Are there canonical grounds for issuing of Tomos to Ukrainian dissenters?
On January 5, 2019, Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople announced to the whole world his three important Decisions:
• the restoration of his exarchate on the canonical territory of the Russian Orthodox Church;
• the reinstatement of Filaret Denysenko and Makariy Maletich to their hierarchical or priestly ranks;
• the granting of autocephaly (Tomos) under the auspices of the Constantinople Patriarchate to a new church structure – the HCU, that is, the Holy Church of Ukraine.
This announcement stirred up the whole Orthodox world. The media and some politicians started talking about it. Everyone was waiting for the announced Decisions to be presented to the public in the form of signed documents. But the expectations were vain. Yet the documents were not made publicly available. The Fanar limited itself to a verbal “announcement” of the alleged Decisions. The website of the Patriarchate of Constantinople very succinctly announced that such Decisions had been made somewhere and by someone.
Further events came to resemble a detective TV series. A group of active believers, through a human rights organization, appealed to Patriarch Bartholomew and each member of the Holy Synod of the Constantinople Patriarchate with a request to provide full official texts of these crucial Decisions. However, their request was rejected.
At that point, the human rights organization engaged with Turkish lawyers, who sent Patriarch Bartholomew and his Synod legal inquiries demanding them to provide the texts of the Decisions. But again the inquiries were rebuffed.
The culmination of this turbid story was a sudden “withdrawal” of Tomos from Kyiv back to Istanbul due to alleged lack of a number of signatures from some members of the Holy Synod.
All these strange happenings gave rise to a lot of sharp questions. Have the canonical rules and the Charter of the Patriarchate of Constantinople been observed? Did Patriarch Bartholomew fulfill all the conditions required to issue such Decisions? Was there any due procedure held to lift the anathema and reinstate to their priestly ranks the schismatics Denysenko and Maletich, or was that a mere allegation? What was the content of their appeals to Patriarch Bartholomew? Was there any repentance in the appeals, as required by the canons? Do such appeals exist at all? Did Patriarch Bartholomew cancel the decision of the Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church, which had deprived Denysenko of his priestly rank? And if so, what was the basis for such cancelation? On what basis did he recognize the validity of the ordination of the schismatics?
There are still no answers to these and other questions! Likewise, maybe there are no grounds on which the new religious structure was established in Ukraine?
We could possibly give up on this story, if not for one circumstance. The announced Decisions of Bartholomew, with the support of irresponsible politicians, provoked a wave of violence against the canonical Orthodox Church in Ukraine, leading to massive seizures of churches, violent “transfers” of communities to another denomination, and reprisals against clerics.
If in the near future Patriarch Bartholomew and the Synod do not present documents confirming the legitimacy of their Decisions, then we are going to witness a grandiose deception and forgery committed by the authoritative and high-profile person – the hierarch of the Church. Dear politicians and journalists, find the texts of the Decisions, which you are so actively commenting on!
Your Eminences, urge Patriarch Bartholomew to give an account to the World Orthodoxy on the Decisions he made!
Remember that because of these “Decisions”, religious intolerance is now flourishing in Ukraine, lawlessness and violence are spreading, the country runs the risk of plunging into chaos and countless disasters. The people of Ukraine need peace, but not an artificially created religious conflict.