Peter Anderson berichtet aus der orthodoxen Welt

Seit vielen Jahren verfolgt Peter Anderson aus Seattle USA die Entwicklungen in der orthodoxen Welt. Nicht im Auftrag einer Zeitung, sondern aus persönlicher Liebe zu den Ostkirchen und im Einsatz für die Communio von Ost und West gibt er Einblicke in neue Entwicklungen. Mit Zustimmung von Peter Anderson werden seine E-mail-Nachrichten auf der Homepage des Zentrums St. Nikolaus dokumentiert.

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NEWS 2019

  • 8 November 2019: Moscow's reaction to Alexandria's surprising decision & more news

    Today, there was the surprising announcement that the ancient Patriarchate of Alexandria, second in the traditional diptychs after Constantinople, has decided to recognize the new Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU). Unlike the very recent recognition of the OCU by the Church of Greece, there was no advanced news that the recognition was being discussed or would be discussed shortly by the Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Alexandria.  Also, the primate of the Alexandrian Patriarchate, Patriarch Theodoros, is very sympathetic to the UOC-MP, having served for ten years (1985-1995) in Odessa as the Patriarchal Exarch to the Moscow Patriarchate.  It is likely that until today, the Moscow Patriarchate considered him an ally in the Ukrainian dispute.  Therefore, today’s announcement probably came as a shock and a great disappointment to the Moscow Patriarchate and to the UOC-MP.   It is true that the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church of Poland on October 29 reaffirmed its prior decision not to recognize the OCU, although the Synod has no objection to a canonical church in Ukraine (such as the UOC-MP) receiving autocephaly.  However, historically, the ancient Patriarchate of Alexandria and All Africa has been a much more important player in the Orthodox world than the Church of Poland.  A website in Moscow has claimed that Greek Foreign Ministry pressured Patriarch Theodoros with the withdrawal of funding from the Greek state unless the Patriarchate recognized the OCU. (English)

    According to the news agency RIA-Novesti, Father Nikolai Balashov, deputy head of the department of external church relations (DECR) of the Moscow Patriarchate stated today:  “This decision makes it impossible to commemorate the name of the Patriarch of Alexandria at the patriarchal services in the Russian Orthodox Church.”  He added that the Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate will make a further judgment on the issue.  Father Nikolai Danilevich, deputy head of the DECR of the UOC-MP, has stated with respect to Patriarch Theodoros:  “all this can be regarded only as weakness and cowardice, which led to betrayal.”  Although Father Nikolai Balashov did not mention other possible sanctions, a sanction which may be adopted would be to establish separate parishes of the Moscow Patriarchate for the many Russians in Africa.  The Moscow Patriarchate has already begun to do this in Turkey.

    The Moscow Patriarchate is now beginning to implement its response to the actions taken by Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens and All Greece in recognizing the OCU.  During the Liturgy in Moscow on November 3, Patriarch Kirill omitted for the first time the name of Archbishop Ieronymos in the diptychs.  According to the foregoing link on the official website of the DECR, the Moscow Patriarchate will continue communion with “all those archpastors and pastors who have already spoken or will speak in the future against the recognition of the Ukrainian schism, who will not stain their names by con-celebrating with the schismatic false hierarchs.”  The Moscow Patriarchate has now also posted the names of six dioceses of the Church of Greece to which the Moscow Patriarchate does not bless visits.  According to the posting, the ruling bishops of these dioceses “have entered in church communion with the Ukrainian schismatics.”  The posting also states:  “Upon receiving new information on individual hierarchs entering in church communion with the Ukrainian schismatics, their dioceses will also be included in the above list.”  This official list is posted at

    With respect to maintaining communion with the Moscow Patriarchate, the sanctions appear to encourage individual bishops and priests of the Church of Greece to “speak in the future” against recognition of the OCU.  With respect to pilgrimages, the sanctions appear to be directed primarily to discouraging bishops of the Church of Greece from con-celebrating with OCU bishops.  There are bishops of the Church of Greece, such as Metropolitan Chrysostomos of Messinia, who have been very outspoken in favor of recognizing the OCU and whose diocese is not included in the list of six.  It appears that something more is needed to be placed on the list, such as con-celebrating with a hierarch of the OCU.  Once a diocese is placed on the list, the sanction losses much of its future deterrent effect on the ruling bishop of that diocese, and he has nothing to lose in hosting bishops of the OCU or commemorating Epifany, primate of the OCU, in the diptychs.  That may be the reason why there are presently only six dioceses on the list.  For a diocese not yet on the list, Moscow’s hope may be that the ruling bishop may find excuses for individually not entering into communion with the OCU and thus maintaining Russian church pilgrimages for his diocese.

    The OCU will be sending a pilgrimage group to Greece, November 9-15.  It will be headed by the two metropolitans who left the UOC-MP and joined the OCU, Metropolitan Simeon of Vinnytsa and Metropolitan Alexander of Pereyaslav-Khmelnytsky.  Unlike most of the bishops of the OCU, there is no claim by the Moscow Patriarchate that the original episcopal ordinations of Simeon and Alexander were not valid ordinations, although they were banned from the priesthood by the UOC-MP last December (but not defrocked).  The Greek website has published reports that Metropolitan Ephraim of Hydra will not allow the two hierarchs to serve at the large Saint Nektarios Monastery on the island of Aegina near Athens.  See also the English-language articles at and   However, when contacted by, Metropolitan Ephraim responded that he had not said yes or no and indicated that if the people want to serve, let them serve. also reported “rumors” that Greek priests were planning large protests by the faithful against the two hierarchs at Aegina and at Patras (Cathedral of St. Andrew).    On November 7, the press office of the OCU’s Vinnytsa diocese posted a notice that none of the bishops of the Church of Greece has denied the pilgrims “hospitality and right to worship the shrines in their Metropolitan territories and to perform Divine Services.”  Although the notice acknowledges that some modifications of the itinerary have been made from the original, the notice asserts that these were done to reconcile various aspects of the very busy program.  I am sure that there will probably be more news after the pilgrimage begins on Saturday.

    On November 6, Komsomolskaya Pravda conducted an extensive interview of Metropolitan Hilarion. (official English translation by the DECR).  With respect to the recognition of the OCU by the Church of Greece, he stated in part:

    We regret that the Greek Church has recognized this schismatic structure legalized by Constantinople.  We are certainly aware that the Greek Church is not autocephalous in the full sense as it is very dependent on Constantinople; it has neither external relations or foreign policy of its own. Moreover, a half of the hierarchs of this Church are at the same time hierarchs of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, and Constantinople, as is known, threatened to take these dioceses away from the Greek Church if it would show disobedience in the matter of recognition of the schismatic ‘Orthodox church of Ukraine’.  That is to say, it is a quasi-autocephalous Church.  It has endured an unprecedented pressure from Constantinople, which used all means to obtain this recognition and announced this recognition as an accomplished fact a few months before it took place.  Besides, it is known (from Greek sources) that Archbishop Hieronymos of Athens endured an unprecedented pressure from the US Embassy in Athens, too.

    Metropolitan Hilarion also explained why his planned meeting with U.S. Secretary of State did not occur.  He stated in part:

    I received a call from the State Department with a clarification of protocol details.  It was said in particular that it would be a tete-a-tete meeting [with the Secretary], but an hour before the appointed time a call came to say that instead of the secretary of state I would be received by his deputy.  I would not meet with a deputy.  I do not doubt that after the secretary of State’s schedule was published, our ill-wishers in America took steps to prevent his meeting with me…. It is not accidental that the following morning the secretary of state met with the leader of the Ukrainian schismatics, Yepifaniy. 

    Russia Foreign Secretary Lavrov stated on November 6 that the United States “will be trying to press for a split of the Orthodox world in general.”

    On November 3, during  the Divine Liturgy at the Church of Christ the Saviour in Moscow, Patriarch Kirill presented the Patriarchal and Synodal Charter on the restoration of the unity of the Archdiocese of Western European Parishes of Russian Tradition with the Russian Orthodox Church to the head of that Archdiocese, Archbishop John of Dubna. (detailed English report)  At the same time, Archbishop John was made a metropolitan, and two priests who had worked for the restoration were given the right to wear the Patriarchal Cross.  In an interview in Moscow, Archbishop John stated that 60 parishes and 90 clerics (both priests and deacons) of the Archdiocese have confirmed their desire to join the Moscow Patriarchate.  According to one website, there were 115 parishes, communities, and monasteries in the Archdiocese as of November 2018 ( and 162 priests and deacons (  According to the Archbishop, some parishes have not yet made a decision. 

    The Orthodox Patriarchate of Georgia is sadly undergoing great trials at the present time.   The Holy Synod took disciplinary action against two important bishops at its meeting on October 31. (minutes of the meeting).  Metropolitan Petre of Chkondidi, considered the leading liberal in the church, was prohibited from celebrating the Liturgy, was released from his diocese and his position on the Holy Synod, and sent to a monastery to repent.  The Holy Synod “noted that in the history of the Church we do not find any such example of insulting the Patriarch.”  After the session, Metropolitan Petre informed the press: “The reason behind this decision is my accusations regarding the sin of homosexuality in the Georgian Church.”  The second bishop is Archbishop Iakob (Iakobashvili) of Bodle.  Archbishop Iakov had called a television station and had reported that he had attended a meeting in the past with government officials, including current Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia, to develop a plan to remove Patriarch Ilia.  More sordid details of this claimed murder plot are described at  At the session of Holy Synod on October 31, “Archbishop Iakob regretted his incorrect public statements.”  He received a warning and his resignation as chancellor of the Patriarchate was subsequently accepted.  The Holy Synod also decided to support a petition for pardon by archpriest Giorgi Mamaladze, who is presently serving a prison sentence for attempting to murder the patriarch’s personal secretary.  A general article about the entire tragic situation can be read at  (English)

    Lastly, Patriarch Kirill has made an extremely interesting statement on the dangers of “papism.” (DECR English translation).  The North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation has held its annual meeting, October 24-26.  The dialogue is continuing its work on the subject of marriage. 


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 29 October 2019: Response to Athens' decisive action

    Yesterday (Monday), the new Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU) received a letter in the mail from Archbishop Ieronymos, primate of the Church of Greece, dated October 21, responding to the “peace letter” sent by Metropolitan Epifany upon his election as primate of the OCU.  The “peace letter” had been sent to each of the primates of the Local Orthodox Churches in accordance with Orthodox protocol.  The letter from the Archbishop was made public today. (English article including a photocopy of the letter in Greek).  The full text of the letter in Ukrainian can be translated into English with the Google Chrome translation tool at  The Church of Greece is now the first Local Orthodox Church, aside from the Ecumenical Patriarchate, to respond to the “peace letter” and to recognize the OCU.  Any lingering doubt as to whether the Church of Greece has recognized the OCU is now dispelled.

    The Holy Synod of the OCU met today in Kyiv under the chairmanship of Metropolitan Epifany.  The minutes of the meeting can be read at  Metropolitan Epifany reported on the receipt of the letter.  Gratitude was expressed to Archbishop Ieronymos and to the hierarchs of the Church of Greece.  The OCU also adopted a statement that full church communion is established between the OCU and the Church of Greece, as between Autocephalous Orthodox Sister Churches.  The minutes also contain a very detailing report by Metropolitan Epifany describing his recent visit to the United States.   In addition, the minutes reflect the establishment of various synodal commissions including one for inter-Christian relations headed by Metropolitan Dimitry of Lviv.

    Today, the Department of External Church Relations (DECR) of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) issued a statement with respect to the letter of Archbishop Ieronymos.  The statement includes the following (Google translation):

    We regret this decision, which contradicts the sacred canons and traditions of the Church and is a grave mistake that harms both Orthodoxy in Ukraine and all-Orthodox unity.  This decision is a knife in the back of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which has been suffering from a church split over the years and continues to suffer from schism today, upholding the canonical order in the Church.

    The statement also provides: The final decision on the possibility of further participation in the Eucharistic communion and fellowship with the clergy of the Hellenic Church will be made by the Holy Synod of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.  As you recall, the Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate decided on October 17 to “sever prayerful and Eucharist communion with whose hierarchs of the Greek Church who have entered or will enter in such communion with representatives of the Ukrainian uncanonical schismatic groups.”  As can be seen, the October 17 statement of the Moscow Patriarchate relates only to bishops.  It appears that the Holy Synod of the UOC-MP will decided in the future what action should be taken with respect to the priests of the Church of Greece.  With respect to the priests of the Church of Greece, will a distinction be made between priests who disagree with the decision of their church to recognize the OCU and priests who do not voice disagreement?  While making such a distinction for Greek bishops may be fairly easy to administer, it is more difficult for thousands of Greek priests.  Father Nikolai Danilevich, deputy head of the DECR of the UOC-MP, has lamented on his Facebook page:  Between Orthodoxy and Hellenism, the Hellenic Church chose Hellenism.  A pity.  

    The Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate met today in Moscow for its regular (as opposed to its recent extraordinary meetings).  The minutes can be read at  Ukraine and the letter of Archbishop Ieronymos were not mentioned in the minutes.  It is possible that news of the letter did not arrive in time for consideration by the Holy Synod at this meeting.  In the minutes, the resignation of the managing director of the Moscow Patriarchate, Metropolitan Savva of Tver, was accepted.  Savva had held this important position for less than nine months.  The new managing director is 44-year-old Bishop Dionisy (Porubai).  As a result of this promotion, he will now be a permanent member of the Holy Synod.  He has been the first vicar bishop of the Moscow Metropolis since July of this year.  Obviously, he has been on a fast track.  See (his biography).

    The Serbian Patriarchate has now announced on its website the meeting held in Belgrade on October 25 by Patriarch Irinej and certain other of its bishops with a delegation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, including Metropolitan John of Pergamon, Metropolitan Emmanuel of France, and others.   Metropolitan Amfilohije of Montenegro, one of the participants on behalf of the Serbian Patriarchate, made some remarks concerning the meeting the next day. (Ukrainian); (some quotes in English).  Metropolitan Amfilohije essentially argues that the powers held by the Ecumenical Patriarch during the time of the Byzantine Empire are no longer relevant in today’s situation.

    The legal status of the Archdiocese of the communities of the Russian tradition in Western Europe, headquartered in Paris, continues to be complex and unclear (to me at least).  It has been announced that Patriarch Kirill will formally give Archbishop John the charter governing the Archdiocese as part of the Moscow Patriarchate at a ceremony in Moscow on November 3.  With respect to legal matters in Paris, there appears to be two aspects that make the outcome of a possible legal battle between the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Moscow Patriarchate over the legal entity of the Archdiocese unclear at the present time.  (The legal entity appears to be named the Union of Russian Orthodox Associations in Western Europe).  The first aspect is that Archbishop John did not obtain at the extraordinary assembly held in Paris the two-thirds majority required under the church statute to affiliate with the Moscow Patriarchate.  Second, a majority of the administrative council (seven persons) opposed the affiliation with the Moscow Patriarchate.  The administrative council apparently constitutes the board of directors of the legal entity under French law.  With respect to the first aspect, Archbishop John argues that the holding of the extraordinary assembly was a mistake, because the decision to affiliate is a “pastoral” decision which he alone has authority to decide.  With respect to the second aspect, Archbishop John argues that the three clergy members of administrative council who were part of the majority opposing the affiliation with the Moscow Patriarchate have been deemed to have retired from the ranks of the clergy because they have not joined the Archbishop and those clergy members who plan to join the Moscow Patriarchate.  It remains to be seen whether a court in France will be persuaded by the Archbishop’s arguments in possible future litigation.

    Metropolitan Emmanuel of France wrote a letter on October 12 threatening to bring a legal action if Archbishop John does not cease to claim that he is the head of the legal entity of the Archdiocese.  On October 21, Archbishop John convened a meeting of his administrative council (board of directors of the legal entity) consisting of the five members in favor of joining the Moscow Patriarchate (the seven members opposing did not attend).  At the meeting a new cleric was appointed because of the “cessation of activity” of the three clerics (part of the seven person majority).  At the meeting, preparations were begun to hold two assemblies in January to decide various matters including the election of auxiliary bishops.  Lastly, it has been reported that the member of St. Seraphim parish in Paris have voted overwhelmingly to join the Moscow Patriarchate.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 25 October 2019: A reason to hope & other news

    Yesterday (Wednesday) a meeting was held in Englewood, New Jersey USA, between Metropolitan Hilarion (Moscow Patriarchate) and Archbishop Elpidophoros of America (Ecumenical Patriarchate and head of the archdiocese encompassing the Greek Orthodox Church in the United States).  The two hierarchs met at the invitation of Metropolitan Joseph, Archbishop of New York and Metropolitan of all North America (the head of the Patriarchate of Antioch in North America), who hosted the meeting at his national headquarters of the Archdiocese of North America.  As you know, the Patriarchate of Antioch has been close to the Moscow Patriarchate and has been supportive of the Moscow Patriarchate’s position in the religious dispute in Ukraine.  However, unlike the Serbian Patriarchate, the hierarchs of the Patriarchate of Antioch have been relatively quiet in terms of verbal attacks against the decisions of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.  Metropolitan Joseph hosted a luncheon which was followed by a meeting between Hilarion and Elpidophoros.

    A report on the meeting in English has been posted by the Antiochian Archdiocese of North America ( and in Russian by the DECR of the Moscow Patriarchate (  The two reports quote a communique that states that after the luncheon “the three hierarchs met privately to exchange views on the current inter-Orthodox situation.”  One can be sure that Ukraine was the principal topic of discussion.  After the meeting, Metropolitan Hilarion gave an exclusive interview to the Russian news agency RIA Novosti concerning the meeting.  The following is a Google translation of the interview:

    Vladyka, why exactly now have you decided to meet with a senior representative of the Patriarchate of Constantinople in the USA?

    I was not the initiator of this meeting.  It took place at the residence of the Archbishop of America of Antioch, Joseph, who kindly invited us both to dinner. This was preceded by a mediation initiative of a good Orthodox Christian - formerly Chancellor of the Antiochian Archdiocese - Charles Ajalat [a layman and attorney very active in Orthodox matters] who organized my current visit to the United States.  I have known Metropolitan Elpidophoros for a quarter of a century.  We met in Finland at the Orthodox-Lutheran dialogue, in which both of us participated.  He was then a deacon, I was a hieromonk.  Since then, "a lot of water has flowed."  There were many joyful and sad events in our relations and in the relations between our Churches.  A joyful event for me was the participation, at his invitation, in his hierarchal ordination.  Well, the sad events are connected with the legalization of the Ukrainian schism undertaken by Patriarch Bartholomew.  These events are well known.

    What was discussed at your meeting with Metropolitan Elpidoforos?

    Talking at the residence of the Archbishop of Antioch, in the presence of the latter, we had the opportunity - for the first time after the decision of the Synod of Constantinople to "grant autocephaly to Ukraine" and the subsequent decision of our synod to cease communication with Constantinople - to exchange views on what happened.  And about what could be done in this situation.

    What can be done? Did you come to some kind of agreement?

    We prayed for the preservation of the unity of the Orthodox Church.  And we hope that the division that has arisen will be overcome.


    I would answer with the words of the Savior: "For man it is impossible.  But with God all is possible."  The Holy Spirit has repeatedly instructed its servants in the history of the Church to make the right decisions.  I believe that in our time it is possible.

    But do you see the prerequisites for overcoming the developing crisis in the Orthodox world?

    Perhaps it is no coincidence that our meeting took place the day after Patriarch Bartholomew announced the canonization of the ever-memorable old man Sofrony  [see;].  I closely knew this holy man, an outstanding ascetic of our days, a contemplator of the Divine Light, a disciple and follower of the Monk Silouan of Athos.  I believe that Father Sofrony prays for the dear Russian church that raised and educated him, and for the church of Constantinople, which received him twice in its fold: first - when he came to Mount Athos, and then – when, while in England, he found himself in difficult circumstances.  May the prayer of this saint of God help us to maintain the unity of the holy churches of God, for which we pray in each liturgy. 

    While it would be a mistake to read too much into this meeting, it is, in my opinion, at least a ray of hope.  Yesterday, I watched a one-hour interview of Archbishop Elpidophoros done in English by Ancient Faith Radio.  I have never seen an interview of him before, and quite frankly, I was impressed.  The interview did not relate in any way to Ukraine or the dispute between Constantinople and Moscow, and I know that Hilarion and Elpidophoros have drastically different views of the role of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in the Orthodox world.  However,  in discussing various matters, the Archbishop came across to me as a very pleasant, thoughtful, and reasonable person.  I am not surprised that he and Metropolitan Hilarion formed a friendship and liked each other earlier in their careers.  This certainly helps in any dialogue.

    Following the action taken by the hierarchy of the Church of Greece last Saturday, Bishop Irinej of Backa (Serbian Patriarchate) on October 20 issued a very strong statement expressing great concerns about the action taken.;  Interestingly, yesterday, a delegation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, headed by Metropolitan Emmanuel of France, met with Patriarch Irinej and other hierarchs of the Serbian Patriarchate in Belgrade.  This may be another sign that at least some dialogue is occurring.

    As expected, Archbishop Ieronymos concelebrated the Liturgy with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew on Saturday in Thessaloniki.  In the Liturgy, Bartholomew commemorated the name of Metropolitan Epifany in the diptychs, and a Greek deacon did so later in the Liturgy.  Subsequently, Father Nikolai Balashov, deputy head of the DECR of the Moscow Patriarchate, stated that this was not sufficient to cause the Moscow Patriarchate to drop Ieronymos from the diptychs because Ieronymos himself did not commemorate Epifany.  To the best of my knowledge, Ieronymos has not yet done so.  Father Nikolai has also stated that the calling a meeting of all the primates to discuss the Ukraine situation is unlikely to result in a real solution as it is clear that the Ecumenical Patriarch would not attend such a meeting. (English); (actual interview in Russian).

    There has been an interview of another of the hierarchs of the Church of Greece who opposes the recognition of the OCU.  In the interview, Metropolitan Nektarios (Dovas) of Kerkyra (Corfu) stated: “The overwhelming majority may have favored the view of Ieronymus and therefore Bartholomew, however, the fact that ten Metropolitans have been found to disassociate themselves with the autocephaly of the Ukrainian Church is a very important parameter.”  He said that he would like to play a mediating role in view of his good relations with the Moscow Patriarchate. 

    In other news, the official English translation of the October 17 statement of the Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate has been posted at   A French translation of the address by Archbishop Ieronymos to the hierarchy of the Church of Greece is now available at  The English text of the speech of Metropolitan Epifany (OCA) in New York City upon receipt of the award from the Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate can be read at  Lastly, Cardinal Koch has written a very interesting letter in English about Metropolitan Nikodim.  The letter was sent to a conference in Minsk commemorating the deceased Metropolitan’s 90th birthday. 


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 17 October 2019: Moscow's response to Athens & other news

    Today (Thursday), the Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate held an extraordinary session to respond to the decision made by the Holy Synod of the Hierarchy of the Church of Greece last Saturday relating to Ukraine.   At today’s meeting, the Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate adopted a detailed statement setting forth its position.  Many had expected that the Moscow Patriarchate would sever communion with the Church of Greece in its entirely.  Instead, the Moscow Patriarchate took a more limited approach.  A Google translation (aided by a partial English translation from of the final part of the statement is as follows:

    In this regard, we cease prayerful and Eucharistic communication with those bishops of the Greek Church who have entered or will enter into such communication with representatives of the Ukrainian non-canonical schismatic communities.  We also do not bless pilgrimage trips to the dioceses controlled by the designated bishops.  Relevant information will be widely distributed among the pilgrimage and tourism organizations of the countries that make up the canonical territory of our Church.

    The Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church authorizes His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia to stop commemorating the name of His Beatitude the Archbishop of Athens and All Greece in the diptychs if the primate of the Greek Church begins to commemorate the head of one of the Ukrainian schismatic groups during Divine services or takes other actions testifying to his recognition of the Ukrainian Church schism.

    Most of the statement relates to the reasons why the recommendation of Archbishop Ieronymos (primate of the Church of Greece) to recognize the OCU and the conclusions made by the two committees assigned by the Church of Greece to study the issue are incorrect.  Hopefully, a good English translation of the entire statement will be posted shortly.  A Greek translation has been posted. 

    The statement includes quotations from several metropolitans of the Church of Greece who do not support recognition of the OCU.  Two of these metropolitans made statements subsequent to the October 12 meeting asserting that the hierarchy did not actually approve recognition of the OCU but left the decision to the determination of Archbishop Ieronymos.  The first is Metropolitan Seraphim of Kythira.   He also stated that “there are exactly 11 of us [out of approximately 80 metropolitans] who do not want the issue of autocephaly to go further.”  In response to certain contentions by Metropolitan Seraphim of Kythira, the Holy Synod of the Church of Greece has now issued a statement affirming the correctness of its press release and asserting that the wording of the release had been read to the entire hierarchy for its approval.  Metropolitan Seraphim of Piraeus has issued his own statement and has expressed his gratitude to Metropolitan Seraphim of Kythira for his statement.;  Both Metropolitans are well-known in the media for their vocal expression of views on various subjects, especially ecumenism.

    There have been unconfirmed reports that on Saturday in Thessaloniki, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew will celebrate the Divine Liturgy together with Archbishop Ieronymos and that Metropolitan Epifany, primate of the OCU, will be commemorated in this Liturgy.  (Epifany will not be present because he will be in New York City that day receiving an award from the Archons.  This Liturgy could be considered the first official manifestation of recognition of the OCU by the Church of Greece.  After Thessaloniki, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew will visit Mt. Athos from October 19 to 22.

    Archbishop Chrysostomos, primate of the Church of Cyprus, gave a brief interview on the day following the meeting of the Greek hierarchy.  It is found in the original Greek at  A good French translation is found at  The Archbishop gives an indication that the Church of Cyrus may possibly discuss the Ukraine issue at a special session to be held sometime before its next regular synod session in February.  With respect to the Archbishop’s mediation efforts, he states:  “I thought I had the capacity to take everyone to the Ecumenical Patriarch.”  Because the Ecumenical Patriarch did not want this, the Archbishop stated that he stopped this effort.  The Archbishop also directed some criticism at the Moscow Patriarchate.  He stated: “For many years, Moscow had been creating obstacles at pan-Orthodox conferences and not allowing Orthodoxy to overcome the various problems.  It was as clear as spring water.” 

    This last statement is indicative that the tensions between the Greek churches, such as Constantinople, Greece, and Cyprus, and the Moscow Patriarchate predate the Ukrainian crisis.  The text of the intervention of Metropolitan Ignatios of Dimitriados at the October 12 meeting of the hierarchy makes this clear.   His remarks are significant in that he headed one of the two committees which examined the Ukraine issues, namely the Synodal Committee on Orthodox and inter-Christian relations.   He describes how the failure to reach agreement on the autocephaly document at the pan-Orthodox conferences was due to Moscow’s rejection of the Ecumenical Patriarch’s proposal with respect to the placement of signatures on the document.  The Metropolitan states:  “This denial stems from their [Moscow Patriarchate’s] refusal to admit in the dialogue with the Roman Catholics that there is primacy in the East. That's where the problem is.”  Metropolitan Chrysostomos of Messinia gave an interview on Saturday in which he was critical of the Moscow Patriarchate and stated that the Church of Greece will not be blackmailed by anyone.

    Metropolitan Seraphim of Piraeus in expressing his gratitude to Metropolitan Seraphim of Kythira refers to a recent incident in which a Latin-rite Catholic priest was behind the iconostasis when Metropolitan Epifany (primate of the OCU) celebrated the Liturgy in Varsha, Ukraine.  This incident was reported at (English) and at (Greek).  Metropolitan Yevstratiy (Zorya) (OCU) has posted an explanation (with an English translation) on his Facebook page, including a statement that the Catholic priest did not concelebrate or receive communion.  On a related theme, the following is a photograph, taken on October 6, of Metropolitan Emmanuel of France celebrating Orthodox vespers in the presence of Catholic Archbishop Michel Aupetit of Paris.

    The 90th birthday of Metropolitan Nikodim (Rotov) was observed by Patriarch Kirill in St. Petersburg on October 14.  The Patriarch has been fiercely loyal to his mentor in spite of harsh criticism of Nikodim by conservatives suspicious of Nikodim’s openness to ecumenism and to the Catholic Church in particular.  In this regard, Patriarch Kirill has followed his strong personal convictions as opposed to seeking to maximize his own popularity within the Russian Church.  After the Liturgy in St. Petersburg, Patriarch Kirill gave what I considered his strongest tribute to date concerning Nikodim.   The following part of the tribute especially caught my attention:

    May the name of Metropolitan Nikodim, a great prelate of the Russian Church of the 20th century, who served much to continue the church service on the banks of the Neva, who gave all his strength to the Church, and who died from a seventh heart attack at 48 years, always be remembered in our grateful memory. Those who throw mud at this luminous person, accusing him of various types of sins, should be asked: what does the death of a man, still young at 48 years old, mean?  Could such a person live not according to God's law, indulging in all sorts of sins?  If so, he would live a long time.  A certain person born in the same year [Filaret Denysenko] as Metropolitan Nikodim subsequently led the schism in Ukraine and still lives a life of comfort . But Vladyka Nikodim died at 48 years old - this alone testifies to who is right, who is guilty, who lived a holy and pious life, and who indulged in sin, the consequences of which we clearly observe today, watching the church disorder in Ukraine.  I urge all of you to preserve in prayer the memory of an outstanding prelate of the earth our ever-memorable Vladyka Metropolitan Nikodim.  Pray for him in your personal prayers, and in the temple, never forget to offer his name. [Google translation]

    In other news, Metropolitan Hilarion gave an extensive interview to TASS covering a number of important current topics including Ukraine, the Exarchate of Southeast Asia, the rupture of relations with Constantinople, and other subjects.  (English)  The Saint Irenaeus Joint Orthodox–Catholic Working Group has competed its 16th annual meeting, October 9-13.  This year the meeting was hosted by the Serbian Patriarchate at Trebinje (Bosnia and Herzegovina).  The communique of the meeting (in English) can be read at  The Group is now concentrating on “various aspects of unity and schism, taking in biblical, historical, and systematic approaches.”  The official English translation of the statement by the Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Antioch issued after its Balamand meeting this month is now available at .    A visit by Patriarch Kirill to South Korea is being planned for next year. 


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 12 October 2019: Now awaiting Moscow's response

    This morning the Holy Synod of the Hierarchy of the Church of Greece recognized the new Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU).  There is a brief English-language article relating to this event at  The official press release in Greek can be read at  An English translation of the press release has been very promptly posted at   The written recommendation of the primate, Archbishop Ieronymos, to the Hierarchy can be viewed at .  The recommendation relied primarily upon the findings of the two committees which studied the issues and on the subsequent decision of the Standing Holy Synod.  The primate noted that the church of Ukraine has always remained under the canonical jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.  It appears that more than 35 metropolitans spoke after the primate’s recommendation.  A summary of their remarks is found at  It is claimed that a recurrent theme of many of the remarks is the pressures that have supposedly been exerted on the Church of Greece by the Moscow Patriarchate.

    Today’s decision is not surprising in view of the close relationship between the Church of Greece and the Ecumenical Patriarchate.  The 31 metropolitans of the “New Lands” are under the spiritual jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarch.  Part of the modern state of Greece, namely Crete,  the Dodecanese islands, and Mt. Athos, are under the direct jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.  However, I found surprising that only seven metropolitans of the Church of Greece dissented from today’s decision.  Although not a majority, I thought that the number of dissenters would be greater.  I had expected that the discussions would take the entire day, but they ended at noon.

    The OCU on its website has posted an article describing today’s events and expressing gratitude for the decision.  Father Nikolai Balashov, deputy head of the DECR of the Moscow Patriarchate, has made a brief statement to the media concerning today’s decision.   He concluded:  “An assessment of the consequences of this decision for relations between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Greek Church will be given by the Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate.”

    The big question now is what the Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate will do in response to this decision.  Will the Moscow Patriarchate sever communion with the Church of Greece as it did with the Ecumenical Patriarchate?  Will it seek to establish parishes within the geographic jurisdiction of the Church of Greece as it has in Turkey?  With respect to the latter sanction, there may be few possibilities for Russian parishes in Greece, although such a sanction would be a major threat if applied to a Local Church such as the Patriarchate of Alexandria.  There is also the consideration of whether severe sanctions may appear “heavy-handed” on the part of Moscow and may lessen sympathies that other Local Churches may presently have for the Moscow Patriarchate.

    It certainly appears that today’s decision will affect future events in the religious dispute relating to Ukraine.  It will help the OCU in its competition with the UOC-MP for followers in Ukraine.  With respect to the other Local Orthodox Churches, it may make recognition of the UOC easier because they will no longer be the first church to recognize the validity of Constantinople’s actions.  On the other hand, it may increase their reluctance to grant recognition because it may lead to a greater split within Orthodoxy and to a great schism.

    The Holy Synods of the Patriarchates of Alexandria and Antioch also met this week.  The Patriarchate of Alexandria has posted a summary for each day of the meeting at .  The Synod adopted a “declaration against violence” which can be read at  The daily summaries state nothing about Ukraine or about Bishop Chrysostom of Mozambique, who celebrated the Liturgy with a hierarch of the OCU.  The statement issued by the Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Antioch, meeting at Balamand, is found at  There is an interesting 4-minute video describing the meeting in English.  The major focus of the meeting was on the family.

    The following is an interesting article in English relating to a statement made by Metropolitan Nikolai of Plovdiv (Bulgarian Orthodox Church) concerning a meeting this week between Metropolitan Hilarion and Patriarch Neofit.   The Metropolitan’s statement discusses the question of the recognition of the OCU.  The following is a Russian translation of the Metropolitan’s entire statement.  The Metropolitan believes that the position of a Local Church in the diptychs should determine the order in which it addresses the recognition issue.

    There is now a report on the September 20 meeting of the “Board of Directors” (namely the Council) of the former exarchate which met in Paris under the chairmanship of Metropolitan Emmanuel of France.  Seven members of the Council (a majority) attended.  The other five members were invited but did not attend.  Yesterday, the office of Archbishop John posted a rebuttal to this report.  Thus, there are now two rival groups, each claiming the right to govern the legal corporation which exists under French law.  It appears that the members of the Council are also the board of directors which governs the legal corporation.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 7 October 2019: Moscow Patriarchate accepts Archdiocese; Special meeting in Athens

    Today, October 7, a meeting of the Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate was held at the Holy Trinity St. Sergius Lavra.  The meeting was held a day earlier than had been previously announced.  The only major item considered was the appeal, signed by Archbishop John on September 28, 2019, “for the accession of the Archdiocese [of the parishes of the Russian tradition in Western Europe] to the Moscow Patriarchate” on the conditions determined by the mixed commission and approved by Patriarch Kirill.  The minutes of the meeting can be read at .  A Google translation of the two most important paragraphs is as follows:

    4. To determine that the Archbishopric of the Western European parishes of the Russian tradition, performing its salvific service in the historically established totality of its parishes, monasteries and church institutions, is now an integral part of the Moscow Patriarchate.

    5. Confirm the acceptance into the jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate as part of the Archbishopric the clergy and parishes who have expressed such a desire.

    Paragraph 6 of the minutes contains a detailed description of the rights of the Archdiocese within the Moscow Patriarchate.  The decision does not contain a separate recitation of the facts relating to the meetings in Paris on September 7 and 28, but simply quotes in this regard from the appeal from Archbishop John.  With respect to the meeting on September 7, Archbishop John states that a majority voted to join the Moscow Patriarchate but does not mention the failure to satisfy the two-thirds majority requirement of the statute of the Archdiocese.

    The final paragraph of the decision (paragraph 12) provides:  To note that the canonical improvement of the presence of the Moscow Patriarchate in Western Europe, now represented by several church structures, requires further discussion with the participation of all interested parties.  This refers to the fact that there are now three overlapping church structures of the Moscow Patriarchate in places such as France – namely the Archdiocese (of Archbishop John), the ROCOR, and the Korsun diocese.  From a canonical point of view, this is not desirable.  This paragraph at least implies that some changes may occur in the future after discussion with all interested parties.

    As previously announced, Metropolitan Emmanuel met in Paris on Saturday with representatives of those parishes seeking to remain as part of the Ecumenical Patriarchate rather than joining the Moscow Patriarchate.  The photo in the foregoing link shows over 30 persons at the meeting, but there is no indication as to the number of parishes represented.  The meeting related to the establishment of a vicariate for the parishes of the Russian tradition.  Presumably, the vicariate would be limited to parishes in France.

    The other big news is that Archbishop Ieronymos, primate of the Church of Greece, has called an extraordinary meeting of the Church’s hierarchy on the subject of a recommendation by the primate on “Information on the Autocephalous Church of Ukrainian.”  This meeting will occur on Saturday, October 12, following the regular meeting of the hierarchy that will be held Tuesday through Friday.  It is widely believed that the primate favors recognition of the new OCU.  The website has given further support for this belief by posting a July letter from the primate to a professor.  It is possible that the primate will not ask for the hierarchy itself to decide the recognition issue de novo, but will rather: (1) cite the August decision of the Standing Holy Synod which recognized his privilege as primate to deal further with the question of the recognition of the new church in Ukraine; (2) state his recommendation as to recognition; and (3) ask for a vote supporting his recommendation.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 4 October 2019: Uncertainty continues in Athens and Paris

    The big news today is that the Church of Greece has issued the agenda for the meeting of its full hierarchy, October 8 – 11, and the subject of Ukraine is not mentioned on the agenda.  However, the website has referred to unconfirmed reports that there will be an informal convocation of the hierarchs on Saturday, October 12.  The new Orthodox Times website (the successor to the Romfea News website) has posted an article discussing the announcement of the agenda and has added an observation that the Standing Holy Synod had in August recognized the privilege of the primate of the Church of Greece to deal further with the question of the recognition of the new church in Ukraine.  The article then states:  “Therefore, the Archbishop will raise the issue in the Hierarchy.”  The CEMES Facebook page today makes the argument that it is the primate who implements the decision of the Ecumenical Patriarch to grant autocephaly and that this is not the function of the synod of the Local Church.  Rather than having a heated and divisive debate among the Greek hierarchs on the recognition issue, Archbishop Ieronymos may conceivably prefer simply to receive confirmation that the Standing Holy Synod gave him the personal right as primate to deal with the issue.  In short, it is too early to say with certainty what will happen next week in Athens.

    The situation in Paris also remains unclear.  As previously reported, Archbishop John convened on September 28 a meeting of the “clergy” of the Archdiocese of Orthodox Churches of the Russian Tradition in Western Europe.  According to the subsequent communique, “51 clergy present at the assembly, plus 37 clerics who were unable to come but affirmed their full support for the Archbishop, accepted the pastoral decision of Archbishop Jean to ask for communion and canonical unity in the Moscow Patriarchate….”  From the invitation, it is clear that the term “clergy” included both priests and deacons.  Photos also show that a considerable number of the participants were not wearing the cross of a priest.  To the best of my knowledge, no information was released as to the total number of priests and deacons in the Archdiocese.  It appears that priests and deacons opposed to a transfer to the Moscow Patriarchate boycotted the meeting.

    On October 2, Archbishop John issued a pastoral message.  With respect to numbers, he stated:  “I am writing today to tell you that after a pastoral assembly on September 28, which was prayerful and inspired, I signed with the support of two-thirds of the clergy of our Archdiocese, the official request for canonical attachment to the Moscow Patriarchate in the terms that had been negotiated by the joint commission and decided this summer….I am delighted that, to date, nearly 60 parishes have clearly expressed their pastoral vow to take part in the annexation of our Archdiocese to the Moscow Patriarchate.”  The Moscow website Credo Press, which has been used as a platform by opponents to Archbishop John, has posted articles using different numbers.  It states that the directory on the website of the Archdiocese lists 162 priests and deacons.  Another article states as of November 2018, there were 115 parishes, communities, and monasteries in the Archdiocese.  It then states that as of the end of September, the alignment was as follows: 46 Moscow; 36 Constantinople; 20 other (Romanian, Serbian, Bulgarian); 13 undecided.  Again, it is too early to say exactly what the final results will be.

    On September 27, the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of France (Ecumenical Patriarchate) announced that Metropolitan Emmanuel, as locum tenens of the Archdiocese, would convene a meeting of the Council of the Archdiocese on September 30.  As previously reported, seven of the twelve members of the Council oppose affiliation with the Moscow Patriarchate.  On September 30, the office of Archbishop John posted a notice that three named priests (all members of the majority of seven) were automatically deemed to have resigned because they have left the “ranks of the clergy of the Archdiocese.”  I have seen no news of the results, if any, of the meeting on September 30.   It has also been reported that Metropolitan Emmanuel will hold a meeting tomorrow, October 5, with those committed to joining the Ecumenical Patriarchate.  The meeting relates to establishing a vicariate which “will enjoy a wide autonomy within the metropolis, both for its administration and for pastoral work, while maintaining the liturgical tradition that is yours.”

    Archbishop John in his pastoral letter of October 2 also announced his intention to hold his own meeting of the Council of the Archdiocese (presumably excluding the three priests) on October 21 “to examine the decision of the Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate that we expect for October 8th, and to begin preparations for the next Ordinary General Assembly of our Archdiocese.”  According to the letter, this General Assembly will allow the Archdiocese to elect two auxiliary bishops and establish an episcopal council.

    It appears that Archbishop John expects the Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate to accept the “Archdiocese” as an entity under its jurisdiction.  So far the Holy Synod has only accepted Archbishop John and the clergy and parishes that seek to join him.  The fate of the legal entity of the Archdiocese could be an important factor in litigation that may be expected in the future.  As you recall, the Extraordinary General Assembly of the Archdiocese on September 7 failed to approve the canonical attachment of the Archdiocese to the Moscow Patriarchate by the required two-thirds majority.  At the time, many thought this failure resolved negatively the question of attachment of the Archdiocese as such.  However, Archbishop John has now stated that the convening of the Extraordinary General Assembly was a mistake as the decision of attachment was of a pastoral nature and should be made by the Archbishop alone.  He has now made the decision to attach and has buttressed this personal decision by the affirmation of the clergy at the September 28 meeting.  We now must watch to see what the Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate will do on October 8.

    Finally, Patriarch Irinej of Serbia gave an interview with respect to Ukraine on September 29. (in English) The timing of the interview may have been dictated by the fact that a decision of the Church of Greece might be expected soon.  Thus, the Patriarch states:  “Many co-brother bishops of our Church have grown spiritually in Greece, upon Hellenic theology and culture.  I feel obliged and insist on the deepest gratitude to the Mother Church and the most holy Throne of Constantinople Patriarchs, and with our most learned Bishops I share love for the Greek people, the Church and their culture.  But neither does this love gives me or them any right, not to indicate some uncanonical and unacceptable actions, in the same way as some Greek theologians and hierarchs, by the way, do.  We will not give up that position.”


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 28 September 2019: Important Paris meeting & Ukraine

    The official website of the Moscow Patriarchate has just announced this afternoon:   At a clergy meeting in Paris on September 28, 2019, the vast majority of clergy of the Archbishopric of Western European parishes of the Russian tradition followed the example of Archbishop John of Dubninsky and joined the Russian Orthodox Church.  The meeting adopted a corresponding appeal to His Holiness Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill.  The decision of the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church on the conversion of the archpastor and clergy of the Archbishopric of the Western European parishes of the Russian tradition will follow at its next meeting.  It should be noted that the announcement refers to the “clergy” joining the Russian Orthodox Church and does not refer to “parishes”  joining the Russian Orthodox Church.  More information about the meeting should be available in the future.

    In the war of words in Ukraine, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) is using the good relations between the new Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU) and the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC) as a basis for discrediting the OCU.   On September 24, Metropolitan Anthony of Boryspil, probably the second most influential hierarch of the UOC (MP), gave a short television interview relating to the Rome meeting on September 16 between Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Major Archbishop Sviatoslav, primate of the UGCC.  The interview was posted on the official website of the UOC-MP.  (includes a video of the interview)   Metropolitan Anthony stated that the meeting between Bartholomew and Sviatoslav “is not a coincidence.”  Referring to a process of establishing a union between the UGCC and the OCU, he states that the meeting between Bartholomew and Sviatoslav “is probably a continuation of the process.”   He concludes: It may even turn out that recognition of the OCU, which will then convert to Catholicism, will prove to be a very incomprehensible and undesirable step for the entire Orthodox world.

    As mentioned in my last report, Bishop Chrysostom of Mozambique (Patriarchate of Alexandria) celebrated on September 14 the Divine Liturgy in the village of Ossa, Greece, with Metropolitan Ioannis of Langadas (Church of Greece) and an archbishop of the OCU.   A letter dated September 17 from Metropolitan Hilarion (Moscow Patriarchate) to Bishop Chrysostom of Mozambique has now been posted at (photocopy of the actual letter in Russian with a Greek translation appended).  An English translation of the entire text is available at   At the very top of the original letter in Russian, it is stated in bold type that a copy is being sent to Patriarch Theodoros of Alexandria and All Africa.  Metropolitan Hilarion states in his letter that concelebration with a hierarch of the OCU “only leads to temptation and confusion among the clergy and laity and can even cause irreparable damage to the brotherly relations between our Churches.”

    Metropolitan Alexander of Nigeria (Patriarchate of Alexandria) has now written a sharp rebuke to Metropolitan Hilarion’s letter.  Metropolitan Alexander asserts that it was improper for Metropolitan Hilarion to write directly to a bishop of the Patriarchate of Alexandria rather than writing to the Patriarch himself and that the Patriarchate of Alexandria is not now and will never be allowed to become a protectorate of the Church of Russia.  A letter from Metropolitan Ioannis of Zambia (Patriarchate of Alexandria) to Metropolitan Hilarion has also been posted.   Metropolitan Ioannis informs Metropolitan Hilarion that his intervention in this matter is inappropriate and that if a problem arises with a bishop, the body for judging him is the Church to which he belongs.  Metropolitan Ioannis adds the barb that the accused bishop also has the “centuries-old possibility of appeal to the Ecumenical Patriarch.”

    Many are anxiously awaiting the results of the October meeting of the hierarchs of the Church of Greece which will probably decide whether the Church of Greece will recognize the new OCU.  As you recall, the Standing Holy Synod of the Church of Greece decided in August to recognize “the Ecumenical Patriarch’s canonical right to issue the status of Autocephaly, as well as the privilege of the Primate of the Church of Greece to further deal with the question of recognition of the Church of Ukraine.”  It appears that the Primate of the Church of Greece, Archbishop Ieronymos, will not decide the matter on his own, but will refer it to the October meeting.  Metropolitan Seraphim of Kythira, who was a member of the 2018-2019 Standing Holy Synod and who strongly disagreed with the decision of the Synod, has now given some insights into the deliberations of the Synod concerning the decision.  According to him, the six members of the Synod from the “New Lands” and one member from “Old Greece” supported the right of the Ecumenical Patriarch to grant autocephaly to Ukraine and to consider appeals from Ukraine.   The remaining five members of the Synod from “Old Greece” had “reservations” about an unlimited right of the Ecumenical Patriarch to grant autocephaly and consider appeals.

    The hierarchs from the “New Lands,” which are under the spiritual jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarch, but are administered by the Church of Greece, are regularly assigned six of the twelve seats on the Standing Holy Synod, presided over by the Primate.  On the other hand, the dioceses of the “New Lands” consist of only 36 of the 81 dioceses of the Church of Greece and will be a minority in the October meeting of all of the hierarchs.  (The “New Lands” are territories that modern Greece acquired as a result of 1912-1913 Balkan Wars.  See  Still, it is a mistake to assume that the hierarchs of “Old Greece” are generally opposed to recognizing the OCU.  For example, Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos (“Old Greece”) has stated that “the local Church of Greece has no right to oppose the decision made by the Ecumenical Patriarchate regarding Ukraine.”   Metropolitan Chrysostomos of Messinia (“Old Greece”) gave an interview last month strongly supporting the rights of the Ecumenical Patriarch.   It will be very interesting to see what happens in October.

    On September 22, three clerics of the Church of Greece (two from the Metropolis of Hydra) concelebrated in Kyiv with Metropolitan Onufry of the UOC-MP and wrote a long letter against the grant of autocephaly to the OCU.  The website of the UOC-MP has posted the full text of the letter.   In response, the Metropolis of Hydra (“Old Greece”) has issued an “announcement” that the two clerics from the Metropolis, in receiving a blessing for the trip to Ukraine, had fraudulently concealed their intentions from Metropolitan Ephraim and now incur penalties as provided by canon law.   Metropolitan Seraphim of Kythira (discussed above) has now charged that “it is inadmissible” for the Metropolitan of Hydra “to prosecute [these] worthy clergymen.” 

    In other news, Metropolitan Hilarion met with Patriarch John of Antioch on September 22 ( and with Patriarch Theophilos of Jerusalem on September 23 ( ).  Metropolitan Emmanuel of France (Ecumenical Patriarchate) met with Metropolitan Epifany (OCU) in Kyiv on September 25.   On September 27, Metropolitan Emmanuel served with Metropolitan Epifany at the Liturgy on the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross.  Metropolitan Epifany has given a two-hour interview to the media.   A communique has been issued following the September 12-14 meeting of the Eastern Catholic Bishops of Europe.   The meeting stressed the ecumenical role of the Eastern Catholic Churches.  The following is an interesting article discussing the lawsuits brought against the OCU by the UOC-KP and by the UOC-MP. 


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 17 September 2019: Archbishop John to call for new assembly in Paris & more news

    The situation in Paris continues to become more and more complex.  A key governing body of the archdiocese of the parishes of the Russian tradition in Western Europe is the  Council of the Archdiocese.  It consists of the bishop and twelve other members, of which six are clerics and six are laypersons.  On September 14, a letter signed by seven of the members (a majority) was sent to the parishes of the archdiocese.  A Russian translation of the letter can be read at .  Among other things, the letter requests that the Ecumenical Patriarch appoint an interim head of the Council of the Archdiocese to replace Archbishop John in view of his departure to the Moscow Patriarchate.  Today (Tuesday), Archbishop John has written a letter in response to what he termed a letter from “some members of the Council of the Archdiocese” which “was written without informing others, and me in particular.”   Archbishop John argues that the assemblies of the Archdiocese on February 23 and September 7 had the effect of rendering “obsolete the references to the Ecumenical Patriarchate in our statutes.”   Therefore the request to the Ecumenical Patriarch is improper.  Near the end of the letter, the Archbishop states:

    I am going to summon a pastoral assembly shortly, so that our clergy can, together and with me, in conciliarity, confirm the canonical attachment that we have obtained, which will allow our Archdiocese to join the Patriarchate of Moscow, with its autonomy, according to the negotiated and defined modalities in the Project of attachment on which we have agreed this summer with the Patriarchate of Moscow.  And we can then amend our statutes.  [Google translation of French]

    As observed in my last report, Archbishop John in his letter of September 14 sought to place not only himself under the jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate, but also the Archdiocese as well.  However, the decision of the Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate in accepting the tender of jurisdiction did not mention the Archdiocese but only the Archbishop and “all the clergy under his leadership who wish it and parishes which will express the same desire.”  It now appears that Archbishop John does not desire to leave the governance of the Archdiocese in the hands of those who oppose him.  From the wording of the quotation above, it appears that only clergy, and not lay people, will be invited to attend this assembly.  If lawsuits subsequently arise on the ownership of the properties of the Archdiocese, I feel sorry for the courts which will have to sort through all of these confusing facts and reach legal conclusions.

    With respect to Ukraine, the fairly reliable Greek website has posted an article claiming to have information on the specific recommendations of the two synodal committees assigned by the Church of Greece to examine the question of the recognition of the OCU.  One of the recommendations is especially interesting:  “The Committees in their recommendation conclude that Ukraine was never the normal territory of any Church other than the Ecumenical Patriarchate.”  The Ethnos article is also reported at

    It appears that the mediation efforts of Archbishop Chrysostomos of Cyprus with respect to Ukraine are not currently active.  The Archbishop is quoted as saying:  “We tried and began to visit the primates of various churches, and we realized that the Ecumenical Patriarch did not want this.”  On the other hand, it appears that the Archbishop may have transmitted proposals between Moscow and Constantinople.  This is indicated by an earlier remark by Metropolitan Hilarion that the position of the Ecumenical Patriarchate is “too radical” to justify a meeting between Kirill and Bartholomew.     Archbishop Chrysostomos  states in the above article that the Church of Cyprus has not decided to recognized or not to recognize the OCU, but wishes to remain neutral and have good relations with everyone.  One wonders if a position of neutrality allows individual clerics of a Local Church to celebrate the liturgy with clerics of the OCU.  For example, on September 14, Bishop Chrysostom of Mozambique (Patriarchate of Alexandria) celebrated the divine liturgy in the village of Ossa, Greece, with Metropolitan Ioannis of Langadas (Church of Greece) and an archbishop of the OCU.  The website of the OCU makes the questionable assertion that this constitutes recognition of the OCU by the Patriarchate of Alexandria.  However, maybe Local Churches, like the Patriarchate of Alexandria, which have not yet chosen to decide either way on the recognition question, are giving their hierarchs some flexibility to serve with clerics of the OCU in the meantime.  That certainly seems true with respect to the Church of Greece.

    Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew had lunch today with Pope Francis, and the Pope afterwards introduced the Ecumenical Patriarch to the members of the Council (not the College) of Cardinals.   This would normally be big news, except for the fact that the two primates have met so frequently in recent years.  On August 30, the Pope sent a letter to the Ecumenical Patriarch describing the reason that he had suddenly decided on the feast of Saints Peter and Paul to give fragments of the bones of the Apostle St. Peter to the Ecumenical Patriarch.  Essentially the reason given is that Patriarch Athenagoras had given to Pope Paul VI an icon depicting the brothers Peter and Andrew embracing and Pope Francis believed that “it would be highly significant were some fragments of the relics of the Apostle Peter to be placed [at the Phanar] beside the relics of the Apostle Andrew , who is venerated as the heavenly patron of the Church of Constantinople.”   On September 14, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew gave an interview to Vatican communications official Andrea Tornielli concerning the gift.  The Ecumenical Patriarch stated:  “We sincerely appreciate this gift, which is the manifestation of spontaneity, a sign of the true fraternal love that today unites Catholics and Orthodox.”

    Yesterday, the Ecumenical Patriarch met at the Vatican with Major Archbishop Sviatoslav, the primate of the UGCC.  It was their second meeting.  Sviatoslav told the Ecumenical Patriarch that from the “historic moment of the proclamation of autocephaly for the OCU, that the main interlocutor of the UGCC in the Ecumenical dialogue was no longer the Russian Orthodox Church but the local Orthodox Church in Ukraine.”  On September 14 in Lviv, Metropolitan Epifany, primate of the OCU, expressed the wish to continue to have “a good, warm and friendly relationship” with the UGCC.  However, he added that the key to uniting the two churches “does not lie in Ukraine,” but rather “in Rome and Constantinople,” presumably through the international theological dialogue.   Some opponents of the OCU have been using the fear of a union of the UOC and the UGCC as a reason for rejecting the OCU for not being true to Orthodoxy.

    Patriarch Kirill met on September 12 with Cardinal Kazimierz Nycz of Warsaw.  This article includes the statement:  “The participants in the meeting discussed prospects for developing cooperation between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church in Poland as a follow-up to the principles outlined in the Joint Message to the Peoples of Russia and Poland signed during His Holiness Patriarch Kirill’s visit to Poland in 2012.”  Personally, I find this encouraging.  After tensions resulting from the annexation of Crimea, the Joint Message seemed to have been forgotten.  Metropolitan Hilarion had a meeting today with the Catholic Archbishop of Madrid.   On September 15, Metropolitan Hilarion met with Catholic Archbishop Bassetti of Perugia, the president of the Italian Episcopal Conference.  The Serbian Orthodox Church has positively reported the meeting between Serbian President Vučić and Pope Francis which occurred on September 12.   


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 14 September 2019: The latest in the Paris drama

    A whirlwind of events occurred today in connection with the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s former “archdiocese,” composed of parishes of the Russian tradition in Western Europe.  Many of these events are revealed in the minutes of the Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate, which convened a special meeting today (September 14), “thorough remote communications,” to grant an appeal, also made today, by Archbishop John (Renneteau) to Patriarch Kirill.  The full text of the minutes is posted at  An English translation of parts of the minutes have been quickly posted by the DECR of the Moscow Patriarchate.

    These events occurred exactly one week after an assembly of the archdiocese met in Paris to decide whether to “accept the act of canonical attachment of the Archdiocese to the Moscow Patriarchate.”  Some of the high drama of this very tense meeting was reported at  The official results of the vote were reported in a communique from the “administration of the diocese.”  (in French, English, Russian, and German)  The results of the vote was that 104 replied yes and 75 answered no.  The communique also stated:   Even if a clear majority voted in favour of the proposal of canonical attachment to the Moscow Patriarchate, it is not sufficient under article 35 of the statutes concerning the validity of the deliberations of the Extraordinary General Assemblies, which specifies, "the deliberations must be approved by a majority of two-thirds of the valid ballot papers.”  The administration council will soon examine the follow-up to be given to the situation thus created.

    As far as I can determine, a meeting of the “administration council” has not yet been held.  However, today Archbishop John submitted a letter to Patriarch Kirill.  It appears that a copy of this letter has not yet been posted.  However, the journal of today’s meeting of the Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate describes the letter as follows:

    On September 14, 2019, the Holy Synod considered an appeal from Archbishop John (Renneteau), head of the Archdiocese of Western European Parishes of Russian Tradition, who expressed the desire of a majority of the Archdiocese’s clergy and parishes to preserve its existence through entering the jurisdiction of the Russian Orthodox Church and asked for the entry in canonical communion and unity with the Moscow Patriarchate together with those clergy and parishes who wish to follow him.  Archbishop John also informed that an assembly of representatives of these parishes would take place in the nearest future to send their proposals on the canonical form of their organization to His Holiness the Patriarch and the Holy Synod.

    After describing certain historical events, the Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate made the following resolution:

    1. To thank the Lord for the desire, expressed by His Grace Archbishop John (Renneteau), of the bishop, most clergy and laity of the Archbishopric of the Western European parishes of the Russian tradition to restore unity with the Russian Orthodox Church, recognizing in this a worthy and lawful completion of overcoming church divisions abroad generated by revolution and civil war;
    2. That Archbishop John (Renneteau) be accepted in the jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate with the title “of Dubna” together with all the clergy under his leadership who wish to follow him and parishes which will express this desire;
    3. That Archbishop John of Dubna be charged with administration of these parishes;
    4. That, after receiving an appeal from the assembly of representatives of the parishes, additional consideration be given to define the canonical form of their organization on the basis of the historically developed special features of the diocesan and parochial administration as well as liturgical and pastoral traditions established by Metropolitan Eulogius, taking into account the conditions of existence of the Church’s part which he headed in Western Europe.

    Also today, the Office of the Archbishop posted a long letter (in French and English) from Archbishop John to the faithful of the archdiocese.  The letter should be read in its entirety.  However, the following are some of the key points of the letter.  With respect to the assembly on September 7, the Archbishop states that the assembly “left us in a state of shock with regard to the violence and the destructive mood of some of us.  I humbly think that we have to admit: we went astray.”  He states that the statutes of the archdiocese [which includes the two-thirds vote requirement] “organize the life of our Archdiocese and protect us.  However, it must be said here, that they are not the foundation of the Archdiocese…. However, they do not regulate pastoral care, and they remind us that the sacramental link between the Archbishop and the Archdiocese is intrinsic.”  Later the Archbishop observes that an assembly “cannot settle the pastoral question of canonical attachment.  In sister churches, it is the bishop who alone decides such a question.”  He remarks: “the Archbishop exercises and is the guarantor of the pastoral ministry….this moment of decision has come, and I presently have all the necessary elements for this choice.”  After giving extensive reasons, the Archbishop makes the following ultimate decision:  “Therefore, in the absence of an Episcopal Committee so far, but after consultation with the deans and many priests, as ex officio president of our archdiocese, I decided today to put myself, as well as our Archdiocese, under the canonical obedience proposed by the Moscow Patriarchate to meet the needs of the communities that compose our Archdiocese.  I will commemorate His Holiness Patriarch Cyril of Moscow this Sunday, and I invite all clerics to continue to commemorate me.”

    It is important to note that Archbishop John places not only himself but also the Archdiocese under canonical obedience to the Moscow Patriarchate.  However, today’s decision by the Holy Synod is more limited.  It accepts the Archbishop under its jurisdiction.  However, it does not accept the Archdiocese as an entity, but rather refers to “all the clergy under his leadership who wish to follow him and parishes which will express this desire.”  It leaves to future determination the “the canonical form of their organization.”

    One may wonder why the Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate acted with such lightning speed (apparently within a few hours) in response to the letter from Archbishop John.  I certainly do not have the answer.  There was a report that Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew had assured Archbishop John at their last meeting (August 17) that the drafting of a new charter, which provided broad rights to the archdiocese, was underway.  See  If this is true, perhaps the Moscow Patriarchate desired to take action before such a new charter becomes a reality.  It may also have been desirable to take action immediately on the Archbishop’s decision and appeal, rather than waiting for the uncertain outcome of the meeting the Archdiocese’s administration council.

    One thing is certain – there will be legal and canonical disputes.  As you recall, the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate removed Archbishop John from his position during its meeting on August 29 and 30, and Metropolitan Emmanuel of France has been made locum tenens for the communities.   Even if canonical attachment was a pastoral decision, was Archbishop John still the archbishop of the archdiocese when he wrote his letter today?  There is also the question of who owns the property of the archdiocese.  If an individual parish decides to move to the Moscow Patriarchate, does its church building belong to the parish?  There have been some comments on the Internet that under French law, the archdiocese owns the parish buildings.  All of this will be exceedingly complex and may take a very long time to resolve.  As a retired attorney, I can say that the one group that will certainly profit from all of the future litigation will be the attorneys.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 3 September 2019: Today's developments in Paris

    As previously reported, the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate on August 31, 2019, removed Archbishop John from his position as head of the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s Archdiocese of the Russian Orthodox Church in Western Europe.   Yesterday (Monday), the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of France, headed by Metropolitan Emmanuel posted a letter, dated August 30, 2019, from Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to Archbishop John. (French)  In the letter Bartholomew sets the Archbishop “free” in view of latter’s “deep desire” to be under the jurisdiction of the Patriarch of Moscow.  The letter concludes:  “This means that your Excellency is no longer responsible in any way whatsoever for the affairs of the Russian traditional parishes in Western Europe.”

    Today (Tuesday), a communiqué from the administration of the Archdiocese was posted.  The official English translation of the entire text can be read at .  With respect to the action of the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate on August 31, the communiqué states:  “Monseigneur Jean announced that he had not requested such a holiday to date and sent the Patriarchate a request for explanation.  In the meantime, Archbishop Jean confirms that the Extraordinary General Assembly will be held regularly on the 7th of September as planned.” 

    As you recall, the office of the Archbishop on August 31 issued a communique which presented three points that would be subject to a vote at the assembly on September 7.  The first proposition is to accept “the Act of Communion with the Moscow Patriarchate elaborated by members of the Council and a patriarchal delegation.”  The second proposition, following the two meetings [the most recent being August 17] with the Ecumenical Patriarchate, is “to establish a bilateral dialogue to re-examine the possibility of a new ecclesial structure for our Archdiocese [within the Ecumenical Patriarchate].”  The third proposal involves an examination of the structure of the Archdiocese before a decision is made with respect to choosing between Moscow or Constantinople.  However, today’s communique states that the assembly will only address the first proposition.  The option of further discussions with Constantinople is withdrawn.  In this regard, it states:

    But the decision of the Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Constantinople has the consequence of modifying the list of the solutions envisaged, submitted for the consideration of the Assembly.  Thus the first [actually the second] option concerning the study of a new ecclesial structure for the archbishopric in the Patriarchate of Constantinople is rendered obsolete.  Father George Ashkov [the proponent of the third option], for his part, informed the Archbishop that he was asking for the withdrawal of his project, which had become unimaginable for the time being in the newly created situation, while hoping that it could be examined later.  Thus it will remain in the General Assembly of September 7 to decide directly on the "project of attachment to the Moscow Patriarchate" developed during six months by the joint commission "archbishop-patriarchate of Moscow.”

    Also today, Metropolitan Emmanuel has issued his own letter.   A Google translation of this letter is as follows:

    Dear brothers and sisters in the Lord, 

    On August 30, 2019, the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate made the decision, in accordance with that taken in November 2018, concerning the former Exarchate of the Russian tradition parishes in Western Europe, of grant to his Excellency, Archbishop Jean de Charioupolis, a canonical leave.  This canonical dismissal underlines the fact that from now on Archbishop John has no relation with the Ecumenical Patriarchate and with the communities of the former Exarchate.

    To this day, his Excellency, Archbishop Jean no longer possesses any spiritual or administrative authority over the communities for which he was previously responsible.  The administration of these communities in France is transferred to the Orthodox Metropolis of France of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.  His Holiness the Patriarch appointed me to act as  locum tenens  during this transition period.

    Therefore, to this day and in accordance with the decisions taken by the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, I ask you to commemorate my name as your hierarch during the liturgical services.

    Regarding the Extraordinary General Assembly of 7 September, I am aware that many delegates have already organized to come to Paris for this meeting.  In case this meeting is held, know that it cannot have any decision-making power.

    I intend to meet very soon the diocesan council to exchange and make a point on the situation.

    In addition, I reiterate the proposal that I made public last February 7, namely:

    • to ensure, within the framework of a vicariate, the maintenance of the existing association which will continue to manage the property belonging to it and to function according to its own statutes which will probably have to be adapted,
    • to guarantee the preservation of your Russian liturgical and spiritual tradition as well as your work of Orthodox witness in Western societies.

    While understanding the dismay of some, I would have in heart in the days, the weeks to come, to repeat to you all my attachment for your communities, blessing you with all my heart and praying to our Lord God that He fills you with his grace and always remembering these words of the Holy Apostle Paul: "We have exhorted you, encouraged you, adjured you to lead a life worthy of God who calls you to his Kingdom and his glory.  (1 Th 2, 11-12)

    + Metropolitan Emmanuel, from France

    In my opinion, the most interesting aspect of the Metropolitan’s letter is that he states that he has been appointed “locum tenens  during this transition period.”   This implies that the communities are not simply being integrated in the metropolis of France, but that some separate structure, headed by a bishop, is envisioned in the future.  It will be interesting to see how the communities will react later this week.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 31 August 2019: Interesting developments at the meetings of the synods of Constantinople and Moscow

    The Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate held a meeting at the Phanar on August 29 and 30.  The press release concerning the results of the meeting was posted today (Saturday).  An English-language summary can be read at  The latter states:

    During the meeting, it was decided to discharge Archbishop Ioannis [John] of Harioupolis from the Apostolic and Patriarchal Ecumenical Throne, personally and only to him, thereby relieving him of the responsibility of the Patriarchal Exarchate for Orthodox parishes of the Russian Tradition in Western Europe.  As a consequence, Metropolitan Emmanuel of France is now responsible for parishes of the former Exarchate.  The same is true of the rest of the former Exarchate parishes in other Western European countries, which fall under the responsibility of the respective Hierarchs of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in these areas.  Furthermore, the Ecumenical Patriarchate has decided to appoint Archpriest Alexis Struve, University Professor, to replace the Head of St. Alexander Nevsky Holy Church in Paris.

    This discharge occurs approximately a week before the scheduled extraordinary assembly of the communities within the Archdiocese of the Russian Orthodox Church in Western Europe.  The assembly had been called by Archbishop John and is to be held in Paris on September 7.  It is reported that Archbishop John, who plans to chair the meeting, is strongly in favor of accepting the proposal of the Moscow Patriarchate in which certain concessions are promised if the Archdiocese comes under Moscow’s jurisdiction.

    The Office of the Archbishop (John) released today the following communique: (official English translation).  This communique may have been drafted before the discharge of the Archbishop had been communicated.  The communique contains links to all of the documents that the Archbishop believes should be communicated to the assembly delegates.  The communique also describes a meeting between the Archbishop and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew at Chambesy on August 17.  My reading of the Archbishop’s communique is that the Ecumenical Patriarch showed little flexibility in retreating from the prior decision to dissolve the exarchate.  On the other hand, a different version of the meeting has been posted at  The latter article contends:  “Patriarch Bartholomew proposed returning under the omophorion of Constantinople.  Moreover, he promised to maintain the status of a special independent structure for the archdiocese as part of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.  According to this proposal, the archbishopric will continue to be directly subordinate to the Phanar, bypassing the French Metropolis.  Patriarch Bartholomew assured Archbishop John that the process of creating a new charter of the archbishopric is now underway - with broad rights, as they were before.”  Although the author of this article is very opposed to Archbishop John, some credence may be given to the part quoted above as the Archbishop’s communique states that one of three options is “to set up a bilateral dialogue [with the Ecumenical Patriarchate] to re-examine the possibility of a new ecclesial structure for our Archdiocese.” 

    The Archbishop’s communique makes it clear that the Ecumenical Patriarch asked that the assembly on September 7 be postponed.  The apparent refusal of Archbishop John to postpone the assembly may be the reason for his discharge.  The next week and a half should be very interesting.  [Unfortunately, I will be on a short vacation beginning September 5 and will not be able to report on the events in an immediate fashion.]

    The Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate met on Friday, August 30.  The following are the minutes of the meeting.  One of the most interesting items is that Archbishop Amvrosij (Ermakov) has been appointed rector of the Sretensky Theological Seminary.  Archbishop Amvrosij was rector of the St. Petersburg Theological Academy from 2008 to July 2018, at which time he was appointed rector of the Moscow Theological Schools.  On July 9, 2019, the Holy Synod appointed him acting rector of the Sretensky Theological Seminary, while retaining his position as rector of the Moscow Theological Academy. (summary of Amvrosij’s prior positions and responsibilities)  Now, the Holy Synod has relieved Archbishop Amvrosij of his responsibilities as rector of the Moscow Theological Academy and made him rector (now longer “acting”) of the Sretensky Theological Seminary.  (Journal Entry 104)  The Holy Synod has now also made Archbishop Amvrosij the “Namestnik” (Наместник – the governor of an stauropegial monastery) of the Sretensky Stauropegial (one under the direct supervision of the Patriarch) Monastery.  (Journal Entry 105)  Thus, Archbishop Amvrosij now heads both the Sretensky Monastery and its Seminary – the same positions that Metropolitan Tikhon (Shevkunov) held prior to May 19, 2018.  (summary of Tikhon’s prior positions and responsibilities).

    Metropolitan Tikhon (Shevkunov) is, of course, the very popular bishop whom some believe might be the next Patriarch.  He is also alleged to be the confessor of President Putin.  Before he was transferred to Pskov by the Holy Synod, Sretensky was the base of operations of Tikhon and source of his influence.  Now Sretensky will be headed by Archbishop Amvrosij.  In my opinion, Archbishop Amvosij is a “star” in the education system of the Moscow Patriarchate.  He was highly regarded as rector of the St. Petersburg Theological Academy and was very popular with his students.  He is a strong and dynamic leader.  It is very likely that his influence will be strongly felt at Sretensky. 

    You may also recall that the Holy Synod on July 9 established a commission, headed by Archbishop Amvrosij, “to study the possibility of optimizing the educational process in these religious schools [the Moscow Academy and the Sretensky Seminary] and increasing the level of coordination of their scientific and pedagogical activities.”  (Journal Entry 75)  This resulted in protests in the media that Patriarch Kirill was engaging in a political move to eliminate the Sretensky Seminary.   On July 23, Patriarch Kirill issued a document that simply specifies the specializations that each school will have.  This seemed to allay the fears about the elimination of the Sretnesky Seminary.  The appointment of Archbishop Amvrosij as rector of the Sretensky Seminary is further evidence that the Seminary will not disappear.  In addition, Archbishop Amvrosij has a personal interest in preserving Sretensky as he was a monk there beginning in 2000 and was director of its famous choir.  However, with a strong leader such as Archbishop Amvrosij, changes may occur, and Sretensky may be less identified with Metropolitan Tikhon in the future.

    In other news, Metropolitan Sergiy of Singapore (Moscow Patriarchate), head of the newly established Exarchate of Southeast Asia, has written a sharp “open letter” to Metropolitan Ambrosios of Korea (Ecumenical Patriarchate) concerning an interview given by the latter criticizing the Moscow Patriarchate.    See (the open letter in English); (the original interview in English).  The Catholic delegation from Rome, headed by Father Hyacinthe Destivelle O.P., met with both Patriarch Kirill and Metropolitan Hilarion.  The delegation is part of the annual exchange between the Moscow Patriarchate and the Vatican. (meeting with Patriarch);  (meeting with Metropolitan Hilarion).  The very important Serbian hierarch, Bishop Irinej of Backa, is visiting Russia with a group of pilgrims.  On August 28, he, Metropolitan Hilarion, and Metropolitan Tikhon celebrated the Liturgy together at Pskov.  At that time, Metropolitan Hilarion delivered another strong attack against the Ecumenical Patriarchate.  On August 29, the first meeting of the newly elected Ukrainian parliament was held.  Metropolitan Onufry, Metropolitan Epifany, and other church leaders were present in the first row of the balcony.  The following shows the number of delegates that each faction has in the new parliament.  (English).  Zelensky’s faction,  the People’s Servant Party, has approximately 60 percent of the delegates.  The Opposition Platform–For Life faction, sympathetic to Moscow, has approximately 10 percent of the delegates.  Rumors continue that Pope Francis may accept the invitation of operatic soprano Svetlana Kasyan (her husband is Leonid Leonid Sevastianov, the head of a charitable fund established by Metropolitan Hilarion) to visit her family’s apartment in Moscow.  The latest rumor relates to repairs being suddenly made by the city to the facade of the building in which the apartment is located.  With respect to these rumors, I remain a skeptic.  


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 28 August 2019: Synod of the Church of Greece on autocephaly for Ukraine & other news

    Today, the Standing Holy Synod of the Church of Greece issued a press release following its three-day meeting which ended today (Wednesday).  The press release includes the following paragraph concerning Ukraine: 

    Following the proposal of the Synodal Committees on Dogmatic and Legislative Issues and on Inter-Orthodox and Inter-Christian Relations with respect to the Ukrainian issue, the Standing Holy Synod recognizes the Ecumenical Patriarch’s canonical right to issue the status of Autocephaly, as well as the privilege of the Primate of the Church of Greece to further deal with the question of recognition of the Church of Ukraine.

    An English-language article on the meeting can be read at  By this decision, the Church of Greece agrees with Constantinople that the latter has the unilateral right to grant autocephaly in contrast to Moscow’s view that such a unilateral right does not exist.  Still, Moscow may be pleased that the Church of Greece has not yet taken the decisive step of formally recognizing the new OCU.  It is important to note that today’s decision does not state that the issue of recognition must be referred to the entire episcopate of the Church of Greece, but rather leaves the privilege of further dealing with the issue of recognition in the hands of the “Primate of the Church of Greece,” Archbishop Ieronymos.  On the other hand, the important Greek website,, has posted an article that it has information that the Archbishop stated during the Synod session that he will not decide the issue on his own but will refer it to the synod consisting of the entire hierarchy.  The entire hierarchy is scheduled to meet in October.  Another important Greek religious website also supports the view that the primate intends to refer the issue to the entire hierarchy. 

    The Standing Holy Synod of the Church of Greece consists of the primate and twelve bishops.  Unlike the Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate where a majority of the members of the Holy Synod are “permanent members” who remain on the Synod year after year, the twelve bishops on the Standing Holy Synod only remain on the Synod for a fixed term and are then replaced by other bishops.  The current members of the Standing Holy Synod of the Church of Greece are listed at .  Many of the most influential metropolitans of the Church of Greece are not currently on the Standing Holy Synod.  Because of the importance of the Ukrainian recognition issue and the great impact that it will have on the Orthodox world, the primate may wish to have the final recognition decision made in a forum that includes all of the important metropolitans.  On the other hand, the Primate now has the authority to make the decision himself if he chooses to do so.

    Compared to the prior months of 2019, August has been relatively quiet with respect to news developments on the religious front in Ukraine itself.  On August 24, there was the state celebration in Kyiv of the anniversary of Ukrainian independence.  Both Metropolitan Onufry and Metropolitan Epifany were present for the occasion. (UOC-MP);  (OCU).   Photos from the OCU show Epifany and Onufry standing fairly close to each other, but there were no photos of Epifany and Onufry greeting each other as occurred on May 9 at the state celebration of the victory over Nazi Germany.  A few hours prior to the state celebrations, the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations held in the historic St. Sofia Cathedral its traditional inter-faith prayer service asking for God’s blessings on Ukraine and for peace.  Zelensky was not present, but a representative of his office was there.   Neither representatives of the UOC-MP nor the UOC-KP were present this year.  Last year, both Onufry and Filaret attended this event. 

    The OCU continues the liquidation proceedings relating to the UOC-KP and the UAOC.  In a move that was apparently unopposed, the UAOC has now officially ceased to exist.  On the other hand, Filaret is doing everything in his power to prevent the liquidation of the UOC-KP.  On August 22, Filaret protested the blocking of certain bank accounts of the UOC-KP by the liquidation commission of the OCU.  The press release of the UOC-KP includes the following appeal:  “We want to once again urge all believers of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate to intensify prayer and legitimate protest.”  The same day a protest rally by supporters of the UOC-KP was held in front of St. Michael’s Monastery, the residence of Epifany.  It is estimated that approximately 200 people participated.  On August 27, the Kyiv District Administrative Court postponed consideration of Filaret’s claims against the Department of Culture when approximately 50 of Filaret’s supports in the courtroom disrupted the court proceedings. 

    The Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in America has announced that the recipient of its 2019 Athenagoras Human Rights Award will be Metropolitan Epifany, primate of the OCU.   A prominent English-language religious website in Moscow has used the announcement to list many negative observations about Epifany and to comment that ex-cardinal McCarrick had been a prior recipient of the award.  In the “information war” in Ukraine, the OCU and its supporting websites, in contrast to the websites supporting the UOC-MP, have generally refrained from personal attacks against the leaders of the other church, perhaps because the OCU hopes to engage in a dialogue with the UOC-MP to form a single Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

    An interesting survey has been conducted in Russia on the subject of the Orthodox faith and sacrament of baptism.  One startling result relates to the faith of persons in the age range of 18-24.  Of this group, only 23% consider themselves to be Orthodox.  On the other hand, those in 25-34 range, 62% consider themselves to be Orthodox.  With respect to the 18-24 age range, 37% state that they are non-believers.  For the Christianity in the West, the loss of many young people to the faith is a known and very sad reality.  The East may not be immune to this problem.

    In what has become a traditional exchange, a Catholic delegation from Rome, headed by Father Hyacinthe Destivelle, O.P., has come to Russia this month to participate in a two-week summer institute to learn about the Russian Orthodox Church.  In an exchange in the opposite direction, a delegation from the Moscow Patriarchate comes each year to Rome for two weeks to learn about the Catholic Church.  Also with respect to relations with Catholics, Metropolitan Hilarion had a meeting with Cardinal Tagle in Manila on August 9 to inform the Cardinal of the formation of the new  Patriarchal Exarchate of Southeast Asia.  On Sunday, August 25, Croatian Bishop Antun Škvorčević of Požega (I believe that Jasenovac is in the territory of his diocese) made the following statement: “In this spirit, I condemn the violence that has been perpetrated these days in Knin, Đevraske, Viškovo and other places in our Croatian homeland against persons of Serbian nationality and express my compassion for the victims.  It is unacceptable to transform Croatian patriotism into an ideology of hatred and violence.  Croatian patriotism is a value system that incorporates the principles of the gospel.  When someone hates members of other nationalities and commits violence against them, he is wounding the Christian heritage and acting against God’s plan for mankind.”   At the famous Marian shrine in Czestochowa, Poland, Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, primate of the UGCC, and Archbishop Stanisław Gądecki, president of the Polish Bishops’ Conference, signed a declaration entrusting to Our Lady of Jasna Gora the continued reconciliation of the Roman Catholic Church of Poland and the UGCC. 

    The extraordinary assembly of the communities within the Archdiocese of the Russian Orthodox Church in Western Europe will be held in Paris on September 7.  The assembly will be asked to make a final decision as to the future of the Archdiocese after the Ecumenical Patriarchate decided last November to dissolve the exarchate which consisted of the Archdiocese.  The Moscow Patriarchate is obviously very eager for the Archdiocese to come under the umbrella of the Moscow Patriarchate and has sent a letter to the Archdiocese outlining the concessions that the Moscow Patriarchate is willing to make to ensure that Archdiocese retains a substantial amount of self-government.  A photocopy of the letter can be seen at  The following is an interesting article giving an overview and background information on the issues that will be faced by the assembly.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 8 August 2019: Zelensky visits Bartholomew & other news

    Ukrainian President Zelensky has been in Turkey for the past two days.  This afternoon he completed his scheduled visit to the Phanar.  His visit included a private meeting of over one hour, a luncheon hosted by the Ecumenical Patriarch, and a tour of the Church of St. George at the Phanar.  The President’s official website has posted a very brief statement concerning the visit. (English)  The statement includes the following:  The Ecumenical Patriarch reiterated support for Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.  Volodymyr Zelenskyy thanked the Ecumenical Patriarch for supporting Ukraine.  “Our common value is human life. This is the main thing for me, especially now, when I became President of Ukraine. The authorities shouldn’t interfere in church affairs. I  will defend the independence of the church,” the Head of State emphasized.  In contrast to what Poroshenko would have done, there were no thanks for granting the tomos and no invitation to visit Ukraine.  Nikolay Danilevich of the UOC-MP’s DECR immediately expressed on his Facebook page that the statement of non-interference in church affairs is “a good sign for the Church.”  It has been reported that Zelensky decided not to sign a joint declaration which had been prepared by the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry dealing primarily with ecology. 

    However, it appears to have been a positive meeting.  On leaving, Zelensky responded to a reporter’s question about the matters discussed.  He stated:  About everything.  Everything that bothers anyone was talked about.  I am very glad that we have strong support here not only at the political level.   The Ecumenical Patriarchate has just posted on its Facebook page a more detailed statement.  The statement includes a number of quotations from the remarks of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.   According to the statement, the meeting was also attended by Metropolitan Emmanuel of France and Metropolitan Amphilochios of Adrianople.  The Facebook page includes a number of photos.  Within the last few minutes, an English translation of parts of this statement has been posted at .  The following is the English translation of some of Bartholomew’s remarks:  We, in Constantinople, as we gave you the baptism 1031 years ago, have now given you independence, the ability for your Church to perform its work independently and unaffected by any outside intervention.  Constantinople will not interfere in the internal affairs of the Church of Ukraine.  It is a completely independent and Autocephalous church.  It will only get high protection from here, from Constantinople, from the Phanar, and our continuous prayers for the success of its work.

    Returning to a subject covered in the last newsletter, Metropolitan Anthony of Boryspil (UOC-MP) has commented that the procession of the cross by the UOC-MP in Kyiv on July 27 demonstrated that “our Church continues to grow and develop.”  In a sense, it seems that the UOC-MP is now projecting to the media a different image as shown in part by the foregoing comment.  Previously, the image has emphasized the persecution of the UOC-MP by the government and the “seizure” of parishes of the UOC-MP.   However, with Zelensky’s victories in the recent elections and with the great decrease in transfers of parishes to the OCU, the emphasis now is that the UOC-MP as a whole has not really been hurt and has “continued to grow.”  I believe that this positive assessment is correct.  With the loss of only two of its bishops and less than five percent of its parishes to the OCU, the UOC-MP has emerged from the aftermath of the granting of autocephaly to the OCU amazing well.

    There has been great emphasis in the Russian media about the difference in size between the procession of the cross by the UOC-MP on July 27 and that by the OCU on July 28.  See, for example,  However, to the best of my knowledge, no one has commented on the difference in size of the procession of the schematic Kyiv Patriarchate last year and the procession of the OCU this year.  If you looks at the video of the procession of the Kyiv Patriarchate last year, the numbers were very large.   The Kyiv Patriarchate had over 1,000 buses arriving in Kyiv with pilgrims last year.  According to Interior Department estimates, the size of the crowd this year was less than one-quarter of the size last year’s (65,000 versus 15,000).   For some reason, it appears that the OCU decided not to make the large scale effort (or expend the money) to bring in the large number of pilgrims this year.

    Google Earth may provide part of the explanation.  You can use this link to view the area of Kyiv in question.,30.52210985,139.36855611a,7421.59710955d,35y,131.9989147h,0t,0r  This webpage has a measuring tool on the lower left which can be used to measure distances (including turns) with considerable accuracy.  This year the OCU had originally planned to hold its liturgy on July 28 inside the historic St. Sophia Cathedral.  However, it appears that shortly before July 28, the government denied permission due to a concern of having large numbers of people inside the fragile historic structure.  Instead, the OCU held its liturgy in front of the main entrance to the St. Sophia Cathedral, which is at the rear of the Cathedral when one enters the walled cathedral complex through the arch in the bell tower.  The large Metropolitan’s House (now part of the museum) faces the main entrance, and there is a distance of only 45 meters between the two buildings.  Therefore, there is relatively little space between the main entrance and the Metropolitan’s House for pilgrims.  With respect to the procession of the cross, the distance between the Cathedral Square and the woods surrounding the St. Volodymyr monument is only 750 meters – a distance that can be covered in nine minutes at ordinary walking speed.  In view of all of this, it is certainly possible that the OCU did not believe that it was worthwhile to undertake the expense of bringing large numbers of pilgrims to Kyiv when they would not be close to the liturgy and where the procession involved a walk of only 750 meters.  It is also possible that pilgrims might be reluctant to travel to Kyiv to participate in a procession for only a few minutes.  In contrast, the procession of the Kyiv Patriarchate last year began at St. Volodymyr Cathedral and covered a distance of 2.2 kilometers.  The route of the UOC-MP from the monument to the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra is 3.12 kilometers.

    As you recall, Metropolitan Ioannis of Langada (New Lands of Greece) participated in the OCU’s liturgy at the entrance of St. Sophia Cathedral on July 28.  The Metropolitan subsequently explained that he had not participated as a representative of the Church of Greece.  However, this is just one of a series to contacts that had occurred recently between the OCU and bishops of the Church of Greece.  Last month, Metropolitan Ignatius of Demetrias (Church of Greece) presented to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew a group of OCU students who had completed a course of studies which had been specifically created for them at the Metropolitan’s academy in Volos.  On July 25 and 26, a delegation of the OCU, headed by Archbishop German, visited Thessaloniki.  Their visit included celebrating liturgies with various hierarchs of the Church of Greece, including Metropolitan Kallinikos of Arta (Church of Greece but not part of the New Lands).  As you probably also recall, Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens and All Greece, primate of the Church of Greece, met Metropolitan Epifany, primate of the OCU, at the Phanar, June 10-11.

    These may be a series of little steps in which recognition is gradually given to the OCU by the Church of Greece – a process of gradual or “creeping” recognition.  Perhaps it is felt that these small steps are less likely to create a furor in the Orthodox world than a dramatic declaration of formal recognition.  It is possible that the Church of Greece believes that these small steps are justified in view of the recommendations (reported by some media) to recognize the OCU made by the two church committees assigned to review the issue.  It is also possible that the subject of recognition was removed from the agenda (reported by some media) of the October meeting of the bishops of the Church of Greece because of a preference to proceed with the small steps rather than the big step of a formal declaration of recognition.

    In other news relating to Ukraine, the OCU has started a new publication, My Church.  The first issue of the newspaper can be viewed at  The OCU has formed liquidation commissions to terminate the legal entities of the UAOC and UOC-KP.  On July 31, the Ministry of Culture of Ukraine issued a statement that any attempts to block the registration of religious organizations from the UOC-KP or UAOC to the OCU will be considered as interference with official activities.  The same day Filaret announced that he is filing a lawsuit against the Ministries of Culture and Justice.  The Facebook page of the UOC-KP published on Wednesday an appeal to the Orthodox community from “believers in defense of the Kyiv Patriarchate.”  It warns that the Kyiv Patriarchate is “on the verge of destruction.”  On July 30 in Newark USA, Metropolitan Emmanuel of France and Archbishop Yevstratiy (OCU) met with priests of the former UOC-KP with parishes in the United States. 

    After more than five years of work, the North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation has issued a significant agreed statement entitled, “The Vocation and Mission of the People of God.”  The full text can be read at  It is reported that Pope Francis informed Russian opera singer Svetlana Kasyan: “I would gladly come to Russia, and in that case I would certainly visit you.”,-the-Russian-Aida-47609.html  A representative of the DECR of the Moscow Patriarchate has referred to these remarks by the Pope as simply “words of courtesy.”  For years, the possibility of a papal visit to Russia has been a favorite subject of the media.  However, it is unlikely that Patriarch Kirill, regardless of his personal desires, would risk a repetition of the shock and outcry that he received from many of his faithful after the Havana meeting.  Although a majority of the general population may view a papal visit with favor, many of the faithful church members would not.  As Metropolitan Hilarion has candidly acknowledged, “many bishops, priests and believers are not ready to accept it [a papal visit to Russia].”  This is a reality that must be faced and that reality will not change quickly.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 28 July 2019: The big events in Kyiv on July 27-28

    This weekend was the celebration of the 1041st anniversary of the Baptism of Rus.  Both the UOC-MP and the OCU had big celebrations.  On Saturday, the spotlight was primarily on the UOC-MP.  There was first a short prayer service on St. Volodymyr Hill, overlooking the Dnieper River, followed by a huge procession of the cross to the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra.   There was beautiful weather for the occasion.  The following is a two-hour-plus video of television coverage showing the prayer service and procession.  In the procession, one can see the signs with the names of the various dioceses.  From the number of signs, I assume that all of the Ukrainian dioceses sent  pilgrims.   In addition, there were pilgrim groups from outside Ukraine.  Father Nikolai Danilevich, deputy head of the DECR of the UOC-MP, stated on his Facebook page that he even met a delegation which had come from the Kamchatka peninsula in Russia for the event.  Although the pilgrims generally declined to talk to journalists, there is an indication that free transportation to Kyiv was provided in some cases at least.  One will probably never know to what extent the financial resources of the Moscow Patriarchate made the large turnout yesterday possible.  In any case, it was an amazingly well-organized event, and the results were very impressive.

    The event, however, was not simply a celebration to thank God and St. Volodymyr for the Baptism of Rus.  It was also intended to be a public demonstration of the strength of the UOC-MP.  Metropolitan Anthony of Boryspil (UOC-MP) at the end of the procession gave a news conference and candidly stated:  “Everyone who participates in the procession of the cross, testifies to the world and to God his loyalty to the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church.”  Metropolitan Anthony estimated that approximately 300,000 people participated in the procession.  It is amazing how estimates of numbers of people can vary.  First Deputy Interior Minister Serhiy Yarovyi, responsible for security at the event, stated that preliminary estimates are that approximately 30,000 participated in the event.   The UOC-MP has posted a very interesting time-lapse (sped-up) video showing the entire procession from the very beginning with the banners to the end with the resumption of normal car traffic.  The video last 314 seconds.  The flow of people is much greater at the first part of the video and very significantly less in the second half.  If Metropolitan Anthony’s estimate is correct, there needs to be an average of 955 people (300,000 divided by 314 seconds) passing though the right and bottom edge of the video each second throughout the 314 seconds of the video.  Under Yarovyi’s estimate, there needs to be an average of approximately 95 persons per second.  You can look at the video yourself and make your own decision as to which estimate seems closer to the truth.  Any way one looks at it, there were a lot of people.

    In my last report, I mentioned the pre-election videos of Metropolitan Onufry and Patriarch Kirill with Vadim Novinsky, one of the leaders of the Opposition Bloc party in Ukraine.  Novinsky seemed to be at Metropolitan Onufry’s side during much of yesterday’s celebrations.  Novinsky is easily noticeable because of his bright blue suit.  On Saturday, the Opposition Bloc posted a 15-minute video on YouTube showing various views of Novinsky next to Metropolitan Onufry during the celebration and ending with an interview of Novinsky.   After viewing it, I was really surprised as it was such a blatant use of Novinsky’s close relationship to Metropolitan Onufry for political purposes.   If you try to view the video now, you can see that it “has been removed by the user.”   Nevertheless, it appears that throughout the procession, Metropolitan Onufry, Metropolitan Anthony, and Novinsky walked together.   See (beginning at 55:20).  The following article has a photo showing how Novinsky was prominently positioned within one meter of Metropolitan Onufry during the prayer service at Volodymyr Hill.  In the same photo, one can see Yuriy Boyko (dark blue suit with white shirt), a leader of the Opposition Platform – For Life party, some distance to the left of Metropolitan Onufry.  As far as I can determine, all of the visible politicians are members of one or the other of the two pro-Russia political parties in Ukraine.  Although I am sure that the UOC-MP is extremely grateful for all that Novinsky has done for the UOC-MP, one wonders if it is wise for the UOC-MP to have such a visible association with the pro-Russia political parties, when the mission of the church is to unite and serve the entire Ukrainian population and when only 17% of Ukrainians voted for these parties in last week’s elections.

    Today, the focus was on the OCU.  The liturgy was celebrated outside the front of the historic St. Sophia Cathedral in Kyiv.   The following video (almost 4 hours long) shows the liturgical services in front of the Cathedral (almost 3 hours) followed by the procession of the cross (lasting approximately one-half hour).  Metropolitan Emmanuel of France (Ecumenical Patriarchate) was one of the principal celebrants.  Afterwards, Metropolitan Epifany stated that representatives of the Greek Orthodox Church also participated in today’s liturgy.  The website of the OCU confirms that representatives of the Church of Greece joined the celebration.  Just an hour or so ago, the Greek Romfea website stated that Metropolitan Ioannis of Langada (New Lands of Greece) was one of the celebrants. Even though the New Lands are under the spiritual (but not administrative) jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarch, this is a significant development.   At the liturgy, Metropolitan Emmanuel also read a letter of congratulations from Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. 

    It appears that the OCU’s procession of the cross consisted primarily of those persons previously gathered around the Cathedral at the time of the liturgy.  One need not be an expert on crowd numbers to see that the procession of the cross of the OCU involved far fewer numbers than of the UOC-MP.  The Interior Department estimated that 15,000 took part today, compared to 30,000 yesterday.  In talking to journalists after the event, Metropolitan Epifany estimated that approximately 20,000 people participated in the event. 

    While Novinsky was so evident during the celebrations of the UOC-MP, Poroshenko was equally evident during the celebrations of the OCU.  In the procession of the cross, it was Metropolitan Epifany, Metropolitan Emmanuel, and Poroshenko walking together.  Again, I wonder if this was wise.  Poroshenko is no longer president, but simply the leader of one political party (which obtained only 8 percent of the vote in last week’s election). 

    Today, Filaret held his own celebration of the Baptism of Rus at his St. Vladimir Cathedral and had a procession of the cross.  The procession of the cross involved circling the cathedral.  The Glavcom news agency had a reporter there.  The story and photos can be seen at  It appears that at most several hundred people participated.  Prior to the celebration, the UOC-KP had invited the faithful to come to its celebration.  More photos of the UOC-KP event can be seen at the preceding link.

    This morning, the UOC-MP had the liturgical celebration of the Baptism of Rus in the square in front of the Assumption Cathedral at the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra  The celebrants included Archbishop George of the Church of Czech Lands and Slovakia and Bishop Arseny of the Serbian Patriarchate.  It is reported that the UOC-MP did not send invitations to the Local Orthodox Churches for this weekend’s celebrations, but these representatives still decided to come.  

    On Saturday the Holy Synod of the OCU met.  The following press release was made available after the meeting:    The release did not discuss Filaret except to note his absence without excuse.  The most significant action was to establish a Romanian Orthodox Vicariate within the OCU.  As you recall, the Holy Synod of the Romanian Patriarchate on February 21 noted the need for a Romanian Orthodox Vicariate in Ukraine.  Presumably, the OCU believes that its action on Saturday may increase the likelihood that the Romanian Church will, at some time in the future, recognize the OCU.

    Today, the Holy Synod of the UOC-MP also met.  It appears that the only significant item discussed was a statement of support for Metropolitan Onufry’s efforts “to reestablish the process of the exchange of prisoners, the release of prisoners, and the establishment of peace in the Donbass.”

    Finally, President Zelensky today sent the following message on Twitter:   "I congratulate everyone on the Day of Baptism of Kyivan Rus-Ukraine!  This historic event has become a powerful incentive for the unification of the ancient state, its strengthening and development.  I urge the leaders of the churches to dialogue, in order to unite the faith, and not divide Ukrainians.  In unity is our strength and our future.” 


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 23 July 2019: Ukraine - the election & the churches

    Most of the results are now known for the expedited parliamentary elections that were held in Ukraine last Sunday, July 21.  There is, of course, much information available in the secular media concerning the results.  The following are two short articles in English giving a general overview.;   There are several key points.  Zelensky’s Servant of the People party (named after his television show) will enjoy a controlling majority in the parliament.  This is the first time in history that an Ukrainian president will have a majority in parliament controlled solely by his party.  In the new parliament, it appears that approximately 70 percent of the elected members will never have served in parliament before.  This raises the possibility that the new parliament may revisit previously passed laws relating to religion, such as the controversial law requiring the UOC-MP to change its name.  It also means that Ukraine will probably continue the westward orientation of its foreign policy.  There is general agreement that the election was honestly conducted.  Disappointingly, the voter turnout was a low 49 percent, compared to over 60 percent in the presidential election last spring.

    Neither the OCU nor the UOC-MP were involved in the election campaign, but each sent certain signals in addition to urging participation in the voting and a fair and honest election.  On July 9, the OCU issued a formal statement.  Although some aspects of the statement are neutral in nature, it does include sentences such as the following:  “Our common task is to preserve the statehood, independence and unity of the country, to prevent the implementation of the intentions to once again return Ukraine to the Kremlin yoke.”

    Although the UOC-MP does not appear to have issued a formal statement, it has engaged in certain actions which appear to give some support to the candidate Vadim Novinsky, who has clearly helped the UOC-MP in the past.   Metropolitan Onufry, the primate of the UOC-MP does not give frequent interviews, compared to Epifany or Filaret.  However, on July 17, four days before the election, he gave a television interview in which Novinsky was seated at his side and in which Novinsky also answered questions.  A video of the entire 18-minute joint interview of the two can be watched at .  Novinsky also attended the celebration of the feast day of St. Sergius at the Trinity- St. Sergius Lavra on July 18 and met with Patriarch Kirill.   On the same day, Novinsky posted on YouTube a video showing the Patriarch addressing the Ukrainian people with Novinsky standing next to him.  From watching the video, it appears that the video was specially made at the request of Novinsky.  As far as I know, the video was only disseminated by Novinsky and not by the Moscow Patriarchate.

    Novinsky, reputed to be one of the richest persons in Ukraine, is a leader of the Opposition Bloc party.  The Opposition Bloc is one of two rival political parties in Ukraine with a pro-Russia orientation.  The other is the “Opposition Platform – For Life” party, associated with Viktor Medvedchuk.   On July 18 Medvedchuk had a seemingly positive meeting with President Putin.; (transcript of remarks in English)    It was an indication that Putin would prefer to deal with Medvedchuk in attempting to resolve the conflict in Ukraine.  This probably hurt Novinsky.  With 95 percent of the votes counted, Medvedchuk’s Opposition Platform – For Life Party has now received 13.06 percent of the votes (the highest percentage received by any party except Zelensky’s) compared to 3.06 percent for Novinsky’s Opposition Bloc party.  Although it appears that Novinsky has been elected as an individual by an electoral district in the city of  Mariupol (eastern Ukraine), his party failed to reach the five percent threshold necessary to obtained any of the seats in parliament to be filed by political parties (225 seats) as opposed to the seats to be filed by elected individuals (199 seats).

    As you recall, Archbishop Chrysostomos of Cyprus has been attempting to mediate the religious dispute in Ukraine with the blessings of the Patriarchs of Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem.  In this regard, the Patriarch of Alexandria stated on June 15:  “ The Archbishop of Cyprus will endeavor to ask His All-Holiness [Bartholomew] to make a first meeting between the Ecumenical Patriarch and the Patriarch of Moscow, as the two Primates are linked with a deep friendship, and then make an informal meeting of all of the Primates so that what will emerge will be acceptable to everyone.”     In an interview posted by the Greek website, Metropolitan Hilarion was asked:  Do you think that any meeting in the future between the Ecumenical Patriarch and the Patriarch of Moscow could give a positive result?   Metropolitan Hilarion response included the following:  I would like to believe in it, but so far, unfortunately, I do not see the prerequisites for such a meeting.  The position of the Patriarchate of Constantinople is too radical….  The use of the phrase, “the position of the Patriarchate of Constantinople,” implies that there may well have been an exchange of positions between Moscow and Constantinople in the mediation process undertaken by Archbishop Chrysostomos.  It is interesting that Metropolitan Hilarion does not say that a future meeting will not occur because Constantinople is unwilling to meet.  Rather, the indication is that Moscow is unwilling to meet because it does not see “the prerequisites for such a meeting,” namely the position of Constantinople is “too radical.”  If I had to make a guess, it would be that Moscow considers too radical any proposal in which the Moscow Patriarchate would lose its jurisdiction over the UOC-MP.

    Next Saturday, the UOC-MP will have its procession of the cross in Kyiv to mark the anniversary of the Baptism of Rus.  On Sunday, the OCU will have its procession.  On July 17, the deputy head of the DECR of the Moscow Patriarchate referred to the planned presence of a delegation of the Constantinople Patriarchate at the celebrations held by the OCU and warned that “there can be the inconvenient [неудобная – better translation is  “uncomfortable”] situation of comparing the numbers at the two processions of the cross.”  In my opinion, there is little doubt that the UOC-MP will do everything possible to maximize the number of people in its procession to make this prediction true.  Efforts will also be made by the OCU.  At the last Synod meeting of the OCU, its diocesan bishops were directed to arrange pilgrimages of the faithful to the July 27-28 events.  (journal entry 33)  As previously reported, the Constantinople delegation will bring with them a precious relic of the Apostle St. Andrew.  The UOC-MP now has announced that many precious relics, including at least one of St. Andrew, and many famous icons will be brought to Kyiv for its celebration.  The UOC-MP has devoted a number of articles on its website publicizing the important relics and icons that will be present for veneration at its event.  See, for example,  In view of all of the organization and transportation expenses that will be necessary to maximize numbers, it is probably a mistake the consider the expected large numbers as simply a spontaneous manifestation of popular piety.

    In other news, a court of appeals in Kyiv yesterday affirmed a lower court decision ordering that the Department of Culture suspend its proceeding requiring that the UOC-MP change its name.  Today Patriarch Kirill issued a document that indicates that there will not be radical changes with respect to the Sretensky Theological Seminary and the Moscow Theological Academy as a result of the Synod decision of July 9.  The document specifies the specializations that each school will have.  Patriarch Kirill has appointed a new first patriarchal vicar of Moscow to replace Metropolitan Arseny.  It is Bishop Dionysy (Porubay). (biography)


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 16 July 2019: War of words in Ukraine & Moscow developments

    During the first months of this year, the religious confrontations in Ukraine seemed to have been focused on whether parishes in the small villages, especially in western Ukraine, would change their affiliation from the UOC-MP to the OCU.  Now, that aspect of the confrontations has assumed far less importance.  The number of parishes voting to change in the past two months are extremely few:  May – 1; June – 7; July to date – 1.  The news reports from the UOC-MP concerning church seizures, that were so frequent earlier in the year, are now very rare.

    The religious confrontations now seem to be primarily verbal rather than physical.  These seem to be primarily accusations relating to the OCU and the Ecumenical Patriarchate and to the denial of these accusations.   For example, Metropolitan Anthony of Borispol (UOC-MP) stated on July 9 that each parish of the OCU must pay a sum of 4,000 to 20,000 euros which will be paid to the Ecumenical Patriarchate.   On July 11 Metropolitan Onufry, primate of the UOC-MP, made the following statement:  “The Tomos which the Patriarch of Constantinople granted to the so-called OCU is not the Tomos of autocephaly but the Tomos of slavery.”    Yesterday, the Press and Communications Office of the Ecumenical Patriarchate issued a communique responding to the “false, unsubstantiated, and slanderous charges regarding Ukraine autocephaly.” (full text in English)  It included the following statements:  “Allegations or information from anyone claiming that the Ecumenical Patriarchate, in order to grant the Tomos of Autocephaly to the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, allegedly sought and received, or requested, any form of compensation, financial or other, whether from political or ecclesiastical persons, is absolutely false, unsubstantiated and slanderous….From that day [December 15, 2018] on, the new Autocephalous Orthodox Church of Ukraine is completely self-sufficient and has the absolute freedom to manage its internal affairs through the judgment and decisions of its Holy Synod.”

    Many have thought that the Church of Greece would recognize the OCU during the next general meeting of the Greek bishops scheduled for October.  However, on July 11, the Greek website claimed to have information that the subject of Ukraine was not on the agenda for that meeting.  From this, Father Nikolai Danilevich, deputy head of the DECR of the UOC-MP, predicted that the Church of Greece will not recognize the OCU.  However, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew has given a television interview, posted yesterday, in which he addressed this and other aspects of the Ukrainian dispute.  In it, he made the unqualified statement: “The first Church to recognize the Orthodox Church of Ukraine will be the sister Church of Greece.”   

    The anniversary of the Baptism of Rus will be celebrated in Kyiv,  July 27-28.  In the above interview, the Ecumenical Patriarch stated that a delegation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate coming to the celebration will bring with them “priceless” relics and cross of the Apostle St. Andrew for veneration.  Both the UOC-MP and the OCU are planning large pilgrimages to Kyiv for the anniversary.  It is certain that each church will seek to gather more faithful for its processions than the other.  Last year, the UOC-MP clearly attracted more than the UOC-KP.

    Filaret has also been engaging in his own war of words against the OCU.  So far I have not seen any reports of parishes seeking to join his UOC-KP.  In order to attract media attention, Filaret has been very willing to give interviews.  His most controversial interview has been with Rossiya24, the Russian state-owned television channel.  Filaret later expressed surprise at the negative reaction which this interview evoked in Ukraine.  Filaret said that the Ukrainian media distort his words or are selective in their quotations.  According to him, the overwhelming majority of the mass media in Ukraine are aimed at the destruction of his Kyiv Patriarchate.  Filaret believes that at least the Russian channel communicated his remarks faithfully.

    The Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate met at the famous Valaam Monastery on July 9.  The following are the minutes of the meeting: .  There are several changes that have evoked a great deal of media attention.  First, Metropolitan Arseny of Istra was removed from his position as first vicar bishop of the Moscow diocese and made the head of the Lipetsk diocese (journal entry 72).  Arseny, now age 64, had been the personal secretary to Metropolitan Alexy of Leningrad in the 1980s.  After Alexy became patriarch in 1990, Arseny became a vicar bishop of Moscow and the trusted right-hand of the Patriarch in running the Moscow diocese.   Under Patriarch Kirill, he remained the “first vicar” of the Moscow diocese.  In a surprising move, he is now no longer in this powerful position.

    The second major change relates to the most important theological schools of the Moscow Patriarchate: the Moscow Theological Academy, the St. Petersburg Theological Academy, and the Sretensky Seminary (connected to the Sretensky Monastery in Moscow).   In journal entry 74, the acting rector of the Sretensky Seminary, Hieromonk Silouan (Nikitin), is made the new rector of the St. Petersburg Theological Academy.  Archbishop Amvrosij, rector of the Moscow Theological Academy, is made acting rector of the Sretensky Seminary while continuing to head the Moscow Academy.  In journal entry 75, a commission is formed, headed by Archbishop Amvosij, “to study the possibility of optimizing the educational process in these religious schools and increasing the level of coordination of their scientific and pedagogical activities.”  Archbishop Amvosij is clearly a very knowledgeable person with respect to theological education in Russia.  From 2008 to 2018 he was rector of the St. Petersburg Theological Academy, where he was very highly regarded and was very popular with the students.

    Several days after the meeting of the Synod, Archbishop Amvrosij made some interesting comments.  He discussed the possibility that the postgraduate department of the Moscow Theological Academy, now located at the Trinity-Sergius Lavra  70 kilometers from Moscow, will be moved to the Sretensky Seminary, located in the heart of Moscow.  In this regard, he stated that “the master and postgraduate studies need to be at the very center of cultural and academic events,” found in the nation’s capital.  He also stated: “The bachelor's degree is the stage of theological education, when the future consecrated or clergyman is introduced into the Christian way of existence, lifestyle.  And for this, the monastic environment with a long tradition is best suited.  In a few years, training at the bachelor's degree will only take place at the Trinity-Sergius Lavra." 

    There have been comments in the media that this is really a political step by Patriarch Kirill to eliminate the Sretensky Seminary, founded by and strongly associated with the very popular Metropolitan Tikhon (Shevkunov) of Pskov.  See, for example,  However, in 2000, Amvrosij became a member of the brotherhood of the Sretensky Monastery and later became the director of the Monastery’s internationally famous choir.  He also became a pro-rector of the Sretensky Seminary.  It would be surprising if he now desires to destroy this institution.

    Lastly, Interfax has posted some interesting remarks by Metropolitan Hilarion that the expression “Moscow is the third Rome” is outdated and “can hardly be applied to current reality.” (English)  He believes that it is far more important to focus on the “great missionary task” to reach out to the absolute majority of Russians today who consider themselves Orthodox Christians, but in fact, are far from being such.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 7 July 2019: Thought-provoking views of Archimandrite Cyril Hovorun & other news

    Today, a short, but very interesting, interview of Archimandrite Cyril Hovorun relating to Ukraine was posted on the Internet.  The interview is in English.  Recently, Hovorun has been acting director of the Huffington Ecumenical Institute at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.  However, he seems to be spending much of his time speaking at conferences throughout the world.  Although it is very apparent that Hovorun supports autocephaly for the church in Ukraine, he has, at least in the past, been highly regarded by the Moscow Patriarchate.  At a very young age, he served as chairman of the DECR of the UOC-MP under Metropolitan Volodymyr, the previous primate of the UOC-MP.    He was also the first deputy chairman of the Educational Committee of the Moscow Patriarchate.  The aspect of the interview that especially caught my attention is that Hovorun considers the recent events in Ukraine to be “good news,” while most people consider them to be “bad news.”  According to the proverb, is Hovorun trying to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear?

    As Hovorun has stated before, he considers the departure of Filaret from the OCU as a “catharsis” in which the authoritarian aspects of the former UOC-KP are removed and a more open church is created.  Hovorun considers the non-recognition of the UOC by the other Local Orthodox Churches, except the Ecumenical Patriarchate, also to be a positive development.  According to Hovorun, this forces the OCU not to be complacent with the status quo, but to realize that it must become a better church to obtain greater recognition by the Orthodox world.  Hovorun believes that the competition between the UOC-MP and the OCU is also a good thing in the short run as the competition will improve each church.  He mentions a recent conference by the UOC-MP to improve its work in the parishes as a positive event resulting from the competition.  He sees various problems with the UOC-MP such as the growth of fundamentalism.  He refers to the UOC-MP and OCU as each being sticks with dirt on them.  The two sticks being rubbed against each other can remove the dirt from each of them and prepare the way for a union of the two clean sticks – something much better than the union of two dirty sticks with each adding their own imperfections to the new union.

    Hovorun also sees the crisis in Ukraine as the results of problems within Orthodoxy as a whole, and not the cause of these pan-Orthodox problems.  He refers to Ukraine “as an x-ray which showed that there are many problems that need to be treated within the general Orthodox body.”  He comments: “Because the confederative structure of the Orthodox churches envisions that each of the subjects of this confederation has their interests in mind above all.  And, unfortunately, there is a problem of universal Orthodox solidarity, when Orthodox churches are not ready to sacrifice their own interests for the sake of all-Orthodox unity.”  Whether or not one agrees with Hovorun’s views, they are thought-provoking and may spark some interesting discussions.

    On July 4, President Putin of the Russian Federation met with Pope Francis at the Vatican.  It was the President’s sixth meeting with a Pope and his third meeting with Pope Francis.  For the first time, the entire visit was streamed live by a Russia station (the state-owned Rossia-24 news channel).   See .   After the meeting, the Vatican issued a press release stating that the subjects included the satisfactory development of bilateral relations, the life of the Catholic Church in Russia, ecology, Syria, Ukraine, and Venezuela.   At the conclusion of the meeting, the President was overheard thanking the Pope for the “substantial and interesting conversation.”  The Vatican spokesperson, Alessandro Gisotti, told journalists:  “I want to express to you the sincere and joyful satisfaction of the Holy Father with whom I was able to speak to immediately after the meeting with the Russian President.  It is customary for the Holy See's communications to say the conversations were cordial.  However, I can assure you, after speaking with the Holy Father, it has been like this.”   The President later revealed that the Pope had stated that “one of the books that are always on his table is a classic of Russian literature, Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy."   The Pope praised the Russian efforts to protect the Christian holy places in Syria. 

    On the next two days, July 5 and 6, the Pope had a closed-door meeting with the primate, metropolitans, and members of the permanent synod of the UGCC.  A short communique was issued today after the end of the meeting.   The full text of the Pope’s opening address to the gathering can be read at  In time, more information may become available concerning this meeting.

    The website of the OCU has posted an English translation of the full text of the letter from Epifany to the Serbian Patriarchate’s Metropolitan Amfilohije of Montenegro.   In the letter Epifany apologizes for allowing an archimandrite of the schismatic Orthodox Church of Montenegro to serve in the OCU Liturgy on May 25.  The letter claims that this “was not due to our intentions, but due to inattention, due to the large number of present priests.”  The website also states that the letter, dated June 24, was personally delivered by Archbishop Yevstratiy of the OCU to Metropolitan Amfilohije at the Metropolitan’s residence on June 25.  According to the article, the two had a “sustained” meeting, and Yevstratiy joined the Metropolitan for dinner.  After dinner, Yevstratiy traveled with a priest of the Serbian Patriarchate to see the new cathedral in Podgorica.

    In my last report, I referred to the letter written by the executive body of Mt. Athos to the foreign minister of Greece protesting the OCU delegation led by Metropolitan Michael of Lutsk bringing Ukrainian flags and singing the Ukrainian national anthem at Mt. Athos.  The following is a Union of Orthodox Journalists article relating to the same subject.  The article shows a photo of the delegation with Metropolitan Michael and delegation members holding Ukrainian flags.  The article also refers to media reports of OCU representatives shouting Slava Ukraine on the top of Mt. Athos.  In attempting to find those reports, I found a Facebook video referring to “Slava Ukraine” and showing a group of Ukrainians singing the Ukrainian national anthem on the summit of Mt. Athos.  The video has been watched by approximately 30,000.   As you can see, the video was posted on Facebook by “Igor Lysov.”  Out of curiosity, I have looked at the Facebook page of Igor Lysov to obtain more information about the video.   Lysov is a Ukrainian politician and is also the chairman of the parish council of the Transfiguration Cathedral in Kyiv.  When one scrolls down the Facebook page of Lysov, one can see that in June 2018, Lysov was on a pilgrimage to Mt. Athos, led by the bishop in charge of the Transfiguration Cathedral, Metropolitan Alexander Drabinko.  In the video, the Metropolitan is the cleric in the middle.   At the time of the video in June 2018, the parish and the Metropolitan were actually part of the UOC-MP.  In view of their nationalistic fervor, it is not surprising that the they joined the OCU six months later.

    In other news, Epifany met on July 5 with the rectors of the OCU parishes in Kyiv.   As you recall, these parishes were previously under the jurisdiction of Filaret but are now under Epifany.  From the photos, it appears that the attendance was very good.  Aside from possibly Filaret’s Volodymyr Cathedral, I have not heard of any of these parishes remaining with Filaret. posted on July 4 a new interview with Filaret in which he continues to make very negative remarks about the OCU.  Filaret states that it was Poroshenko who promised him that Epifany would only be responsible for the external relations (outside of Ukraine).  However, according to Filaret, Epifany was present when Poroshenko made the promise, but Filaret does not say that Epifany joined in the promise.  Lastly, Archbishop Job has posted on his website (in English) a more detailed description of the events relating to the gift to the Ecumenical Patriarch of the reliquary containing the relics of St. Peter.  He explains that there are other bones of St. Peter, but that these were returned to the niche in which they were found during the excavating under the main altar of St. Peter.  The pieces of bones given to the Ecumenical Patriarchate are the only ones that have ever been exposed to the public.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 2 July 2019: Extraordinary gift & more news

    Since 1977 there has been a tradition for the Ecumenical Patriarch to send a delegation to Rome for the celebration of the feast of Saints Peter and Paul on June 29.  This year was no exception.  The delegation this year was headed by Archbishop Job of Telmessos, who is co-president of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches and who is also permanent representative of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to the WCC.  As is usual, the delegation met with Pope Francis on the day before the feast.  During the meeting, the Archbishop read a letter from Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to the Pope, and the Pope then delivered his address.  An English translation of both the letter from Bartholomew and the address by Francis can be read at .  The Ecumenical Patriarch’s letter states that the next meeting of the Coordinating Committee of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue will be held in November.  (The meeting will be held at the Bose Monastery in Italy, as was the last meeting of the Coordinating Committee.)  The Ecumenical Patriarch expresses the hope that the Committee “will succeed in finalizing a text [on Primacy and Synodality in the Second Millennium and Today] to be discussed at the next plenary of the commission.”  This makes clear that the Ecumenical Patriarch envisions that the work of the Commission and its Coordinating Committee will not be delayed due to the absence of the Moscow Patriarchate from its deliberations resulting from the Ukraine dispute.

    The delegation was also present for the Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica on the feast day.  A video of the entire liturgy can be viewed at .  Archbishop Job received a great amount of attention from the Pope during the service.  This can be especially seen at the following times in the video:  2:45 the Pope leaves the entrance procession to exchange a triple kiss with the Archbishop; 1:17:35 the Archbishop ascends to the altar to exchange the kiss of peace with the Pope; 1:34:05 at the conclusion of the Mass, the Pope and the Archbishop go together to the grotto below the altar to pray silently before the tomb of St. Peter, go together to the statue of St. Peter to kiss the foot of the statue, and proceed together from the basilica.

    However, what is truly amazing is described by Archbishop Job on his Facebook page.  His entries are reproduced in full at .  After the Pope and the Archbishop had prayed before the tomb of St. Peter, the Pope told the Archbishop: Wait for me after.  I have a gift to give you for the Church of Constantinople.  I thought of it last night during prayer.”  After a stop in the sacristy, the Pope said “Let’s go,” and the two men were driven in the Pope’s small Ford to the apostolic palace.  Then the Pope took the Archbishop to a chapel in the apostolic palace and gave the Archbishop a reliquary.  The Pope said:  “During prayer last night, I thought to myself: these holy relics will be better in Constantinople, in the Phanar.  Here are they.  Take them with you.  Give them to my brother His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.  This gift is not from me, it’s from God.”

    What is this reliquary?  It had been previously seen by the public on only one occasion, at which time it received a great amount of attention from the world’s media.  Just one example of the international publicity can been seen from the following article entitled, “Vatican unveils bone fragments of St Peter in public for first time” from the November 24, 2013, edition of the London Daily Mail   At that time, the reliquary was shown by Pope Francis at the Mass marking the end of the “Year of Faith,” which had earlier been proclaimed by Pope Benedict.  The reliquary contains nine bone fragments, which were found during the excavations under St. Peter’s Basilica in a cavity inscribed in ancient Greek, “Peter within.”  Here is an CNN article by John Allen about those relics:  The following is a video of the Pope holding the reliquary for a long period of time during the November  24, 2013 Mass. 

    Yesterday (Sunday), Msgr. Andrea Palmieri, under-secretary of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, brought the reliquary to Istanbul and presented it to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.  Appropriately, it was presented on the Orthodox feast day of the Synaxis of the Holy Apostles, celebrated by the Ecumenical Patriarch in the Church of the Twelve Apostles in Feriköy.  Photos of the event, including detailed photos of the reliquary and its contents, can be seen at  The photos show that the reliquary is indeed the same as that made public in 2013 and contains all of the nine bone fragments.

    When one sees this story in the media, one might assume that the Pope gave the Ecumenical Patriarch just a few pieces of the relics and kept most.  However, what happened is that the Pope gave the entire reliquary with all of its contents to Bartholomew!  It is true that there might be other pieces of bone from the excavation work, but I have found no information about them.  The most important fragments, on which the media has focused its attention, belong now to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.  It is an incredibly generous gift.  Some Catholics might even believe that it is too generous, especially because Catholics place such importance on St. Peter.  However, this completely unexpected and spontaneous gesture by Francis might be particularly appreciated by Bartholomew at this time when he has been subject to harsh criticism by some Orthodox for his actions in Ukraine.

    Here are some additional news items.  Metropolitan Hilarion met with Patriarch Theodoros of Alexandria on June 29 when both of them were in Thessaloniki.  The UOC-KP has posted on its Facebook page (its website has not been operable since the Filaret council) many photos which show the participants at the council on June 20.  The following are two photos that show the attendees best.  One can see a considerable number of laypersons in the cathedral, but probably less than ten priests.  The OCU has sent a letter apologizing to the Serbian Patriarchate that a priest from the schismatic Montenegro Orthodox Church participated in a liturgy of the OCU on May 25.  The following is an interesting report relating to tensions in France with respect to the future of the Archdiocese of the Russian Orthodox Church in Western Europe.   Finally, the Holy Community of Mt. Athos has sent a letter to the Greek Foreign Minister protesting the behavior of an OCU delegation headed by Metropolitan Michael of Lutsk during a recent visit to Mt. Athos.  The behavior included such actions, at least by some, as singing the Ukrainian national anthem and waiving Ukrainian flags on the summit of Mt. Athos.   


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 27 June 2019: Ecumenical Patriarch reaches out to Serbia and OCA

    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 .  Today, the Serbian Patriarchate posted on its website a Serbian translation of the letter.   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  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.  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.   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  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 .  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.  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.  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.    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.

    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.  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.  An English translation of an interesting interview of Father Nikolay Danilevich, deputy head of the DECR of the UOC-MP, has been posted at  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. 


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 20 June 2019: Filaret's "Council" rejects UOC-KP dissolution

    Filaret’s “Local Council” of the Kyiv Patriarchate was held this morning (Thursday) at his St. Vladimir Cathedral in Kyiv.  It was sparsely attended.  It appears that journalists were present at the Cathedral before the meeting began but were excluded once the meeting started.  According to a BBC journalist, there were present before the start of the meeting two other bishops besides Filaret – namely the two bishops responsible for the UOC-KP inside the Russian Federation, Joseph and his vicar bishop Peter.  In addition, there were “no more than a dozen priests and 50-70 laypersons.”  Another correspondent reported the presence of the two bishops as well as about ten priests and 60 laypersons, mainly from the Kyiv city center.   

    Apparently, the journalist from did not leave as requested.  That website includes a photo copy of the 10-paragraph resolution (in Ukrainian) that was adopted at the meeting.  The website also provides a Russian translation.  In addition, the website includes a description of what occurred during the course of the meeting, plus photos and a short video.  An English translation of the ten paragraphs can be read at  The most important paragraph is the first which provides:

    The Local Council does not approve but annuls the decision of the Bishops’ or so-called Local Council, because it was not the Local Council but a collection of signatures of the bishops, one priest and two laymen about the conditional liquidation of the UOC of the Kiev Patriarchate at the request of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople.  Without the conditional liquidation of the Kiev Patriarchate, there could not be the Unification Council of the Ukrainian Churches on December 15, 2019, and the bestowal of the Tomos of autocephaly.

    The annulled decision is the document which was signed by the Filaret and by the approximately 40 bishops of the UOC-KP before the commencement of the formal proceedings of the unifying council.  This document provided that the activities of the UOC-KP would cease.  The other paragraphs of today’s resolution follow from Filaret’s contention that the UOC-KP continues to exist as if the unifying council never occurred.  Thus, Filaret remains the primate, and the UOC-KP remains the owner of its assets and property for which it presently has ownership.  According to the resolution, this property includes the Kyiv Theological Academy and St. Michael’s Monastery (where Epifany now resides).  The resolution thanks the Ecumenical Patriarchate for its attempt to solve the Ukraine problem, but states that the UOC-KP is not satisfied with the terms of the tomos.

    After the meeting, Filaret answered the questions of journalists.  A video of this can be seen at   During the questioning, Filaret explained that there will now be three Orthodox Churches in Ukraine:  the UOC-MP, the OCU dependent on Constantinople, and the independent UOC-KP.  He explained that two new bishops for the UOC-KP were elected today.  Thus, there will be five bishops in the UOC-KP: Filaret, the other bishops who attended the meeting today (Joseph and Peter), and the newly-elected two bishops.  He explained that in 1992 he started the UOC-KP with only one other bishop and it grew from a grain to a large tree.  He asserted that he is ready to cause the same type of growth in the current UOC-KP.  (However, I might note that in 1992 he was 27 years younger, and now he is 90).  When asked how three bishops could annul the decision by 40 bishops, Filaret in essence replied that “truth” is what is important, not numbers.

    Today, the press service of the OCU issued an extensive statement relating to the meeting at St. Vladimir Cathedral.  The full text of the statement is at  The statement describes the actions previously taken by the UOC-KP to cease its activities and the subsequent actions taken by Filaret consistent with that cessation.  It also explains how today’s meeting cannot be considered a “Local Council” even under the previous statute of the UOC-KP.  It refers to the meeting as a gross violation of the apostolic rules and calls upon the participants to stop undermining the unity of the Church.  With respect to priests who attend the meeting with the hope of being made a bishop, the statement informs those priests that they will not be recognized as bishops by the OCU.  Finally, a meeting of the Holy Synod of the OCU is set for Monday, June 24. 

    Filaret has informed the media that he will not be attending the Synod meeting on Monday.  Archbishop Yevstraty (Zoria) of the OCU has stated that it is likely that the Synod will simply state that Filaret has left the OCU as opposed to taking specific disciplinary action against him.   Yevstraty also pointed out that under Ukrainian law, properties are not owned by religious associations (such as the UOC-KP), but by the individual communities.

    Interestingly, under the new Ukrainian law, parishes may vote to change religious affiliation such as has occurred in the case of the UOC-MP parishes affiliating with the OCU.  Now, it is possible that this law will be used with respect to parishes choosing to affiliate with the UOC-KP or the OCU.  With respect to the loss of parishes by the UOC-MP, the UOC-MP held a meeting of its diocesan law departments on June 19.  At that meeting, it was reported that 222 parishes have been “illegally” re-registered to the OCU (the final step in the transfer process) and that there had been a total of more than 80 parishes “captured.”

    On the evening of June 12, Filaret was the guest on “Persona Grata,”  an interview program of the government-operated Ukrainian Radio.  Later that evening, Ukrainian Radio posted some, but not all, of the questions and answers.   It was not until June 17 that a pro – Moscow Patriarchate website posted some of the very interesting answers that had not been posted by Ukrainian Radio. (this website includes a recording of the entire interview)  These answers were then reported by other websites, such as  and (both English).  Particularly interesting is the following statement by Filaret:  “It's good that the Ecumenical Patriarch lifted my anathema in 2018.  But had I been under anathema before 2018, or had I not? If I had been under anathema, it means that all these hierarchs are invalid.  It means that Epifany is not a Metropolitan, and moreover, he is not even a priest.  If the Ecumenical Patriarch removed the anathema from me in 2018, then the entire episcopate is invalid.”  Filaret seems to ignore the position of Constantinople that its reinstatement of Filaret to his hierarchical rank had the retroactive effect of validating the ordinations made by him prior to 2018.  Filaret, in his attack against Epifany and the course that the OCU Synod has been taking, seems to be adopting a number of the arguments made by the Moscow Patriarchate against the OCU.

    The Holy Synod of the Bulgarian Patriarchate continues to experience internal tensions over the issue of Ukraine.  It is reported that Metropolitan Daniel of Vidin (in favor of Moscow) and Metropolitan Nikolai of Plovdiv (in favor of Constantinople) have severed eucharistic communion with each other because of the Ukraine issue.  The foregoing article claims that 25% of the Synod support Daniel and 75% support Nikolai.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 18 June 2019: Summit in Nicosia?

    On June 15, the Greek daily newspaper Ethnos published an exclusive interview with Patriarch Theodoros of Alexandria.  One of the questions referred to the April meeting at Nicosia of the primates of the Patriarchates of Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem and of the Church of Cyprus to discuss the issue of Ukraine.  Patriarch Theodoros was then asked what the position of the Patriarchate of Alexandria will be on the issue of Ukraine.  His answer was given in Greek.  Some parts of the answer have now been translated into English.  See and at .   Using these translations plus Google for the non-translated parts, below is my attempt at an English translation of the complete answer:

    I was born in Greece, in Crete, and I respect and love our Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, because he met me in Crete in Spili in 1978 and especially the greatest gift that he gave me at the Great Synod of Crete was to come to Mikrasiatissa to see my mother at home.  I lived in Ukraine, I experienced the pain and schism of the Ukrainian Church.  But I also know the Russian Church very well because I was nurtured there for ten years, and the Patriarchate of Alexandria has emotional bonds with it.  If there are our monasteries, our churches, they exist with the rubles that were given by the Russian Tsars at that time.  All have been restored with the money of the boyars of the Russian landThe ties between the Alexandrian Patriarchate and the Russian Church are great, and it is impossible to break them.  In front of us, however, we have this enormous problem of the Autocephaly, which the Ecumenical Patriarch has granted and had the right to grant.

    Of course, we have no objection to each Church getting Autocephaly.  However, what has divided the Churches is the people who received the Autocephaly, and we now see that Filaret (honorary Patriarch of Kiev) is calling a council to cancel the decisions of the Unification Council.

    So then the three Patriarchs said wisely and prayerfully to our elder brother, the Archbishop of Cyprus, who has already made a tour of Hungary, Serbia, Romania [actually Serbia, Bulgaria, and Greece?] and talked with the Orthodox Church Primates on the ecclesiastical situation in Ukraine, to meet with the Ecumenical Patriarch.  The Archbishop of Cyprus is a wise hierarch, is kind, and loves the Church.

    Every problem has its solution.  Our Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew is the Patriarch of Romiosyne [the Greek world, especially as it existed under the Ottoman Empire], whom we all respect and love.  Do not forget that this issue is not a dogmatic one.  There is a solution to the issue of Autocephaly.

    The Archbishop of Cyprus will endeavor to ask His All-Holiness to make a first meeting between the Ecumenical Patriarch and the Patriarch of Moscow, as the two Primates are linked with a deep friendship, and then make an informal meeting of all of the Primates so that what will emerge will be acceptable to everyone.  Our time has so many problems, and we do not have the luxury of being divided.

    The Archbishop of Cyprus will do this, and soon we will return to Nicosia with the Primates of the Churches of Antioch and Jerusalem.  For us, the Elder Patriarchates of Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem, the Church of Cyprus has become a reference point. The Archbishop of Cyprus, Chrysostom, gave us metochions, churches and places so that we each can have a delegation and be able to meet.  I believe that a solution can be found.  Just let each one of us put aside our personal issues and see above all the interest of the Church.

    From the answer, it is clear that these three patriarchs of the first millennium will be returning to Nicosia to continue their quest for a solution to the crisis in Ukraine.  Each of the Patriarchs will be provided with a metochion (a church embassy) , a church, and a place for his delegation.  It is unlikely that this would be done unless the stay was expected to be of some duration or that there would be a number of stays.  The answer also states that the Archbishop of Cyprus will seek to convince the Ecumenical Patriarch to participate in a meeting with Patriarch Kirill.  If the Ecumenical Patriarch agrees, it is possible that the meeting may occur at Nicosia with Archbishop Chrysostomos of Cyprus as a mediator and perhaps in the presence of the three other Patriarchs as well.  It may be the hope to continue this “summit” until a resolution is finally worked out.

    It also appears that Patriarch Theodoros takes a broad view of the authority of the Ecumenical Patriarch.  Theodoros acknowledges that the Ecumenical Patriarch has the authority to grant autocephaly.  Theodoros refers to the Ecumenical Patriarch as the “Patriarch of Romiosyne,” a term which is much broader than the present nations of Turkey or Greece.    It also appears that Theodoros has no objection to Ukraine receiving autocephaly.  Rather, his concern seems to be about the group that received the autocephaly.   This concern would presumably disappear if the group to receive autocephaly were the UOC-MP.  As I stated in a previous report, there are rumors that Archbishop Chrysostomos is considering a possible solution which would in fact provide autocephaly to the UOC-MP.

    Meanwhile in Ukraine, we are waiting to see if Filaret will hold his “Local Council” on June 20, and if so, who will attend.  To date, Filaret’s website is completely silent about the holding of a council on June 20.  However, a photocopy of an invitation to the bishops of the OCU has been posted at .  The invitation is dated June 14 and states that the council will be held at 11 a.m. on June 20 at Filaret’s St. Vladimir Cathedral.    There was also a media report that Filaret’s office has contacted the rectors of the Kyiv parishes and threatened them with dismissal from their parishes if they do not attend the council.  In response, the press service of the OCU on June 14 issued a statement that the holding of such a “council” is unlawful and “will constitute a church split and the secession of the organizers and participants of such meetings from the Orthodox Church of Ukraine with all of the canonical and legal consequences.”   In an interview, Metropolitan Epifany stated that by holding the “council,” Filaret would be separating himself from the OCU.  With respect to possible punishments, he said that any possible punishments could only be imposed by a bishops’ or local council.   

    The prominent magazine, The Economist, has published an interesting article entitled, “The gift of overcoming barriers eludes the world’s Orthodox Christians.”  The article has the following closing:

    In their handling of these inter-Ukrainian squabbles, the hierarchs in Istanbul feel they have trodden a careful line.  They recognised Filaret as a valid cleric with the rank of retired bishop, which was enough to incur Muscovite rage, but they flatly rejected his claim to the title of Patriarch.

    To all this, organs of the Muscovite media that are close to church thinking have reacted in a surreal way.  While still snubbing the claims of “Mr. Denysenko” to have any kind of clerical status, they report with gleeful satisfaction on the lively old man’s campaign to undermine his young successor.  To anyone used to the relatively vertical structure of the global Catholic church, this will seem like an unseemly mess.  But the story may not quite end there.

    The feast of Pentecost, like every other landmark in the Orthodox calendar, will be marked by ceremonies of immense complexity, antiquity and beauty.  Mastering and participating in such intricate rites can create mysterious, but also fissile, bonds between celebrants.  They can quarrel suddenly, but also have sudden reconciliations.

    Lastly, the Holy Synod of the Bulgarian Patriarchate on June 12 issued a decision relating to the letter sent by its Metropolitan Daniel of Vidin to many hierarchs of the various Local Orthodox Churches.  As you recall, this letter sharply criticized the Ecumenical Patriarch’s position with respect to Ukraine.  The Synod’s statement is as follows:  “The view expressed by Metropolitan Daniel in his letter to the Metropolitans of various Orthodox Churches is his personal view.  The Holy Synod is categorically differentiated.  In the questions raised by Metropolitan Daniel, the Synod has no solution.”  The website of the Patriarchate has also posted a statement by its Metropolitan Gabriel that the Synod has not yet determined what its position on Ukraine will be.   The website also posted an additional statement by Metropolitan Daniel.  This statement attached a copy of his original letter in English.  The letter includes the questions raised by Metropolitan Daniel for which the Synod has “no solutions.” 


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 11 June 2019: Epifany with Bartholomew and Ieronymos

    Today is the feast day of St. Bartholomew, the patron saint of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.  Yesterday, Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens and All Greece, primate of the Church of Greece, arrived at the Phanar with a delegation including Metropolitans Nicholas of Mesogaia, David of Grevena, and Bishop Symeon of Thespies.  Also arriving at the Phanar was Metropolitan Epifany, primate of the OCU, with a delegation including Archbishop Evstraty.  In the evening, Ieronymos and Epifany were seated next to each other for a vesper service at which Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew presided.  They were also together at the subsequent reception.  A video of the entire service and the reception involving the three hierarchs can be watched at .

    After the events last night, Archbishop Ieronymos returned to Athens to be present today with the President of Greece at an event in which Patriarch Theodoros of Alexandria received a special award.   The personal contacts  between the Archbishop and Epifany at the vespers and reception do not come as a complete surprise.  In March the Church of Greece had referred the issues relating to Ukraine to two of its commissions -- one on dogmatic and canonical issues and the other on inter-Orthodox and inter-Christian relations.  Five days ago, it was reported in the media that both committees had reached a recommendation in favor of the recognition and autocephaly of the OCU.   The full hierarchy of the Church of Greece will decide the issue, presumably in October.   I expect that  Ieronymos will not be able to serve the Liturgy with Epifany unless or until the Church of Greece has actually made a decision to recognize the OCU.  However, if the two commissions have in fact reached a recommendation for the Church of Greece to recognize the OCU, Ieronymos may have felt comfortable in having at least these personal contacts with Epifany.

    Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew presided at the Liturgy this morning.  Metropolitan Epifany was present as well as bishops from the Patriarchates of Alexandria and Jerusalem.  None of the representatives served in the Liturgy, but Epifany was given a position of special prominence and made an address.  This can be seen in the following video:

    On June 8 Metropolitan Hilarion met with Archbishop Chrysostomos of Cyprus, who is attempting to mediate the Ukraine dispute.  According to the website of the Church of Cyprus, the meeting especially focused on Ukraine.  The prior day, Metropolitan Hilarion had met with Patriarch Theophilos of Jerusalem.  With respect to Cyprus, Father Nikolay Danilevich, Deputy Chairman of the DECR of the UOC-MP, has been taking Archimandrite Nectarios (Bakopoulos) of the Church of Cyprus to meet many of the communities of UOC-MP which have been displaced from their churches in the far western parts of Ukraine. 

    The Holy Synod of the OCU at its meeting on May 24 gave a deadline of one month to its dioceses to submit to the primate the necessary papers for re-registration under the name of the OCU.  In this regard, the primary concern was the Kyiv diocese under Filaret.  As described in my last report, Filaret held a meeting with the rectors of the parishes in the Kyiv diocese on June 3.  Although the rectors were instructed not to discuss the meeting with the media, some have provided information.   It is reported that Filaret asked the rectors not to re-register their parishes.  It was also said that Filaret intends to convene a Local Council (the highest body of the church) to cancel decisions by the Holy Synod.    Four days after the meeting, it was announced by the Kyiv Patriarchate that a forum of the intelligentsia would be held “for the Kyiv Patriarchate” and the public was invited to attend.  The forum was held today.  It was reported that approximately 150 people attended the forum including five priests.  There appears to have been no well-known personalities in attendance aside from Filaret.  The press service of the Kyiv Patriarchate has now posted Filaret’s address to the forum at   Again, he criticizes those portions of the tomos which he contends do not give complete independence to the Ukrainian church.  The website also shows a copy of a letter from the forum to Zelensky and a copy of a letter to the Ukrainian people.  Before the forum was held, Filaret indicated to journalists that he intends to convene a Local Council of the Kyiv Patriarchate (not of the OCU) on June 20.  However, nothing further has been said to confirm this, and Filaret’s press service states that it knows nothing about this.

    On May 17, Bulgarian Metropolitan Daniel of Vidin sent letters to each of the bishops of the Church of Greece with an extremely strong attack on the Ecumenical Patriarch.   A few days ago, Bulgarian Metropolitan Nikolay of Plovdiv met with the Ecumenical Patriarch and explained that Daniel’s letter did not express the position of the Holy Synod.  It has been reported that the secretary general of the WCC informed Metropolitan Hilarion that the WCC considers the Ukrainian Orthodox Church as the only generally recognized Orthodox Church of Ukraine.  On June 7, the WCC issued a formal statement regarding “misleading media reporting” relating to the meeting. 

    In other news, it is reported that President Putin will meet with Pope Francis at the Vatican on July 4.  Metropolitan Hilarion has candidly stated that “many bishops, priests and believers are not ready to accept” a papal trip to Moscow and that such a visit is not on the agenda of the bilateral relations between the Catholic and Russian Orthodox Churches.  An interesting electronic book by some well-known authors in support of the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s position in Ukraine may now be read on the Internet at .


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 4 June 2019: Romania & troubles in Ukraine

    Pope Francis has now completed his 3-day trip to Romania.  His contacts with the Romanian Orthodox Church were not limited to Bucharest.  On Saturday, Metropolitan Teofan (Archbishop of Iaşi and Metropolitan of Moldavia and Bukovina) came to the Iaşi airport to welcome the Pope.   The Metropolitan also attended the “Marian meeting with young people and families” and was greeted by the Pope both at the beginning and at the end of that program. (at 0:38 and 1:12:05)

    On Sunday, the Pope beatified as martyrs seven Greek Catholic bishops who were imprisoned by the communist authorities in Romania for refusing to break their ties to Rome.  The liturgy occurred on the “Field of Liberty” near Blaj.  In 1948 this same field was used by the communists for a major event in which an appeal was made for the Romanian Greek Catholics to “return to the bosom of the Mother Church.”  The chair on which the Pope sat during the liturgy was made of wood and grating from the Romanian Sighet and Gherla prisons.   A video of the liturgy can be watched at

    The Pope held his usual press conference with journalists on his return flight to Rome.  The transcript of the Pope’s remarks in Italian can be accessed at  With respect to Patriarch Daniel, the Pope stated:  With Orthodoxy: you have a great Patriarch, a man of great heart and a great scholar.  He knows the mystique of the Fathers of the desert, spiritual mysticism, he studied in Germany ... He is also a man of prayer.  It's easy to get close to Daniel, it's easy, because I feel like a brother and we talked like brothers.  The Pope also stated that “ecumenism is made by walking together.”  He referred to the ecumenism of prayer, of blood, of witness, and of the poor.  An journalist then brought up the fact that Catholics and Orthodox said the Our Father at separate times at the National Cathedral.  The journalist asked: “What did you think of when you remained silent during the Our Father in Romanian?”  The Pope responded:  I will make you a confidence: I did not remain silent, I prayed the Our Father in Italian….But I prayed.  Both.  I didn't look at Daniel, but I think he did the same.

    In Ukraine, Filaret appears to be continuing his activities to promote his views as to what the new church in Ukraine should be.  Pursuant to the February decision of the Holy Synod of the OCU, Filaret maintains under his personal jurisdiction the parishes in Kyiv.  Filaret has called for all of the rectors of these parishes in Kyiv to attend a meeting that was held this morning.   Filaret’s website provided photos of the meeting, but very little information concerning the purpose of the meeting.    It is reported that Filaret asked the attendees not to comment on the meeting to the press.  It remains to be seen what Filaret’s next step will be.  The tension between Filaret and Epifany may appear to be a sign of weakness of the new OCU.  Metropolitan Hilarion has referred to the new church as a “two-headed hydra.”  However, Archmandrite Cyril Hovorun in a recent extensive interview refers to the tension as a “catharsis” or purification.  For him, it is part of a necessary maturing process where the wheat is separated from the tares (weeds) in a movement from an autocratic church to an open and democratic one.

    On May 29 an international conference was held in Moscow on the subject, “Violation of the Rights of Believers in Ukraine.”  Although the conference was opened by Metropolitan Hilarion, it was not organized by the Moscow Patriarchate but by such organizations as the Presidential Council for Coordination with Religious Organizations.  The speakers included bishops from the Serbian and Antiochian Patriarchates.  One of the prime areas of focus was the unlawful actions taken in Ukrainian against individual parishes of the UOC-MP.  With respect to the latter, the DECR of the UOC-MP has performed a very valuable service of complying lists describing the violations of which it is aware.  To date the lists cover the time period from January 16 to May 26, 2019.  The lists are available at  (before April 4 – in English) and  (after April 4 – in Ukrainian).

    I have spent a number of hours with these lists in an attempt to determine the extent of the problem.  The major portion of the lists are under the heading “seizure of churches and other cases of the use of physical force and pressure on UOC parishioners in order to forcefully transfer churches and religious communities to the jurisdiction of the ‘OCU’”  The total number of parishes listed under this heading (eliminating duplicates) is 70.  Although this is a big number, it should also be remembered that this represents only 6/10 of one percent of the total parishes of the UOC-MP.  From the descriptions, it appears that approximately 30 of the 70 parishes involved a forceful taking of possession of the parish, such as the breaking of locks.  Generally the taking occurs after a “vote” (contested by the UOC-MP), and often civil authorities are involved in the breaking of the locks.

    One of the most interesting aspect of the lists is that 67 of the 70 parishes were in “villages” (села) – rural communities with small populations.  (The three non-village communities listed and their approximate populations are: Berestechko – 1,700; Baranivka – 12,000; and  Mogiliv-Podilskyi -  31,000.)  With respect to the 67 parishes, the vast majority of them probably have only one church, and paying the cost of building and maintaining a second church is probably not feasible for such a small community.  When the members of the village are divided as to whether to belong to the UOC-MP or the OCU, there is obviously a problem when there is only one church.  It also appears that the UOC-MP is opposed to sharing a church with the OCU.  It is therefore not surprising that almost all of the disputes relating to possession of churches are in the villages.

    On June 1, an important conference, “Russia, Ukraine, Belarus: A Common Civilizational Space?”, was held at the University of Fribourg (Switzerland).  There were speakers on both sides of the question.  The keynote speaker was Metropolitan Hilarion.  His full address in English is found at .  Part of his address relates to the seizure of churches.  He asserts that from December 16 to March there were 55 violent seizure of churches based on illegal referendums.  He indicates that there are “at least 137 churches where the territorial communities voted to transfer to the OCU but the churches still remain in the possession of the UOC-MP.   The one fact upon which everyone seems to agree, including Metropolitan Hilarion, is that the transfers or seizures have now been drastically reduced.  The most detailed website on the transfer of churches to the OCU discloses the following numbers for the months in question:  Dec. – 35; Jan. – 150; Feb. – 234; Mar. – 94; Apr. – 14; May – 1.  It appears that this website includes a church as a transfer when it has voted to affiliate with the OCU.  Thus, it states the total number of transfers to date to be 528.  However, the same website also shows the number of churches where the legal process of re-registration has been completed.  It appears that to date only 53 of these churches have obtained their final re-registration from the reviewing governmental authorities.

    The locus of the disputes is accordingly shifting to legal disputes before governmental authorities.  Metropolitan Hilarion mentioned in his address a lawsuit filed by the Chernovtsy diocese of the UOC-MP against the authorities.  On the other hand, the website of the OCU reported that on Sunday thousands marched in Chernivtsy to urge the governmental authorities not to slow down the re-registration process.   With the numbers of churches currently voting to change their affiliation being reduced to almost zero, the good news is that the inventory of cases being considered by the authorities is not increasing.   Hopefully, these cases will be decided in a fair and legal fashion, and the battle over churches will eventually become a matter of the past and not the present.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 1 June 2019: Pope in Bucharest & other news

    Pope Francis has now completed his first day in Bucharest.  Today, he was warmly welcomed by the Orthodox.  The Pope arrived at the Patriarchal Palace at 3:45 p.m. and was greeted by Patriarch Daniel and the members of Holy Synod of the Romanian Orthodox Church.  After the introduction of the Vatican delegation and the members of the Holy Synod, the Pope and the Patriarch met privately.  An video of the entire first part of the visit to the Patriarchal Palace is available on the major Romanian news website Adevarul. (scroll down to the 15.45 entry); (same video on Facebook)    Following the private meeting, both the Patriarch and the Pope delivered addresses.  The addresses can be watched on the following Vatican video:  The official English translation of the Patriarch’s address can be read at   The official English translation of the Pope’s address is found at

    At 5:00 p.m. Pope Francis was greeted at the front of the National Cathedral by Patriarch Daniel.  A video of the entire event at the Cathedral can be watched at .  There could be no stronger contrast than the video showing Pope Francis praying alone in the St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Sofia on May 5 ( ) and the video showing the Pope and the Patriarch in the huge new cathedral in Bucharest today.  The cathedral was filled to capacity, and the scene was absolutely magnificent.  It is well worthwhile watching at least a few minutes of the video to sense the atmosphere.  The text of the address by Patriarch Daniel is found at (official English translation).  The official English translation of the Pope’s address is at .  The Pope address was a reflection on the various parts of the Our Father prayer.  After the address, the Pope led a recitation of the Our Father in Latin.  This was followed by the singing of Easter hymns by a Catholic choir.  Then Patriarch Daniel said the Our Father in Romanian followed by the singing of Paschal hymns by an Orthodox choir.

    The Romanian Church is far more open to ecumenical activities than the Bulgarian Church.  However, the Romanian Church also has to face the reality that it, like so many other churches, has conservative groups in addition to many who are very open to close relations with other Christian denominations.  Therefore, to avoid the criticism of these conservative elements, the program did not include Orthodox and Catholics reciting the Our Father together.  Two day before this event, the Romanian Church issued a communique that the program at the cathedral does not include “a joint liturgical service,” but that the Our Father would be recited first in Latin and then in Romanian.  Personally, I doubt that Patriarch Daniel believes that a joint recitation of the Our Father is wrong.  From 1980 to 1986 he was a lecturer at the WCC’s Ecumenical Institute in Bossey, Switzerland, and from 1986 to 1988 he was the Institute’s deputy director.  I strongly suspect that he had occasion to say the Our Father with Protestants and Catholics during that time.

    Patriarch Daniel in his address at the National Cathedral thanked Pope Francis for the assistance that the Catholic Church has provided to the Romanian Church.  This includes a monetary gift from Pope John Paul II which was used to help purchase the bells of the National Cathedral.  The assistance also included helping the Romanian Church in serving the Romanian diaspora.  Yesterday, the news service of the Romanian Church posted an article giving details of this help to the diaspora.  Of the 383 communities in the Patriarchate’s Diocese of Italy, the Catholic Church provides churches or space for 309 of these communities.  In other Western European countries, the Catholic Church provides churches or space for 120 Romanian Orthodox communities.

    The Orthodox have also participated in other parts of the Pope’s visit today.  Pope Francis was greeted at the airport by Metropolitan Nifon, Archbishop of Targoviste and Patriarchal Exarch.   Patriarch Daniel was in the first row in the Pope’s meeting with government authorities.   An Orthodox bishop appears to have been present at the Mass celebrated by Pope Francis at the Catholic Cathedral of St. Joseph as shown in the video of the Mass.    

    In an interesting commentary today, a prominent Romanian journalist has suggested that Romania should become a bridgehead of ecumenical dialogue especially because it is a Latin country surrounded by Slavic neighbors.  According to the journalist, the Pope’s visit is an open window for this to occur.   

    Meanwhile, in Ukraine, Filaret has continued his attempts to rule as “patriarch.”  On February 5, 2019, the Holy Synod of the OCU appointed Archpriest Alexander Trofimlyuk to succeed Metropolitan Epifany as rector of the Kyiv Theological Academy of the OCU.  After the appointment, Trofimlyuk also continued to serve as the pastor of the Kyiv parish of the Protection of the Mother of God.  On May 28, Filaret issued a decree (“УКАЗ”) as Patriarch of the Kyiv Patriarchate banning Trofimlyuk from priestly ministry for failing to follow the “instructions of the spiritual leadership.”  Presumably, Filaret was unhappy because Trofimlyuk was not following his dictates.  The next day Metropolitan Epifany issued his own decree.  Epifany in his decree referred to the prior decisions directing the cessation of all activities of the Kyiv Patriarchate.  Accordingly, Epifany ruled in his May 30 decree that any documents or orders on behalf of the Kyiv Patriarchate, issued after January 30, “are not valid and not subject to execution” by the OCU.  Epifany’s decree also noted that the Kyiv diocese under Filaret has taken no steps to transfer its legal registration from the UOC-KP to the OCU.  The OCU Holy Synod had required these steps to be taken at its meetings on February 5 and May 24.  Until those steps are taken, Epifany’s decree states that the Protection of the Mother of God parish is taken under his own personal control.  At this point in time, especially after Filaret received absolutely no support at the last Synod meeting, few seem to be taking Filaret seriously. 

    The Synodal Theological Commission of the Moscow Patriarchate has issued rebuttal arguments to the points made by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in his letter of February 20, 2019, to  Archbishop Anastasios of Albania relating to Ukraine.   (  The Commission’s arguments are extensive and address 13 different points.  Metropolitan Hilarion has given an interview relating to the mediation efforts of Archbishop Chrysostomos of Cyprus, who is attempting to find a solution to the church crisis in Ukraine.  Hilarion states that it is “obvious” that the Archbishop’s efforts are motivated by goodwill.  Hilarion will be going to Crete to meet with the Archbishop “at the beginning of June.”  At the present time, no dates have been set for a meeting between Chrysostomos and Patriarch Kirill.

    On Thursday, the Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate met in St. Petersburg.  The following are the minutes of the meeting:  Perhaps the most significant decision was that Metropolitan John (Roshchina) was removed from his position in Paris as head of the Korsun diocese and as the new exarchate for Western Europe.  He had been in this position for less than six months.  He was replaced by 34-year-old Archbishop Anthony (Sevruk), who is the head of the Moscow Patriarchate’s office for foreign institutions and has been serving as the head of the Vienna diocese.  It appears that Patriarch Kirill thinks very highly of Archbishop Anthony, who had earlier served as his personal secretary.  It is my guess that the Patriarch wishes Archbishop Anthony, not Metropolitan John, to be the point of contract in the critical negotiations with the Archdiocese of Russian Orthodox Churches in Western Europe which will be deciding on September 7 whether to leave the Ecumenical Patriarchate and join the Moscow Patriarchate.  With respect to those negotiations, the Archdiocese has posted a listing of the points that have been resolved with Moscow and those points that have not yet been resolved.  The biggest concern of the Archdiocese now seems to be that joining the Moscow Patriarchate would require the Archdiocese to cease eucharistic communion with all Orthodox in Western Europe who are under the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

    In other news, Patriarch Kirill joined Catholic Archbishop Luc Ravel of Strasbourg in the 12th century Strasbourg cathedral for a concert by the choir of the Kyiv Theological Academy (UOC-MP).  In Jerusalem, an extremely important agreement was signed by the Greek Orthodox Patriarch, the Catholic Custos for the Holy Land, and Armenian Patriarch of Jerusalem for the second phase of the critical restoration of the Holy Sepulchre.,-agreement-for-the-second-part-of-the-work-at-the-Holy-Sepulchre-47128.html 


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 27 May 2019: Hierarchs including Metropolitan Emmanuel ordain new OCU bishop

    Today (Sunday) Archimandrite Epifany was ordained a bishop of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU) in St. Michael’s Cathedral of Kyiv.  As one can see from photos of the ordination, the hierarchs laying hands on the archimandrite included Metropolitan Emmanuel of France (Ecumenical Patriarchate) and Metropolitan Amphilochios of Adrianople (Ecumenical Patriarchate) as well as hierarchs of the OCU.  Interestingly, on April 1, 2019, both Metropolitan Emmanuel and Metropolitan Amphilochios met with Archbishop Ieronymos, primate of the Church of Greece, to discuss the autocephaly issue in Ukraine.  It now appears that the proposed ordination of Archimandrite Epifany was probably one of the topics discussed and that the blessing of the primate of the Church of Greece was probably obtained.  The new Bishop Epifany of Olvia will be responsible for the Greek-speaking faithful in Ukraine.  One wonders whether there is a great need for a separate bishop for Greek-speakers in Ukraine.  It is very possible that the episcopal ordination with the laying on of hands by two Metropolitans of the Ecumenical Patriarchate was intended to provide the OCU with one bishop whose ordination cannot be challenged.  With the participation of the new Bishop Epifany, the OCU has the ability to perform future ordinations that are not subject to challenge and also to “conditionally” ordain existing bishop or priests quietly and internally within the OCU.

    It is very possible that the current mediation discussions by Archbishop Chrysostomos of Cyprus with the primates of the various Local Orthodox Churches include the subject of a future ordination or conditional ordination of the bishops of OCU.  As you recall, the February statement of the Church of Cyprus relating to autocephaly for Ukraine contained the following sentence:   “In the case of the achievement of unity around the new leadership, the Ecumenical Patriarch must again find a way of reassuring the conscience of the believers about the validity of this ordination and the ceremonies performed by this leadership.”   Thus, the validity of ordinations would most likely be an important topic raised by the Archbishop in his discussions with other primates.  Clearly, churches such as Serbia and Poland will not be satisfied with a resolution of the Ukrainian crisis without something being done to cure what they consider the invalid ordinations of the existing hierarchy of the OCU.

    It has also been asserted in an article that the two exarchs, who did the ground work for Constantinople in preparing for the unifying council in December, were inclined (as far as the author of that article knows) to a scenario where some form of new ordinations would be done for the existing bishops of the UOC-KP and UAOC.  This scenario was rejected by Constantinople because of a fear that some bishops of the UOC-KP and UAOC would refuse to comply with this condition for participation in the council and that participation of bishops of the UOC-KP and UAOC in the council would then be limited.  Instead, Constantinople relied on a second scenario of asserting that the granting of the appeal removing Moscow’s discipline on Filaret and others had the retroactive effect of validating the ordinations made by Filaret and others after Moscow’s discipline was imposed.   The author of that article is Vladimir Burega, the well-respected vice rector of the Kyiv Theological Academy (UOC-MP). (this link was also included in my May 14 report)  Archimandrite Cyril Hovorun, who supports the OCU and who is a recognized expert on the Ukraine dispute, posted this article on his Facebook page with the comment:  “as always, an exact analysis from Vladimir Burega.”  Subsequent events have shown that even normal allies of Constantinople, such as Albania, have difficulty accepting the second scenario.  Therefore, it would not be surprising if Constantinople now sought to implement the first scenario, specially in view of the fact that its concern about the degree of UOC-KP and UAOC participation in the December council is a matter of the past.

    With respect to the mediation efforts by Archbishop Chrysostomos, there have been unconfirmed reports on several respectable websites that the Archbishop will be proposing to Patriarch Kirill a solution in which the Moscow Patriarchate would grant autocephaly to the UOC-MP.  See, for example,  It would initially seem that such a proposal would be immediately rejected by Moscow.  Why would the Moscow Patriarchate agree to losing more than one-third of its parishes, especially when the UOC-MP has not yet requested autocephaly?  However, there may be other aspects that would make such a proposal at least a subject of serious consideration by Moscow.

    Moscow might consider the possibility of granting autocephaly to Ukraine if the grant is made under the terms of the draft agreement on autocephaly to which all of the Local Orthodox Churches had agreed in the meetings preceding the Crete Council but which had not been considered by the Crete Council because of the dispute between Moscow and Constantinople relating to the location of the signature of the Ecumenical Patriarch on a tomos granting autocephaly.  That draft agreement required that all of the Local Orthodox Churches agree to a grant of autocephaly before it could be granted.  In short, any one Local Church could veto a grant of autocephaly.  Moscow could insist that as part of the settlement on Ukraine, Constantinople and other Local Churches agree that the procedure specified in the draft agreement would not only apply to Ukraine, but also to all other future situations involving requests for autocephaly.  There could be a commitment to confirm this at a future pan-Orthodox Council.

    The application of the draft agreement would mean that Constantinople could not unilaterally grant autocephaly in the future.  This would be extremely important to Moscow in its attempt to defeat Constantinople’s claims for special authority over the Orthodox world in general.  It would also mean that Moscow would have the clear ability to defeat any possible future attempts to form a separate national church, such as in Belarus.  It would also mean that Serbia would be guaranteed that Constantinople could not unilaterally recognize an autocephalous church in North Macedonia or Montenegro.  It would also mean that Constantinople would have the ability to defeat any attempt to form an autocephalous American Orthodox Church.

    If the UOC-MP were an autocephalous church, it would set the stage for merger with the OCU, which would never agree to being part of any Ukrainian church which was not autocephalous.  Although the UOC-MP has not yet requested autocephaly, it might very well accept this status if it was offered by the Moscow Patriarchate.  As shown by events in the last few weeks, Filaret does not control the OCU.  In addition Epifany appears to be a reasonable person who believes strongly in collegiality and who does not have a large ego.  The absence of Filaret and the presence of Epifany would facilitate successful negotiations between the UOC-MP and the OCU.  The problem of validity of orders of the OCU could be solved by conditional ordinations, which might now be occurring in any event.  A new primate of the merged churches could be someone less conservative than Onufry, such as Metropolitan Anthony of Boryspil (UOC-MP).   Because the UOC-MP would have a majority of the bishops in the new church, Moscow Patriarchate could be fairly confident that the new merged autocephalous church is likely to have good relations with it.

    I have no idea whether the possible settlement plan described above is being discussed by Archbishop Chrysostomos.  However, it does show that there may be compromises that are possibly acceptable to the parties.  It would be certainly be a cause for celebration if there is only one Orthodox church in Ukraine and if communion between Moscow and Constantinople is restore!   With God’s help, there is hope!


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 24 May 2019: OCU Synod supports Epifany, not Filaret

    As previously announced, the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU) met today (May 24) in Kyiv.  Interestingly, Metropolitan Emmanuel of France (Ecumenical Patriarchate) was also in Kyiv for the saint’s name day of Metropolitan Epifany, the primate of the OCU.  The day will be celebrated in a Liturgy tomorrow (Saturday).  On May 22, Metropolitan Emmanuel met with Filaret, the former primate of the UOC-Kyiv Patriarchate and “honorary patriarch” of the OCU, for approximately three hours. (Filaret’s website); (short press release by the Ecumenical Patriarchate)    On May 23, Metropolitan Emmanuel met with Metropolitan Epifany. Also on May 23, an interview with Filaret was posted by a Kyiv television station.  The interview was clearly an attack on the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the tomos.  According to Filaret, the terms of the tomos puts the OCU in almost the same degree of dependence on Constantinople as the UOC-MP has on Moscow.  Filaret objects to three aspects of the tomos: (1) the restriction of the jurisdiction of the OCU to parishes within the territory of Ukraine; (2) the requirement of obtaining chrism or myrrh (anointing oil) from Constantinople; and (3) the contention by Filaret that the tomos provides that conflicts within the OCU will be resolved by the Ecumenical Patriarchate.  Filaret contends that these provisions are inconsistent with autocephaly.  Filaret also states that “we” will not abide by these three requirements.   In addition, Filaret reasserts his claim that there was an oral agreement that he would have the leadership of the OCU with respect to matters within the territory of Ukraine.

    The press service of the OCU has now posted a summary of the results of today’s meeting of the Synod.  It is clearly a rejection of the points made by Filaret.  The summary [Google translation] includes the following two paragraphs:

    It was certified by the Synod that in its life and activities, the Local Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Orthodox Church of Ukraine) is guided by Holy Scripture and Tradition, by the canons of the Orthodox Church, by its own Statute, adopted by the Unity Council on December 15, 2018, and in accordance with state registration, by the Patriarchal and Synodal Tomos of autocephaly of January 6, 2019, by the decisions of its own statutory bodies.

    The local UOC maintains internal unity and urges the episcopate, clergy and faithful to discuss and resolve all questions that arise in the spirit of brotherly love that is commanded by Our Lord Jesus Christ, while avoiding incitement to hostility, confrontation and division.  The Synod also expressed its full support to the Primate, His Beatitude Epifany, Metropolitan of Kiev and all Ukraine.

    After the conclusion of today’s session, Epifany answered the questions of journalists.   In response to a question, Epifany disclosed that Filaret was the only member of the Synod that opposed the adoption of the above two paragraphs.  By acknowledging the binding effect of the Statute, the Synod at least impliedly rejects Filaret’s hope to amend the Statute at a future local council to do away with the existing provision that membership on the Synod is largely assigned on a rotating basis.  By acknowledging the binding force of the Tomos, the Synod shows that it does not agree with Filaret’s attempt to reject the three aspects of the Tomos. 

    The Holy Synod also decided:  Archimandrite Epifanios (Dimitrios), who was previously elected bishop, will be ordained Bishop of Olvia and, as vicar of the Primate of the UOC, will take care of the Greek-speaking flock in Ukraine.  Additional details are provided by the Glavcom news website:   Archmandrite Epifanios is a cleric of the Church of Greece and its metropolitan see of  Demetrias and Almyros.  He will be ordained tomorrow at the Liturgy in Kyiv celebrating the saint’s name day of Epifany.  In view of the fact that Metropolitan Emmanuel will be present at this Liturgy and in view of the fact that the new bishop is Greek and will be caring for Greek-speaking faithful in Ukraine, it is very logical for Metropolitan Emmanuel to be one of the bishops to ordain the new bishop.  This could be an extremely important first step in resolving the concerns of Local Churches such as Serbia and Poland which believe that the bishops of the OCU have never been validly ordained.   Archimandrite Epifanios, who received his priestly ordination in the Church of Greece, will be a validly ordained bishop if ordained by Metropolitan Emmanuel.  Epifanios could then be involved in the ordination of new priests and bishops of the OCU.  He could also be involved in a “conditional” ordination of existing bishops and priests of the OCU, who wish to be 100% sure of the validity of their own ordinations.  However, one must wait and see whether Metropolitan Emmanuel will actually be one of the ordaining bishops tomorrow.  The Moscow Patriarchate through Vladimir Legoyda has already responded that the ordination of the Greek archimandrite will not add to the canonicity of the OCU.  It is also reported that the archimandrite has received the necessary official release from his metropolitan see in Greece.

    The OCU and the media in Ukraine have given considerable publicity to a new poll which shows that more Ukrainians are members of the OCU than are members of the UOC-MP. (OCU website); (English)  All of the details of the poll can be read at  How does one reconcile this finding with the fact that the UOC-MP has far more parishes in Ukraine than the OCU?  It is certainly possible that if one took a poll limited to Orthodox believers who regularly attend Sunday services, a majority would be members of the UOC-MP.

    OCU Metropolitan Ioann (Yaremenko) of Cherkasy has held a press conference concerning the introduction of a system in which each parish will maintain an open register of its members.  The Metropolitan stated:  "We must move away from the sole leadership of the priest, involve the laity in the church life.”  Metropolitan Epifany has also stressed that the new OCU must be an open and democratic church.  It appears that the OCU is using this aspect as a selling point in attracting membership.

    In an effort to mediate the church crisis in Ukraine, Archbishop Chrysostomos (primate of the Orthodox Church of Crete) has completed his visits with the primates of the Orthodox Churches of Serbia, Bulgaria, and Greece.  On May 20, he met in Sofia with Bulgarian Patriarch Neofit together with Metropolitans Nikolai, Seraphim, Ciprian, Gregory, and Daniel and Bishop Gerasim.   Then, on May 21, Archbishop Chrysostomos met in Athens with Archbishop Ieronymos (primate of the Church of Greece) for over two hours.   Both Archbishops believed that the good of the Church as a whole, and not personal interests, should be the overriding consideration.  Archbishop Chrysostomos also gave an interview to  He stated that “in order to avoid a schism [among the Local Churches on the issue of Ukraine], one had to approach all the Primates and to do some kind of co-ordination, with the consent of the Ecumenical Patriarch.”  As to whether the Church of Greece would be the first church, aside from Constantinople, to recognize the OCU, the Archbishop expressed his view that it would be better for the churches to “make a decision all together,” as opposed to an individual church making a decision whether to support Moscow or Constantinople in the Ukrainian dispute.  The latter action could divide Orthodoxy.  The Archbishop is optimistic that his coordinating efforts will be successful.  In the original Greek version of the interview, the Archbishop also mentioned that Metropolitan Hilarion has requested to meet with him in Cyprus next week and that the meeting will occur.

    On May 22, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew met with Archbishop Ieronymos in Athens.   After the meeting the Ecumenical Patriarch stated that this was their “first meeting after a period of discomfort between us” and that it was “an opportunity to thaw our relations.”  He also stated:  “We also looked at the Ukrainian church issue and other issues related to our Churches, and there was a mutual briefing on the issues currently related to the Patriarchate and the Church of Greece.  We will say goodbye tonight being very happy and loving more each other.”

    On May 20, Volodymyr Zelensky was inaugurated as the President of Ukraine.  Metropolitan Onufry (UOC-MP), Major Archbishop Sviatoslav (UGCC), and Metropolitan Epifany (OCU) were all given seats together in the first row of the balcony at the Verkhovna Rada (the parliament).  See photo at    After the inauguration, Metropolitan Onufry gave an interview and spoke favorably about the new president.  Onufry stated that “we want the President to treat us as everyone else so that we are equal before the law….”  Metropolitan Epifany wrote a letter to Zelensky congratulating him on assuming the presidency.  The letter includes the following statement:  “I sincerely hope that as a guarantor of the rights and freedoms determined by the Constitution of Ukraine, in particular the freedom of confession, you will do everything in your power to maintain the equality of all confessions before the law….”

    In other news, thousands of pilgrims from Russia, led by Metropolitan Varsonofy of St. Petersburg, arrived in Bari, Italy for the feast of St. Nicholas on the Russian Orthodox calendar.   The official English translation of the communique from the Assembly of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church (May 9 – 18) has now been posted. 


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 19 May 2019: Serbian Assembly & Ukraine

    Today (Saturday) the assembly of all of the Serbian bishops (only one bishop was absent) ended, and a detailed press release was issued late today summarizing the results of the assembly.   This year’s assembly occurred during the celebration of 800 years of autocephaly of the Serbian Church (1219-2019).   There appears to be no surprises in the press release which covers a number of diverse topics.  The assembly issued a statement reaffirming its position that Kosovo and Metohija are integral parts of the Republic of Serbia.   The assembly also reaffirms its prior position that it does not recognize the OCU and only recognizes in Ukraine the canonical church headed by Metropolitan Onufry.  The press release states that “animosity and discrimination against our Church are present, to a greater or lesser extent, almost everywhere - in Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina , Northern Macedonia, and especially in Montenegro.”  In a complaint which has been expressed by many prior assemblies, the assembly expresses its “astonishment and indignation” at the incursions made in eastern Serbia by bishops and priests of the Romanian Orthodox Church.  (This relates to service to the Vlach population near the Romanian border.)  The press release then adds: “Relations with the Roman Catholic Church and the Reformation Churches in Serbia, as well as with the Islamic Community of Serbia, are traditionally good and fair, which, unfortunately, cannot be said for relations with certain circles of the Roman Catholic Church in Croatia and the Islamic Community in Bosnia and Herzegovina.”  It is reported that the Assembly authorized the resumption of the negotiations with the schismatic Macedonian Orthodox Church, but this is not reflected in the press release. 

    Yesterday, Patriarch Irinej of Serbia met with Archbishop Chrysostomos, primate of the Orthodox Church of Cyprus.  As you recall, the Patriarchs of Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem, meeting with Metropolitan Chrysostomos in Cyprus on April 18, gave their support to the efforts of Archbishop Chrysostomos to mediate a solution to the church crisis in Ukraine.  Several days ago, Archbishop Chrysostomos issued a statement denying a rumor that Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew had requested that Archbishop Anastasios of Albania be excluded from the discussions that Archbishop Chrysostomos was having with the various Orthodox primates concerning Ukraine.  The denial also stated that in the coming days Archbishop Chrysostomos would be traveling to Serbia, Bulgaria, and Greece in his mediation efforts.  Presumably, the meeting with Patriarch Irinej yesterday was the referenced trip to Serbia.  With respect to Greece, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew has an important meeting with Archbishop Ieronymos, primate of the Church of Greece, on May 22 to discuss Ukraine and other important issues between the two churches. 

    As announced, Filaret held his press conference on May 14.  The entire one-hour press conference can be watched at .  At the press conference and in Filaret’s written appeal (, Filaret makes the claim that an oral agreement was reached at the Council that Metropolitan Epifany would be the Primate, but that the leadership of the Church inside the territory of Ukraine would continue to be the responsibility of the Patriarch.”  The failure to follow this oral “agreement” appears to be the heart of Filaret’s present protest.  The oral agreement was allegedly made by Filaret, Epifany, and Poroshenko, although at one point in the press conference Filaret indicated that the “bishops” agreed with it.  Commentators have observed that such an oral agreement would be contrary to the terms of the statute adopted by the Council.  There is also no contention by Filaret that the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAOC), which merged with the UOC-KP to form the new OCU based in part on the terms of the written statute, ever agreed to such a major verbal modification of the statute.

    A few hours after the press conference, Metropolitan Epifany informed journalists:  “We respect Patriarch Filaret, but we do not support the views he expressed over the past few days.”  The OCU has also issued two statements which address the contentions made by Filaret.  The first includes the terms of a resolution, made by the bishops of the UOC-KP before the opening of the Council, to cease all activities of the UOC-KP.  The second addresses five specific questions relating to the current dispute.  However, the most interesting statements by Metropolitan Epifany are found in a long and probing interview by the Ukrainian language service of the BBC.  For example, he stated:  “There is an opinion that it is possible single-handedly to govern the church, but we want to be an open, democratic church, which is guided by the synod, the bishops' council, and the local council…  However, we are managing the church collegially, we are moving  away from the norms that existed in the previous structures.  It is impossible to make a decision alone, especially when this is contrary to the statute, the tomos, and the decision of the council.”  Epifany contends that he does listen to the advice of Filaret, who has had leadership experience spanning more than a half century, but he is not ready to carry out “ultimatums” issued by Filaret.  Epifany maintains that he has a different vision than returning to the old church management system where everything is done in obedience to the will of one person.  “ We must be guided not by fear of punishment, but love and mutual respect must prevail among us.”

    Epifany also pointed out that he has defended the interests of Filaret in a number of important respects.  At the Synod meeting on February 5, there was some suggestion that Filaret should have responsibility for only the parishes in the Kyiv region and not the parishes in the city itself.  Epifany took the position that Filaret should have the entire diocese, and Epifany’s view prevailed.  According to Epifany, Filaret receives the financial income from all of the parishes in the diocese except for the St. Michael’s Monastery where Epifany is officed.  Because the Monastery does not provide sufficient income for the work of Epifany, Epifany must rely on gifts from benefactors to carry out his responsibilities as primate.  The next meeting of the Holy Synod of the OCU will be on March 24.  There are also a number of other interesting comments made in this important interview.

    On May 15, the website Glavcom posted an important interview with the influential Metropolitan Michael of Lutsk (OCU).  Metropolitan Michael maintained that there is not a split in the OCU, that the Kyiv Patriarchate has been liquidated, and that there is no need to amend the statute of the OCU.  With respect to a future election for primate, Metropolitan Michael states that he would submit his candidacy.  However, “while everyone is alive – healthy, this topic cannot be raised at all….”  The only statement that I have seen supporting the position taken by Filaret was an appeal, dated yesterday, by Archbishop Clement of Simferopol and Crimea, one of the four bishops who joined Filaret at the Liturgy on the feast of St. Macarius. 

    In other news, the Archdiocese of the Russian Orthodox Church in Western Europe has set an extraordinary general assembly for September 7, 2019, to decide the fate of the Archdiocese. 


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 14 May 2019: A major victory for Epifany in Ukraine

    This Tuesday morning was the “test” as to how many bishops of the new Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU) would accept the invitation of Filaret (“honorary patriarch” of the OCU) to join him in celebrating the Divine Liturgy at his St. Volodymyr Cathedral on the important feast of St. Macarius.   As described in my last report, Filaret had invited most of the bishops of the OCU, but not its primate Epifany, to celebrate this important feast with him and to engage in “fraternal communications” concerning the OCU.  The invitation was sent on the letterhead of the former Kyiv Patriarchate, which Filaret had headed and which was dissolved last December at the council creating the OCU.  Based on recent comments made by Filaret to the media, it appeared that Filaret was asserting that the Kyiv Patriarchate still existed and that governance of the OCU within Ukraine was his responsibility as patriarch.  According to Filaret, Epifany’s responsibilities as primate related to matters outside of Ukraine.  There was considerable speculation that Filaret would use today’s meeting to obtain support from other bishops for his desire to amend the statute of the OCU so that a majority of the members of the Holy Synod would have “permanent” appointments, as was the case for the former Kyiv Patriarchate, as opposed to the one-year rotating assignment mandated by the present statute of the OCU.  There was also great concern that Filaret’s actions would split the OCU into supporters of Epifany and supporters of Filaret.

    In a television interview last Sunday, Filaret had further increased concerns that a split would occur.   He stated that the Council which created the OCU was not “ours,” but was rather a council of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, because it was headed by a representative of the Constantinople Patriarchate and not by himself as patriarch.  Filaret also criticized the failure of Epifany to communicate with him on church matters.  As a result, Filaret maintains that the church is divided and that he has a mission as patriarch to preserve the Ukrainian Church.  After the media had publicized the failure of Filaret to invite Epifany, Filaret had extended an invitation to Epifany.  However, yesterday, Epifany’s office had stated that Metropolitan Epifany would not come to Kyiv for the liturgy, but would rather be on a long-planned visit to Mariupol in Eastern Ukraine.

    The invitation from Filaret had included attendance both at the liturgy this morning and at the vigil service on the preceding evening.  At the vigil service on Monday evening, only four bishops appeared:  Metropolitan Joseph Belgorod  (Exarch of All-Russia); Metropolitan Adrian of Bogorod  (Moscow region of Russia); Archbishop Clement of  Simferopol and  Crimea; and Bishop Peter of Valios  (vicar of Belgorod diocese).  As you recall, the Tomos extended the jurisdiction of the new OCU only to the territory of Ukraine.  The responsibilities of three of the four bishops related to Ukrainians in the Russian Federation.  The three would naturally be very sympathetic to Filaret as he has maintained, contrary to the Tomos, that the jurisdiction of the OCU should extend beyond the borders of Ukraine.  There were no bishops at the vigil service from areas presently controlled by Ukraine.  Needless to say, such a meager showing of support would not encourage other bishops to attend this morning’s services.

    The suspense of who would accept Filaret’s invitation ended this morning at 9:00.  At the liturgy this morning, the only bishops who appeared were the same four bishops who were at last night’s vigil service.  The foregoing article by the BBC also indicates that there were only a few dozen of the faithful present.  When one considers that there are over 60 bishops in the OCU, this morning must have been a great disappointment to Filaret.

    In spite of this drastic lack of support, Filaret has not given up.  Later today he posted on his website a lengthy “appeal.”  Filaret’s press center has also announced that Filaret will hold a press conference tomorrow (Wednesday) morning.  In his appeal, Filaret asserts that the Kyiv Patriarchate still exists, that the concessions made by him at the council were done only for the purpose of obtaining the tomos, and that he remains responsible for all of the internal affairs of the OCU.  However, the lack of support shown today by the bishops demonstrates the Filaret’s vision for the future of the OCU has almost no likelihood of acceptance.  It also appears that Filaret’s influence within the OCU will be greatly weakened by today’s events.

    In retrospect, the lack of support for Filaret is not surprising.  First, the bishops must have realized that supporting Filaret in his challenge to Epifany could result in the split of the OCU.  Such a split would be a great victory for those who challenge the very existence of the OCU.  For a church struggling to obtain recognition from the other Local Orthodox Churches, it would make this task almost impossible.  Second, if a split occurred, it is certain that Constantinople would, at the very least, decide that the Tomos of autocephaly applies only to the church governed by Epifany.   The Filaret faction would therefore revert to the status of not being recognized by any Local Orthodox Church, including Constantinople.  Third, alignment with Filaret means that a bishop would be tying his future to a leader who is 90 years old.  Although Filaret is quite vigorous for his age, the chances are great that he will not be physically able to lead and help his supporters a number of years from now.

    Filaret may have hoped that a strong leader, such as Metropolitan Michael of Lutsk, would support his cause and be seen as his potential successor as patriarch.  As you recall, Metropolitan Michael was one of three finalists for the position of primate of the OCU.  However, Filaret had refused to sign the dissolution of the Kyiv Patriarchate (a necessary requirement from the viewpoint of Constantinople) unless Michael withdrew his name from the ballot so as to assure the election of Filaret’s choice of Epifany.   In order to allow the council to proceed, Michael withdrew his name from the ballot.  However, Michael  was subsequently bitter about this and indicated in an interview that Epifany’s term might be short.  By a strange turn of events, Filaret has now turned against Epifany and has shown his favor to Michael.  For example, on May 9, Filaret praised Michael’s “tireless work”  in the establishment of the independent church.   Michael is a respected bishop.  When the bishops of the Kyiv Patriarchate held a meeting prior to the council to select the their candidate, Michael received the support of twelve bishops of the Kyiv Patriarchate in spite of strong pressure by Filaret to select Epifany.  Recently, Michael has attracted many parishes of the UOC-MP.  Lutsk is the administrative center for the Volyn region, and according to the Wikipedia website on church transfers in Ukraine, 119 parishes of the UOC-MP in the Volyn region have voted to affiliate with the OCU – by far the greatest number for any region in Ukraine.

    Last Friday, Epifany made a pastoral visit to the diocese of Volodymyr-Volynsky on the Polish border.   A number of other bishops were present including Metropolitan Michael and Metropolitan Simeon of Vinnitsa.  (At the council in December, Epifany, Michael, and Simeon were the three finalists who had received the most votes in the first round of voting for the new primate.)   It is certainly possible that Filaret’s invitation was discussed by the hierarchs at Volodymyr-Volynsky on Friday. Today, Metropolitan Michael of Lutsk and Bishop Matthew of Volodymyr-Volynsky were not in Kyiv, but rather celebrated the feast of St. Macarius with Metropolitan Simeon in Vinnitsa. 

    A very interesting article on Filaret and the OCU has been written by Vladimir Burega, vice rector of the Kyiv Theological Academy (UOC-MP). (the Google translation tool works quite well on this article)  The article contains a number of interesting insights.  For example, it asserts that in the early part of this year the Ukrainian State provided honors to Filaret such as giving him the title “Hero of Ukraine” and by holding a large-scale celebration of his 90th birthday.  According to the article, this was done to satisfy the appetite (or ego) of Filaret so that he would be “tamed” (or content to assume an honorary as opposed to active role in the OCU).  However, Filaret was not content to do so.  Instead, the article maintains that he has continued to issue orders on behalf of the Kyiv Patriarchate and expects the bishops and priests of the OCU to abide by them.  It is my personal belief that Filaret will never give up his attempts to control the OCU, but he will not be taken seriously after today’s demonstration of lack of support by almost all of the bishops of the OCU.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 12 May 2019: Archbishop Elpidophoros & Ukraine

    Today (Saturday)  the Secretariat of the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s Holy Synod announced that Metropolitan Elpidophoros of Bursa has been elected the new Archbishop of America.  According to the announcement, the unanimous decision was made “following the suggestion, permission and exhortation of His-All Holiness” Patriarch Bartholomew.   Metropolitan Elpidophoros is currently Abbot of the Holy Monastery of the Holy Trinity in Halki and Professor of the Theological School of the University of Thessaloniki.  A good biographical sketch of Metropolitan Elpidophoros was published last year when he became a full professor at the University of Thessaloniki.  A video of his “Great Proclamation” as Archbishop can be viewed at  His election comes as no surprise.  There has been speculation in the past that Elpidophoros, who was born in Turkey and is 51 years old, might be the eventual successor to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.  Election to head the extremely important Greek Archdiocese of America may be a stepping stone to the position of Ecumenical Patriarch.

    On May 9, the Council of the Archdiocese of America (the advisory and consultative body to the Archbishop), holding its spring meeting in Atlanta, sent a letter to the Ecumenical Patriarch requesting that the election be deferred for at least 30 days and that “every possible consideration” be given to the election of a bishop of the Greek Orthodox Synod in the United States.  The fact that the Ecumenical Patriarch did not follow this request is an indication that the Ecumenical Patriarch strongly believed that Metropolitan Elpidophoros should be elected.

    During recent years, Metropolitan Elpidophoros has receive considerable attention because of his vigorous defense of the powers of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.  In 2014 he issued a strong and widely distributed rebuttal to the statement of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Holy Synod that universal primary involves only “honor.”    Last summer, Metropolitan Epidophoros stated in an interview:  “The granting of autocephaly to the Local Church has for almost 1350 years been subject to the exclusive jurisdiction and competence of the Ecumenical Patriarch and the Holy Synod of the Church of Constantinople.”  It is very possible that the Ecumenical Patriarch favors an eventual successor who will continue to maintain vigorously his own views with respect to the powers of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and will continue to maintain the course that the Ecumenical Patriarch has charted in Ukraine.

    Although Metropolitan Elpidophoros and Metropolitan Hilarion (Moscow Patriarchate) take completely opposite views on universal primacy and autocephaly for Ukraine, they have actually been good friends in the past.   On March 19, 2011, Metropolitan Hilarion made a special trip to Istanbul to attend the episcopal ordination of Archimandrite Elpidophoros.  At the reception following the ordination, Metropolitan Hilarion noted that “he had known Metropolitan Elpidophoros since they were students and expressed hope that their long-standing friendship would become stronger and bring forth rich fruits of the love of Christ.”

    In Ukraine, a major test of the respective influence of Metropolitan Epifany and Filaret may occur next Tuesday, May 14.   The events giving rise to this test are described in an English-language article entitled, “Split is Looming in the Newly Formed Orthodox Church of Ukraine.”  Several day ago, the media in Ukraine reported that Filaret had sent letters on the stationery of the former Kyiv Patriarchate to many, but not all, bishops of the newly formed OCU.  The letter invited them to attend services on the feast day of St. Macarius (an important feast day for the UOC-KP) at Filaret’s St. Vladimir Cathedral in Kyiv.  The invitation included holding “fraternal communications (спiлкуваннi) in the name of the affirmation of the unity of our holy Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which received the long-awaited Tomos of autocephaly."    A photocopy of the letter can be seen at  After the invitation became public, Filaret stated in a televised interview:  “The fact is that the Kyiv Patriarchate has not been liquidated.  It is not liquidated. They want to present the situation as if it was liquidated. The Kyiv Patriarchate can be liquidated by the one who created it.” 

    On Friday, Metropolitan Epifany gave a long and detailed interview.  In the interview, he affirmed that he had not received the invitation.  With respect to Kyiv Patriarchate letterhead, Epifany was emphatic that the Kyiv Patriarchate no longer exists.  He stated that “the return to the previous structure of the Kyiv Patriarchate means the return to isolation, the loss of the Tomos, and all of the achievements of church independence.”  Epifany remarked that he will not be in Kyiv on May 14, but will rather be in the Donbass region.  According to Epifany, the bishops by attending the important commemoration of St. Macarius “ do not show loyalty to anyone.”  He covered many other important topics as well in his interview.  For example, he stated that the convening of a Local Council to revise the statute of the OCU is not necessary at this time.   He states that he intends to implement the rotation system for members of Holy Synod as required by the statute.  (Filaret has advocated that the statute be amended so that a majority of the members be “permanent” as was true for the UOC-KP.)  According to Epifany, half of the members of the present Holy Synod will rotate off in March 2020 and the other half in August 2020.

    Also on Friday, Filaret posted on his website a letter of invitation to Metropolitan Epifany to attend the commemoration on May 14.  The letter included the following paragraph:  “I obtained information from the media that you expressed dissatisfaction with the fact that I did not invite you to commemorate the holy martyr Macarius, the Metropolitan of Kyiv.  The reason is that you, after your election as Primate of the UOC, have never performed a Divine Liturgy with me - within five months.  I have a thought, maybe it is a mistake, that you believe it is a humiliation to serve with Patriarch Filaret?  In addition, as you know, you are planning to serve the liturgy either in Dnipro or in Mariupol and gather there the bishops of our Church, in contrast to the celebration in Kyiv, at the Vladimir Cathedral, where the holy relics of the holy martyr Macarius are located.”

    One must now wait and see what will happen on Tuesday.  In the meantime, some people have become alarmed.  The Director of the Department of Religious Affairs of the Ministry of Culture of Ukraine, Andrei Yurash, has stated that “the restoration and the restitution of the so called Patriarchate of Kyiv is impossible.”   On May 9, the initiative group “Ten Theses” posted “An Appeal to Protect the Canonical Status of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine.” (in English)    One thing is certain – Epifany has not become a pawn of Filaret as many had originally feared.  On the other hand, there is a very real danger that the OCU may be divided into Epifany and Filaret factions.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 9 May 2019: Ukraine - small step forward

    Today is the 74th anniversary of the surrender of Nazi Germany – Victory Day over Nazism.  In Kyiv President Poroshenko led the official commemoration for the victims of the Second World War, including the laying of flowers at the grave of the unknown soldier of Ukraine.  Both Metropolitan Onufry (head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Moscow Patriarchate) and Metropolitan Epifany (head of the new Orthodox Church of Ukraine) were present for the ceremony.  The event was reported by the website of the UOC-MP ( and the website of the OCU (  The website of the OCU has posted several photos that caught my attention.  I have pasted one below.  It shows Metropolitan Onufry and Metropolitan Epifany shaking hands, and both appear to be smiling.  A prior photo shows them doing what appears to the triple kiss.  Perhaps the sharing of the good news that “Christ has Risen” has more power than the hostility that has existed between the churches.  To the best of my knowledge, this is the first meeting of Onufry and Epifany since the election of Epifany.



    Of course, one should not read too much into this small gesture of politeness and courtesy.  However, it could be a very small step in the direction of reconciliation at some point, perhaps in the distant future.  In my opinion, there is some room for a small ray of optimism.  In recent months the UOC-MP has mounted a very extensive and effective information program.  This program has been strongly reinforced by statements of the Moscow Patriarchate in Moscow and by the Russian media generally.  As an example, the DECR today posted an English translation of another interview of Metropolitan Hilarion with respect to Ukraine.   There is, of course, the major issue of the powers or the lack of powers of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.  Obviously, this issue will not be resolved soon.  However, with respect to events physically occurring in Ukraine, the major complaints made by the UOC-MP relate to persecution of the UOC-MP by Ukrainian government authorities and the “seizure” of parishes of the UOC-MP.

    With respect to persecution by the Ukrainian government, it is very likely that complaints in this regard will decrease with Zelensky assuming the presidency later this month.  So far the relationship between the UOC-MP and Zelensky appears to be very good.  With respect to the “seizure” of parishes of the UOC-MP, this has decreased in recent weeks to almost zero.  (It should be noted that the word “seizure” has been used by the UOC-MP to encompass almost any transfer of a parish to the OCU – even in situations where the parish priest supports the transfer and the transfer is totally peaceful.)  The transfers have been tracked by the website, .  The decrease in transfers is dramatically demonstrated by a graph on the website showing the number of transfers to OCU on various days.  It shows that in the last 30 days there were only five transfers and that there have been none since April 30.  In comparison there were 234 transfers in February 2019.  To date, the UOC-MP has lost less than five percent of its total number of parishes – a remarkably small number.  Based on the trend, the issue of transfer of parishes should decrease substantially over time.   If the number of grievances experienced by the UOC-MP in Ukraine are decreased, one would hope that the religious atmosphere would improve and that some dialogue and cooperation between churches may be possible.

    In a important development today, the Holy Synod has elected Bishop Makarios of Christoupolis as the new Archbishop of Australia.  There is some indication that the Holy Synod will announce the new Archbishop of America on Saturday. 


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 8 May 2019: Bulgaria's reaction to Pope's visit & more news

    Pope Francis has now returned to Rome after his three-day visit to Bulgaria and North Macedonia.  Based on my review of a number of major Bulgarian newspapers, the coverage of the Pope’s visit appears to have been extensive and very positive.  A key question is the reaction of the leadership of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church to the visit.  With respect to the metropolitans attending the meeting with the Pope, the first to speak publicly about the visit was Metropolitan Nikolai of Plovdiv, known for his controversial and outspoken views. (English)   Here is an example of the comments that he made to his faithful after services on May 6:  “The visit by the Pope of Rome is a political act.  The goal is to unite all the churches around Rome, and when the Antichrist comes, for the Pope to meet him.”   However, what is truly significant is that two other metropolitans of the Holy Synod immediately came to the defense of the Pope.  The first was Metropolitan Naum of Rousse. (English); (his Facebook page)  He stated that the Holy Synod had decided to receive the Pope “despite the different views of one or another Metropolitan.”   He acknowledged that the decision has unleashed “countless insults and accusations” against the Pope and the Bulgarian Orthodox Church by those who consider themselves “strict Orthodox.”  Metropolitan Naum then stressed:  “It is good to realize that we need to be better with each other, to love our neighbors and to enjoy the goodwill towards us, which was, in fact, the message of Francis.  Because God is love!”

    The second metropolitan to defend the Pope was Metropolitan Anthony of Western and Central Europe. (English); (full text in Bulgarian).  Here is a sampling of what he said about Pope Francis:  “The goodwill, the openness, and the message of peace that came to our homeland have won the hearts of our compatriots….During his visit to the country, the Pope gave us an example of how the shepherd goes to the flock, how he seeks and finds fallen souls, giving them an example of Christ’s active love.”  A “source from the Synod” also reacted to an article in Le Figaro (, entitled: “In Bulgaria, Francis fails to break the ice of the Orthodox Church.”  The source from the Synod stated:  “They have become the victims of fake news.”  Pope Francis on his return flight to Rome told journalists: “Then the conversation with Patriarch Neofit edified me greatly; he is a man of God!”

    Yesterday (Monday) in Sofia, the Pope held an interfaith “meeting for peace.”  You can watch the entire meeting at .  It was raining, and most people were under their umbrellas.  As the Bulgarian Orthodox Church has earlier stated, it had no official representatives at the meeting.  However, one major Bulgarian newspaper stated that there were Orthodox priests in the crowd surrounding the event.  Also, Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, who has a very close relationship with the Bulgarian Orthodox Church and whom the Holy Synod had invited to attend its meeting with Pope Francis, was present at the meeting for peace, as well as almost 200 governmental guests, most of whom were Orthodox. 

    Today Pope Francis was in North Macedonia.  One of the events included a visit to the Mother Teresa Memorial in the presence of religious leaders.  The visit can be watched at .  Metropolitan Stefan, the head of the schismatic Macedonian Orthodox Church (MOC), was present.  As you can see from the video at 9:45, Pope Francis spent a total of seven seconds with him.  It appears that Metropolitan Jovan of Ohrid, who heads the Serbian Orthodox Church in North Macedonia, was not present at the papal events.  In an interview last month, Metropolitan Jovan does not appear to object to the papal visit, but he states that he knows with certainty that the Pope will be with the head of the MOC.  The latter may be the reason for the absence of Metropolitan Jovan.

    In news relating to Serbia, it has been announced that the assembly of all of the Serbian bishops, which is usually held in May of each year, will begin on May 9.  The major Serbian publication Politika has published an exclusive interview with Cardinal Parolin, the Vatican’s Secretary of State.  In the return flight to Rome from Skopje today, the Pope was asked about the canonization process of Cardinal Stepinac.    The following is a Google translation of his answer in Italian:

    In general, relationships [with the Orthodox] are good, and there is goodwill.  I can honestly tell you that I have met men of God among the patriarchs.  Neofit is a man of God.  And then Ilia II, I carry him in my heart.  I have a preference for the Patriarch of Georgia, he is a man of God who does me so much good.  Bartholomew is a man of God, Kirill is a man of God ... but you could say to me: this one has this defect, this one is too political ... But we all have defects, I have too.  All are men of God.  Then there is history between our churches, some old.  The President [of North Macedonia] told me today about the Eastern schism, which started here in Macedonia.  Does the Pope come to repair schism?  I do not know.  We are brothers, we cannot worship the Holy Trinity without the united hands of our brothers.  On the canonization of Stepinac: he was a virtuous man, which is why the Church declared him blessed.  But at a certain point in the process, there were unclear points, and I, who had to sign the canonization, praying, thinking and asking for advice, saw that I had to ask for help from the Serbian Patriarch Irenaeus and he has helped.  We have created a historical commission together: whether it is he or us, we do not want to make mistakes, we are interested in the truth.  Now, other points are being studied so that the truth is clear.  I am not afraid of the truth.  I am only afraid of the judgment of God. 

    In Ukraine yesterday, President-elect  Volodymyr Zelensky came to the residence of Major Archbishop Sviatoslav, head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, to congratulate the Archbishop on his birthday.   It is part of a program by Zelensky to meet with all of the major religious heads in Ukraine.  In my opinion, it is a good sign that Zelensky is trying to unite the various diverse elements in Ukraine to work together for the welfare of the country.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 6 May 2019: Pope Francis in Sofia & other news

    Pope Francis has just completed his first day in Sofia, Bulgaria.  In reviewing the reports in major Bulgarian newspapers and the comments by top government officials, it appears that the visit so far has been very well received.  The Pope’s humble approach seems to win hearts.  There has been considerable coverage of the visit in the Western media both before the Pope’s arrival in Sofia and afterwards.  One very important aspect of the visit is the Pope’s contact with the Bulgarian Orthodox Church.  With respect to that aspect, several items today caught my attention.

    After the Pope met with Prime Minister Boyko Borisov at the airport, the Pope went to the formal welcoming ceremony involving President Rumen Radev in front of the presidential palace.  A video of this entire ceremony can be viewed at .  As you recall, the Holy Synod on April 3 issued a decision that the Patriarch and the Holy Synod were willing to hold a meeting with Pope Francis at the Synodal Palace and that a visit by the Pope to the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral was possible.  It then stated that participation of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church in any other aspect of the program was “impossible.”  However, something must have changed.  In the video of the ceremony, you can clearly see Metropolitan Anthony of Western and Central Europe in the reception line at the official welcoming ceremony.  At 7:40 in the video, Pope Francis exchanges the triple kiss with the Metropolitan and kisses his panagia.   Over 1.5 million Bulgarians live in Western Europe, and the Catholic Church has provided churches for the Bulgarian Orthodox Church in many major cities. 

    The Pope was greeted at the Synodal Palace by Metropolitan Anthony.  The Pope then met with Patriarch Neofit and members of the Holy Synod.  Actually, it was only with eight members of the 14-member Synod, but those present appeared to be the most influential bishops.  Tsar Simeon II (Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha) was also present at the meeting.  It appears to have been a fraternal and warm meeting.  The English translation of the full text of the Pope’s address to the Holy Synod is at  The Bulgarian Orthodox Church has posted on its website the full text of the address by Patriarch Neofit.  The website also includes photos and two videos (not of the entire meeting):  The Vatican has posted some photos by its photographer.  They include Pope Francis and Patriarch Neofit exchanging the triple kiss and a wonderful photo of Pope Francis kissing the panagia of a smiling Patriarch Neofit.

    It should be noted that Patriarch Neofit, when he was Metropolitan of Rousse, had contact with two prior popes.  When Pope John Paul II visited Bulgaria in 2002, Neofit was one of three bishops who showed him the interior of St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral.  Metropolitan Neofit also represented the Bulgarian Orthodox Church at the funeral of Pope John Paul II.  On May 22, 2009, Metropolitan Neofit accompanied Bulgarian’s president Georgi Parvanov in an audience with Pope Benedict.  

    Like Pope John Paul II, Pope Francis visited the St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral.  A video of the entire visit to the Cathedral and the subsequent Regina Coeli service in the square in front of the Cathedral can be seen at .  In the Cathedral, Pope Francis was accompanied by Metropolitan Anthony.  During the visit, the Pope sat alone in prayer for almost five minutes on a chair in front of the north altar dedicated to Saints Cyril and Methodius.  Interestingly, the chair was placed on a circular rug, typically used by Orthodox bishops during a liturgical service.  The English translation of the address by Pope Francis at the subsequent Regina Coeli service is found at .  It included the following remark:  “As evidence of my esteem and affection for this venerable Orthodox Church of Bulgaria, I have had the joy of greeting and embracing my brother, His Holiness Patriarch Neofit and the Metropolitans of the Holy Synod.”

    Today’s final event was the Sunday Mass for Catholics.  A video of the entire Mass can be viewed at  A nice article about the Mass was written by an Orthodox author in the major Bulgarian newspaper Standart   Far more people appeared for the Mass than expected.

    Other news:

    On May 4, the Vatican announced the convening of a major meeting between the Vatican and the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church to be held in Rome, July 5-6.  The announcement states:

    In the delicate and complex situation in which Ukraine finds itself, the Holy Father Francis has decided to invite to Rome, July 5 to 6, 2019, the Major Archbishop, the members of the permanent Synod and the Metropolitans of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church.  The meeting will also be attended by the Superiors of the competent Dicasteries of the Roman Curia responsible for the country.

    With this meeting, the Holy Father wishes to give a sign of his closeness to the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church that carries out pastoral service both at home and in various places in the world.  This meeting will also offer a further opportunity to deepen the analysis of the life and needs of Ukraine, with the aim of identifying the ways in which the Catholic Church, and in particular the Greek-Catholic Church, can dedicate itself ever more effectively to preaching the Gospel, contributing to the support of those who suffer and promoting peace, in agreement, as far as possible, with the Catholic Church of the Latin rite and with other Churches and Christian communities.

    Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew was in Poland last week for a short visit.   On May 2, he participated with Greece’s Parliament President Nikos Voutsis in the 3-kilometer annual “March of the Living” from the Auschwitz to the Birkenau death camps.   This year’s march especially remembered the Jewish community of Greece, most of whom died in the Holocaust.  On May 3, the Ecumenical Patriarch, together with Metropolitan Emmanuel of France, met in Warsaw with Metropolitan Sawa, primate of the Orthodox Church of Poland.  According to the communique of the Polish Church, the Ecumenical Patriarch “emphasized the very good, friendly relations between the two hierarchs.”  Although not mentioned in the communique, it is extremely likely that Ukraine was one of the subjects discussed by the hierarchs.

    In a very important development, Archbishop Demetrios, who has headed the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s Archdiocese of America for 20 years, submitted his resignation on May 4.  The official announcement can be read at   The Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate will meet on May 9 and will most likely elect a successor.  They may also elect a new Archbishop of Australia to fill the vacancy caused by the recent death of Archbishop Stylianos.  An interesting article which speculates on possible successors to these important positions can be read at

    From April 29 to May 3, a very large delegation of Catholic clergy from the diocese of Rome came as pilgrims to Moscow.  The delegation was headed by the Cardinal Vicar of Rome Angelo De Donatis and included six other bishops and 75 priests.  Aside from the visit to the Catholic community in Moscow, much of the visit was to the Orthodox who were observing Bright Week.  The theme of the pilgrimage was: "Strengthening priestly fraternity.  Knowledge and contact with Russian Orthodox spirituality.”  On May 3, at the end of Divine Liturgy at the Trinity-Sergius Lavra, the delegation met with Patriarch Kirill.  The text of the Patriarch’s address to the delegation can be read at  In his address, he referred to the development in recent years of a “positive dynamic” in relations between the Catholic and Russian Orthodox Churches.  He also thanked the Italian bishops for providing churches for Russian Orthodox divine services in Italy.  Among the many places visited by the delegation were the Novodevichy (including the grave of Vladimir Soloviev), Danilov, and Sretensky Monasteries.   They also visited the village of Semkhoz, the place where Father Aleksandr Men was assassinated in 1990.  In a telephone interview, one of the members of the delegation stated that the monks of the Sretensky Monastery gave the delegation “truly an extraordinary welcome.” 


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 1 May 2019: Zelensky's even-handed treatment

    The Ukrainian Central Election Commission today officially announced that Volodymyr Zelensky has been elected president.  Under Ukrainian law, Zelensky must be inaugurated within 30 days of the publication of the results.   There are several indications that Zelensky intends to deal with the new Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU) and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP) on a fairly even-handed basis.  Today, two days after Pascha, he made separate visits to Metropolitan Epifany (primate of the OCU), Filaret (“honorary patriarch” of the OCU), and Metropolitan Onufry (primate of the UOC-MP), apparently in that order.  As of this morning, the UOC-MP was not even aware that Zelensky’s meeting with Onufry would occur.    All three meetings appear to have been warm and cordial.  The meetings with photos are described at the following church websites:  Epifany -; Filaret -; Onufry -  Perhaps to avoid a decision as to which church services, if any , to visit on Pascha, Zelensky (who does not consider himself a member of any particular faith) and his family spent the Pascha weekend in the seaside city of Bodrum,Turkey.   Zelensky sent Easter congratulations to the Ukrainian people in a message in which some sentences are in Ukrainian and some sentences are in Russian.

    Following the voting on April 21, Zelensky received congratulations from: Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew (; Patriarch Kirill (; Metropolitan Onufry (; Metropolitan Epifany (; and Filaret (   I have seen nothing to indicate that Major Archbishop Sviatoslav (primate of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church) extended congratulations to Zelensky nor did he receive a visit from Zelensky today.  However, today Sviatoslav in an interview thanked God for the democratic election and spoke of the need for internal unity in Ukraine.

    On Pascha, President Poroshenko attended the night services celebrated by Metropolitan Epifany at St. Michael’s Cathedral and then the services on Sunday morning celebrated by Major Archbishop Sviatoslav (UGCC) at the Cathedral of the Resurrection in Kviv.  On Monday, Poroshenko traveled to Lviv, the only oblast in Ukraine where he received a majority of the votes.

    The Moscow Patriarchate posted today an extensive interview of Patriarch Kirill by the major Serbian newspaper Politka  As you recall, Politika conducted a major interview of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew a number of weeks ago.  Today’s interview appears in many respects to be a rebuttal of statements made by the Ecumenical Patriarch.  On the day before Pascha, Filaret gave a long interview to Radio Svoboda.  With respect to the parishes of the former UOC-KP outside of Ukraine, Filaret stated that the OCU cannot force those parishes to join the Ecumenical Patriarchate.  If they refuse to join, Filaret said that “we cannot throw them away…we consider them to be ours.”

    An interesting documentary film, entitled Becoming Canonical: Ukraine's Journey to Church Independence, has been produced by Saken Aymurzaev, special Kyiv correspondent of Echo of Moscow.  It was shown for the first time online on Pascha by Hromadske International.  It runs for over one and one-half hours and includes interviews of some important persons on both sides of the religious controversy in Ukraine.  The entire film in English can be viewed at

    Next Sunday, Pope Francis begins his visit to Bulgaria and North Macedonia.  Today, the Greek website reported that the prime ministers of Bulgaria and North Macedonia exchanged Easter greetings.  Prime Minister Zoran Zaev of North Macedonia stated in his greeting that this Pascha demonstrates a “gesture of reconciliation” – a bishop of the “Macedonian Orthodox Church” joined the delegation of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church to fly on a Bulgarian government aircraft to and from Jerusalem to receive the “Holy Fire.”

    In other news, the updated program of the visit of Pope Francis to Romania (May 31 – June 2) has been released.   Although I have seen no announcement by the Vatican, the Interfax news agency reported that on Sunday, Pope Francis in a private ceremony awarded the Order of Pope St. Sylvester to Russian soloist Svetlana Kasyan.  Most likely, her husband, Leonid Sevastianov, head of the St. Gregory the Theologian Charity Foundation (a charity closely associated with Metropolitan Hilarion), was also there for the ceremony.  Today, the Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans, Cardinal Mar Louis Raphaël I Sako met with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew at the Phanar.  The two had a long conversation relating to Catholic and Orthodox relations, especially in the Middle East.

    To all of you, CHRIST HAS RISEN!


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 22 April 2019: President Zelensky & the Ukrainian Church

    As predicted by the polls, Zelensky easily defeated Poroshenko in today’s presidential election in Ukraine.  Poroshenko congratulated Zelensky early in the counting.  It was a victory for democracy.  For those interested in the religious situation in Ukraine, there is, of course, the question as to how the election of Zelensky will affect the conflicts relating to the granting of autocephaly by the Ecumenical Patriarchate to the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU).  During the final weeks of the campaign, the tomos granting autocephaly did not appeared to be an issue between the candidates.  As I previously reported, Irina Venediktova, a spokesperson for Zelensky, stated on April 4 that obtaining the tomos was “most important” and that Zelensky will do everything to protect this achievement.  As a candidate, Zelensky has been silent on this subject.  However, on Friday at the televised debate between Porosenko and Zelensky at Kyiv’s Olympic Stadium, Zelensky did speak briefly about the tomos.    He stated:

    I want to say that Petro Oleksiyovych [Poroshenko] had a lot of achievements, and that's right.  Visa, Tomos, language, army.  Everything you wrote on billboards.  But you know, it seems to me that, for some reason, you have ascribed all these achievements only to yourself, and I don’t understand why. This is also your victory, I understand.…As for the Tomos, this is a victory for Ukraine, but it seems to me that this victory, above all, is for Filaret, who fought for the Ukrainian church even before you became president.  Even in those days when you were a parishioner of the Moscow Patriarchate.

    In an interview on April 13, Metropolitan Hilarion was asked what to expect if Zelensky becomes president.  He stated:

    If Poroshenko remains in power, we can expect continued persecution of millions of Orthodox believers in Ukraine.  This man left his mark on history as the persecutor of the Church.  If the election is won by a person who is not related to the Church, who even in one of his programs ridiculed the “tomos about autocephaly,” comparing it with a thermos, one can hope that the persecution against the Church will be stopped and that inter-confessional harmony will be restored in Ukraine, even despite the fact that it has suffered very significant damage.

    The Metropolitan’s reference to “a thermos” refers to the impersonation by Zelensky of Poroshenko on the New Year’s Eve comedy show “Evening Quarter,” produced by Studio Quarter-95.  The entire New Year’s Eve show can be viewed at (over 4 million hits).  The reference to thermos (“термос”) and tomos (“томос”) can be watched beginning at minute 5 in the video.  By watching various segments of this video, one can get a sense of Zelensky as a comedian, even if one does not understand Russian.  It is now apparent that Zelensky as a politician is articulating a different view of the tomos than Zelensky as a comedian.  Presumably, as a politician, Zelensky and his campaign team believe that there are more supporters of the tomos in Ukraine than opponents and shaped the campaign accordingly.

    Metropolitan Anthony of Boryspil (UOC-MP) has given a long and detailed interview relating to the current situation in Ukraine and the “seizure” of parishes of the UOC-MP by supporters of the OCU.  An interesting English-language article and video concerning a very recent seizure has been posted by the Union of Orthodox Journalists (an organization favoring the UOC-MP).  It relates to a church in Stary Zagorov, a village with a population of approximately 750, in the region of Volyn, near the Polish border.  In my opinion, it seems to represent a common scenario found in “seizure” cases.  The scenario is as follows: The parish priest is opposed to affiliation with the UOC, but a vote is taken in which the required two-thirds of the alleged “members” of the parish vote for affiliation with the OCU.  The parish priest then locks himself in the parish church with some of his supporters and refuses to allow others to enter the church.  Finally, the supporters of the OCU, seeking to enforce the vote taken, forcefully enter the church.  According to local news reporters, when the supporters entered the church in Stary Zagorov, they found that all of the religious vessels and icons had previously been removed from the church.  The key question seems to be: who are “members” of the parish entitled to vote.  It appears that the UOC-MP takes the position that the only “members” of the parish are those who faithfully attend Sunday liturgy and not those who attend occasionally.  Therefore, votes that include persons other than the faithful attendees at church services are not valid and should not be recognized.

    There have been media reports of conflicts within the OCU between Metropolitan Epifany and Filaret. (English language).  See also (English).  From the perspective of Constantinople, this may not be entirely bad news as it might be an indication that Epifany is seeking to exercise his independence.  In an interview with BBC in January, Archbishop Daniel (Zelinsky), who was one of two exarchs appointed last year by Constantinople to Ukraine, stated: “This is all that I ask of Filaret, give Epiphany the opportunity to be the head of the church!”  Epifany is clearly doing certain things that Filaret would not have done.  For example, on April 16, Metropolitan Epifany had his second meeting with the signers of the “10 theses.”  The “10 theses,” signed by such individuals as Father Georgy Kovalenko and Archimandrite Cyril Hovorun, outline ten areas where changes are needed in the church. 

    In an important development, the Constitutional Court of Ukraine announced on Saturday that it would review the very controversial statute which requires the UOC-MP to change its name to reflect its Russian affiliation.  An interesting interview of Metropolitan Simeon (Shostaksky), one of two metropolitan of the UOC-MP who came to the unifying council of the OCU, can be read at  In one answer, he describes how he was informed by the exarchs of the Ecumenical Patriarchate that 12 bishops of the UOC-MP had promised to come to the unifying council.  When he went to the room to meet the other bishops, the chairs were empty.  The only other bishop that came was Metropolitan Alexander (Drabinko).

    In my last report, I provided a Google translation of parts of the communique issued on Thursday by the four primates.  A good English translation of the entire communique is now available at

    For those celebrating Easter today, CHRIST HAS RISEN!

    For those of you celebrating Pascha next Sunday, I wish you a very blessed Holy Week!


    Yours in the Risen Christ, Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 19 April 2019: Meeting of four primates today & other news

    Today (Thursday), at the invitation of Archbishop Chrysostomos (primate of the Church of Cyprus), a meeting was held in Nicosia with Patriarch Theodoros of Alexandria, Patriarch John X of Antioch, and Patriarch Theophilos of Jerusalem.  There was no advanced notice of the meeting.  The meeting was especially significant in that these four Local Orthodox Churches were all recognized as separate churches in the first millennium.  In the Orthodox diptychs, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem follow immediately after Constantinople.   In the last few minutes, the full text of the final communique of the meeting has been posted by the Greek website,  Contrary to speculation earlier today, there was no major statement with respect to the specific disputed issues in Ukraine.  A Google translation of the portion of the communique relating to Ukraine is as follows:

    They also discussed the problems that arose after the granting of autocephaly to the Orthodox Church in Ukraine.  Following the briefing of His Beatitude Archbishop Chrysostom of Cyprus on the mediatory initiative, which he personally undertook, the three Primates support him, so that His Beatitude can continue it in favor of the unity of the Orthodox Church in Christ.  Their Beatitudes and Most Holy Primates in the spirit of this meeting called on all sides to work on the one hand to achieve the Eucharistic unity, which is the body of the Church in Christ Jesus and on the other, in order to protect the faithful and churches and monasteries from attacks and from every act of violence, wherever they come from or whatever the reasons and motives that cause them.

    However, today’s meeting did signal a possible breakthrough on another important dispute – the impasse between Antioch and Jerusalem with respect to jurisdiction over Qatar.  In this regard, the communique provides as follows:

    During a special meeting between the two Churches of Antioch and Jerusalem, held in honesty, brotherhood and love, they exchanged different views on the problem, which concerned the two local Churches and expressed the intention and good mood, immediately to overcome these difficulties to reach the desired Eucharistic Communion.

    The communique also discussed the situation in the Middle East.

    With respect to a different topic, Orthodox leaders joined with many others in expressing their sorrow over the tragic fire at the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris.  Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew sent letters to both Catholic Archbishop Michel Aupetit of Paris and French President Macron.  Letters were also sent by Patriarch Kirill.   The primates of many of the other Local Orthodox Churches also sent messages.  See   The blog of the Russian Orthodox Church in France (Moscow Patriarchate) has posted an article entitled: “Orthodox all over the world have suffered with their Catholic brothers.”  The article states that the sacred objects of the cathedral were saved including the Vladimir icon of the Mother of God, given to the cathedral by Patriarch Alexei II.  Much of the credit for the saving of the sacred objects at the cathedral, including the famous crown of thorns, is given to the chaplain of the Paris firefighters, Father Jean-Marc Fournier.

    The beautiful copy of the Vladimir icon had been given to the cathedral by Patriarch Alexei during his visit to Paris in October 2007.  During the Patriarch’s visit to the cathedral, an Orthodox prayer service was conducted in the Patriarch’s presence before the crown of thorns. (Until his death, Patriarch Alexei was hounded by false accusations from Orthodox conservatives that he had engaged in common prayer with Catholics at this service.)  A video of the entire service, including good views of the crown of thorns, the Vladimir icon, and the interior of the historic cathedral, can be seen at  After the visit, the Vladimir icon was permanently placed in a prominent location of honor in the cathedral.  Subsequently, there have other been significant Russian contacts with the cathedral.  In the garden of the cathedral, there is now a magnificent statue of Pope John Paul II by the famous Russian sculptor Zurab Tsereteli.  It was described as a gift from the Russian people.  For Christmas 2014, Russia provided a giant Christmas tree for the square in front of the cathedral.

    The cathedral in recent years has become a gathering point for French Orthodox from the various Local Orthodox Churches.  According to a statement from the Assembly of Orthodox Bishops of France:  “The Orthodox liked to gather there, even to celebrate the memory of St. Denis of Paris, as a sign of our common past, or to venerate the holy Crown of thorns.”

    The Vatican has issued an “updated” schedule of the Pope’s visit to Bulgaria and Northern Macedonia (May 5-7).   The updated schedule includes two changes, apparently added to assure the Bulgarian Orthodox Church that there would be no common prayer.  The “private prayer” before the throne of Sts. Cyril and Methodius in the Patriarchal Cathedral of Saint Alexander Nevsky has been changed to “prayer in silence.”   Also, the “prayer for peace presided at by the Holy Father in the presence of leaders of the various religious confessions in Bulgaria” has been changed to a “meeting for peace.”  See earlier schedule:  The government of Bulgaria has established a special website for the visit.

    In other news, Metropolitan Ambrosios of Korea (Ecumenical Patriarchate) has given a long English-language interview articulating his strong views with respect to the establishment of a diocese for Korea by the Moscow Patriarchate.   Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew will be meeting in Greece with Archbishop Ieronymos, primate of the Church of Greece, on May 23.   Metropolitan Michael of Lutsk (OCU), who was one of the three finalists in the election for primate of the new Ukrainian church, has been visiting Mount Athos with a group of pilgrims.

    On this Holy Thursday (for those of you celebrating Easter this weekend), I hope that you have a very blessed and joyful Feast of the Resurrection of Our Lord!


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 5 April 2019: Zelensky supports tomos

    At a “roundtable” held at the Ukrinform news agency today (Thursday), Irina Venediktova, legal advisor to Ukrainian presidential candidate Zelensky, addressed the subject of the tomos.   In her remarks, she made it very clear that Zelensky will support the tomos.  She stated: “We stand on the position that Ukraine is a secular state, but for our statehood, for our self-identity, getting the tomos is most important.”  She added, that if elected, Zelensky will do everything to protect this achievement although the “state cannot step on the territory of religious places.”  The latter implies that Zelensky will not interfere with decisions made at the parish level.  In a recent interview, Zelensky personally affirmed that he prays ”to God without intermediaries” and that “I don’t go anywhere: neither to a church, nor to a synagogue, nor to a mosque.”

    Yesterday, the Holy Synod of the UOC-MP issued a statement on the “situation of Ukrainian and World Orthodoxy.”  The statement has been translated into English at  This important statement summarizes the reasons why the granting of the tomos “has turned out to be an error.”  Many points are made.  The Holy Synod believes “that the Patriarchate of Constantinople and Patriarch Bartholomew personally must avow their mistake and start working on correcting it,” such as “revocation of the Tomos, call for the schismatics to repent their sin of schism and convocation of the Pan-Orthodox meeting for taking a conciliar resolution of the Ukrainian church question.”

    Today, the Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate met.  The minutes of the meeting are found at .  At the meeting, the Holy Synod of the Patriarchate specifically stated its support of the statement issued the prior day by the UOC-MP.  The Holy Synod of the Patriarchate also appointed a bishop to head the Diocese of Korea, an area claimed by the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

    On April 2, the Council of Bishops of the Polish Orthodox Church again affirmed its position that it supports autocephaly for an Orthodox church in Ukraine based on dogmatic and canonical norms of the whole Church and not based on a group of schismatics.   Metropolitan Ierotheos of Nafpaktos, one of the more conservative and articulate hierarchs in the Church of Greece, has expressed his personal opinion in a letter to the Standing Synod of the Church of Greece that the Church of Greece cannot reject the tomos granting autocephaly in Ukraine.  However, he maintains that the Church of Greece can express its opinion at a possible future Ecumenical Council. ;

    A good English translation has now been posted of the interview of Patriarch Bartholomew by the Serbian newspaper Politika.  To the best of my knowledge, it is the longest and most detailed interview to date of the Ecumenical Patriarch relating to Ukraine.  In the tenth question, the Ecumenical Patriarch distinguishes the situation in Ukrainian from that in Skopje and Montenegro and states that the boundaries of the Serbian Church will not be altered “without mutual communication and cooperation beforehand.” 

    On April 3, the Legal Department of the UOC-MP issued a memorandum relating to the application of Ukrainian law to parish elections relating to change of affiliation.  The memorandum emphasizes that only “members” of the parish are legally eligible to vote, as opposed the persons living in the geographic territory of the parish.  It recommends that rectors of parishes maintain a list of “members” to be used in the future to show that non-members participated in an affiliation vote.  The website which states that 513 parishes have now voted to affiliate with the OCU also indicates that for approximately 110 of these parishes, the change was opposed by the rector of the parish.  Presumably, it is the latter parishes that have given rise to most of the conflicts.

    On March 27, a delegation the Archdiocese of Russian Orthodox Churches in Western Europe (Ecumenical Patriarchate) met at the Phanar with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Metropolitan Emmanuel of France.  The delegation presented a letter from the Council of the Archdiocese informing the Ecumenical Patriarch that the Archdiocese has rejected its dissolution by a vote of almost 93%.   The communique of the Archdiocese issued after the conclusion of the meeting states:  “A constructive exchange has begun; it is planned to continue this consultation to consider the future of the Archdiocese.” 

    The Holy Synod of the Bulgarian Patriarchate has issued a statement relating to the visit of Pope Francis to Bulgaria, May 5-7.  The statement provides that Patriarch Neofit and the Holy Synod “are ready” to receive Pope Francis in a meeting at the Patriarchal Palace.  It also states that a visit to the Patriarchal Cathedral of St. Alexander Nevsky “is possible,” but without “any form of shared liturgical or prayer service, as well as wearing of liturgical garments” and without the participation of the Patriarchal Choir.  Participation of the Bulgarian Patriarchate in other events [such as the two Catholic Masses and a Regina Coeli service] is prohibited.  All of this is not surprising as the Bulgarian Orthodox Church has for decades been the least involved in ecumenical activities of all of the Local Orthodox Churches.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA 

  • 1 April 2019: Zelensky & religion in Ukraine

    As of the writing of this report, 96 percent of the ballots cast in Sunday’s presidential elections in Ukraine have been counted.  The results at this point in time show that the three candidates receiving the most votes are: Zelensky – 30.22%; Poroshenko – 15.93%; Tymoshenko – 13.39%.  Poroshenko was the leader only in the western oblasts of Lviv and Ternopil.  It therefore appears certain that the runoff election on April 21 will be between Zelensky and Poroshenko.

    Poroshenko’s views on religion are well-known.  During the campaign, he stressed his role in creating an autocephalous Orthodox church in Ukraine which is independent of Moscow.  What about Zelensky?  As far as I can determine, Zelensky has avoided the topic of religion.  His “program” states nothing about religion, except that it should not be a factor in appointments.   Zelensky has refused to state his own religious affiliation.  His religion is the subject of an interesting English-language article in the Times of Israel  It is clear that his mother is Jewish, but his wife is not.  There are reports that his son Kirill was baptized.  However, the fact that his present religious affiliation, if any, remains a mystery indicates that he is probably not actively practicing any religious faith.  All of this indicates that if elected, Zelensky will not be promoting an autocephalous Orthodox church in Ukraine, as was true for Poroshenko.  Nevertheless, this would not mean that some local political authorities would cease favoring an autocephalous church.

    It is interesting to note that the rate of transfers of parishes from the UOC-MP to the OCU has slowed substantially.  This can be seen from the daily graph of transfers shown at  At the present time, this website shows that 513 parishes have transferred or 4.48% of the total number of UOC-MP parishes.  This is still a very small percentage.  The total number of transfers that will occur may actually be less than the UOC-MP had originally feared.  Last September, Metropolitan Anthony of Boryspil (UOC-MP) informed TASS that if a “parallel structure” is formed, “a minority [of the parishes] will enter it,” but “we will remain the largest Orthodox Church in Ukraine.”  He predicted that the transfers would occur “mainly in the villages,” because in a village there is usually only one temple, and no alternative, and there “it is easier to put pressure on believers through local authorities.”  On the other hand, he believe that there would be only “isolated cases” in the cities.  Based on the facts to date, it appears that the prediction of Metropolitan Anthony may well be correct.  The UOC-MP has now posted an interactive map showing 61 “captured” parishes.  ;

    Today, Metropolitan Emmanuel of France (Ecumenical Patriarchate) met with Archbishop Ieronymos, primate of the Orthodox Church of Greece, to discuss the issue of autocephaly for Ukraine.  Archbishop Ieronymos stated that the hierarchy of the Church of Greece would be deciding its official position on the issue of autocephaly at its next plenary meeting.  Unless an earlier meeting is scheduled, the next plenary meeting will be in October.   On March 20, Metropolitan Emmanuel met with Patriarch John X of Antioch.  So far, the following Local Orthodox Churches have not yet expressed their official views on the Ukraine situation: Alexandria, Jerusalem, Georgia, Bulgaria, and Greece.  Although Romania has urged the parties to resolve the dispute, it has not yet stated a formal position as to whether it will recognize the OCU.

    Archbishop Tikhon, the head of the Moscow Patriarchate’s diocese in Germany, sent a letter on March 19 to the members of the Assembly of Orthodox Bishops in Germany urging that the president of the Assembly should be elected and should not automatically be a bishop from the Ecumenical Patriarchate.  If the president is elected, the letter indicated that the Moscow Patriarchate would be able to continue in the valuable work of the Assembly.  It remains to be seen whether the Moscow Patriarchate will make similar suggestions with respect to other assemblies of Orthodox bishops in the world.

    In other news, the official program of the visit of Pope Francis to Romania, May 31 to June 2, has been published.  A photocopy of the November 3, 2018, agreement between the nation of Ukraine and the Ecumenical Patriarchate has been posted.  Metropolitan Kallistos (Ecumenical Patriarchate) has repeated his previously expressed disagreement with the decisions of the Ecumenical Patriarch relating to Ukraine.  Metropolitan Onufry, head of the UOC-MP, has raised the prospect that the OCU will form an association  with Greek Catholics under the control of the Pope.  Filaret, former head of the UOC-KP, has suggested a future Local Council of the OCU should amend the present statute of the OCU to increase the number of permanent synod members as was the case with the UOC-KP.  On March 22, there was the presentation in Moscow at the office of the DECR of the Russian edition of a commemorative book on the 2017 visit of the relics of St. Nicholas from Bari to Russia. 


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 30 March 2019: The debate between Albania and Constantinople

    Today (Friday), the website of the Orthodox Church of Albania posted a letter, dated March 21, from Archbishop Anastasios of Tirana (primate of the Orthodox Church of Albania) to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.  The posting includes an English translation of the original letter in Greek.  This letter is extremely important.

    As you recall, Archbishop Anastasios wrote a letter, dated January 14, 2019, to the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.  The official English translation is found at .  This letter expressed “a fundamental doubt, about the potentiality of the ex post facto confirmation of ordinations, performed by an ex-communicated, defrocked, and anathematised person”  --- namely Filaret, the head of the former UOC-KP.

    Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew responded to the Archbishop’s January 14 letter in a letter dated February 20, 2019.  The official English translation of the Ecumenical Patriarch’s letter is found at .  The Ecumenical Patriarch’s letter first has a detailed discussion of the role of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Orthodoxy.  It then discusses the issue of the restoration of schismatics without the need of reordination.  In support of its position that there in no such need in Ukraine, the Ecumenical Patriarch gives three examples where reordination was not required:  (1) the Melitian schism in the fourth century; (2) the restoration of the Bulgarian Church by Constantinople in 1945; and (3) the recent restoration of communion between the Moscow Patriarchate and the ROCOR, previously considered schismatic.

    The Archbishop’s letter of March 21 argues that the Ecumenical Patriarch’s reliance of these three examples is misplaced and that the three examples are clearly distinguishable from the Ukrainian situation.  In general, the Archbishop does not question the role of the Ecumenical Patriarch with respect to the granting of autocephaly, but rather he questions whether the granting of the appeal from Filaret and others retroactively validated the ordinations preformed by him subsequent to his discipline.  The following are two important paragraph’s from the Archbishop’s letter:

    Our Letter of the 14th January of the present year did not express any doubt as to the right and responsibility of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to grant Autocephaly, whenever this is called for by the circumstances.  Our questions mainly refer to procedure and especially to an ecclesiological question of utmost importance for Orthodoxy.  The contents of the first pages of Your Letter of reply obviously do not refer to our query.  For this reason, we shall not refer to them here.  We restrict ourselves simply - far removed from any influence of arguments of other Autocephalous Churches – to focus on just three questions directly related to the holy spiritual tradition and conscience of the Orthodox Church: a) The Holy Eucharist b) Apostolic Succession c) Conciliarity.

    Our worry was focused particularly on the crucial subject of the ordination of bishops, of Apostolic Succession.  It was on account of this, that the cunning role of the self-proclaimed “Supreme Honorary Patriarch of Kiev and All Rus-Ukraine” Filaret was underscored and theological reservations were articulated as to the holy spiritual validity of the ordinations that he has performed, considering that divine Grace does not act when the celebrant of the Sacrament is defrocked, has been aphorised or anathematised; and that a Bishop celebrating canonically is not acting by his own power, but in the name of the Church, the only agent of the Grace of God.  We wonder, whether the restoration of Mr. Filaret to canonical order renders the ordinations which he performed automatically valid.

    Because of their importance, all three letters should be read in their entirety.  This debate is especially significant in that the Church of Albania is not closely associated with the Moscow Patriarchate, but rather is a Local Orthodox Church which has enjoyed very good relations with the Ecumenical Patriarchate.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 8 March 2019: Albania's view on Ukraine

    Today, the Greek website posted the full text of a letter from Archbishop Anastasios, primate of the Orthodox Church of Albania, to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.  The letter, relating to Ukraine, is dated January 14, 2019.  The four-page letter is in Greek, and unfortunately my Google translation tool does not work on this pdf document.  However, a brief English-language summary of the letter has been posted at .   The entire article is pasted below:

    In a letter sent to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, Archbishop Anastasios of Tirana and all Albania calls for a Pan-Orthodox Council to be held “as soon as possible”, in order to prevent “the evident risk of a painful schism.”

    In his letter, sent on January 14, 2019, but now published due to alleged leak of passages of the letter and in order to avoid creating wrong perceptions, Archbishop Anastasios considers that the current situation requires a new approach and inspiring initiatives to promote peace in Ukraine and to safeguard the unity of Orthodoxy.

    The Archbishop of Albania also notes that the concerns expressed to the Ecumenical Patriarch in October 2018 have been verified, that is instead of peace and unity of the Ukrainian Orthodox, “a risk of division has started to creep in.”

    In the letter, the Archbishop refers to some predictions, that is the present turmoil and the “obvious division” will last for a while and that all the Autocephalous Orthodox Churches will eventually accept the current status quo. However, it is noted that for those who know the history of ecclesiastical schisms and the endurance of religious fanaticism, those predictions can be perceived only as unfounded.”

    In fact, the Church of Albania mentions: “The anxiety of preserving the unity of the Orthodox Church obliges us to express our doubt as to the validity of ordination, which has been performed by anyone who has been defrocked, excommunicated and anathematized.”

    At the same time, the Church of Albania reminds its criticism directed at the Church of Russia for denying participating in the Pan-Orthodox Council in Crete and the rush to severe full communion with the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

    It is underlined that the Divine Eucharist must remain outside any conflict.

    A more detailed summary in Ukrainian can be read at .  The letter is especially significant in that the Church of Albania has a close relationship with the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and this letter demonstrates that even close friends of the Patriarchate have doubts about the validity of the ordinations of the hierarchs of the OCU.  In February the Orthodox Church of Cyprus expressed similar doubts.  The ordination issue is clearly the biggest stumbling block for recognition of the OCU by certain of the Local Orthodox Churches.  As discussed in an earlier newsletter, conditional ordinations of the former UOC-KP and UAOC hierarchs of the OCU could easily be done by the Ecumenical Patriarchate while at the same time stating that it firmly believed in the validity of the existing ordinations as a result of the appeal, but was doing the conditional ordinations simply to allay doubts by certain of the other Local Orthodox Churches.

    There is, of course, the question of whether the hierarchs of the OCU would agree to such conditional ordinations.  Metropolitan Epifany, primate of the OCU, gave a very long interview which was posted by the Ukrainian-language service of the BBC on March 1.  One of the questions related to a suggested solution to the Ukrainian crisis through re-ordination of hierarchs of the OCU by both Constantinople and Moscow.  Epifany replied:  This is unrealistic and impossible.  This is a path that would not lead to the unification and recognition of the autocephaly of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.  Neither the Ukrainian people nor we, as hierarchs, would ever go for reordination.   See also  It is not clear whether the answer by Epifany would be the same if the conditional ordinations were performed only by Constantinople and were done at the urging of Constantinople to resolve doubts by others.

    It is fairly clear that Constantinople does not agree with Albania’s suggestion for a calling for a meeting of the primates or a council.  On March 1, the Moscow Patriarchate posted a Russian translation of a letter from Ecumenical Patriarchate Bartholomew to Patriarch John X of Antioch calling for a meeting of all of the primates of the Local Orthodox Churches to resolve the Ukrainian controversy.  An English translation of the Russian translation is found at  Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew rejected the idea as such a meeting “would be useless inasmuch as it would only lead to agreement that the participants are in disagreement with each other.”   It is true that under the consensus rule adopted by the Orthodox Church in recent decades, a council or a meeting of the primates could only make a decision if there is a complete agreement among the Local Orthodox Churches.  Thus, both Moscow and Constantinople would need to agree to any proposed solution – something that Constantinople apparently believes is highly unlikely at this point in time.

    It was announced yesterday that an extraordinary meeting of all of the hierarchs of the Church of Greece will be held on March 19 – 21.  At the extraordinary meeting, certain critical church – state issues will be discussed, and it was assumed that the Ukrainian crisis will also be discussed because the Holy Synod had earlier referred that issue to a meeting of all of the hierarchs.  However, today the website has questioned whether the Ukraine matter would be considered at the March 19 meeting as the matter has just be referred to two committees for their recommendations and it is doubtful that these committees could complete their work prior to March 19. 

    As previously reported, the Holy Synod of the OCU on February 5 reserved to its primate Metropolitan Epifany the responsibility for its Department of External Church Relations.  Metropolitan Epifany has now appointed two deputy heads for the DECR – Archbishop Hilarion of Rivne and Archbishop Yevstraty of Chernigov.   Both had been permanent members of the Holy Synod of the UOC-KP and are now members of the Holy Synod of the OCU.  Both had been ordained by Filaret.  Presumably, one or both of them will be responsible for the important work of trying to establish relations with the various Local Orthodox Churches.   One wonders if the choice was dictated by giving important positions to those in the inner circle of the former UOC-KP or by choosing priests, archimandrites, or bishops who would have the greatest likelihood of being received by the various Local Orthodox Churches for the purpose of dialogue.

    All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations (AUCCRO) has just completed an important March 3-6 visit to Israel.  Descriptions of the visit can be read at  It is encouraging to see delegates from the various religious organizations in Ukraine traveling together as a single delegation, including the UOC-MP and the OCU.  Major Archbishop Sviatoslav, primate of the UGCC,  was a member of the delegation.   The UOC-MP was represented by Bishop Victor of Baryshev and Archpriest Nikolai Danilevich, deputy head of the UOC-MP’s DECR.  Both Bishop Victor and Father Nikolai were also graciously received during the visit by Patriarch Theophilos III of Jerusalem.   It appears that the OCU chose not to send a bishop but rather a priest.  Perhaps this was done to avoid forcing the issue of whether Patriarch Theophilus would meet the OCU bishop.

    The details of the trip of Pope Francis to Bulgaria and North Macedonia, May 5-7, 2019, were released yesterday.  He will meet with Patriarch Neofit and the Holy Synod of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church on Sunday, May 5.  This will be followed by “private prayer [apparently not common] before the throne of Saints Cyril and Methodius in the Patriarchal Cathedral of Saint Alexander Nevsky.”  The Pope will then do the Regina Coeli prayer in St. Alexander Nevsky Square.  This is a prayer usually done by the Pope during the Easter Season on Sundays in St. Peter’s Square.  On Monday, the Pope will preside at a “prayer for peace … in the presence [but apparently not necessarily with the participation] of leaders of the various religious confessions in Bulgaria in Nezavisimost Square in Sofia.”  On Tuesday in Skopje, the main ecumenical and interreligious event will be “with young people.”  This will apparently avoid a direct meeting with bishops of the schismatic Macedonian Orthodox Church.

    In other news, it has been announced that Patriarch Kirill is planning a trip to North Korean, but no date has been set.  An English translation of the document of the Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate relating to Ukraine, adopted at its February 26 meeting can be read at   An English translation of Serbia’s formal statement relating to Ukraine is available at .

    I will away from March 16 – 26, so there will be a considerable delay before my report on the meeting of the Greek hierarchs.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 23 February 2019: Paris assembly - no to dissolution

    The general assembly of the Archdiocese of Russian Orthodox Churches in Western Europe (Ecumenical Patriarchate) was held today (Saturday).  The results of the assembly were made known just a few hours ago at  .  The following is an excerpt from the foregoing article by the Paris website,

    The assembly voted against the dissolution of the Archdiocese (206 voters, 15 for the dissolution, 191 against). No decision has been made regarding the jurisdictional choice. A new assembly be may held in June to choose one. An official statement is expected.

    As you recalled, the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate decided on November 27, 2018, to dissolve the exarchate of the Archdiocese and to integrate its parishes (a total of approximately 65 parishes) into the metropolises of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in the respective countries in which the parishes are located.  In its decision today, the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s Archdiocese of Russian Orthodox Churches in Western Europe has rejected its dissolution by Constantinople and will now find a new home.  The Moscow Patriarchate, which has recently established its own exarchate for Western Europe, would obviously welcome the Archdiocese with open arms.  The Moscow Patriarchate will most likely be the choice made by the next assembly of the Archdiocese.  It appears that Archbishop John and many at today’s assembly were in favor of Moscow. 

    With respect to the general subject of the loss or acquisition of parishes, there is a dispute as to the number of parishes of the UOC-MP which have transferred to the new OCU.  The website that has been reporting on a daily basis the number of transfers lists today a total of 366 parishes that have transferred since December 17.  According to this website, this constitutes 3.19 percent of the total number of UOC-MP parishes.  Although this is still a very small percentage, there is the question of how long this trend will continue.  The website does have a graph showing the rate of transfers on a daily basis, and the rate was slower last week than the preceding three weeks.

    On Thursday (Feb. 21) the UOC-MP held a press conference which discussed the transfer of parishes.  The UOC-MP only acknowledges the transfer of 36 parishes.  Also, “about 200 cases where there is currently forceful opposition - conflicts that have not led to results, therefore, one cannot say that they have changed their affiliation.”  “[A]nother 24 communities of the UOC were re-registered by raiding (these cases will be appealed in court).

    Yesterday, the representatives of the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations met with the Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Groisman.  To my knowledge, it was the first time that representatives of the UOC-MP and the OCU have been in the same room together.  The chief representative of the OCU was Metropolitan Epifany.  The UOC-MP were presented by Bishop Victor (Baryshevsky), vicar bishop of Kyiv, and Archpriest Nikolai Danilevich.  The prime topic of the meeting was the protection of the family.  The remarks of Bishop Victor were directed at the unlawful interference of the state in the internal life of the church. 

    On February 14, Patriarch Irinej of Serbia wrote a letter to Metropolitan Onufry strongly supporting the position of the UOC-MP.   Meanwhile, two bishops of the schismatic church of “Macedonia”  (previously part of the Serbian Patriarchate) have expressed the hope that the Ecumenical Patriarchate will soon be considering granting autocephaly to their church. 


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 22 February 2019: Holy Synod of Romanian Patriarchate on Ukraine

    Today the Holy Synod of the Romanian Patriarchate met.  The official English translation of the communique on today’s meeting has been posted at .  Although the Synod refrained from stating its “official position on the situation of Orthodoxy in Ukraine,” it did make a number of observations.  I have pasted the part of the communique relating to Ukraine at the end of this report.  Aside from specific recommendations relating to Romanian parishes in Ukraine and a question concerning the status of UOC-KP parishes in the West, the Holy Synod essentially repeated its recommendations made in May and October 2018.  These recommendations first involve a bilateral dialogue between Constantinople and Moscow to find a solution “by preserving the unity of faith, by respecting the administrative and pastoral freedom of the clergy and faithful in this country (including the right to autocephaly), and by restoring Eucharistic communion.”  If this fails, there should be a meeting of all of the primates of the Local Orthodox Churches to solve the problem.  The communique states that the Holy Synod will express its formal position “[a]fter completing the above consultations.”  It not clear whether the “consultations” to be completed refer to just consultations on the Romanian parishes in Ukraine and on the question of the UOC-KP parishes in the West or whether they also include dialogues between Local Orthodox Churches.  In any event, it could be a considerable wait before the Romanian Synod expresses its “official position.”   In evaluating this communique, it should be remembered that the relations between the Romanian Patriarchate and Constantinople are generally very positive and that the OCU was hopeful in obtaining rapid recognition by the Romanian Patriarchate.  For the OCU, today’s development should be sobering news.

    The full text of the decision of the Church of Cyprus with respect to Ukraine, posted on February 18, is now available in unofficial French ( and English ( translations.  In many ways the decision makes statements favorable to the Ecumenical Patriarchate.  However, the decision expresses “reason to doubt” the validity of ordinations performed by banned, excommunicated, and anathemized bishops.  In other words, did the granting of Filaret’s appeal by the Ecumenical Patriarch mean that the original sanctions were removed so that subsequent events should be viewed as if the sanctions were never imposed in the first place?  If so, it would mean that all the UOC-KP bishops ordained by Filaret would be validly ordained.  Or can the granting of the appeal mean that Filaret could only be restored prospectively?  In such a case his prior ordinations of others would not be valid.  The Ecumenical Patriarch obviously contends that he has the power to grant the appeal with retroactive effect.  Although the Ecumenical Patriarch may be correct, this may be an issue on which reasonable minds could differ.

    The Cyprus decision also states that “the Ecumenical Patriarchate must again find a way to calm the consciousness of believers regarding the authenticity of ordinations and sacraments, performed by this leadership.”  How does one calm the doubts of believers?  As a practical matter, it is unlikely that the distribution to believers of a scholarly dissertation on the retroactive effect of an appeal, for which most people do not have the educational background to understand, would calm their doubts.  Perhaps, the Holy Synod of Cyprus may be alluding, without express mention, to a conditional ordination of the OCU bishops who were formerly with the UOC-KP or UAOC by bishops whose orders are beyond dispute.  This is something that everyone could understand.  Perhaps I am demonstrating my ignorance or naïveté, but it seems to me that this could be an easy solution to one of the major disputes involving the Ukrainian churches.  If the conditional ordinations were limited to the essential elements of laying on of hands and certain prayers, they could be accomplished for all of the bishops in a few hours.  The Ecumenical Patriarchate could publicly state that it has no doubts concerning the retroactive effect of the granting the appeals, but that the conditional ordinations are being done simply to allay the doubts of the Church of Cyprus and others.  In fact, it is unlikely that the UOC-MP and the OCU will ever be reconciled into one church unless the doubts of the UOC-MP are resolved.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA



    As regards the ecclesiastical situation in Ukraine, the Holy Synod stressed the following aspects:

    1. For almost thirty years, the issue of the Ukrainian schism was not solved, nor was any appeal made for a pan-Orthodox mediation, as was the case in the past with the schism in Bulgaria.  Noticing this deadlock in resolving the situation, the Ecumenical Patriarchate granted the Tomos of autocephaly to the hierarchs, clergy, and believers who were in schism with the Russian Orthodox Church and the entire Orthodoxy, but this Tomos was accepted only by the Ukrainian Orthodox people who were not in communion with the Moscow Patriarchate.  Therefore, the problem of Ukrainian ecclesiastical unity is not fully resolved at present, also because in Ukraine there is a large Russian population having a direct relation to the Moscow Patriarchate.
    2. Regarding this tense ecclesiastical situation in Ukraine, the Holy Synod of the Romanian Orthodox Church reiterates its stance expressed during its previous working sessions of 24 May and 25 October 2018.  It was then recommended that, through dialogue, the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Moscow Patriarchate identify a solution to this ecclesiastical dispute by preserving the unity of faith, by respecting the administrative and pastoral freedom of the clergy and faithful in this country (including the right to autocephaly), and by restoring Eucharistic communion.  In the event of an unsuccessful bilateral dialogue, it is necessary to convene a Synaxis of all Primates of Orthodox Churches to solve the existing problem.
    3. For a concrete and correct decision of the Holy Synod of the Romanian Orthodox Church, at a forthcoming working session, the Holy Synod will consider with priority that there are 127 Romanian Orthodox parishes in Ukraine, especially in Northern Bukovina, which are under the jurisdiction of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Moscow Patriarchate. A real consultation is needed with these Romanian Orthodox people, who are concerned with preserving their ethnic and linguistic identity. In this sense, it is necessary to obtain written assurances from Ukrainian ecclesiastical and state authorities that the ethnic and linguistic identity of these Romanians will be respected, and that these Romanian Orthodox will have the possibility to organise themselves within a Romanian Orthodox Vicariate and to be able to cultivate spiritual relations with the Romanian Patriarchate, in order to be supported by sending liturgical and theological books in their mother tongue, that is, in the Romanian language. It was noted that a Ukrainian Orthodox Vicariate has been operating in Romania since 1990.
    4. In addition, the Romanian Patriarchate will ask the Ecumenical Patriarchate to clarify the problem of the non-canonical hierarchs and priests in the West, who belonged to the former ‘Kiev Patriarchate’.

    After completing the above-mentioned consultations, the Holy Synod will express its official position on the situation of Orthodoxy in Ukraine.

  • 18 February 2019: Decision of the Church of Cyprus

    The Holy Synod of the Church of Cyprus discussed the Ukraine situation at its meeting on February 7 and set an “extraordinary meeting” for February 18 to discuss it further.  The latter meeting occurred today and the decision has been posted this afternoon in Greek at .    The website has provided a good English summary of some of the high points.   Although an English translation of the entire document is not yet available, the Google translation tool provides some help in understanding the decision.   Using Google, the following are two of the key paragraphs:

    The proclamation of the granting of autocephaly to the Church of Ukraine by the Ecumenical Patriarch took place for the purpose of the pursuit and the realization of the union of this Church.  We do not question this goal.  So far this purpose has not been achieved.  It is natural to give a certain amount of time to show the result.  If this goal is not resolved, we are expecting by the Ecumenical Patriarch to either convene a Pan-Orthodox Synod or a congregation of the Primates to act upon it, by using the role conferred to him as the Primate of Orthodoxy. The primary concern of all of us must be the salvation of the present-day people of God there.

    In the case of the achievement of the unity around the new leadership, the Ecumenical Patriarch must again find a way of reassuring the conscience of the believers about the validity of this ordination and the ceremonies performed by this leadership.  And yet, considering the sensitivity of the Russian people to the place where their ancestors were baptized, he would ensure that a relevant jurisdiction of the Russian people was safeguarded.

    I am sure that the OCU will be disappointed that the decision does not provide for its immediate recognition by the Church of Cyprus.  However, the decision does make several points that will please the Ecumenical Patriarchate.  The decision refers to the Ecumenical Patriarch as the “Primate of Orthodoxy.”  This seems to acknowledge a special role for the Patriarch at the universal level, something that Moscow refuses to acknowledge.  The decision also indicates that the Ecumenical Patriarch is acting in Ukraine in good faith and for a laudable goal.  The following article describes some comments made today by a representative the UOC-MP with respect to the decision.  The following are comments just made by Archimandrite Cyril Hovorun, who is sympathetic to the OCU.    There is more to the decision than quoted above.  Hopefully, a good translation of the entire decision will be available shortly.  I am sure that there will be much discussion about the decision in the future by persons far more knowledgeable than I.

    Last Saturday’s news about the dismissal from the clerical state of former Cardinal McCarrick for sexual abuse of minors and other offenses is an occasion for me to mention that the Catholic view of the effect of “defrocking” is different from the Orthodox view.  This may affect the way Catholics view the recent events in Ukraine.  The Catholic teaching is that ordination has an indelible spiritual character and cannot be removed.  The Catholic position on this is clear from the Catechism of the Catholic Church (Section 1583), the Council of Trent (Session 23, Canon IV) , and earlier teachings, at least in the West.  For example, the Jesuit publication America posted an article on February 12 explaining what the anticipated laicization of McCarrick would mean.  The following is a quotation from the article:

    Even if he were dismissed from the clerical state [which is what happened], Archbishop McCarrick would technically remain a priest and a bishop.  According to Catholic teaching, ordination, like baptism, is indelible and cannot be reversed.  That means even if he is laicized, the former archbishop would be sacramentally capable of celebrating Mass and even of ordaining men as priests and bishops, though forbidden to do so.  Though he would be creating schism, the ordinations would nevertheless be considered valid. 

    It appears that Orthodox do not believe that ordination has an indelible character.  See  Thus, through Orthodox eyes, Filaret was reduced to a layman by the disciplinary action of the Moscow Patriarchate, and any ordinations subsequently performed by him, such as the ordination of Epifany, were a nullity.  (Constantinople, of course, argues that it has revoked this disciplinary action, so that the ordination is now valid.)  However, viewed though Catholic lens, Filaret always remained a bishop since the time of his episcopal ordination in 1962 (one cannot be “un-ordained”), and the ordination of Epifany was therefore valid.  I am not arguing which view is correct, but simply pointing out that the Catholic and Orthodox views are different. 

    The website of the new OCU has posted a report with many photos covering each of the 3-1/2 days of its delegation’s visit to Mt. Athos.  The report describes in positive terms visits to nine monasteries.  An article which criticizes this report can be read at (English).

    The general assembly of the Archdiocese of Russian Orthodox Churches in Western Europe (Ecumenical Patriarchate) will be held in Paris next Saturday, February 23.  In a communique issued on February 8, the Archdiocese made clear that purpose of this assembly is simply whether to accept the decision of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to dissolve its status as an exarchate or not.    If the assembly does not accept the decision, a future general assembly will be held to consider the various options available with respect to the form of the Archdiocese’s continued existence.  On February 15, Metropolitan Emmanuel of France (Ecumenical Patriarchate) gave an important interview, which has kindly translated into English.  In the interview he provides an explanation for the action taken by the Patriarchate in dissolving the exarchate.   Metropolitan Emmanuel reaffirms his proposal to establish a form of vicariate in France to continue the Russian tradition there.  With respect to parishes outside of his jurisdiction of France, he states that “the number of communities is much smaller, so it is difficult to group them together,” but he maintains that in the Patriarchate’s metropolises in Western Europe “ many communities celebrate in local languages ​​and live fully rooted in their respective countries.”  He also talks about the importance of Saint-Serge Institute in Paris, whose “vocation is by nature pan-Orthodox, inclusive, open to inter-Orthodox, ecumenical, and interreligious dialogue.”   On January 28 the Institute expressed its “solidarity” with the Archdiocese.  TASS has posted an article which reports that Metropolitan Hilarion has stated that the process of parishes of the Archdiocese returning to the Moscow Patriarchate is gaining momentum.  The article also states that the Archdiocese has a total of 65 parishes of which 40 are in France.  As I have previously reported, Moscow has now established its own exarchate for Western Europe.

    Further details concerning the Moscow conference to commemorate the third anniversary of the Havana meeting are available at .  The full English text of Cardinal Koch’s address is found at .  The following day, February 13, there was a meeting of the Joint Working Group for Cultural Cooperation between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church.  The Group “discussed a number of new projects due to be carried out in 2019 and early 2020, such as concerts of religious music, exhibitions, joint conferences, presentations of books and the annual Summer Institute.”  One of the participants in the Group was Metropolitan Tikhon of Pskov and Porkhov, chairman of the Patriarchal Council for Culture. 


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 12 February 2019: News from Mt. Athos

    Very early this morning (1:07 a.m.), the very popular Greek website,, posted an article by its founder, Emilios Polygenis.  Polygenis is often the first to break news on important developments in the Orthodox world, and he is generally very reliable.   He is also a good friend of Metropolitan Hilarion.  In fact, Metropolitan Hilarion almost always uses Polygenis for interviews intended primarily to a Greek-speaking audience, such as the following major interview that he gave to Polygenis just five days ago.   Therefore, the article posted today was not written by a person hostile to Moscow, but just the opposite. has launched in the last few days an English-language website,, so today’s article is now available in English as well as Greek.  The following is an excerpt of much of today’s article:

    “We remain on the side of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and we will not tolerate its humiliation,” the members of the Holy Community of Mount Athos said on Monday on the occasion of the recent developments in Ukraine and the granting of Autocephaly to the local Church.

    At the meeting held behind closed doors and without any publicity, much was said about the issue that has sparked controversy among the leaders of the Orthodox Churches.  The Athonites emphasized that this particular issue should make them feel proud.  “It has been clear in this case too,” they noted, “that Hellenism and the Ecumenical Patriarchate have the Primacy in Orthodoxy,” while they agreed that everyone should stand by the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

    They even agreed that it is preferable for the Holy Community to be silenced at this time so as not to create misinterpretations.  They suggested waiting for the conditions to mature more. “Besides,” they said, “we are not a Church, and we are not called upon to make a decision on recognition.”

    “What is important is to maintain the unity of the Holy Monasteries and to send in every direction a clear message that no one will be allowed ‘to instrumentalize’ Mount Athos.  Because Mount Athos concerns everyone,” all those present argued unanimously.

    The English-language website associated with Moscow’s Sretensky Monastery,, posted today an article which raises questions with respect to the foregoing report.    It is true that prior to this, Mt. Athos has been sending mixed signals.

    Yesterday’s meeting occurred in the context of a visit to Mt. Athos by a delegation from the new Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU).  The delegation is led by 39-year-old Bishop Pavlo of Odessa and Balta.  The delegation is visiting Mt. Athos at the invitation of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.  Pavlo has only been a bishop for one year and was apparently chosen because he had previously been a monk at the St. Michael's Golden-Domed Monastery in Kyiv.    The delegation was well received by the Xenophontos,  Pantokratoros, New Esphigmenou and Vatopedi Monasteries.   They were reportedly barred by the St. Panteleimon (Russian), Zograf (Bulgarian), and Dokhiar Monasteries.  There are indications that the visit of the delegation to Mt. Athos is now completed.  It should be noted that there are no reporters at the scene to cover these visits and that reports are based primarily on contacts made by individuals with persons that they know at Mt. Athos.  Accordingly, there may have been more visits that those mentioned above, and there may be inaccuracies in the reports.

    Today marks the third anniversary of the historic Havana meeting between Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill.  To mark this anniversary, an international conference on the subject of ““Death and dying in a technological society” was held in Moscow today.  Speakers included Metropolitan Hilarion, Cardinal Kurt Koch (president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity), and Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia (President of the Pontifical Academy for Life).  The text of Metropolitan Hilarion’s address can be read at .   

    The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Croatia has made public its letter, dated November 18, 2018, to Patriarch Irinej of Serbia.  The following is an English translation of the long and detailed letter:  The letter relates to “frequent statements and reproaches in the public appearances and the media by the highest representatives of the Serbian Orthodox Church directed at the Catholic Church and bishops in the Republic of Croatia,” especially during the last year.  After discussing the various statements, the letter proposes regular meetings between representatives of the Catholic Church in Croatia and the Serbian Orthodox Church “on issues that relate to the two Churches and their activity.”  The Serbian Orthodox Church has now issued a press release by Bishop Irinej of Backa stating that the Church’s responses will be made in due course.    The release also states that it was unacceptable to make official correspondence public, but in view of the publication by the Conference, the Serbian response will also be made public.  On a more positive note, the Catholic bishops in Croatia and the Serbian Orthodox bishops in Croatia released last month an excellent joint statement.  (English text of statement)  The statement includes the following:

    Therefore, we pray that we may heed Jesus’ words: “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” (Lk 6:36), so that with our forgiveness we may be greater than the evil committed, which has humiliated us, and without thoughts of vengeance or hatred, in pure remembrance safeguard the memory of our innocent victims, heal wounded souls, promote trust and understanding among individuals and nations and, thereby, through the path of evangelization establish firm foundations for a better and more just future in our homeland for every person.

    Other news: (1) The Church of Cyprus will further discuss the issues relating to autocephaly for the Church of Ukraine at an extraordinary meeting on February 18. 

    (2) As you recall, a general assembly of the Archdiocese of Russian Orthodox Churches in Western Europe (Ecumenical Patriarchate) will be held in Paris on February 23 to decide what action to take after the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate decided to eliminate its existence as a separate exarchate and to integrate the parishes into the metropolitan sees of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in the countries in which they are located.  Metropolitan Emmanuel of France has now written a letter to certain priests of the Archdiocese offering to establish a vicarate to preserve the Russian traditions in his metropolis.  

    (3)  The Church of Greece has appointed a new member to the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches.  He is Archimandrite Amphilochios (Miltos) from Volos.  He is a well-known scholar who did his doctoral thesis on Catholic collegiality and Orthodox synodality.

    (4) Pope Francis sent Patriarch Kirill a letter congratulating him on the 10th anniversary of his enthronement.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 5 February 2019: New Synod - Orthodox Church of Ukraine

    The Holy Synod of the new Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU) held its first meeting today, Tuesday.  The most important news was the composition of the Holy Synod itself.  In accordance with the statue of the OCU, the three permanent members, for this “transition period,” are Filaret (primate of the former UOC-KP), Makary (primate of the former OAOC), and Simeon (formerly of the UOC-MP).  That leaves nine Synod members who are serving for one year.  The names were posted on the website of the OCU as well as photos of the meeting.     Of the nine, eight were previously members of the UOC-KP.  The only exception was Archbishop Herman of Chernivtsi and Khotynsky, a bishop of the former UAOC.  Of the eight who were previously members of the UOC-KP, six had been permanent members of the Holy Synod of the UOC-KP.  Metropolitan Michael of Lutsk, who had been one of the three finalists in the election for primate, was not chosen to be a member of the Holy Synod.  Filaret, who had been too ill to attend the enthronement of Epifany, was present at today’s meeting.

    It is clear that the initial appointment of non-permanent Synod members was not made based on their dates of priestly ordination.  However, under the statute, their appointments can only be for one year.  Presumably, their replacements at the end of their term must be selected based on the dates of their priestly ordination. 

    The decisions made by the Holy Synod are described on the OCU’s website.  Metropolitan Simeon of Vinnitsa was chosen to be the Chief Secretary of the Holy Synod.  With respect to the selection of a person to head the Department of External Church Relations, the posting states: “Taking into account the special importance of the direction of development of external church relations -- the leadership of the Department of External Church Relations was kept by the Primate.”   Religious organizations that were a part of a diocese prior to December 15, 2018, remain part of that diocese.  It was decided that parishes and priests cannot be transferred between dioceses without the consent of both the sending and receiving bishops.  Filaret maintains responsible for those parishes and monasteries of Kyiv (except St. Michael’s Monastery) which were subordinate to him prior to December 15, 2018.  A model statute for dioceses was approved.  A new rector for the Kyiv Theological Academy, to replace Epifany, was appointed.  Appointments were also made to head certain departments, such as military chaplaincy, social services, and a new organization, "Orthodox mission to assist victims of human rights violations and persons deprived of their liberty."

    It appears that Epifany now has the power to appoint individuals within the DECR.  Presumably, he will select persons whom he hopes will be effective in dealing with the various Local Orthodox Churches.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 4 February 2019: Enthronements - anniversary & actual

    The celebration of the tenth anniversary of the enthronement of Patriarch Kirill occurred on Thursday and Friday.  It was very impressive.  On Thursday, the “solemn act” was held in the Great Hall of the State Kremlin Palace, which seats up to 6,000 people.  From photos and videos, it appears that the huge hall was filled to capacity.  President Putin spoke first.  The official English translation of his speech can be read at, and a video of his speech can be seen at .   With respect to Ukraine, the President stated:

    Of course, we hope that the Russian Orthodox Church will remain an effective force for peace, promote friendship and neighbourliness, and support our compatriots and people belonging to Orthodox culture.  Brotherly interchurch ties have historically united nations and served to promote equitable relations between Russia and many foreign countries.

    Unfortunately, we can see other examples as well where speculation, politicking and parasitism on matters of religious life have led to disunity among people and provoked anger and intolerance.  Precisely such a project that is unrelated to faith and is false through and through, focusing on the struggle for power, is unfolding in Ukraine.  Regrettably, the Patriarchate of Constantinople got dragged into it.  In fact, we are witnessing flagrant interference in church life.  Its initiators seem to have taken after the godless people of the previous century, who expelled believers from churches and attacked and persecuted the clergy.

    To reiterate, the state, the Russian authorities consider any interference in church affairs to be absolutely intolerable.  We have and will always have respect for the independence of church life, all the more so in a neighbouring sovereign country.  Nevertheless, we reserve the right to respond and do our best to protect human rights, including freedom of religion.

    Patriarch Kirill was the next speaker.  The official English translation of his address can be read at , and a video of his address can be seen at .  In his 28-minute address, only one paragraph was devoted to Ukraine.  Instead, the Patriarch focused on the challenges facing the Church, such as the efforts to limit the Church’s influence on man and society, especially with respect to the family, and the assumption that science can solve any human problem.  He referred to the virtues needed such as “the internal unity in brotherly love, kindness to those around us and to the outer world without any concessions in what concerns the truth of the Gospel, and, finally, the joyful sense of nearness of the eternal Kingdom of Christ and of everyone’s resurrection.”

    The audience also enjoyed a 16-minute film, “The Way,” relating to the Russian Orthodox Church in the last ten years.  You can watch the entire film at .  It is worth watching even if you do not understand the Russian words.  It relates to the efforts of the Russian Orthodox Church to reach out to and help people throughout the world.  The film even shows Patriarch Kirill greeting Pope Francis at the Havana airport with the triple kiss.  The audience was also treated to a marvelous concert with 700 singers, 24 choirs, and famous soloists.  An interesting collection of photos of the event can be seen at  You can see President Putin in the front row center with Patriarch Kirill on his right and Patriarch John X of Antioch and then Patriarch Irinej of Serbia on his left.  In one photo, you can see Archbishop Celestino Migliore, apostolic nuncio to the Russian Federation, in the audience.  The Moscow Patriarchate also issued a very extensive report documenting the great growth and advances in the Church in the last ten years. 

    There were primates from four Orthodox churches at the celebration:  Antioch, Serbia, Czech Lands and Slovakia as well as the OCA.  Interestingly, all of these four churches have made statements favoring the Moscow Patriarch’s position in the Ukraine crisis.  On January 28, the OCA had issued an archpastoral letter, which, among other things, stated that it would “ withhold, with several of our sister Churches, recognition of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine.”  Metropolitan Rostislav, primate of the Church of Czech Lands and Slovakia, disclosed on Friday that the Holy Synod of his church (consisting of four bishops) had instructed him on Wednesday to appeal to all Orthodox Churches to hold a pan-Orthodox meeting on the Ukrainian matter.  He also emphasized that a schism can only be healed by repentance and a return to the canonical church. 

    For the celebrations, the following Local Orthodox Churches were not represented by their primates, but rather sent delegations: Alexandria, Romania, Bulgaria, Georgia, and Poland.  There were no delegations from the following Local Orthodox Churches:  Greece, Albania, Cyprus, Jerusalem (however,  the archimandrite who represents the Jerusalem Patriarchate in Moscow was there), and of course, Constantinople.  On Friday, the Divine Liturgy, in which the primates and many others participated, was held in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior.  A video of the entire 3-hour liturgy can be watched at .

    On Friday evening, there was distressing news from Kyiv, that Archimandrite Ephraim, who is the abbot of the famous Vatopedi Monastery at Mt. Athos and who had come to Kyiv as part of the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s delegation for the enthronement of Epifany, had been hospitalized.  A popular English-language Orthodox website in Moscow reported that Abbot Ephraim had suffered a heart attack.  From “a reliable source,” it stated that “Archimandrite Ephraim was given an ultimatum by Pat. Bartholomew to attend the enthronement or be suspended from clerical duties.”  On Saturday, Abbot Ephraim was visited at the hospital by Metropolitan Epifany.  The following article shows photos of the two together for what appears to be a very warm encounter.   The UOC-MP reported that there was a telephone conversation between some of its hierarchs and the abbot.  It also stated that the abbot has now been transported to a foreign (apparently Geneva) clinic for treatment.

    Metropolitan Epifany was enthroned this morning in the historic St. Sophia Cathedral in Kyiv.  A three-hour video of the entire ceremony and liturgy is available at .  As previously announced, none of the Local Orthodox Churches sent representatives except for Constantinople.  Patriarch Kirill’s press secretary referred to the ceremony as a “pitiful sight.”  As stated above, some of the Local Orthodox Churches had expressly rejected recognition of the OCU.  However, eight have not yet made a decision and are still considering the matter.  For example, on January 30, Metropolitan Emmanuel (Ecumenical Patriarchate) met with Patriarch Ilia and the Holy Synod of the Georgian Patriarchate on the subject of Ukraine.  It appears that Georgia is still considering the matter and is in no rush to make a decision. 

    At the ceremony today, Metropolitan Emmanuel and Metropolitan Makary (head of the former UAOC) performed the enthronement.  Some of the members of the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s delegation included Metropolitan Amphilochios of Adrianople and Archimandrite Alexios (abbot of the Xenophontos Monastery of Mt. Athos).  There were also hierarchs from the Ukrainian Orthodox Churches of Canada and the USA.  Those attending from the Catholic Church in Ukraine were Major Archbishop Svyatoslav (Shevchuk)(primate of the UGCC), Latin-rite Archbishop Mieczysław Mokrzycki of Lviv, and Bishop Bronislav Bernatsky (chairmen of the Ukrainian Catholic Bishops’ Conference).  It appears that Archbishop Claudio Gugerotti, the apostolic nuncio to Ukraine, did not attend.   The primate of the former UOC-KP Filaret did not attend because of some serious health issues.   

    It was also announced today that the first meeting of the Holy Synod of the OCU will occur tomorrow, Monday.   Under the statue of the OCU, the 12 members of the Holy Synod are diocesan (not vicar) bishops appointed for a limited term of one year.  This is similar to the Church of Greece.  It stands in contrast to the Moscow Patriarchate and the UOC-MP where a majority of the Synod consists of “permanent members” who remain on the Synod year after year and who effectively control it.  The OCU will use staggered terms where half of the synod members are appointed every six months.  Also for a limited “transition period,” the Holy Synod of the OCU will have three permanent members – Filaret, Makary, and Simeon.  Synod members are appointed by Epifany on a rotational basis from bishops ranked on the basis of their dates of priestly ordination. (complete text of statute)

    The Synod will need to make some very important decisions, such who will hold various key posts in the church’s administration. It will be interesting to see if the Synod give any responsibilities to some of the more progressive voices such as Archimandrite Cyril Hovorun or Father Georgy Kovalenko.   These two priests were among the signers of a just-posted document, entitled “ten theses,” which describes principles that should govern the new church.   Assuming that Filaret will also be too ill to attend tomorrow’s meeting, one wonders what effect his absence will have on the decisions made.

    The absence of delegations from the other Local Orthodox Churches at today’s enthronement should send a stark message to the OCU that it must work very hard to obtain the respect of the various Local Orthodox Churches.  On the other hand, the OCU is probably encouraged by the number of parishes that have continued on a daily basis to transfer to it.  The latest total since December 17 is 216 (still only 1.75 % of the UOC-MP parishes), with 16 parishes added today.   On January 30 the OCU was officially registered as a legal entity by the state, and this may facilitate transfers.  The OCU may also be encouraged by a poll that has just been released.  Of the Orthodox polled, 43.9% stated that they are members of the OCU under Metropolitan Epifany, 15.2% are members of the UOC-MP under Metropolitan Onufry, and 38.4% responded, “I am simply Orthodox, not inclined to one confession.”


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 29 January 2019: Ukraine & Panama

    Today, Monday, President Poroshenko signed Bill No. 2148-d, which establishes a procedure for a religious community to change religious affiliation.   On January 17, the Ukrainian parliament (Rada) had passed the bill, with a vote of 229 to 35.  The complete text of the bill, No. 2148-d, can be read at .  I am sure that the primary motivation of the bill was to regulate the movement of parishes from the UOC-MP to the OCU, but by its terms the bill relates to any religious community regardless of faith or denomination.  As I understand existing Ukrainian law, religious buildings are the property of the local religious community – perhaps a holdover from the old Soviet system.

    According to the bill, a decision to change affiliation must be made at “the general meeting of the religious community.”  With respect to who is a member of the religious community eligible to vote, the bill simply refers to the existing rules of that community as to who is a member.  A two-thirds majority is required to change affiliation.  If this majority is obtained, those who supported the change must sign a document.  Presumably, the latter is intended to be a safeguard to show that the voters are actually local church members.  Although this procedure may seem straightforward, there may still be confusion.  For example, what will happen if the local religious community does not have existing rules with respect to membership?  If the community now desires to establish for the first time a membership rule, the bill provides that any amendment of the religious community’s rules requires a two-thirds approval at a general meeting.  Who will be eligible to vote at a general meeting to adopt a rule which defines for the first time who is a member of the religious community???  Comments by the UOC-MP with respect to the new bill can be read at  Although the UOC-MP is critical of this bill, it appears to be substantially less upset about this bill than the law that would require it to change its name to reflect its Moscow affiliation.

    As I have previously mentioned, the following website claims to chronicle all of the transfers from the UOC-MP to the OCU.   The website has now added a table which shows the number of UOC-MP parishes in each region (oblast) and the number in that region that have transferred.  It shows that the latest total number of transfers is 162 parishes since December 17.  According to the website, this total constitutes 1.31% of the UOC-MP parishes – still a very minimal number.  However, the numbers continue to increase – on last Sunday, 21 parishes transferred.  The UOC-MP has posted on its website many article relating to various parishes rejecting the OCU.  Accordingly, there is most likely a dispute as to correctness of the number 162.  It is possible that the passage of the new law will accelerate the rate of transfers to the OCU.

    Aside from Serbia, Antioch, and Poland, the other Local Orthodox Churches have not yet expressed their views as to whether they will recognize the OCU.  Clearly, they are not in a rush to do so.  The issues are complex.  Also the bishops within a Local Orthodox Church may be divided among themselves on the issues.  This may be illustrated by the case of Bulgaria, which is normally considered to be closely aligned to the Moscow Patriarchate.  According to one report, the Holy Synod of the Bulgarian Patriarchate discussed the Ukraine issue at a meeting held January 22-24.  The report named the seven members who supported the Moscow Patriarchate at the meeting, and the eight, including the Patriarch Neofit, who supported the Ecumenical Patriarchate.  The majority referred the matter to its commission that is studying the matter.  Today, reports that the head of the commission, Metropolitan Cyprian, has stated that a decision has not yet been reached by the Synod as the issues are still being studied.   There also appears to be division in the Patriarchate of Georgia.  It is reported that ten bishops support autocephaly for Ukraine.  On the other hand, there appears to be some who are sympathetic to Moscow’s position.  Even with respect to the Serbian Patriarchate, Bishop Maksim of Western America has stated:  “But the part of the Church which is in that territory already found in the fullness of the life of the Church should not be indifferent but prayerfully recognize the opportunity for compatriots in a different way to enter into the graced space of the same Church.” 

    Metropolitan Epifany has stated that he expects that his enthronement as primate of the OCU will occur on next Sunday, February 3, which is also his 40th birthday.  However, he made clear that this was not an official announcement.  As far as I can determine, the official announcement still has not been made.  This raises the possibility that it may actually occur on a later date.  So far, none of the other Local Orthodox Churches (aside from the Ecumenical Patriarchate) has indicated that they will attend.  Today,, in an exclusive report states that it has information that the monasteries at Mt. Athos (part of the Ecumenical Patriarchate) met today and only seven of the 20 monasteries were in favor of sending a delegation to the enthronement.  The report concludes that Mt. Athos will not send a delegation.  However, it also shows that the monasteries are divided on this issue  -- as is true for bishops within some individual Local Orthodox Churches.

    The Ukrainian issue continues to the subject of discussions between the Local Orthodox Churches.  On January 10, Metropolitan Hilarion met with Patriarch Theophilos III of Jerusalem.  Metropolitan Emmanuel of France (Ecumenical Patriarchate) has met with Metropolitan Sawa, primate of the Church of Poland.   Archbishop Anastasios, primate of the Albanian Church, met with Archbishop Ieronymos, primate of the Church of Greece.  Metropolitan Elpidophoros (Ecumenical Patriarchate) met with Archbishop Chrysostomos, primate of the Church of Cyprus. 

    On this Friday, March 1, Patriarch Kirill will celebrate the tenth anniversary of his enthronement as patriarch.  It has been announced that the primates of the Serbian, Antiochian, Polish, and OCA Churches will attend as well as delegations from other Local Orthodox Churches.  According to Father Nikolai Balashov of the Moscow Patriarchate’s DECR, the situation of Orthodox Christians in Ukraine will be the central issue at meetings between Patriarch Kirill and the primates and delegations.  I imagine that there is also the possibility of a joint communique being issued.  Interestingly, Father Alexander Volkov, spokesperson for Patriarch Kirill, stated today that a delegation from the Ecumenical Patriarchate would be welcome to attend as well.  Father Alexander also stated that Olav Tveit, general secretary of the WCC, as well as delegations from the Armenian, Catholic, and Protestant churches will attend.  At the same press conference today, Father Alexander stated:  “The Church of Constantinople has fallen into heresy and delusion.  All Orthodox churches should think about how to help the Church of Constantinople to get out of these harmful delusions.” 

    I was requested by the Catholic magazine Inside the Vatican to write a feature article relating to the Ukraine situation.  In the event you have any interest, I have attached the text of my article which has now appeared in the January issue of the magazine.  After discussing the three rights asserted by the Ecumenical Patriarch (considering appeals from other Churches, asserting canonical jurisdiction over Ukraine, and granting autocephaly), I discuss how this claimed exercise by Constantinople of primacy on the universal level involves a critical issue in the international Catholic – Orthodox theological dialogue.

    On a different subject, Pope Francis completed yesterday his pilgrimage to Panama for the celebration of World Youth Day.  On the flight to Panama, the Pope spoke with great emotion about the recent death of TASS journalist Alexei Bukalov, who had headed the TASS Rome office since 1991 and who had been present during many papal flights.  In the following two-minute video, with English subtitles, you can see how the Pope almost lost his composure while talking about his love for this great Russian journalist.  At the end, the Pope asked for a moment of silence and then concluded with the recitation of the Our Father for him.  I can personally remember that Alexei Bukalov was one the journalists who was requested by Pope John Paul II to write the mediations for the stations of the cross for Good Friday 2002.  In his second station meditation, Bukalov had included the following petition: “Lord Jesus, in our divisions, the bitter fruit of sin, show us the way to unity….”

    At the papal Mass at the Cathedral in Panama City on January 26, Metropolitan Athenagoras (Aneste) of Mexico (Ecumenical Patriarchate) received special attention from Pope Francis.  This can be seen at 12:15 and 1:54:40 in the following video of the Mass:  

    Finally, the following are some additional interesting links:  (1) an excellent interview of the rector of the Catholic seminary in St. Petersburg, Russia, including good relations with the Orthodox Academy -- ; (2) a concert by the Moscow Synodal Choir in the Lateran Basilica in Rome in honor of the famous icon writer Andrei Rublev -- ; (3) an article by Bishop Brian Farrell, secretary of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, including some observations relating to Ukraine -- ; (4) a video posted by Father Vsevolod Chaplin showing Father Alexei Dikarev of the DECR saying the Our Father with heretics at the service last week in the Catholic Cathedral in Moscow on the occasion of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity --; (5) the Orthodox church in San Remo, Italy has voted to leave the Ecumenical Patriarchate and join the ROCOR --  .


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 12 January 2019: Pope to Romania & Ukraine developments

    The Press Office of the Holy See announced today (Friday) that Pope Francis will visit Romania from May 31 to June 3, 2019.  Thus, the Romania trip will occur approximately three weeks after the Pope’s May  5-7 visit to Bulgaria and the FYROM.  The announcement was as follows:

    In response to the invitation issued by the President, the state authorities and the Catholic Church of Romania, His Holiness Francis will make an apostolic trip to the country from 31 May to 2 June 2019, to visit the cities of Bucharest, Iaşi and Blaj, and the Marian shrine of Şumuleu Ciuc.

    Vasile Bănescu, a spokesperson for the Romanian Orthodox Patriarchate, also made a statement today.  The statement reads in part as follows:

    We are glad that the visit was confirmed in view of the long and good relationship between the Romanian Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church, strengthened by the visit of Pope John Paul II in 1999 and renewed now by Pope Francis's visit.  He will be received by His Beatitude Patriarch Daniel at a meeting whose program is to be announced.  The good relations between the two Churches were and are manifested through the hospitality enjoyed by the Romanian communities in many countries, where many of the Romanian parishes hold religious services in churches made available by the local Catholic communities.

    Iaşi (located near the border with Moldova) is the Romanian city with the greatest concentration of Roman Catholics, and the pope will meet primarily with this group.  In Blaj (Transylvania) he will meet with the Romanian Greek Catholics.  At the Marian shrine of Şumuleu Ciuc (Transylvania), he will meet primarily with Hungarian-speaking Catholics. 

    With respect to Ukraine, the full text of the December 31 letter from Patriarch John X of Antioch to the Ecumenical Patriarch has now been translated into English and posted.  The letter is very respectful of the Ecumenical Patriarch, but urges him to suspend his actions in Ukraine, to call a meeting of all of the primates, and to seek a pan-Orthodox solution for Ukraine.  In an interview with the Greek website, Archbishop Chrysostomos II, primate of the Church of Cyprus, denied reports that he supported the new OCU. ;  According to the article, the Archbishop said that the major issue now was not autocephaly but preventing a division of Orthodoxy.  Although not a quotation, the article indicates that the Archbishop stated that he did not mention the new head [of the OCU] in the Divine Liturgy and will not.

    Metropolitan Sawa, primate of Poland, gave an interview to the Polish magazine Polityka on January 6.,1, ;  He confirmed his view that Epifany was only a layman as Constantinople did not have canonical authority to restore the Ukrainian separatists, but only Moscow.  He also states:  “It cannot be ruled out that in Poland, where more than one million Ukrainians live, a group of faithful will appear, for whom Filaret will try to organize his parishes in Poland.”  In this regard, he states, “Chaos awaits us.”  As you recall, the tomos expressly prohibited the OCU from having parishes outside of Ukraine.  However, according to an interesting article in RIA Novesti, the UOC-KP has 44 parishes in Western Europe, 15 parishes in the US and Canada, and about 10 in Australia.  The article also states that the UOC-KP has been very active in Poland in recent years and suggests that this may be one of the reasons why Metropolitan Sawa has been so outspoken against the UOC-KP.  If those parishes now agree to be under the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, as required by the tomos, will the threat to the Church of Poland be reduced? 

    Archbishop Daniel, one of the two exarchs appointed by the Ecumenical Patriarchate, has for the first time given a long interview to the media, namely the Ukrainian-language service of the BBC.   The interview was posted today at .  This interview will provoke a great deal of discussion.  It really should be read in its entirety.  For example, he predicts that Romania and Greece will be the first churches to recognize the OCU.  He says that the exarchs secretly met with 18 hierarchs of the UOC-MP, and most of them are ready to join the OCU.  He expresses his personal opinion that every nation that desires its own Orthodox Church should have a right to establish it, including Montenegro and Macedonia.  I am not sure that Constantinople would agree with all of the views expressed.  Anyway, it makes for very interesting reading.

    Lastly, the results of a Ukrainian opinion poll of views relating to the new OCU have just been released.  The survey was conducted by  the sociological service of the Razumkov Center from December 19 to 25.  The results show that there is a great difference of views depending upon the location in Ukraine.  I have pasted these results below.   These results are consistent with the reports on the location of parishes now seeking to leave the UOC-MP and join the OCU.  Only one of the 54 parishes are in the east or south.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA


    How do you feel about the creation of a local Autocephalous Orthodox Church in Ukraine, depending on the region,%







    I support





    I do not support





    I do not care about it, I do not care





    Difficult to answer







  • 9 January 2019: Official text of tomos & more

    Although the tomos granting autocephaly to the church in Ukraine was signed by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew on January 5, it was not until today (Wednesday) that it was signed by the members of the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate who are now meeting at the Phanar.  The original tomos was returned from Kyiv to Istanbul for the purpose of obtaining these additional signatures, and the tomos will now be returned to Kyiv where it will remain.  As I understand it, the tomos was not legally effective until these signatures were obtained.  With the tomos now completely signed, the Ecumenical Patriarchate has released the text of the tomos in Greek, Ukrainian, and English.  The following is the English text:

    One of the provisions of the tomos that may give rise to considerable discussion is the following:

    In the case of major issues of ecclesiastical, doctrinal and canonical nature, His Beatitude the Metropolitan of Kiev and all Ukraine must, on behalf of the Holy Synod of his Church, address our most holy Patriarchal and Ecumenical Throne, seeking its authoritative opinion and conclusive support, while the prerogatives of the Ecumenical Throne over the Exarchate and Sacred Stavropegial institutions in Ukraine shall be preserved unmitigated.

    A question could be raised as to whether the obligation of the Metropolitan of Kyiv to seek the “authoritative opinion and conclusive support” of the Ecumenical Patriarch in “the case of major issues of ecclesiastical, doctrinal and canonical nature” means that the views of the Ecumenical Patriarch must not only be sought but must be followed as well.  The use of the adjective “conclusive” seems to imply that the advice must be followed.  On the other hand, the fact that the word “seeking” is used, rather than “obtaining,” implies that the views of the Ecumenical Patriarch are not binding and need not be followed.  To me, the sentence seems ambiguous. 

    I anticipate that arguments will be made that the tomos does not grant full independence to the new church.  It would be interesting to compare the language of this tomos with the earlier ones granted to Greece, Albania, and Czech Lands and Slovakia.  I also assume that counter-arguments will be made that the UOC-MP does not have complete independence and must follow all of the decisions made by a bishops’ council of the Moscow Patriarchate.  For example, one analysis (which may be biased) comparing the independence of the UOC-MP to the OCU has just been posted. 

    Most of the attention now is not focused on Kyiv, but on what, if anything, the various Local Orthodox Churches will do with respect to recognition of the new OCU.  Even if none of the other Local Orthodox Churches recognizes the new church, I believe that it is very unlikely that Constantinople will withdraw the tomos.  Rather, it is likely that Constantinople will hope that with the passage of time (perhaps even decades), things will change and recognition will be granted.  However, a large scale rejection by the other Local Orthodox Churches now will hurt the prestige of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and will substantially diminish enthusiasm for the new church among Orthodox faithful in Ukraine.

    On January 5, the Moscow Patriarchate posted an article which quotes parts of a letter from Patriarch John X of Antioch to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.  With respect to the quotations, the major points seems to be “to stop and postpone this process until the Ukrainian problem is studied and a pan-Orthodox solution is found” and  “not to take any decisions that are not based on the consensus of the Autocephalous Orthodox Churches.”  On January 8, the Permanent Holy Synod of the Church of Greece decided to refer the issue of Ukraine to a meeting of the entire hierarchy.  A date for this meeting has not yet been set.  Patriarch Irinej of Serbia on January 5 gave a Christmas interview in which he was very critical of the actions of Constantinople in Ukraine. 

    On January 7, Metropolitan Epifany of the OCU celebrated the Christmas liturgy in St. Sophia Cathedral in Kyiv.  (this is the new website of the OCU)  I found it interesting that one of the celebrants in the Liturgy was Archpriest Georgy Kovalenko, who was the press secretary for Metropolitan Vladimir, the previous and now deceased primate of the UOC-MP.  It is conceivable that Kovalenko could be chosen as the new spokesperson of the OCU. 


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 5 January 2019: Tomos signed & much more news

    Depending on one’s point of view, today is either a “black day” or a “great day.”  Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew signed today (Saturday) the tomos granting autocephaly to the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU).  The official text of the tomos has not yet been released.  However, the ambassador of Ukraine to Turkey has released an unofficial Ukrainian translation of the complete text.  The Google translation tool works fairly well with the exception that it omits the last part of at least one important sentence.  TASS has pointed out certain provisions in the tomos which supposedly limit the independence of the new church.       A video of the entire ceremony can be watched at .   As expected, the Moscow Patriarchate has stated today that the tomos violated the canons and is therefore without any canonical force. 

    President Poroshenko played a prominent role in the ceremony.  He presented the Ecumenical Patriarch with Ukraine’s Order of Merit of the First Degree ( ) and invited the Ecumenical Patriarch to visit Ukraine (  The text of the address by Metropolitan Epifany, the new primate, can be seen at .  Epifany, who had studied for a period of time in Greece, delivered some of his remarks in Greek.  It was interesting to see who the member of Epifany’s delegation were.  A number of photos of the delegation are found on the website of Metropolitan Simeon (Shostaksky).  The members included: Metropolitan Simeon (Shostaksky) and Alexander (Drabinko), both formerly of the UOC-MP; Metropolitan Mikhail (Zinkevich)(one of the three finalist, who withdrew his name in the final round of voting), Metropolitan Dimitry (Rudyuk) of Lviv (formerly UOC-KP),  and Archbishop Yevstratiy (Zorya)(spokesperson of the former UOC-KP); Metropolitan Andrew  (Abramchuk)(formerly UAOC).  Significantly, neither of the two former primates, Filaret and Makary, was present at the Phanar.

    Tomorrow (Sunday), Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew will celebrated the Divine Liturgy at the Phanar and will present the tomos to Metropolitan Epifany.  On January 7, Christmas on the Julian calendar, Metropolitan Epifany will celebrate the Liturgy in St. Sophia Cathedral in Kyiv.  Also on Monday, the tomos will be on display for the public at the refectory church of St. Sophia. 

    There have also been a number of other important developments that have occurred in the last week or so.  It is reported that the Ecumenical Patriarch sent a letter towards the end of December to the primates of all of the Local Orthodox Churches.  After describing the recent events in Ukraine and the expected grant of a tomos on January 6, the Ecumenical Patriarch requested that the primates recognize the new church in Ukraine as autocephalous.  Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew stressed:

    Should we choose to ignore our brethren [presumably, the members of the former UOC-KP and UAOC] who are experiencing moments of agony in Ukraine, we will not have any justification [to give] on the Day of Judgment before the fearsome, single, and just throne of the Judge of the souls and hearts of all people, our just Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

    On December 31, the Moscow Patriarchate posted the reply of Patriarch Kirill to a letter sent by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, presumably the letter discussed above.  The official English translation of the entire letter by Patriarch Kirill can be read at .   Although the letter should be read in its entirety, one of the major points relates to the recent evidence that “the overwhelming majority of the clergy and laity, the true church people of Ukraine” [namely those of the UOC-MP] rejected participation in the council.  The letter discusses one point that has received relatively little attention to date – the facts relating to the invalidity of the episcopal ordinations of the UAOC.  Like many of the prior statements made by Metropolitan Hilarion, the letter focuses on the person of Ecumenical Patriarchate Bartholomew.  One wonders if placing the debate on such a very personal level helps or hurts the prospects of obtaining a reconciliation between Constantinople and Moscow.  The conclusion of Patriarch Kirill’s letter includes the following paragraph:

    Yet, if you will act in keeping with intentions enunciated in your letter, you will forever lose an opportunity to serve to the unity of the holy Churches of God, will cease being the First in the Orthodox world which numbers hundreds of millions of believers, and the sufferings that you have inflicted upon Orthodox Ukrainians will follow you to the Last Judgment of our Lord who judges all people impartially and will testify against you before Him.

    It has been reported that Metropolitan Sawa, the primate of the Orthodox Church of Poland, has also responded to the Ecumenical Patriarch’s letter.   Unfortunately, the UOC-MP has not released the entire text.  However, it has quoted many parts of the letter.  The letter is very much in favor of Moscow’s position.  For example, it states that “according to our ancient Church traditions, a ban is lifted by the one who imposed it.”  This seems to imply that a ban cannot be lifted by any higher authority.  He also states  that “we have not seen remorse, repentance, or humility, which normally precede the lifting of bans, in Filaret or his followers!”    Because Filaret was reduced to a layman and then “ordained” his followers, Metropolitan Sawa concludes that the “so called” Metropolitan Epifany is “in fact a secular person.” 

    The report by (above) acknowledges that the Church of Poland replied “no” to the Ecumenical Patriarch’s letter and Antioch expressed “reservations.”  I have not seen any further information concerning Antioch’s response.

    The Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate held its final meeting of the year on December 28. (complete minutes of meeting)  Two of the most important items were the establishment of an exarchate in Western Europe and an exarchate in Southeast Asia.   Father Alexander Volkov, the press secretary for Patriarch Kirill, subsequently stated: These are actions taken by the Holy Synod in response to the anti-canonical decisions made by the Constantinople Patriarchate.   On the evening of December 28, Metropolitan Hilarion stated on the television program Church in the World that Constantinople does not have an exclusive right to minister to the diaspora.  He stated that “we will now create our parishes, dioceses and structures in the non-CIS countries without any regard for Constantinople.”

    The establishment of an exarchate for Western Europe may also be related to the Archdiocese of the Russian Orthodox Churches in Western Europe (Ecumenical Patriarchate), which will be holding an extraordinary general assembly on February 23 to decide whether to leave the Ecumenical Patriarchate.  Both the Archdiocese and the Exarchate cover Western Europe with a center in Paris.  If the Archdiocese wishes to become a part of the Moscow Patriarchate, it is questionable whether Moscow would desire that the Archdiocese continue side-by-side with the Exarchate.  It is more likely that Moscow would wish to merge the parishes of the Archdiocese into the Exarchate.  The Holy Synod has already appointed Bishop Ioann of Bogorodsk to head the new Exarchate.  In the event of a merger, it is not clear what would happen to Archbishop Jean of Charioupolis, who now heads the Archdiocese.

    The transfer of parishes from the UOC-MP to the OCU continues at a very slow rate.  The following website monitors the situation on a daily basis and lists the parishes that have supposedly transferred.  At the present time it lists 35 parishes that have supposedly transferred to the OCU.  The following article questions the validity of some of these transfers. (in English)

    The Holy Synod of the Georgian Patriarchate met on December 27.  The “tense situation” in Ukraine was discussed, and it was decided to continue the discussion at the next meeting of the Synod.   It was reported that after the December 27 meeting, Metropolitan Zosime (Shioshvili), who usually acts as the spokesperson of the Synod, informed reporters that the Church of Georgia supports autocephaly in Ukraine, but that the final decision will be made in January after the granting of the tomos.  Time will tell whether this is correct.

    The following is the Christmas message of Metropolitan Epifany.  With respect to the December 15 Council, he states:

    All of you know that on December 15, 2018, in St. Sophia of Kyiv, the Unity Council, which laid the foundation for restoring the unity of Ukrainian Orthodoxy, took place. The doors of our only local Orthodox Church of Ukraine are open to all who wish to serve in it together with God and its people.  Ahead is much work together to strengthen this unity.  First of all, we must continue to pray for the Church, for overcoming hostility and for multiplying love. We also have to put aside our past confrontations, alienation and hostility, because only through forgiveness we can truly establish a single local Autocephalous Ukrainian Orthodox Church.  Let's be on our guard: the calls for inciting hostility or violence we will reject, but those that serve love and peace - we will accept. 

    It remains to be seen whether this call for peace will be followed by the new church.  How, it is a sign of hope.  Regardless whether one believes that the new church is canonical or not, if it avoids a course of “confrontations, alienation and hostility,” that will be an improvement over the past.

    For those of you who are celebrating the feast of Christmas on January 7, I wish you a very blessed and joyful Nativity of Our Lord.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA