Epiphany Dumenko and Sviatoslav Shevchuk. Photo: UOJ
OCU has been recently marked by the rhetoric on support of the OUN-UPA, Bandera, Plast, Galizien division, i.e. the ideology typifying Uniates and Galician politicians.
After the row caused by Filaret’s departure from the OCU, Epiphany Dumenko made a number of statements and actions that make one speak about the head of this organization’s focus on the promotion of the Galician nationalist ideology in the OCU.
At the end of August 2019, the head of the OCU, Epiphany Dumenko, alongside the head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholics, Sviatoslav Shevchuk, consecrated the monument to the heroes of the OUN-UPA and noted the support of the pro-Uniate Plast scout organization. A few days earlier, Dumenko called Galicia a stronghold of Orthodoxy and stated that he was proud to be a “Bandera follower”. In turn, one of his subordinates said that the Ukrainian Nazis from the SS punitive Galizien division are saints. What is behind all these curtsies towards the nationalist electorate, based mainly in western Ukraine? Let’s try to figure it out.
On Saturday, August 24, Ukraine celebrates Independence Day.
This is Independence Day for the whole country, all its regions. Different parts of Ukraine in past historical periods were part of different countries and empires. Hence, they have a different mentality, different traditions, different political preferences, different economic structures of the regions, and so on.
Unfortunately, now in Ukraine the society is divided. Many political forces try to sow hostility among Ukrainians by pitting our history and mentality and earn money and political dividends from this. However, the results of the last presidential and parliamentary elections showed that people are tired of the authorities’ stakes on a nationalist ideology, inciting hostility and hatred toward dissent. Ukrainians want an end to the war and the return of flourishing, hospitable and peaceful Ukraine like it used to be.
In this regard, it is impossible to overestimate the role of the Church.
The Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which has repeatedly expressed support for Ukrainian statehood, is the only organization which amid split and military conflict unites all Orthodox believers in our country – from Lvov to Donbass, from the Crimea to Kharkov. It does not allow associating itself exclusively with a particular region, political force or one ideology. This follows from its very essence as the Church of Christ. And in the Church, as you know, “… there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all” (Colossians 3:11).
“Patriotic” faiths position themselves in a completely different way. Both the Uniates and representatives of the UOC-KP played a huge role in the organization of the Euromaidan. Bishops of the UGCC in 2014 stated that half of the Maidan protesters in Kiev belonged to their faith.
It was the Greek Catholics being for the most part adepts of the nationalist ideology characteristic of the inhabitants of the Carpathian region and Galicia who became the main beneficiaries of the changes that affected Ukraine after the Euromaidan. The glorification of the OUN-UPA fighters as heroes, SS Galizien division, Bandera, Shukhevich, large-scale promotion and construction of temples in the eastern and southern regions of Ukraine, the representation of nationalists and Uniates in the highest echelons of power – all this became possible thanks to the Euromaidan and what happened in Ukraine subsequently.
It must be said that the so-called “Bandera” ideology was present in our country exclusively in its western regions until 2014. In the rest of Ukraine, it aroused caution at the very least or a severe rejection at most. And this is clear, since the actions of the Galician nationalists as part of the OUN-UPA, the Nazi SS units “Galicia”, “Nachtigal”, “Roland” were mixed. The mass killings of Poles during the Volhynia Massacre, the extermination of Jews, Russians, and even Ukrainians of othera political preferences – all this can hardly cause ardent sympathy with an unbiased researcher. However, an insight into these crimes is not what this article is aimed at.
The Orthodox Church, which at that dramatic time called on its believers to fight against the fascist invaders, never approved of such collaborative actions by Western Ukrainian nationalists. Upon that it is necessary to recall that the nationalist ideology of Bandera in all military units was inextricably linked with Uniatism. Uniate chaplains were present in the OUN-UPA, in the SS “Galicia” and in other military structures of the nationalists. They provided spiritual guidance to the soldiers and blessed all their military operations.
The OCU positions itself as an “Orthodox Church with a thousand-year history”, i.e. as a successor of those who fought against Catholicization in the lands of Right-Bank Ukraine, who defended the purity of the Orthodox faith from the offensive and oppression of the Roman and Greek Catholics.
Now that the schismatics from the UOC-KP and UAOC merged into a single structure called “Orthodox Church in Ukraine”, its head Epiphany Dumenko makes a number of statements and actions testifying to the fact that this structure does not intend to be “the Church of all Ukrainians”, but focuses only on the western Ukrainian religious “electorate”.
OCU as a reflection of Uniate Church
On April11, 2019, Epiphany Dumenko visited Lvov Agrarian National University where he demonstrated the Tomos to students and professors and declared he is proud to be called a Bandera follower.
Among other things, the head of the OCU said the following: “Among the graduates of the university, it is worth noting and recalling the genius of the Ukrainian national and nation-building spirit Stepan Bandera. He is a glorious graduate of your university. And when we are called Bandera men, we are proud of it.”
On May 8, 2019, Epiphany declared that in the west of the country, the Ukrainian people are more religious and patriotic than in Ukraine as a whole.
On June 30, 2019, the former archimandrite of the UOC and current “bishop” of the OCU, Viktor Bed, served lithium for the commander of the OUN-UPA, Greek Catholic Roman Shukhevich, calling him “a fighter for the national and state independence of Ukraine”.
On July 28, 2019, during the reburial ceremony of the remains of 29 fighters of the Galizien division, the “dean” of the Zolochev District of the OCU, Vasily Sagan, called them saints: “there will be a moment not only for the recognition of the SS Galician Division, but when the Church and the Lord recognize many of these heroes in their own way, in due time. And not just as heroes – but also as saints. A lot of them are so.”
On August 17, 2019, at the celebrations of the 30th anniversary of the III revival of the UAOC in Lvov, Epiphany said that Galicia is a stronghold of Ukrainian Orthodoxy.
On August 21, 2019, Epiphany Dumenko, alongside the head of the UGCC, Sviatoslav Shevchuk, consecrated the OUN-UPA monument in the Jewish cemetery in Sambor.
The monument is designed to perpetuate the memory of the soldiers of the OUN-UPA in the place where the murdered Jews are buried. It means it was established in honor of members of the organization being involved in these killings.
“The monument is dedicated to people who organized the Jewish pogrom in Sambor in July 1941, during which about 100 people were killed. Then these people in the ranks of the Ukrainian auxiliary police participated in the massacre of 1,200 Sambor Jews who were buried in this same cemetery,” wrote the Director of the Ukrainian Jewish Committee, Eduard Dolinsky, on his Facebook page.
On August 22, 2019, Epiphany Dumenko visited the scout organization Plast whose nationalist and uniate slant was already analyzed by the UOJ.
It is easy to see that the number of statements and actions of the OCU aimed at attracting the religious audience of Western Ukraine is growing rapidly. At one time, it was necessary to comment on the amazing similarity and even the identity of the traditional Uniate ideology. And Epiphany did it.
To the question of how the OCU cooperates with the UGCC, especially in terms of the youth education, Epiphany Dumenko answered:
“Now we have friendly relations with the UGCC … We are holding meetings, because we want to jointly develop a roadmap for our future cooperation. There is a lot of work ahead, but our two Churches are spiritually patriotically-minded, so there is a good will between us to preserve and increase cooperation. Even within the Plast where there are a lot of Orthodox and Greek Catholics, we do not share out; we are united in the defense of traditional Christian values and Ukrainian interests. If we begin to share out, then we will not succeed.”
Whom are Epiphany and the Uniates going to “defend traditional Christian values” from? What do these joint prayers of the OCU members with the Greek Catholics mean? And what do these obvious attempts to gain the favor of the inhabitants of the western regions of our country mean? Do Epiphany and his subordinates really understand that a radical nationalist ideology is completely unacceptable for the citizens of the eastern, southern and largely central regions of Ukraine?
Political failure of Petro Poroshenko
Recall that the former Ukrainian government, which made a stake on the spread of this ideology, failed miserably.
By a “strange” coincidence, former President Petro Poroshenko, who received humiliatingly low support from Ukrainians in both the presidential and parliamentary elections, was likewise oriented exclusively toward the western electorate. Here is a map of support for V. Zelensky and P. Poroshenko in the presidential election.
During his election campaign, the former president proclaimed slogans aimed specifically at the residents of Galicia.
Moreover, already in the parliamentary elections, when it became clear that reliance on the Tomos did not pay off, the “father of Ukrainian autocephaly” easily switched to Uniates, posed in front of cameras with Sviatoslav Shevchuk in Zarvanitsa and invited all Ukrainians to “take part in a joint prayer” already with Greek Catholics.
Petro Poroshenko won the election in Galicia. But he lost them in Ukraine. Moreover, he lost with almost 50% behind the winner. This has never happened in the history of Ukraine. Therefore, it is especially surprising that this loss did not teach head of the OCU Epiphany Dumenko anything.
Poroshenko did not position himself as a president of all Ukraine, but as a leader of only one part of it. As a result, he remained the leader of this very insignificant part which is very clearly visible on the map.
Epiphany as a miserable reflection of Petro Poroshenko
Petro Poroshenko made a mistake in his calculations. However, for a politician, such behavior is permissible and understandable. Each politician is associated with a certain ideology and has his own electorate, his own electoral field. Another thing is when such behavior is shown by the leaders of organizations who call themselves religious, who tell people not about repentance and not about the Kingdom of Heaven, but about the “correct” state ideology, and play the roulette of political expediency.
Petro Poroshenko won the election in Galicia. But he lost them in Ukraine. Moreover, he lost with almost 50% behind the winner. This has never happened in the history of Ukraine. Therefore, it is especially surprising that this loss did not teach head of the OCU Epiphany Dumenko anything. This false metropolitan follows the same path and steps on the same rake as the founding father of his structure, Petro Poroshenko. Moreover, the rake is political, which obviously does not befit a religious leader. This situation speaks, at least, of two errors of the head of the OCU.
- Reliance on the Galician nationalism no longer works in Ukraine. Poroshenko proved it.
- The religious-nationalist niche of Galicia is densely occupied by Greek Catholics. This is an axiom that does not require proof. The UGCC stood at the very origins of the OUN-UPA and in many respects contributed to their creation and the formation of a nationalist ideology. This is their story. No matter how much patriotic Epiphany and Co might try to appear, they are outsiders there, while “Bolivar cannot carry double”.
The current policy of the OCU looks at least short-sighted. Unless Epiphany and Sviatoslav Shevchuk have some hidden far-reaching goals.
Are OCU and UGCC aimed at unity?
Nationalist ideology is a death for the Christian soul, because it teaches the exactly opposite of what the Church does. Many places in Holy Scriptures speak of the unity of all believers in Christ and the transient significance of national and other differences. For example, “So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3: 26-28).
The schismatics, when they used to be the Kiev Patriarchate, laid the foundation of this nationalism among their supporters. Having been transformed into the OCU, they (mis)lead the believers of this structure even further from Christ. And ideological rapprochement with the Uniates may well turn out to be only a local intermediate stage.
Recall that immediately after the creation of the OCU, Epiphany and Sviatoslav Shevchuk met and outlined an action plan to bring their organizations closer together, while the UGCC leader then said that every effort should be made to restore the original unity of the Catholic and Orthodox branches of the Kiev Church.
“We know that the Mother Church of Kiev, which is the common root for both Ukrainian Orthodoxy and the Greek Catholic Church, reacted painfully to the break between Rome and Constantinople. For many years, the head of the Church, the episcopate, the monk, the faithful of the Kiev Church, considered this a local conflict, a quarrel between the Latins and the Greeks. But later, this gap division tore into shreds the insides of the Kiev Church. And that is why today it is necessary to make every effort not only to overcome the division within Ukrainian Orthodoxy but also seriously theologize, pray, work in order to restore the original unity of the Kiev Church in its Orthodox and Catholic branches. And just the UGCC bears the mystical church memory of the undivided Christianity of the first millennium.”
It is quite possible that we are now witnessing with our own eyes the implementation of the road map for the convergence of the OCU and the UGCC, which the heads of these organizations have outlined before.
And this fact should make everyone, leaning towards the OCU, take their time and think. After all, the absence of loud and accented statements on unity plans should not deceive anyone. We remember that the union in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries was introduced by deception and stealth and for a very long time believers, who would come to services in actually Catholic churches, did not know anything about it and were sure that they were Orthodox.
Therefore, the vector of development of the modern project may well be the rapprochement with the Ukrainian Catholics of the Orthodox rite until the acquisition of the OCU by the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. If someone wants to join the OCU and remain an Orthodox person, they are deeply mistaken in their expectations. It may well turn out that not Orthodoxy, but Catholicism ultimately awaits such a person. This must be clearly recognized by everyone and then let them make their choice.
There is another point … Not all residents of Western Ukraine are schismatics or Uniates. Many of them stand firm in Orthodoxy and do not betray the Church of Christ. They do not succumb to either persuasion or threats and remain faithful children of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. These are many monasteries and dozens of temples in the Ternopol, Lvov, Ivano-Frankovsk regions.
We do not know the political preferences of these people or their view on the history of Ukraine. But with their allegiance to the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church, they testify that the true Church unites completely different people. The sign of the true Church lies precisely in the fact that it does not divide people according to national, political or other grounds. She has no enemies, rivals or opponents. She equally accepts both residents of the western regions of our country and those of the east, center and south.
The 300 thousand-strong Great Cross Procession of the UOC on July 27, 2019, clearly demonstrated this unity when shoulder to shoulder, with prayer and psalm-singing, happy and spiritually elated, there were walking representatives of all eparchies from all over our country. And no matter what actions the leaders of schismatic and Greek Catholic structures take, whatever plans they make, they are unable to damage this unity.