Abp. Feodosiy (Snigirov). “IF THE PHANAR CONTINUES TO SYSTEMATICALLY SPLIT ORTHODOXY, THEN ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN”
At the beginning of our conversation with Vladyka Feodosiy (Snigirov) of Boyarka, one of the speakers of the UOC, we leaf through the files of Church periodicals in 1992 that tell about the events of twenty-seven years ago. Upon the arrival in Kiev on June 10, 1992, of His Beatitude Metropolitan Vladimir (Sabodan) of Kiev and All Ukraine († 2014), who was elected primate of the UOC at the historic Kharkov Council (in May 1992), congratulatory telegrams and letters arrived to the Metropolis from the heads of all Local Churches, including Constantinople and the Greek Church, which emphasized the recognition of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church—the only Church that was canonical and independent in its administration on the territory of the newly-established state of Ukraine. The texts of these documents were published in the official UOC publications “Orthodox Church Gazette” and the journal “Orthodox Herald.” After that, representatives of the aforementioned Churches of Constantinople and Greece participated many times in UOC Church celebrations in Kiev, on Vladimir Hill and in the Kiev Caves Lavra on the day of the Baptism of Rus’, and repeatedly expressed condemnation of the schism perpetrated by the former Metropolitan Philaret, as evidenced by the published epistles, reports, and communiqués of these Churches.
—Vladyka, can you explain such a contradiction in the official position of the Constantinople and Greek Churches? As you know, at its last Council, the GOC declared the recognition of “Ukrainian autocephaly” and the right of the Patriarchate of Constantinople to unilaterally grant it. At the same time, the text of the decision of the GOC Council does not mention the so-called OCU at all, but only speaks of the recognition of some “autocephaly.” What is with the casuistry?
—In this case, we are seeing a classic example of the substitution of concepts, to mislead the faithful of the Greek world. In general, the substitution of meanings and their distortion has been used to deceive people from time immemorial by the enemy of the human race. In the Akathists to the Most Holy Theotokos, we sometimes find these words addressed to the Mother of God: “Rejoice, thou who dost abolish the corrupter of meanings.” The destroyer of meanings, that is, he who corrupts concepts and substitutes meanings, is the devil, the eternal liar. In this case, the system of lies and substitution of concepts in the Ukrainian Church question, developed by the Ukrainian schismatics, was foisted upon the Greek Bishops’ Council by the Phanar, and many seem to have believed and accepted it.
The deception and corruption of meanings lies in the fact that autocephaly is not at all the key issue in the Ukrainian “bundle.” The severity of the problem now is not who, how, and under what circumstances this autocephaly can be granted. Those are secondary questions that can be discussed and that have been discussed within the framework of inter-Orthodox contacts. The main problem, which gave rise to the division and threatens Orthodoxy with an irreparable schism, is the anti-canonical “legalization” of the Philaret schism, the recognition of laity as bishops and concelebration with them, and the recognition of the quasi-Church politicized structure, parallel to the UOC, as the Church of Ukraine. The second important question is on the edge of heresy—the vaticanization of the Phanar and its invasion of foreign canonical territory, which provoked persecution against the faithful of the UOC. These are the real problems, the questions that could split the Church again, like a thousand years ago.
And they’re talking about some right to grant autocephaly at their Bishops’ Council, while the principal issues remain in the shadows. And on this basis, they adopt a catastrophic communiqué. It’s terrible to think of the consequences of such carelessness from the majority of the participants in the Greek Church’s Council. The agenda with an inverted meaning was, obviously, imposed on them from outside. And they full well could have recognized and rejected it. But they didn’t.
—We know that not all the hierarchs of the GOC, or of the Patriarchate of Constantinople agree with recognizing the OCU. What does this indicate—about the tendencies towards schism within these Churches?
—It speaks to the fact that not all the hierarchs of these Churches managed to contract the bacteria of eastern papism, which means the lies of the Ukrainian schismatics cannot so easily penetrate their minds. The courage of a whole number of Greek metropolitans, priests, laymen, and theologians who defend the right to Truth in spite of hierarchical pressure arouses spiritual admiration. The truth is on their side. I am sure that precisely these hierarchs and laymen are now, in the eyes of God, the true Church of Greece, its glory and its honor.
As for the possibility of a schism within Local Churches, let us hope that it won’t come to that. Although if the Lord does not, in ways known to Him alone, place a limit on the attack of Patriarch Bartholomew, and the Phanar continues to systematically split Orthodoxy, then anything can happen.
—Vladyka, what, in your view, can counter these phenomena?
—Let’s first define the concepts. You’re asking now about a canonical demarcation between groups of Local Orthodox Churches, and not about a schism along the line of Orthodoxy-“Phanarodoxy?” After all, this line—Orthodoxy-“Phanarodoxy”—will run not just between Churches, but within the Local Churches themselves; that is, between the ascetics of faith and zealots of the canons of Orthodoxy on one hand, and ecumenists, religious liberals, and Greek ethnophyletists on the other. And if, by God’s intervention and admonition, the Phanariots—the new papists—do not come to understand the Truth and to repentance, then such a global division between Orthodoxy and “Phanarodoxy” is wholly possible and not far off. But in that case, the Orthodox Church will only be cleansed of a foreign element, of new heresies.
If we are speaking about a schism between individual Local Orthodox Churches within their borders, as a consequence of the current inter-Orthodox situation, then theoretically, unfortunately, even this is possible. And by human reasoning, everything is leading to this. But I hope the Lord will not allow this, otherwise, the prophecies of the saints, including of new times, would have said a lot about it. But they didn’t. On the contrary, they spoke otherwise, saying a lot that inspires optimism. I believe the Lord will correct the situation with such circumstances that over time, the Orthodox will only remember with a smile the miniscule but proud heresy of eastern papism, which will have sunk into oblivion.
How can we counter the possibility of a global split in Orthodoxy? First of all, hope in God, prayer to Him; sincere prayer, with sighing. Let this prayer even be brief, but daily and sincere. If we pray this way for unity, then it will be hard for us to slander our opponents without looking back. This is very important right now. We can criticize their false doctrines, errors, and destructive actions, but we mustn’t cross over to personally insulting hierarchs and humiliating concepts that are sacred for the Greek world, if they’re not heretical, of course. Unfortunately, not all apologists on our side or theirs adhere to these obvious rules of polemics. Sometimes it comes to personal insults and outright rudeness. It can’t bring peace; it’s the devil blowing this wind, especially as offensive words and careless statements mean much more for those of Eastern cultures than for us “northern” peoples. There will be great shame over this when it all settles down later.
—Alongside what’s happening, in the actions of Constantinople, and now Athens, we see the tendency of new contacts between Patriarch Bartholomew with the Throne of Rome. He also received the leader of the Ukrainian Greek Catholics. Does this somehow overlap with the theme of the schism in Ukraine?
—The philocatholicism of many hierarchs who are now supporting Patriarch Bartholomew in his anti-canonical actions in Ukraine isn’t a secret for anyone, either here or in Greece. Is it evidence of an organized and planned movement of “liberal Orthodoxy” into the embrace of the Pope? I don’t know. Many consider it to be so. In any case, an unhealthy trend exists. Whether it is thought out or situational—“the call of the heart”—is difficult to say, but it exists, and it’s obvious. And if for foreign Orthodox philocatholic hierarchs, their drift towards the Unia seems conscious and long-desired, then they will lead our schismatics from the OCU there on a short leash, without asking their opinion.
For clarity, compare the intellectual and theological level, and the degree of authority of the key figures from the OCU and the UGCC, for example. They’re of completely different magnitudes. We’re not even going to take representatives of the Vatican, or the Phanar as examples—there simply is no comparison. Add to this the fuzzy canonical consciousness in the OCU, their lack of independence and unconditional obedience to the Phanar, their awe of the authorities of foreign centers, and their obedience to secular powers. Can we really suppose that when it is necessary, they will suddenly oppose all of this and stand in “defense of Orthodoxy” and sacrifice everything for the sake of Truth? It’s doubtful. Most likely they will walk in the footsteps of their patrons. Many believe there is a plan to do a trial run of a new Unia with this structure. Others think it could become a bargaining chip in big religious geopolitics. We can only assume. But it’s absolutely certain that it all lies in the channel being laid now by the mighty of this world to fight against Orthodoxy—the last outpost of truth on Earth.
—The faithful are concerned about whether they can visit churches of the GOC abroad and go to OCU churches here in Ukraine, participate in their Sacraments—Baptisms, weddings, funerals?
—We had a detailed conversation not long ago about OCU churches and the grace of their “sacraments,” so I’ll just say a few words now. We cannot go to these churches. The situation in this structure has not changed at all; laymen in vestments are “celebrating the Sacraments” there.1
There was and is no Apostolic Succession there, and that means there is no sacramental grace.
As for the Greek Church, according to the recent decision of the Holy Synod, “prayerful and Eucharistic communication with those bishops of the Greek Church who have entered or will enter into such communication with representatives of the Ukrainian non-canonical schismatic communities” is stopped. Pilgrimages to dioceses governed by the aforesaid bishops are also not blessed. The list of these hierarchs and dioceses will be complied and published—a very wise and measured decision from the Holy Synod.
At the same time, it should be understood that stopping Eucharistic communion is a disciplinary measure and in no way refers to a lack of grace in the Sacraments celebrated by the aforesaid bishops and in their dioceses. I’m talking about this especially because there has recently been a wide discussion among Orthodox about whether there is grace in the Sacraments celebrated by the hierarchs who recognize the OCU, and whether it’s possible to “catch” schism by serving with Patriarch Bartholomew or praying at a service where Sergei Dumenko (Epiphany) is commemorated, or some other way…
But it doesn’t work completely that way. According to the age-old tradition and practice of the Orthodox Church and the spirit of the canonical rules and precedents of Church history—to deserve canonical punishment and to be subjected to it are not the same thing. As long as a cleric is not defrocked, but only deserves it, the Sacraments he celebrates are considered valid—even if he sinfully dares to celebrate them while being suspended (but not yet defrocked!). For this there is canonical defrocking, which puts a final limit on the rites of such a person. Therefore, Patriarch Bartholomew, not to mention the hierarchs and clerics who serve with him, is not devoid of grace in the Sacraments he celebrates, even serving with the layman Sergei Dumenko (Epiphany). Although he grievously sins thereby, and is, undoubtedly, subject to ecclesiastical court. But that hasn’t happened yet.
Therefore, the rupture of Eucharistic communion with the Patriarchate of Constantinople as a whole and with a number of hierarchs of the Greek Church is for us a disciplinary measure, like a quarantine protecting us, so as not to come under judgment of the canons and the danger of defrocking. This rupture does not speak of an absence of grace in the Sacraments of the Greek hierarchs. As long as they sin but are not condemned by a council, they are not defrocked, and the Sacraments they celebrate, including ordinations, will be recognized as lawful in history. That means, that’s how they are now for us, unlike the “sacraments” of the OCU, for example, in which the thread of Apostolic Succession is broken. This is the canonical coordinate system that has operated in the Orthodox Church throughout its history. Complex questions of healing schisms and the repentant return to the Church of those who fell away from it, whether in their clerical dignity or not, were always resolved within this system of coordinates. It is precisely in this system of coordinates that the “Augean stables”2 which the Phanar has now heaped up, mixing the righteous with the sinful, the lawful with the lawless, will be cleared out in time.
1 While it seems common to refer to the “clergy” of the OCU as mere laymen, it would be more accurate to say that they are not even laymen, given that they are not members of the Orthodox Church.—Trans.
2 From classical mythology: the stables in which King Augeas kept 3000 oxen, and which had not been cleaned for 30 years. The cleaning of these stables was accomplished by Hercules, who diverted the river Alpheus through them.—Trans.
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