The Contemporary Ukrainian Issue and Its Resolution according to the Divine and Sacred Canons by Nicephorus, metropolitan of Kykkos and Tillyria. Conclusions.
Below is the translation into Russian of the conclusions at which Nicephorus, metropolitan of Kykkos and Tillyria (Greek Orthodox Church of Cyprus), arrives in his work on the Ukrainian ecclesiastical question.
In summing up for the present the ecclesiastical, theological, canonical and historical information on the Ukrainian issue, by way of conclusion let us note the following:
1. The annulment of the validity of the Patriarchal Letter of 1686 and the acquisition by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of the right of jurisdiction over the ecclesiastical territory of Ukraine is a unilateral act, unauthorized, uncanonical and consequently has no validity. The ecclesiastical mind of both the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Russian Church, as well the pan-Orthodox mind (that is, all the Local Autocephalous Orthodox Churches), without hesitation and doubt, has been in agreement that for the past 332 years (from 1686 to 2018) the Orthodox Church of Ukraine has been in the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the Orthodox Moscow Patriarchate and was a part of its canonical territory. This experience of all the Orthodox Churches has been constantly, without any objections or qualifications, testified at the pan-Orthodox concelebrations and at convocations, during official visits, at international conferences and in many other instances.
2. The granting to the schismatic groupings of Ukraine of false autocephaly without the preliminary informing and agreement of the other autocephalous Orthodox Churches and even the Mother Church, which in this case is the Russian Church, is an act that completely contradicts the centuries-old canonical tradition and established ecclesiastical practice, and therefore from the perspective of the sacred canons it cannot be justified.
3. The reception of persons deprived of their holy orders and anathematized without their preliminary sincere and deep repentance on the one hand, on the basis of the uncanonical assertion that the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople from earliest times has had and continues to have the privilege to receive and examine appeals of clergy not only from Churches within its own jurisdiction but also from other Orthodox Patriarchates and autocephalous Churches on the other, is in complete contradiction to the sacred canons which these actions so crudely violate. Therefore, the granting of autocephalous status to Ukraine cannot but have actual canonical consequences and which must not be accepted by the other Local Autocephalous Orthodox Churches.
4. The uncanonical granting of false autocephaly to the schismatic structures of Ukraine in no way has returned the Ukrainian people to canonical regularity, as the Ecumenical Patriarch asserts, since the overwhelming majority of the Ukrainian Orthodox people continue to remain loyal to the canonical Church with the metropolitan of Kiev and All Ukraine Onuphrius at its head. The actions of the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, on the contrary, have caused as a result a catastrophic division of the Ukrainian Church and a painful schism of her pleroma in Christ. As a consequence of this, the destructive schism threatens all of the ecumenical Body and world Orthodoxy.
5. The unilateral, unauthorized and uncanonical decision of the Ecumenical Patriarch to grant the status of autocephalous Church to the schismatic groupings of Ukraine, apart from engendering a serious ecclesiastical problem and threatening unity through a hateful schism, at the same time irreversibly undermines the authority of the Ecumenical Patriarchate as the coordinating centre of the Orthodox Patriarchates and autocephalous Churches.
6. The rupture in eucharistic communion between the two Churches, when it has been caused by dogmatic reasons or the violation of the divine and sacred canons, is not only permissible but is prescribed by the very canons as ages-old ecclesiastical practice. Consequently, in applying the sacred canons (the 10th and 15th canons of the Apostles, the 5th canon of the First Ecumenical Council, as well as the 2nd canon of the Council of Antioch), the Orthodox Moscow Patriarchate has acted correctly in breaking off communion with the Ecumenical Patriarchate in the hope, of course, that the reasons which have led to the impossibility of the sharing of the chalice will soon be removed, and relations between the two Churches will once more restored “in faith and love”, a natural consequence of which would be the restoration between them of eucharistic communion.
7. Against the background of these events surrounding the Ukrainian question is yet one more canonical claim that for world Orthodoxy the archbishop of Constantinople the Ecumenical Patriarch is not the “first among equals” but the “first without equals”. This fact of “primacy of ministry” becomes the “primacy of authority”, which leads to the violation of the principle of conciliarity which has been part of life of the Orthodox Church since time immemorial.
8. At the height of this very dangerous and unjustified crisis which has arisen within the bosom of Orthodoxy as a result of the Ukrainian question there has appeared also a new dogma that the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople is the head of the Universal Orthodox Church. By reinterpreting the 34th canon of the Holy Apostles, those close to the Ecumenical Throne claim that the Ecumenical Patriarch should be considered the first and head of all the other Primates. That is, all the Patriarchs, Primates and bishops should recognize the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople as the head of the Universal Orthodox Church. However, this new theory cannot sustain criticism either from the historical or canonical or dogmatic or ecclesiological perspective because the Universal Orthodox Church has no other Head than our Lord Jesus Christ. The natural Prince and immortal Head of the Church is her Author, Saviour and Redeemer Christ.
9. There can be no doubt nor can any objections be advanced that in Ukraine the principle of conciliarity, which is foundational in the administration of the Orthodox Church, has conceded to the principle of the unauthorized and despotic authority of one person, that is, the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, who by the irony of historical events four years ago called together, headed and coordinated the work of the Holy and Great Council on Crete (18th to 25th June 2016). And this Council in its epistle proclaimed that “the Orthodox Church expresses her unity and catholicity by conciliar means. Conciliarity permeates her organization and is the means by which decisions are taken and the path determined.”
10. Finally, we note that “on the basis of historical truth and canonical tradition, in order to avoid a definitive schism, the Greek-speaking Churches must support the historical rights of the Russian Church which are predicated on the sacred canons and should neither openly nor in silence support the uncanonical interference of Constantinople into another Churches’ jurisdiction. If by reason of love for their people and patriotism they act otherwise in supporting the Greek Patriarch, they then fall into the heresy of ethnophiletism, which was condemned by Constantinople herself in 1872.”