About "recognition" and union with the Patriarchate of Constantinople

by Victor Rud

The Rev. John Nakonachny's letter (February 1) concerning the Orthodox Church is inviting. To be sure, he dodges the detail that it was the very Patriarchate of Constantinople (Istanbul) that in 1686 very literally sold our Church to Moscow. The price was 200 gold coins and 120 sable furs. The cost was three centuries of slavery. This tends to take some of the blush off the "recognition" that the Rev. Nakonachny so energetically embraces.

But nevertheless, inconvenient history aside, why should anyone object to that same Patriarchate "recognizing" our Church after a felonious hiatus of 300 years? If Patriarch Bartholomew has finally seen fit to plead mea culpa, why any objection? Furthermore, if all this gives Ukrainians the kind of "access" to world Orthodoxy for the purposes that the Rev. Nakonachny asserts, where's the problem?

Were all this the way the Rev. Nakonachny writes, and as some in all good faith believe, I and the faithful of our Church would hardly object but would fervently applaud. Indeed, the heartfelt belief that all is as the Rev. Nakonechny writes no doubt fuels those among our clergy and faithful who are inclined to go with the flow.

But there is one thing wrong. The facts. They jab the eye, and are as acute and inescapable as the proverbial "shylo v mishku" [i.e., the truth will come out]. They have not been disputed by anyone - whether the hierarchy in Bound Brook, the Rev. Nakonachny or anyone else of the clergy.

The Rev. Nakonachny writes that recognition by Constantinople "was a tremendous blow to Moscow. The writing is on the wall for Moscow, and they are afraid that this will be the end of their domination in Ukraine. Moscow's fear is justified."

Patriarch Bartholomew, if he is to be believed (and most certainly the Rev. Nakonachny does believe him, does he not?), intends the very opposite. Well before our hierarchs secretly entered into the so-called Points of Agreement with him on December 6, 1994 (more on this, below), Patriarch Bartholomew had established an unequivocal record of his position regarding an autocephalous Ukrainian Orthodox Church. The frequency of his restatements on the issue is eclipsed only by his antipathy for "Ukrainian schismatics."

In 1993, the worldwide news media reported that Patriarch Bartholomew publicly condemned our Church as "the church of the devil." In April 1994, in a major press interview he publicly declared that he "categorically rejects" the independent Ukrainian Orthodox Church, and that Moscow's control in Ukraine is to remain inviolate.

Is it credible that our hierarchs didn't know this when they embraced Patriarch Bartholomew with the Points of Agreement in December 1994? If they did not, why not? How is it possible not to know? Or perhaps they did know, but simply couldn't bring themselves to believe Patriarch Bartholomew? Or perhaps they thought that the ecumenical patriarch really didn't mean what he said? A bad joke, perhaps? Alas, the explanation is elsewhere.

On July 11, 1995 - fully seven months after the Points of Agreement with our hierarchs - Patriarch Bartholomew wrote his Protocol No. 937 to Patriarch Aleksei of Moscow and all Russia, assuring him that he (Bartholomew) "has taken proper care" in "the settlement of the Ukrainian question in the diaspora" so as to allow Moscow a free hand in Ukraine.

Patriarch Bartholomew further wrote: "In this regard we would like to assure you that the induction of the Ukrainian communities into the canonical order of the Orthodox Church by receiving them under the omophorion of the Ecumenical Patriarch will, we believe, finally prove to be beneficial for the relationship between the Most Holy Church of Russia and the faithful in the [sic] Ukraine. This is so because on the one hand those received were obligated to declare that they will not seek the autocephaly of the Ukrainian Church, or even a part of it, through known methods employed by the 'autocephalists' who operate in every way possible. On the other hand, it is no longer possible for them to cooperate or to commune with schismatic Ukrainian groups which are out of communion with the Orthodox Church without bearing harm to themselves..."

Is this what the Rev. Nakonachny means when he exhorts: "Support for the hierarchs and clergy, especially at this time, is very important for the stability of the Church, both in the U.S.A. and Ukraine. Let us not continue to divide ourselves, but to give them our full support"?

Well, perhaps Protocol No. 937 is a forgery. Perhaps it simply is not a bonafide document, is not authentic, is merely disinformation released by Moscow. In writing about the "diaspora Ukrainian group," Syndesmos, The World Fellowship of Orthodox Youth, authoritatively quoted Protocol No. 937 and our hierarchs' abandonment of our Church. (Syndesmos is also a source for the English text of the protocol.) But the definitive answer, truly, is that neither our hierarchs nor Patriarch Bartholomew have ever denied that protocol's authenticity, although the faithful have repeatedly begged them to do so.

But even if Protocol No. 937 is not a forgery, even if it was in fact sent by Patriarch Bartholomew to Moscow and accurately represents what the patriarch wrote about our hierarchs, perhaps he was simply lying about what he wrote. In other words, perhaps our hierarchs simply never made the commitment to abandon our Church that Protocol No. 937 describes even though the document itself is not a "fake". Again, the faithful have begged for a denial of the substance. And again, neither Patriarch Bartholomew nor our hierarchs deny that either.

The aftermath of Protocol No. 937 demonstrates its implementation, confirms its authenticity and verifies its reality. In published transcripts of tape recorded public comments, one of our hierarchs repeatedly stated that, "We are summoned there [Ukraine] by the devil." The mind reels in disbelief. In a letter to a wayward parish, the same hierarch condemned the parish's "spiritual" union with our Church in Kyiv. (The use of quotation marks around the term "spiritual," as used in that letter, is the hierarch's, not mine.)

In point of fact, we are no longer permitted to pray for our own Church or with our brothers from Ukraine. But it's perfectly fine for the Rev. Nakonachny to serve with Russian priests in Moscow, or for them to serve in Bound Brook. And what happens if we pray for or with the "wrong" people? According to the same hierarch, this would expose us to "severe spiritual peril" and would be "a breach of canon law." And what if you complain about any of this? You are then "doing the work of Satan," that hierarch notes in a recent letter.

But what about the Rev. Nakonachny assuring the reader that "it is an absolute fact that our Consistory ... gives 100 percent support for an autocephalous Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Ukraine"? Odd, given the antipathy that his hierarchs have directed at our Church. But, then, the Rev. Nakonachny does give concrete examples of the "100 percent support," does he not? Here again the "shylo" embarrassingly pokes through the "mishok."

Funds for these projects were gathered from parishioners by the Society of St. Andrew, an independent organization, separately incorporated and with its own board. The society's legitimate access to parishioners for fund-raising purposes, however, was denied by the Consistory unless the society first channeled its collected funds through the Consistory. Bound Brook then could publicly advertise "its" good deeds, as the Rev. Nakonachny now does. The most recent effort, to raise funds for the purchase of the bells for St. Michael's Cathedral in Kyiv, is headed by the Society of St. Andrew - not by Bound Brook, as the Rev. Nakonachny writes.

It appears that Bound Brook has put in place a mechanism for capitalizing on parishioners' donations, then advertising Bound Brook's seeming concern for our autocephalous Church in Ukraine, which (unbeknownst to many) our hierarchs abandoned according to Protocol No. 937. The resulting marketing effort is then used to confront those very same parishioners who decry Bound Brook's own apostasy. These are the very "Ukrainian people" that the Rev. Nakonachny condemns. Suddenly, the old adage, "chuzhymy rukamy hrebty vuhillia," takes on an entirely new meaning. The "raby" (serfs) wind up financing their own suppression.

But what about the "recognition" that the Rev. Nakonachny markets with so much prayerful urgency? That is rooted in the Points of Agreement mentioned earlier that were secretly entered into by our hierarchs on December 6, 1994.

Firstly, one does not have to be a lawyer or theologian to understand that if it the agreement indeed was meant to assist and promote the establishment of a Ukrainian Orthodox Church free of Moscow's control, one would have expected the proud and vocal trumpeting of the Points of Agreement. Immediately. Indeed, were the agreement truly such a blessed event for our Church, the groundswell of joyous emotion among our hierarchs could scarcely have been contained, no matter the degree of regimented discipline. Instead, we heard a roaring silence.

To this day, to my knowledge, the original or duplicate original of that agreement has never been produced by our hierarchs. A questionable English translation was made public only on May 17, 1995, fully a half a year after it came into force. And a Ukrainian translation didn't see the light of day until even later - June 8, 1995. Both versions were disseminated by the Ukrainian Orthodox Consistory to parishes.

In fact, since Bound Brook has refused to make available any original documents of its bargain with Istanbul, it is not even possible to objectively determine if the Points of Agreement, in the form eventually made available, in fact are what Bound Brook says it is. Our hierarchs can't even reach a consensus on whether the Points of Agreement were signed, contradicting each other on such a rudimentary and material question. When asked if anyone from the Ukrainian side signed any document with Patriarch Bartholomew, Points of Agreement or otherwise, Archbishop Antony said "no," while Metropolitan Constantine said "yes." We already know, as a minimum, that pursuant to the above Protocol No. 937 there appears to be far more to the story.

There was a damning silence also about the surreptitious overnight change in our hierarchs' respective jurisdictions of authority and responsibility - U.S.A., France, etc. No more. In his March 13, 1995, Protocol No. 337 to his then North American exarch, Iakovos, Patriarch Bartholomew set forth the new affiliations of our hierarchs. Metropolitan Constantine now is "of Eirinoupolis"; Archbishop Antony now is "of Ierapolis"; and so on. All in keeping with the Points of Agreement, which requires that "Each bishop will bear the title of the city over which he presides..." None of this was disclosed to our faithful.

Among other matters, under the Points of Agreement Bound Brook is required "to commemorate the venerable Name of His All Holiness, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople." Commemorating the "venerable name" of the patriarch of our Church in Kyiv is prohibited. Bound Brook must henceforth adhere "strictly" and "especially" to the order and tradition of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, must be "detached from any secular or political influence" and has come under Constantinople's "jurisdiction." Jurisdiction, in whatever context, means that someone has the right to require you to do or not do something, and that you are required to so comply.

Patriarch Bartholomew drove that point home. During the pomp and ceremony in Istanbul, in his March 11, 1995, Address to Metropolitan Constantine, Patriarch Bartholomew was unequivocal that Istanbul, not Kyiv, is now our "home" and our "Mother Church," into "whose fabric you are now woven." To clarify the point, in his March 12, 1995, Address (published in the Ukrainian Orthodox Word), at the time of the ceremonies in Istanbul, Patriarch Bartholomew said that we have now come under his "singular spiritual and canonical jurisdiction." And in his above March 13, 1995, Protocol No. 337 to Iakovos, Patriarch Bartholomew repeats that our hierarchs have "addressed themselves, to the Constantinople Church," "not only as the eldest Church ... but primarily as their Mother Church."

The purpose and consequence of all this is that our Church no longer exists in the United States. "Bound Brook" has been absorbed into the exclusive jurisdiction of the Church of Constantinople. Bound Brook's revised letterhead now declares that. And, in the process, our own hierarchs agreed to forswear our Church.

Little wonder that, when on February 3, 1995 (two months after the Points of Agreement), the Metropolitan Council was called upon to "interpret" and then approve the agreement, the council did so without ever setting eyes on the document. The agreement was simply withheld from the council. And its approval was "unanimous," no less. Was this a feat of remarkable sagacity on its part, or a dereliction of its responsibility in the face of hydraulic pressure and/or conflicting interests bearing on the council? Is it any surprise that the council's resolutions were as divorced from the Points of Agreement as heaven is removed from earth? What conceivable credibility can any of the Metropolitan Council's subsequent recent resolutions possibly have, including the recent one "supporting" our Church that the Rev. Nakonachny recites in his letter?

Therefore, to weave his argument, as the Rev. Nakonachny does, around the siren song of "recognition" is manifestly and unpardonably disingenuous. There is no need for an "agreement," thereby committing us to obligations in favor of Istanbul, if we truly are speaking only of Istanbul's long overdue "recognition" of us. But Bound Brook is not the passive recipient of Patriarch Bartholomew's spiritual largesse, "recognition," as the Rev. Nakonachny wants us to believe. Bound Brook affirmatively committed itself to obligations, among them severing us from our own Church.

Article I, Section 2 of the Constitution of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the U.S.A. provides that "it is Autocephalous (independent) in all matters of its life and government, and its rights are equal with those of the other Autocephalous Orthodox Churches." In violation of their own constitution, our hierarchs simply surrendered autocephaly and buried sobornopravnist, standing on its head the founding precepts of our Church's representation here in the U.S. during the last three-quarters of a century - and the reason for Bound Brook's very existence. Have you ever seen a country or an institution commit to an "agreement" where it agrees to accept another country's or third party's "recognition," and in the process self-liquidates? The very suggestion is preposterous.

But the preposterous - and unthinkable - has happened, and another "first" has thus been achieved. Only we, Orthodox Ukrainians (and the "Carpatho-Rusyns") are subservient to Patriarch Bartholomew and without our own autocephalous Church. Other nations, smaller than us by far - Georgians, Serbs, Bulgarians, Romanians - do not report to the ecumenical patriarch. They continue to exist independently in the diaspora as masters of their own fate, and as the overseas yet integral representations of autocephalous Churches in their respective countries of origin. And do you think for a nanosecond that the Russians kowtow to Bartholomew? Write to St. Nicholas Cathedral, 15 E. 97th St., New York, NY 10029 and ask. Or perhaps the Rev. Nakonachny can simply pose the question himself now that, as he writes, he is finally "able to sit around the table and discuss our Church's future."

During the six months that Bound Brook kept buried the Points of Agreement, a conveyor belt of resolutions, press releases and assurances to the faithful in lockstep stood the facts on their head. Our faithful faced a litany as shrill as it was misleading, insisting that the purpose of that agreement was precisely the opposite of those very same facts: that it enshrines our independence, promotes our unity, secures our identity, and is for the benefit and good of our Church in Ukraine as well as in the U.S.

Truly a new dialectic was born. Without a blush of embarrassment, the April 2, 1995, Statement of the Council of Bishops solemnly assured the faithful that the Points of Agreement "will serve to ... secure and strengthen the position of the Kyivan throne as spiritual center and the Mother Church of all Ukrainian Orthodox Christians in Ukraine and beyond its now recognized borders ... [The Points of Agreement] do not infringe upon the unique identity, constitutional integrity or administrative independence of our ecclesiastical bodies ... Nothing will change in the structure and administration of our Church."

Now and again, however, the "shylo" embarrassingly poked through, as in the September 5, 1995, Special Circular of the Presidium of the Metropolitan Council, which unwittingly spoke, not in terms of recognition, but in terms of "unity" with Istanbul.

The lament over the ever elusive unity among Ukrainians with which the Rev. Nakonachny begins and ends his letter is thus precisely what his pact with Istanbul has interred. Our hierarchs and he have themselves created a schism in our Church, yet he can write, "Let us not continue to divide ourselves, but to give them [the hierarchs and clergy] our full support."

One of the more bizarre arguments in the Rev. Nakonachny's letter is that the "best example" flowing ultimately from our servility before a citizen of Turkey is that he (the Rev. Nakonachny) and Archbishop Antony talked to Patriarch Bartholomew about his trip to Odesa. Does the Rev. Nakonachny grasp what he is saying? What does Bound Brook's agreement with Patriarch Bartholomew have to do with the Rev. Nakonachny speaking with the patriarch about the latter's statements in Odesa? How does the latter establish the good that is to be coming out of the former? It's incomprehensible.

Patriarch Bartholomew arrived in Odesa on September 24, 1997, to meet with Moscow's Patriarch Aleksei and Russia's quisling in Ukraine, Metropolitan Volodymyr (Sabodan) of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church - Moscow Patriarchate (in fact, simply the Russian Orthodox Church in Ukraine). Patriarch Bartholomew refused to meet with representatives from the two independent Ukrainian Orthodox Churches. True to form, Patriarch Bartholomew repeated yet again that he recognizes "only the Ukrainian Orthodox Church under the jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate." "All possible efforts must be applied to liquidate all splits and schisms which bring about significant damages." "Unity" is paramount. "Unity" becomes the clarion call.

But who is to "unite" with whom? Who absorbs, or in Patriarch Bartholomew's words, "liquidates" whom? On whose side does the ecumenical patriarch stand? "We all are on your side," he tells Metropolitan Volodymyr, Moscow's proxy in Ukraine. And who is to liquidate the "schismatics," i.e., the Ukrainians? Patriarch Bartholomew clarifies that the "problem" of Ukrainian Orthodoxy is to be resolved by Moscow's Patriarch Aleksei - "this is within his control and capacity to do." Moscow's Patriarch Aleksei was satisfied. "With such meetings we should continue to strengthen Orthodox unity," he said.

News of Patriarch Bartholomew's Odesa visit and the aforementioned statements were independently reported by a multitude of news services, among them the Associated Press, Reuters, the State Information Agency of Ukraine, and Patriarch Bartholomew's own office in Istanbul, as well as his Greek Archdiocese in America. On October 14, 1997, Bound Brook tried to quell the ensuing uproar, asserting that this is all sourced from Moscow, and is not trustworthy. This is an astonishing posture to put forth, given that our hierarchs are themselves in "communion" with the Moscow Patriarchate, that they have reinforced Patriarch Bartholomew's own position regarding the subjugation of our Church, that Moscow's continued subjugation of our Church was the very issue on the table in Odesa, that Patriarch Bartholomew has himself, for years prior to the Odesa visit, as emphatically embraced Moscow's position, and that none of this differs in its essence from the press reports that Bound Brook wishes to dismiss.

Perhaps the ironic and unintended truth of Bound Brook's accusation - that all this is just Moscow talking - is that it was the ecumenical patriarch's own press service that reported so extensively on Odesa.

Similar to our hierarchs' silence in the face of Protocol No. 937, the credibility of the multiple press reports is confirmed by what the Rev. Nakonachny and Archbishop Antony brought back after rushing feverishly to Istanbu: nothing.

They most certainly would have wished for a denial or something, anything, from Patriarch Bartholomew to placate the "raby." Did Patriarch Bartholomew plead mea culpa? Did he apologize? Did he deny his statements? Did he, by some Herculean stretch of the imagination, somehow explain them? No. They came back with nothing of the sort. To the contrary. According to a subsequent undated press release from Bound Brook, Patriarch Bartholomew not only did not deny any of the press reports that our hierarchs so anxiously dismissed, but he reaffirmed Moscow's exclusive control in Ukraine. The press release further quoted Patriarch Bartholomew: "[B]ut we believe that this is not enough ... To all the Ukrainians without exception, we make this appeal at this moment to think about their responsibility to history and to Orthodoxy and to seek together the means and way of unity." Once again, the victim is placed on the bench of the accused. And our hierarchs publish the condemnation as something that is good. Four weeks later, on October 27, 1998, they rewarded Patriarch Bartholomew, giving him a hero's welcome in Bound Brook.

The Rev. Nakonachny takes astonishing satisfaction that in Bround Brook Patriarch Bartholomew simply listened "to speaker after speaker call for a canonically recognized Autocephalous Church in Ukraine. Each of these speakers was interrupted by applause and standing ovations. This in itself is cause for great concern in the Russian Orthodox Church."

Is this the "best example" that the Rev. Nakonachny can fashion? How can "speaker after speaker calling for a canonically recognized Autocephalous Church in Ukraine," even by the most crusading imagination, be the "best example" of the beneficence that the deal with Patriarch Bartholomew has brought to our Church and the Ukrainian nation? Has the ecumenical patriarch never heard any of this before? Why wasn't Patriarch Bartholomew the speaker who was calling for - declaring - a "canonically recognized" Ukrainian Church? That would have caused "great concern" for Russia.

But Patriarch Bartholomew did nothing of the sort. He dutifully recited the catalogue of horrors that Ukrainians have suffered. (One wonders if our Church leaders' trip to Istanbul after Patriarch Bartholomew's faux pas in Odesa was to coach him on what to say in Bound Brook so as to placate the "raby." Then, without breaking stride, Patriarch Bartholomew again energetically pushed "unity."

If all that is the more bizarre part of the Rev. Nakonachny's letter, the most unpardonable part of the letter is his charge that his critics are "assisting" Moscow.

Who exactly are these nameless "Ukrainian people" that he objects to? They are people who scarcely survived a life's inferno that even Dante could not have imagined. They are "raby," in reverence for whom and on whose bones Bound Brook was built - hallowed ground not only for Orthodox Ukrainians, but for all Ukrainian Christians.

Pious, deferential to authority, unassertive in the extreme, these poor people were bludgeoned into psychological passivity by Moscow and now, in their final days on this earth, are cowed into silence by threats from our hierarchs. "Those who, by innuendo and outright falsification, would dare to continue the promotion of DISunity, will be dealt with in the proper ecclesiastical manner," says the April 2, 1995, Statement of the Council of Bishops. For what? For wanting to keep what's theirs? For what millions died for? "Where," these "raby" ask themselves, "will we be buried if we protest?" Cresthill Cemetery? Perhaps Brooklawn Cemetery? They are emotionally spent.

Why such open disdain for these "raby"? Are they "inveterate liars who do the work of Satan himself," as one of our hierarchs wrote to a wayward parish? "Ego, zarozumilist and antipathy" motivates them," he writes. Truly?

Excommunication of these "Ukrainian people," threats of lawsuits against these people, people who desperately call for unity in the face of the very disunity caused by Bound Brook itself would be a grave mistake. Passive, unassertive as they are, sooner or later if pushed to that point by Bound Brook one of the "raby" would break the mold and, very simply, counter-claim. Then what?

Against the vast sweep of our history, where we were the very origin of it all, an incredible two-thirds of the parishes of the Moscow Patriarchate are in Ukraine. Little wonder that, in the hierarchy of the Moscow Patriarchate, Metropolitan Volodymyr (Sabodan) is next on the totem pole, immediately below Moscow's Patriarch Aleksei. An independent Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Ukraine, shorn of Russia's leeches, would be the largest, most extensive Orthodox jurisdiction on this earth. Bound Brook could then represent that Church worldwide outside of Kyiv. Prestige and status enough for everyone in Bound Brook. You would think.

But Bound Brook's motivation evidently is elsewhere. How grandiose must raw ambition be to outweigh an anathema on our Church? In that light, what our hierarchs and the Rev. Nakonachny have done appears byzantine no more.

Victor Rud of Ridgefield Park, N.J., is an international attorney, and one of the founders and past chairman of the Board of Governors of the Ukrainian American Bar Association. He is a member of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the U.S.A.

Copyright © The Ukrainian Weekly, March 8, 1998, No. 10, Vol. LXVI

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