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Ukraine: Metropolitan Sava of Warsaw critical of unification council

10. Januar 2019
On December 31, 2018, His Beatitude Metropolitan Onufriy of Kyiv and All Ukraine received a letter from His Beatitude Metropolitan Sawa (Hrycuniak) of Warsaw and All Poland, in which the Primate of the Polish Orthodox Church notified the Ukrainian Church leader that He had written a response  to the letter that was written to Him by Patriarch  Bartholomew of Constantinople ; a copy of the said response was also attached.

The letter was His Beatitude Metropolitan Sawa’s reply to a letter dated December 24, 2018 and sent to Him from the Phanar by the Patriarch of Constantinople in addition to all the Primates of the Local Orthodox Churches, informing them of the results of the so-called “Unification Council” that was held in Kyiv on December 15 , 2018 , and expressed  hope that the newly formed church structure and leader be recognised.

In His reply to the letter from Constantinople, His Beatitude Metropolitan Sawa of Warsaw and All Poland reaffirmed the position of the Orthodox Church in Poland, citing previous statements regarding this matter.

The letter once again conveyed the position of the Council of Bishops of the Polish Autocephalous Orthodox Church of May 9, 2018, where it was noted that the Polish Church stands for the fundamental observance of canonical norms of church life, according to which the status of autocephaly can only be granted where there exists one canonical church.  Since there are several schismatic church groups in Ukraine, these must first repent and return to the bosom of the canonical Church. Only then can a discussion about the granting of autocephaly begin. The autocephaly itself, according to the convictions of the Local Orthodox Churches, is granted upon the proposal of the Mother Church following consultations with all the Primates of the Local Orthodox Churches. Failure to comply with these requirements may lead to further divisions, since in matters of a dogmatic and canonical nature one should not be guided by political considerations, –  The Polish Church is convinced.

Further, the letter mentions the joint call of the Primates of the Alexandrian and Polish Orthodox Churches of September 21, 2018 “… to all on whom it depends for the elimination of Church misunderstandings about the granting of autocephaly to the Ukrainian Church, and to do everything in their power to prevent the threat of conflict and establish church order on Ukrainian soil”.

His Beatitude Metropolitan Sawa also recalls his letter to Patriarch Bartholomew dated September 26, 2018, in which he asked that “the Primates of the Local Churches be gathered to discuss the current situation of the Orthodox Church in Ukraine, which is becoming more and more dangerous for the unity of Orthodoxy in all its plenitude with every passing day . Only a conciliar decision can help solve the problem of the Ukrainian Church”.

The next step in the Ukrainian issue was the decision of the Bishops’ Council of the Polish Orthodox Church dated November 16, 2018, which stated that “persons from whom episcopal and presbytic rank were removed cannot be leaders in the establishment of peace in the Orthodox Church of Ukraine. Their actions cause even more confusion and temptation”. The aforementioned decision of the Council prohibits clerics of the Polish Church from having liturgical or prayerful communion with schismatics from the UOC-KP and the UAOC.

In the final part of his letter to Patriarch Bartholomew, His Beatitude, Metropolitan Sawa, noted that “the so-called Unification Council”, which took  place on December 15, 2018 in Kyiv, did not eliminate the problem, but, on the contrary, exacerbated it, bringing to life many painful phenomena that are not only ecclesiastical, but also socio-political. … With regards to the so-called “Unification Council”, it should be noted that representatives of the schismatic church groups, deprived of priestly and episcopal rank, took an active part in it. … Filaret Denysenko, was deprived of his episcopal rank and reduced to a lay position. Regardless of this, he proceeded to “ordain” his new followers. These are people without the grace of ordination (highlighted by the author of the letter – noted by UOC DECR). We all recognised this: including Your All-Holiness and as well as all Primates of the Local Orthodox Churches. It should be noted that according to our ancient church tradition, the ban is lifted by the one who imposed it. In any case, for Filaret and his followers, we did not note any repentance, penitence, humility, all of which usually precede the lifting of bans! None of these things ever happened. And therein lies the problem. Therefore, they cannot be recognised as being true pastors who can administer the Holy Sacraments. The so-called “Metropolitan Epifaniy” in reality, is a lay person who suffered harm”.

Concluding his letter, the Primate of the Polish Church addressed Patriarch Bartholomew with the following appeal:

“Your All Holiness! Your decision regarding the Church in Ukraine requires an Pan-Orthodox Synaxis. Therefore, I once again appeal to you with a request that you reconsider calling a meeting of all the Primates of the Local Orthodox Churches. … We want to see that your actions unite Orthodoxy but not divide it”, – concluded Metropolitan Sawa of Warsaw and All Poland.

His Beatitude, Metropolitan Sawa sent copies of His reply letter that He sent to Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, to the Primates of all the Local Orthodox Churches.

The DECR UOC commented on this letter as follows:

“In addition to many important things that are outlined in the letter, one should also pay attention to the fact that His Beatitude Metropolitan Sawa addresses the Primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church using his full title — that is, he calls him  His Beatitude Metropolitan of Kyiv and All Ukraine. This means that the Primate of the Polish Orthodox Church continues to recognise  His Beatitude, Metropolitan Onufriy of Kyiv and All Ukraine, as the only canonical Head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, despite the fact that Patriarch Bartholomew in one of his previous letters stated that His Beatitude would lose the opportunity to bear the title of Metropolitan of Kyiv and All Ukraine after the so-called “Unification Council” and subsequent  election of the head of the “OCU”. As is clearly seen from the letter, the Primate of the Polish Orthodox Church does not recognise the newly formed structure of schismatics, as well as the genuineness and legitimacy of their hierarchy. We hope that all the Primates of the other Local Orthodox Churches will respond in  similar fashion”.
(Quelle:, 4. Januar 2019)