Your Eminences, Reverend Fathers, Dear Brothers and Sisters!
The godless Cain Russia has attacked and is waging a brutal war against Ukraine. The Ukrainian people heroically defend their land and freedom. Millions of civilians are dying and suffering. Representatives of the Russian state, which slyly calls itself “Orthodox”, are destroying churches, killing even children and clergy.
At the same time, our brave soldiers, defending the Fatherland, show extraordinary heroism and self-sacrifice. Many of them, as true Christians, inspired by the love of Christ, have already laid down “their souls for their friends” (John 15:13). Our Orthodox Church will always pray for their souls, and their names will forever remain in the history of Ukraine as the names of the Knights of Light.
By its actions during the Russian-Ukrainian war, the leadership of the Moscow Patriarchate put itself on the side of the occupier and aggressor. That the UOC-MP blesses the war and serves the interests of the Kremlin has become particularly relevant. The true Church must be with her people, on the side of truth. She must share sorrows and joys, inspire and support, bless the victory over the enemy.
There must be an independent Church in an independent state! This is what I initiated when I started the struggle for autocephaly of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the early 1990s. At that time, this course was supported by the first President of Ukraine Leonid Kravchuk, the Verkhovna Rada and the Government. The charter of Moscow Patriarch Alexy II on independence and autonomy in the management of the UOC, which is now referred to in the UOC-MP, was not an act of Moscow’s generosity, it was the result of hard work, difficult discussions. I saw this status of the Church as the first step towards complete autocephaly.
History itself has shown that the Local Council of the then only Ukrainian Orthodox Church on November 1-3, 1991, under my leadership, was right in unanimously asking for the UOC’s full canonical independence, i.e., autocephaly, and hoping for the Kyiv Patriarchate. Let me remind you that this historic appeal also bears the signatures of the current head of the UOC-MP, Metropolitan of Kyiv and All Ukraine Onufriy, and Metropolitan Lazar of Simferopol and Crimea (and now he and his diocese have stated that they do not agree with the 2022 on the complete independence of this Church from the Moscow Patriarchate and remain under the omophorion of Moscow Patriarch Kirill, in the jurisdiction of the ROC headed by him).
Unfortunately, the then process of competition of the united Ukrainian Orthodox Church for autocephaly was stopped by Moscow, which organized a non-canonical, so-called Kharkiv Cathedral on May 27-28, 1992, which divided our Church, thus hampering the canonical solution of this issue. And thirty years later, we have not been able to achieve unity.
As you know, today Ukrainian Orthodoxy is divided into three branches, namely: the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, the Orthodox Church of Ukraine under the auspices of the Patriarch of Constantinople and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate. This is a great disaster for the entire Ukrainian people because it weakens Ukraine spiritually.
We, Orthodox bishops, priests, monks and laity, during the war must oppose the enemy with our unity, to protect the native state. In these terrible months, the words of the spiritual anthem of Ukraine should be especially relevant for each of us: God, grant us unity!
The establishment of a single local Ukrainian Orthodox Church, independent of foreign religious centers, led by the Patriarch, will bring spiritual consolidation to the Ukrainian nation and accelerate our victory over the godless aggressor and guarantee the further development of our state. We are obliged to unite all Ukrainian Orthodoxy into one Church.
The current separation is the result not only of historical circumstances, but also of the work of Ukraine’s enemies, who are interested in ensuring that we do not have a single powerful spiritual force capable of consolidating society. Also, not everyone in the Orthodox world wants the largest Orthodox Church to appear, which, in case of unification, becomes the local apostolic Ukrainian Orthodox Church. Many people want to look at us, the heirs of the millennial Kyiv Christian tradition, as neophytes, inexperienced children who need a guide or a father.
Our greatness of golden-domed Kyiv, spiritual tradition dates back thousands of years. We have something to be proud of. The Holy Fathers of the Ukrainian land, in particular those who rest in the Holy Dormition Kiev-Pechersk Lavra, as well as examples of theological and polemical literature, religious art, architecture, traditional piety and deep faith – this is proof.
I am firmly convinced that all branches of our divided Ukrainian Orthodox Church can unite around the idea of complete autocephaly, led by the Patriarchate. Any dependence on other thrones is a sign of subordination and works to separate Ukrainians. Only the Kyiv Patriarchal Throne can unite us all and ensure the proper development of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. It is not for nothing that the Holy Metropolitan of Kyiv Petro Mohyla sought to establish a Patriarchate in Ukraine. “I think that the Ukrainian autocephalous church should have its own Patriarch, as a logical conclusion to its hierarchical architecture and the evolution of our national thought, our national-church ideology,” wrote Simon Petliura (uncle of our first Patriarch).
The Ukrainian Church has every reason to be a Patriarchate and there are no canonical, theological or any other obstacles to this.
I welcome the discussion, the independence aspirations that began among the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate and were reflected in the decisions of the Local Council of May 27, 2022. Obviously, they are transitional and a consequence of compromise. Orthodoxy does not know the status of an “independent” Church, and there are notions of autonomous or autocephalous. If the episcopate, clergy, monks and believers of the UOC-MP are determined to separate from the Moscow Patriarchate, their path will inevitably lead to autocephaly, and here opens the prospect of universal Orthodox unity of Ukraine, the opportunity to heal the ancient church wound.
I also support the decision of the Council of Bishops of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine of May 24, 2022 to stop the commemoration in the Diptych of the head of the Moscow Patriarchate Kirill Gundyaev, because three years ago he categorically advised Metropolitan Epiphanius not to commemorate Patriarch Kirill.
I carefully read the decisions of the Local Council of the UOC-MP of May 27, 2022 and the decisions of the Holy Synod of the UOC of May 16, 2022. as for the representatives of another Church (in the style of the Moscow Patriarchate), on the other hand, they are not in favor of mutual understanding and dialogue. At this crucial moment, when Ukrainians are sacrificially defending freedom and defending the independence and integrity of the state on the battlefield, pastors must also show self-sacrifice, reject the secondary and seek to unite around the main thing – the common Chalice of Christ. Today the war is fought not only for state and territorial independence from Moscow, but also for spiritual freedom.
For the sake of unity, I ask everyone to reject pride, ambition, forget insults, realize the high responsibility to God and Ukraine. Remember the words of our Lord: “Let the greatest of you be your servant” (Matthew 23:11).
As the oldest ordained bishop of the Orthodox Church, I initiated the convening of the All-Ukrainian Local Orthodox Council, which would be attended by representatives of all three branches of Ukrainian Orthodoxy. In my opinion, this council should decide to unite into a single local apostolic Ukrainian Orthodox Church with a patriarchal administration and declare complete autocephaly. Before that, I urge the representatives of the Church to meet to discuss the rules of the council and determine the date of its holding.
I declare that the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate will take part in such a unifying All-Ukrainian Orthodox Council to say to all: God is among us! Personally, I am ready to meet at any time with His Beatitude Metropolitan of Kyiv and All Ukraine Onufriy and His Beatitude Metropolitan of Kyiv and All Ukraine Epiphanius for fraternal dialogue in the spirit of Christ’s love to achieve spiritual unity.
I am convinced that this truly historical union will support the whole Ukrainian society, because it is said “That all may be one: as You, Father, are in Me, and I am in You, so may they be one in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent me ”(John 17: 21-23).
Believing that the All-Merciful Lord will preserve and protect Ukraine, grant victory, and give us the strength to build a single local patriarchal Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
With love in Christ,
PATRIARCH OF KYIV AND ALL RUS-UKRAINE
June 2, 2022, Kyiv