Δευτέρα, 12 Αυγούστου 2019

REFLECTIONS ON AUTOCEPHALY BY A MEMBER OF THE UKRAINIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH OF THE USA



DR. GAYLE E. WOLOSCHAK, 'Reflections on Autocephaly by a Member of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USAReflections on Autocephaly by a Member of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA'', in  The Ecumenical Patriarchate and Ukraine Autocephaly, Evagelos Sotiropoulos, Editor, May 2019, ORDER OF SAINT ANDREW THE APOSTLE, ARCHONS OF THE ECUMENICAL PATRIARCHATE, pp. 73-76.

The  Ukrainian  Orthodox  Church  of  the  USA  (UOC-USA) has awaited the granting of  autocephaly  to the Church in Ukraine for  decades.  While  numerous  approaches  for  autocephaly  were discussed, the decisions for this were considered to reside with the Church  in  Ukraine.  It  was  not  until  the  UOC-USA  was  accepted under the omophorionof the Ecumenical Patriarch in the 1980’s that the long wait became even most intense.It had long been considered by the UOC-USA membership that  Russian  domination  of  the  Ukrainian  Church  inhibited  its development, progression, and freedom of expression. In addition, this  oppressive  environment  had  led  to  a  chaotic  situation  in Ukraine   with   multiple   and   often   competing   jurisdictions   co-existing  simultaneously.  Each  jurisdiction  claimed authority  and claimed  to  be  autocephalous,  but  none  except  the  one  under  the Russian Orthodox Church were recognized as being canonical.  His All-Holiness Ecumenical  Patriarch Bartholomew  urged patience,  but  yearly  at  the  annual  meeting  of  the  Metropolitan Council  the  topic  of  Ukrainian  autocephaly  was  discussed  for several  hours.  In  addition,  at  each  Sobor  of  the  UOC-USA  (held every  three  years),  the  topic  was  discussed  at  length  with  special committees    and    sessions    held    to    encourage    and    support autocephaly  for  Ukraine.  As  such,  this  was  long-awaited  and strongly   supported   by   the   UOC-USA –not   only   by   Church leadership but also by the general membership and faithful.  The   Russian   war   in   Crimea,   which   is   still   on-going, changed much about the relationship between the two nations and is  having  a  lasting  impact  on  the  relationship  of  the  people  of Ukraine  and  the  Russian  Orthodox  Church.    The  war  resulted  in heightened  tensions  between  the  Church  in  Ukrainian  and  the Church in Russia.  The Russian Church applied pressure on clergy to support the Russian side in the war and eventually the Russian Orthodox Church became a propaganda tool for President Putin’s ideas.  The  Russian  Church  was  no  longer  primarily  serving  the needs of the Ukrainian people, but rather the needs of the Russian state;  the  Church  was  not  supporting  the  people  of  Ukraine  as  its primary goal. The Church in Ukraine was in a difficult situation: it had no freedom to manage its own affairs yet at the same time had no  approach  or  process  to  gainits  own  freedom.  In  2016  (just before  the  convening  of  the  Holy  and  Great  Council  in  Crete)  the people of Ukraine through the legislature (Supreme Rada) and the President  (at  that  time  President  Poroshenko)  appealed  to  the Ecumenical Patriarch to intervene in the situation. This was raised before  the  Great  Council  in  hopes  that  the  assembled  hierarchs would take up the issue at that time; despite this hope, the agenda for   the   Council   had   been   set,   and   the   matter   could   not   be discussed.  In  its  letter,  however,  the  government  argued  that  as  a sovereign   state   Ukraine   deserved   to   have   its   own   Church –consistent     with     the     recent     historical     process     for     other predominately Orthodox countries in Eastern Europe. It is not clear when   or   how   the   Ecumenical   Patriarch   made   his   decision, although  it  was  clearly  done  with  consultation  of  the  Holy  and Sacred Synod; when  it  was  announced  that  autocephaly  would  be  granted  there was  enthusiasm  and  even  excitement  among  the  faithful  in  the UOC-UCA.  The  build-up  to  the  granting  of  autocephaly  led  to  broad discussions within  Church  leadership  of  the UOC-USA,  all  asking for approaches to support autocephaly and facilitate the process if it should be possible. His Eminence Archbishop Daniel of the UOC of  USA  was  selected  as  one  of  the  exarchs  of  the  Ecumenical Patriarch  to  the  Church  in  Ukraine;  he  facilitated  the  election  of  a primate   (First   Hierarch)   and   also   helped   in   developing   firm relationships for the Church in Ukraine. Church membership in the USA was proud of Archbishop Daniel’s role and supportive of his efforts.  Information  flowed  from  His  Eminence  to  the  Church  in the United States through articles, photos, and eventually through discussions.  When  autocephaly  was  officially  bestowed  upon  the Church    in    the    person    of    the newly    elected    Metropolitan Epiphanios  of  Kyiv  and  all  Ukraineat  the  Phanar  on  January  6, 2019,  Archbishop  Daniel  and  I  were  the  only  two  members  of  the UOC-USA  present  at  the  historic  event. Had  there  been  more planning there would have been a large delegation present, but the speedy   nature   of   the   inception   and   fruition   of   the   event necessitated  a  subdued  response  from  the  Church  abroad.  In  fact, while  the  UOC-USA  had  long  held  hopes  for  autocephaly  close, the  event  was  specifically  for  the  Church  in  Ukraine  and  not  the Church in the diaspora.  Following     the     granting     of     autocephaly,    discussion continued  broadly  in  the  UOC-USA  about  the  event.    Archbishop Daniel made a formal presentation to the Metropolitan Council on the  events  that  transpired  in  Ukraine and  the  group  questioned him  with  excitement  and  joy  about  the  events.  After  this  the emphasis  of  the  discussion  moved  from  the  joy  of  the  event  to questions  about  how  the  Church  in  the  United  States  could  be supportive  of  autocephaly;  the  need  for  a  building  up  of  the Church   in   Ukraine   to   be   independent   and   self-ruling   was considered  necessary  and  difficult.  The  UOC-USA  offered  help  to facilitate  these  processes,  including  having  two  bishops  from  the UOC-USA   attend   the   formal   enthronement   of   Metropolitan Epiphanios in Kyiv and address the gathering.  What  will  the  future  hold  for  the  Orthodox  Church  in Ukraine? It is hoped that the time ahead will lead to a stabilization and growth of the Church. It will be a difficult time because much unrest  has  been  sown  since  the  fall  of  Communism  and  the establishment   of   Ukraine   as   a   free   nation-state;   healing   the divisions and uniting the people will be a long process that to some extent  must  be  carried  out  by  Ukraine  itself  and  not  by  the involvement of outsiders, even if those outsiders are well-meaning.  Inasmuch  as  the UOC-USA  and  other well-intentioned  supporters can  help  the  Orthodox  Church  in  Ukraine,  no  doubt  the  support will  be  welcomed;  all  the  same,  the  Ukraine  must  grow  and develop  its  own  Church  in  its  ownway  for  the  enrichment  and betterment of the faithful there.