumenical Patriarchate a question as to the way he restored these bishops.”
Indeed, and how did the Ecumenical Patriarchate react in response to the reasonable concern of the Metropolitan of Nafpaktos? With utter silence! Neglecting the question of an authoritative bishop, who had justified anxiety regarding the essence, divine inspiration, and action of the sacrament of episcopal ordination among schismatics!
It is noteworthy that the Metropolitan of Nafpaktos quotes the words “episcopate”, “ordained”, “self-ordained” and “bishops”, in referring to the “bishops” of the new autocephalous church, apparently due to deep doubts as to whether they were “ordained”, whether they hold an “episcopate”, and, finally, whether they are even “bishops”! Perhaps the Metropolitan of Nafpaktos confused the people of God when he presented his message to the public?
Maybe Metropolitan Seraphim of Kythira confuses the people, when, in his New Year’s encyclical, he says the following with perfect clarity:
“Another very dangerous and disturbing problem is the well-known and increasingly aggravated “Ukrainian issue” in connection with the anti-canonical way in which autocephaly was provided. There is an unpredictable scale of spiritual threat of a deepening and uprooting impending schism among the Local Autocephalous Orthodox Churches, if this complex and intrinsically intractable canonical and ecclesiological question does not receive a timely, canonical and final solution at the pan-Orthodox level. We will not tire of emphasizing this. From everywhere, voices are heard, alarmed and preoccupied with the ongoing anti-canonical development of events in connection with this most acute, Ukrainian question.”
G.) The former “bishops” among the schismatics did not obey the canonical bishops, as prescribed by the 8th Canon of the First Ecumenical Council, regarding the return to church communion of schismatic clerics (Cathari), which clearly states this:
“But if they come over where there is a bishop or presbyter of the Catholic Church, it is manifest that the Bishop of the Church must have the bishop’s dignity; and he who was named bishop by those who are called Cathari shall have the rank of presbyter, unless it shall seem fit to the Bishop to admit him to partake in the honour of the title. Or, if this should not be satisfactory, then shall the bishop provide for him a place as Chorepiscopus, or presbyter, in order that he may be evidently seen to be of the clergy, and that there may not be two bishops in the city.”13
On the contrary, they remained in the same diocese as “parallel bishops” along with canonical bishops. Moreover, we are dealing not only with the parallel existence of two bishops, in violation of the 8th Canon of the First Ecumenical Council, commanding, “Let there not be two bishops in the city”, but also with the creation of a parallel Church and a parallel Synod in the territory of another Autocephalous Church.
Honestly, we cannot help but see that the Phanar’s intervention in the affairs of Ukraine led to the creation of a grotesque situation: He had such “successes” that he managed to make the impossible and unprecedented possible for all of Orthodoxy—in a single city there are now 4 bishops serving of the same nationality, and one and the same flock: the canonical bishops belonging to the autonomous Church under the omophorion of Metropolitan Onuphry; two of the former schismatic structures of Philaret and Makary, that existed before the Tomos, and one new group, which Philaret recently ordained, after creating a new schism! The most tragic thing is that Phanar and his “heralds”, without any hesitation, and with great confidence, speak of the unity of the Church of Ukraine.
There is no historical and canonical precedent, when a bunch of defrocked, excommunicated, self-ordained, and schismatic “clergy”, in one fell swoop be “restored to their clerical dignities”, participate in a “unification council”, and at the very same time receive “autocephaly”—an enviable speed even for express procedures! And all this—with disrespect for the apostolic and canonical ordinance, which provides that it is not righteous to suddenly turn into a bishop a “convert”, “from a vicious way of life. For it is unfair for the still untried to become a teacher of others,” see the 80th Apostolic Canon and the 2nd Canon of the 1st Ecumenical, the 3rd of the Laodicean Local Council, and the 4th of St. Cyril)!
Here the Patriarchate hastened to immediately bestow the highest church degree—autocephaly—to people who were born and spiritually took shape in a 25-year schism, and now he is tasting the fruits of his unreasonable actions that dishonor the Church, alas…
Since the canonical Metropolitan of Kiev Onuphry, recognized by all Orthodox Churches, and the other canonical bishops, did not die, did not resign, were not absent without a good reason for 6 months in their diocese, were not convicted of a canonical offense—how can one elect the “Metropolitan of Kiev” or another bishop? Isn’t this forbidden by the 16th Rule of the First-Second Council14 of 861:
“It is also necessary to decree something in regard to the quarrels and disturbances that are taking place in God’s Church. Under no circumstances shall any Bishop be appointed over a church whose president is still alive and is in good standing of honor, unless he himself shall voluntarily resign. For the cause of one who is going to be ousted from the church must first be canonically examined and brought to a conclusion, and then thereafter when he has been duly deposed from office, another man may be promoted to the episcopacy in his stead.”1516
An absolutely anti-canonical Ecumenical Patriarch demands that His Beatitude Onuphry, recognized by all Orthodoxy as the canonical Metropolitan of Kiev and all Ukraine, stop calling himself by his canonical title, which is recognized by all Orthodox Churches.
Does the decision of the Ecumenical Patriarchate on accepting bishops of another Church without a letter of canonical release and the permission of their Kyriarch17—the canonical Patriarch—contradict the holy canons? This is strictly prohibited by the 14th and 15th Apostolic Canons, the 15th Canon of the First Ecumenical Council, the 15th Canon of the Sardinian Council, the 63 (54th) of the Carthaginian Local Councils.
Based on what canon does a self-governing Church, having the rights of broad autonomy, with an active church life (thousands of parishes, thousands of monks and millions of believers), which to this day has been recognized by all Orthodox Churches as expressing the aspirations of all the Orthodox of Ukraine, “disappear” from the church diptychs, in order to provide a place for the founding of a “new church”?
And finally, how can the Orthodox Churches acknowledge that the actions and deeds of an unrighteous false bishop-impostor convey divine grace in the sacrament of the priesthood? Can anyone who does not have ordination ordain canonical priests? Since when did the un-ordained have apostolic succession?
The moral character of the new church
Let us take a closer look at the moral character of leaders, and, consequently, the moral character of the new autocephalous Church as a whole, which the Greek Orthodox Church recognized.
I honestly admit, I doubt that the leaders of the new church are even believers. It is regrettable to talk about this, but judging by their behavior, they are ruthless and conspire even with the devil himself in order to achieve his goal! And the Phanar knows well what kind of “guys” he is dealing with, and does not trust them.
There is proof of this: The unthinkable is provided in the tomos—that the “autocephalous church” cannot canonize saints, but must appeal to Constantinople on this issue! For no other Church has something like this provided. The Greek Orthodox Church has the right to canonize saints, and only because of their respect for the Ecumenical Patriarchate appeals to him, without being obligated to do so. However, she can canonize the saints herself, and sometimes enjoys this right: for example, St. Chrysostom of Smyrna was glorified among the saints by the Church of Greece without an appeal to Phanar. The [autonomous] Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate has the right to canonize saints, but the “Autocephalous church”—the OCU—does not!!!
I will cite several cases that clearly demonstrate the moral character of the new Church:
1. The “canonization” of a self-ordained heretic and an event in his honor!
Mockup of the memorial to “Metropolitan” Lipkovsky in Cherkassy, September 2018
Ten days after receiving the “tomos” (01/06/2019) and before undergoing proper “enthronization”, the new “primate” hastened to honor Vasily Lipkovsky(Ukrainian: Vasil Lipkivsky). In the presence of President Poroshenko and one “bishop” of his new church, on January 18, 2019 in Cherkassy (Ukraine), Epiphany participated in the opening of a large monument in honor of Vasily Lipkovsky, whom the author of the monument depicted in bishop’s vestments.