Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Moscow Patriarchate, telling it to “go home” in fiery comments, which the Church dismissed as “absurd” and unconstitutional.
Concerns voiced by top Russian officials about the ongoing church row in Ukraine are proof that the institution should not be in the country at all, according to Poroshenko.
“Is it normal when the Kremlin urgently gathers the Security Council, presided over by Putin, with the only issue on the table: How to protect the Russian Orthodox Church in Ukraine?” Poroshenko said on Tuesday. He added that “your church, your troops, your armaments” have no business in Ukraine, and urged them to “go home, back to Russia.”
He also urged the “Ukrainian hierarchs” to hurry up and hold a“unification council” which could lead to receiving the much-awaited autocephaly.
“Ukraine waited for it for the long 1030 years straight after the baptism,” he claimed. The 988 baptism of land, which was back then called Rus’, led to the creation of the Russian Metropolis which later evolved into the Patriarchate, while the very term ‘Ukraine’ did not exist back then.
The canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church, however, has already refused to take part in such a “unification” gathering. Ukraine hosts three Orthodox Churches, yet only one of them – the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate – is recognized by other Churches.
Most Ukrainian clerics recognize its authority, while the government openly endorses one of the schismatic churches – the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kiev Patriarchate. It broke away in the 1990s and boasts its own self-proclaimed ‘patriarch’.
Poroshenko’s statements drew the ire of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which accused the top official of effectively violating the constitution of his own country.
“It’s a completely absurd, ridiculous statement. The Constitution of Ukraine guarantees the protection of the Church, especially this one, which was born on the territory of modern Ukraine, existed there for 1,000 years, and tutored our people,” the press service of the institution said, adding that the Church itself blessed the creation of the independent Ukrainian state back in 1991.
The Orthodox Church has faced a major crisis recently, as the Constantinople Patriarchy moved towards recognition of the independence of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which is a constituent part of the Russian Orthodox Church. Constantinople decided to send its exarchs to Kiev, interfering in the affairs of another Church – which is forbidden – and triggering a bitter row with the Moscow Patriarchate.
The situation in Ukraine is becoming more and more explosive, as it’s being deliberately pushed towards conflict, the director of the ‘Orthodoxy and the World’ web portal, Protoiereus Alexander Ilyashenko, believes.
“I feel that the whole situation is being pushed into the abyss,”Ilyashenko told RT.
The drive of the Ukrainian authorities for autocephaly will not likely be supported by any other Orthodox churches, since it might easily trigger a chain reaction, he warned. Yet, the words of the clergy seem to mean little to Poroshenko and his advisers.
“It’s a precedent case. One would be able to sow the same discord in other churches, in other countries – in Serbia, in Georgia, Romania – anywhere. There are disgruntled people everywhere,” Ilyashenko said.
“There are people who are dissatisfied with the status quo everywhere. They can be encouraged and pushed towards rash moves anywhere. In any country such events are possible.”