23 November 2018


Evangelos Venizelos 


Ukrainian Aytocephaly: History, Facts and Consequences*


Thank you very much for the invitation and the opportunity to discuss such an important and burning issue. The Church very often feeds us with issues we have to discuss politically. Today we will limit ourselves to the issue of the Ukrainian Autocephaly.

As so accurately Professor Evangelou and His Grace Bishop of Christoupolis Makarios have remarked, the problem of Autocephaly is ​​in general a problem of pastoral responsibility and Canon Law, that is, a problem of distribution and exercise of jurisdiction in the Orthodox Church. But always the problem of Autocephaly is also a political problem, a problem of national identity, a problem associated with the emergence of a nation, with the ideology that every state seeks. As history teaches, and as it is generally accepted, I think, in the analysis of these phenomena, especially the emergence of a nation, the national identity is formed through the claim of statehood and then through the very function of the state and the cultivation of a state ideology, which lies at the core of the national identity.

Of course, generally speaking, the issue of Autocephaly is a test of Orthodox Polycephaly. From the Pentarchy of the Patriarchates of the United Church before the Great Schism, we now have on the one hand the Patriarchate of the West with a unified administrative structure that guarantees organizational and doctrinal unity as well as obedience to the Papal authority, the Bishop of Rome, who is the Patriarch of the West. At the other end, the eventually Tetrarchy of the Patriarchates of the East has now been developed to a scheme that consists of newer Patriarchates and many newer Autocephalous Churches. of the Eastern Churches, which has many newer Patriarchates. Why has this happened? Why have we left the framework of the Ecumenical Synods and went into a new scheme? Because the issue of autocephaly, while being an issue of Canon Law, an issue of jurisdiction, is dealt with by this miraculous criterion of the economy. De facto situations are formed, which, because they all have to move in a spirit of love, coexistence, reconciliation, and finally of communion around the common Chalice, are legitimized. That is, they are normalized (I do not use this term because one may think that we are talking about the process of sanctification according to the use of these terms in the Western Church). Certainly, as Article 3 of the Greek Constitution wisely states, the remaining Orthodox churches, especially those beyond the Ancient Patriarchates, acquire their identity because they are inextricably linked, dogmatically united, with the Holy and Great Church of Christ of Constantinople. This is quite important. It has a meaning that the Anglicans understand very well, defined as Anglican Communion, being in communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury. But, I think, we also understand it quite well, because this communion and the dogmatic unity shape the core of Orthodoxy.

Let's say something else that is very important. The fact that the Patriarchate of the West broke off and only the four Ancient Patriarchates of the East were left, something that then resulted in what we have as the development of the polycephaly of Orthodoxy, and of the theology of primacy in the Orthodox Church.

The Papal primacy raises an issue of primacy of the second Patriarchate, which is the first in rank in the East, and here begins a discussion of the foundation of this coordinating primacy role, the role of the Protos in Orthodoxy, which we see mainly manifested in the organization of the Pan-Orthodox Synod, even of the Holy and Great Council, we see it at the Synaxes of the Primates, we see it at every opportunity that requires the convocation of a Major and hypertelis (supercoordinating) Synod. This has a foundation, as the theologians and the holy list present in this discussion know better than me, sometimes ecclesiological and sometimes canonical. Now there appear foundations profoundly dogmatic, trinitarian foundations of the primacy that fortify it and open up a very great debate. Debate that we will necessarily have to do in the future, because we must preserve the existence of Orthodoxy around the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the role of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

This history of the Ancient Patriarchates and the Church of Cyprus, which have ecumenical foundation, has begun to break down and be questioned by many, among which we have already mentioned the Russian Autocephaly and the elevation of Moscow to the Patriarchal status, first after the Ancient Patriarchates. About two centuries later, it was the Greek Autocephaly that had mobilized an entire process extended to the entire Ottoman Empire. The “Eastern Issue” had an impact on the structure of Orthodoxy, and on the distribution of ecclesiastical jurisdictions. There is a kind of Orthodox Westphalism. By this I mean that after the Confession of Augusta, and after the Treaty of Westphalia, we have in the West a state that has a distinct religious identity, the identity of its ruler.

Later on, with the demands of autoclephaly, this doctrine, indirectly so to say, was transferred to the East. And this is of great interest. It was an Orthodox Eastern Wetphalism by transfer. Why this? Because there was the issue of national identities. But, the issue of national identities starts as a heresy and only subsequently becomes an economy, according to the canonical terminology. That means that it starts with a heresy of the ethno-phyletism and ends with a practice of canonical arrangement. In order to realize how these things normally move let us remember the situation in Greece, in order not to have an example close to us: we had a self-proclaimed, so to speak, Autocephaly, and after thirteen years (from 1837 to 1850) the granting of the tomos of Autocephaly. There is a price paid for it. And this is the different ecclesiastical jurisdictions in Greece. It is precisely because this had happened, let us say, de facto, after things have evolved the way they have evolved, in order to reach canonical solutions.

Exactly the same has happened after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. To make a great historical jump and go to the great post-Cold War redistributions and to the field of international political analysis. The dissolution of the Soviet Union has of course caused an ecclesiastical crisis. A crisis of ecclesiastical jurisdiction; Especially in the Orthodox Church. And this was so, because the Roman Catholic Church and the Protestant confessions, whatever significance they have in the region, did not have any problem. Neither in relation to the Greek-Catholics, the Uniates, which existed in that region. Their dogmatic integration was clear. The problem was only a with the Orthodox Churches. There was a problem of suspicion because they had maintained a more tolerant attitude during the soviet rule, the so-called Existing Socialism. An attitude that the Catholic Church did not hold, both locally and internationally, with behavior different from what we have experienced in Croatia in relation to the Nazi occupation. I say this because Ukraine has gone through a similar great adventure. It was under a regime of direct affiliation to the Third Reich, that is, under conditions much tougher than the independent Croatian state that existed at that time. Some think that the basic problem was the Estonian, where His Grace serves as the Dean of the School of Theology, but I think the most typical example is the Georgian Autocephaly, which leaves some interesting remnants behind, because after the last Georgia-Russia war we are left with pending ecclesiastical problems in Ossetia and Abkhazia.

So, we understand the depth of the recent crisis. We are not talking about past centuries. We are talking about the end of the 20th and the beginning of the 21st century. We understand what is happening in Georgia and why there is this cautious attitude towards the Russian Church; and then on the Estonia's issue, which in terms of population may seem of little importance, while the distinction between the Estonian and Russian communities in Estonia is clear. In Estonia, too, we have an autonomous Church that belongs to the Ecumenical Patriarchate, like Finland, but with coexistence of jurisdictions. Here, the problem of the diaspora is actually applied in Estonia. The problem in diaspora is a great retreat out of love, an according to oikonomia retreat of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in relgard to the basic presumption of its jurisdiction. There, in partibus infidelium, the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate is maintained. So, throughout the diaspora the jurisdiction belongs to the Ecumenical Patriarch, but in certain cases it shares it. Not with another Bishop in the same city as a provincial bishop, but out of necessity e.g. with one Bishop of Buenos Aires and another one in Buenos Aires.

In Ukraine, the Patriarchate displayed an impressive self-restraint and impressively friendly and supportive relationship with the Church of Russia, despite the letters exchanged and despite the statements with the opposing positions, especially the canonical position of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, already since 1990-1, by exchanging multi-page letters that have a character of historical documentation. But the Patriarch went to Kiev, when Metropolitan there was Vladimir, and co-celebrated with the Primates of Moscow, of Athens and of Tirana. The Ecumenical Patriarchate was also represented at the enthronement of Metropolitan Onufrius, but Metropolitan of France, as representative of the Ecumenical Patriarch, did not participate in the Liturgy that followed, because Onufrius wanted to place next to him Metropolitan of Volokolamsk as first in rank. And immediately after the crisis in the Crimea, with the crisis in Maidan and of course with the crisis in the eastern provinces, the clerics of the Patriarchate of Moscow were forbidden to enter the country, declared by the Ukrainian government undesirable. And Metropolitan of Volokolamsk, as a persona non grata was unable to attend Metropolitan Onufrius’ nameday.

So, there is a problem of exercizing the pastoral work. There is a problem of dysfunction. By 2014, when President Yanuchenko decided not to sign the Association Agreement between Ukraine and the European Union, in fact he put a harsh test on the so-called eastern neighborhood of the European Union, pressing Georgia and Moldova, also belonging to the eastern neighborhood. In parenthesis I say that ecclesiastical problem exists also in Moldova, even without including Transnistria. Catalyst were obviously the two major events. Firstly, the annexation to the Russian Federation in violation of international law of Crimea, which was bundled in Ukraine in 1954 as a state entity not only internal to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, because Ukraine was strangely held its international legal personality also as member state of the UN and of the Soviet Union. Second, the war in the eastern provinces. So, we have a debilitating situation with embargo, sanctions by the European Union, sanctions by the United States, of course not by UN, because Russia is a permanent member of the Security Council and therefore cannot be penalized by the UN, but that was an exceptional difficult real and legal situation.

And now one can ask, based on the criteria that have been used in granting autocephaly in the past, which are political criteria, in fact of Westphalian character, as we have said, and canonically according to oikonomia, beyond history, beyond jurisdiction, beyond the 1686 synodical letter, and beyond what is generally done with autocephaly, is it possible to say that in Ukraine, where there is this state of open conflict, of national identity, with the problem of cutting off the pipelines (Russia is currently trying to shape thrusts a new network of gas pipelines to bypass Ukraine and to cut it off from its ability to interfere in the flow of gas), is it reasonable for Ukraine to belong ecclesiastically to Moscow? With this kind of relations between Russia and the European Union, between Russia and the United States, between Russia and the West, between Russia and NATO - I have lived as a Minister of Defense the good cooperation between Russia and NATO and as Foreign Minister the absolute conflict and tension between Russia and NATO - will no one take a pastoral care for the Ukrainian Orthodox?

Someone can perhaps ask me: is Filaret the best solution, or is Makarios the best solution? Can the ekklitos appeal, for which His Grace of Abydos, present among us, has recently published a very fine study, work collectively and in general? The important problem is to find a solution But, what solution is possible at the moment? Is there an autocephalous Church now in Ukraine? No. Has a Primate of this autocephalous been elected? No. Intermediate steps have been taken. These intermediate steps are those included in the last decision of the Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate: The revocation of the 1686 synodal letter - revocation of letters, that is to say actions, we had in dealing with the Church of Greece. The jurisdiction over the diaspora was granted and jurisdiction over the diaspora was revoked. By the same person in other roles. These are normal. One can of course ask me: is there any revocation of a 1686 letter? Time matters differently in ecclesiastical relations, especially in matters of jurisdiction. So, the letter was revoked, we had the stavropegion and the concession of the temple, we had the appointment of two Exarchs, we have the acceptance of the appeals and the return to the canonical order of the two, Filaret and Makarios, their clergy and their flock, in fact a pastoral intervention took place, and an unification Council will be convened to elect the Primate.

Therefore, the steps taken by the Ecumenical Patriarchate are careful, and the reaction is too acute. Breaking the communion by Moscow with the Ecumenical Patriarchate we had also in the past. Such breaking of communion we have very often in the past. We have also lived acts of excommunication. However, for the time being, we see that the Moscow-friendly churches - and we need to discuss how the Greek-speaking Churches deal with it - are cautious about accepting the autocephaly, but they do not raise a question of the coimmunion with the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

So, the issue has an impressive complexity. It is a matter of high theology and high politics, with all the intensity and finesse needed in the manipulations, so that we can come up with a result that will not cause us problems either of ecclesiology or of international relations. We all, in Greece, in Orthodoxy, in Hellenism, have a participation in it, always supporting the Ecumenical Patriarchate and its position, a position in accordance with the Canon Law and with the International Law.


* Evangelos Venizelos’ intervention in the discussion on "Ukrainian Autocephaly: History, Facts and Consequences," organized on 22 November 2018 by the Foundation for the Promotion of Greek and Orthodox Culture "AENAOS," along with orthodoxia.info. In the discussion also participated Bishop of Christoupolis Makarios, and the Associate Professor of Theology at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in the field of Ecclesiastical History, Dr. Elias Evangelou. The debate was co-ordinated by journalist Andreas Loudaros.
Ev. Venizelos is professor of Constitutional Law, and member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe - Rapporteur for the Implementation of judgments of the European Court Of Human Rights. He is a politician and former Deputy Prime Minister of Greece, and Minister among others of External Affairs, of Defense and of Economics 


The article in English was published, here: https://panorthodoxcemes.blogspot.com/2018/12/evangelos-venizelos-ukrainian.html 

In Greek language, here: https://www.evenizelos.gr/speeches/conferences-events/423-conferencespeech2018/5902-ev-venizelos-oukraniko-aftokefalo-i-istoria-ta-gegonota-kai-oi-proektaseis-tous.html?fbclid=IwAR3FhojH3Roy8VkwC0KyAwa-MhtIaiGC1ar-4uunf2VR2_t8sYokFpyYx2U  


Tags: Speeches