Metropolitan Vladimir Sabodan (1935- ) of Kiev and all the Ukraine, the First Hierarch of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church/MP… the only canonical First Hierarch in the Ukraine, the other two are schismatical poseurs…
Today, in Kiev, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church/MP convened a Sobor; it held it’s last one nearly 20 years ago…
The most important issues related to the Orthodox Church in the Ukraine and Russia will be on the agenda. Even before the meeting began, some expressed the opinion that the UOC/MP will attempt to gain a greater degree of autonomy from the Centre. On the other hand, Ukrainian bishops said that the Sobor shouldn’t endanger Church unity. According to Archbishop Mitrofan Yurchuk of Belotserkov and Boguslavsky, the Chancellor of the UOC/MP, “We convened it due to urgent necessity. In recent years, the Church in the Ukraine has changed both qualitatively and quantitatively. There’s been an increase in the number of dioceses, monasteries, and Synodal departments. We’ve intensified not only our internal, but also our external, activities. There’ve been amendments in the statutes affecting the Church. Accordingly, we needed to call a Sobor to sort things out and put some order into all these changes”.
However, this explanation didn’t satisfy some experts in Moscow. The UOC/MP announced the news of the convocation of the Sobor only a few days ago. Moreover, Ukrainian and Russian media reported that some in the UOC/MP want to raise the question of a Locum Tenens for the First Hierarch at the Sobor. If this happens, practically, it means that there’s an increase in independent sentiment in the UOC/MP. Normally, one names a locum tenens when the First Hierarch can no longer carry out his duties of the Church. For quite some time, there have been rumours that Metropolitan Vladimir Sabodan of Kiev and all the Ukraine, the current First Hierarch, has been ill. Some believe that supporters of separation are spreading these tales. Others wonder why the UOC/MP called such a Sobor shortly before a pastoral visit of Patriarch Kirill Gundyaev of Moscow and all the Russia to the Ukraine, and ask why delegates from the Centre weren’t invited. Traditionally, the First Hierarch of the MP visits Kiev in order to participate in celebrations marking the Baptism of Rus on 28 July.
The brouhaha surrounding the Sobor doesn’t ruffle the MP. The Centre considers it an important milestone in Ukrainian Church life and in the relations of the UOC/MP with the Mother Church. Igor Gaslov, an expert in Church relations, said, “I’m confident that the Sobor won’t divide us, rather, it’ll strengthen the canonical unity between Moscow and Kiev. The adoption of a new charter for the UOC will be the centrepiece of the Sobor. The one in use at present dates from 1990, that is, prior to the splitting off of the Ukraine in 1992. Besides, some parts of it no longer correspond to analogous documents adopted at the Centre. Therefore, today, there’s a need for a new version of the charter, which will bring it into agreement with contemporary MP documents, as the UOC/MP is a constituent part of it”. The amendments provide for, amongst other things, the introduction of a system of ecclesiastical courts. They’ve appeared only recently at the Centre, but they’re already quite busy. In addition, the Sobor is set to confirm the status of the UOC/MP as a self-governing autonomous part of the MP.
Gaslov was clear that the strengthening of the relationship UOC/MP with the Centre through the harmonisation of internal church regulations might trigger a new wave of autocephalous sentiment in the Ukraine. However, he sees more pluses than minuses. In his opinion, “It may briefly reinvigorate the schismatics already out there, but it won’t provoke a new schism. Seeing the strengthening of the unity amongst canonical Orthodox, schismatics may well consider returning to the fold. I’m confident that no new schism will come out of the decisions of the Sobor”. There are three “Orthodox” bodies in the Ukraine, but the other Local Orthodox Churches in the world recognise only one, the UOC/MP, as being a canonical Church. The conflict around the establishment of local “autocephalous churches” worsened in the mid-1990s to the early 2000s, due to the machinations of politicians opposed to Russia. Today, the vigorous activity and frequent pastoral visits of Patriarch Kirill have overcome schismatic sentiment amongst most Ukrainian believers. Former schismatics return to canonical Orthodoxy more and more, and the activity of the “autocephalists” has markedly diminished.
8 July 2011
Voice of Russia World Service