On October 7, 2018, Metropolitan Hilarion (Kapral), the Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR) was interviewed about the Ukraine by the journalist N. Ivanov, for the Russian daily Izvestia.
What dictates the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s policy in the Ukraine? How did it all start?
I think it’s a double problem. First of all, global politics is involved in a broad sense. Secondly, the Patriarch of Constantinople has always tried to expand his influence. He considers that all territories abroad which are not under any local church constitute his own territory. The United States, for instance. He considers that the Patriarch of Constantinople should preside over all the assemblies, over all the common liturgical offices. He was given the privilege of being the first among equals. But here he has another intention: he wants to be at the head of all territories. Let us say that in the case of the Philippines or of any other small country, he still considers them to be the territory of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. He bases all this on an old canon going back to Byzantine times. This canon was also about territories far away from Constantinople. But here, he is broadening the meaning of the canon.
– Are there any canonical foundations to what is happening? To allow the Ecumenical Patriarchate, among other things, to give the “green light” to autocephaly?
– There are none. Many canons say that a bishop must not intervene in the diocese of another without his consent. Before negotiating about autocephaly, he first had to negotiate with the local bishop, His Beatitude Metropolitan Onufriy. But they are actually negotiating with a group of churches that have been schismatics for decades. This is about politics. They ignore the canonical Church led by Metropolitan Onufriy and negotiate with another group, which is schismatic. This is against all the rules of ecclesial life.
– But how do they justify their behavior?
– They consider that at one point, Constantinople had granted some kind of autonomy to Kyiv. But this happened a long time ago, and conditions have changed since then. Russia and the Patriarchate of Moscow are part of the Rus’. In other words, it is actually the territory of the Russian Orthodox Church. That is why the Patriarch of Constantinople should have discussed with our Patriarch, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and all Russia and with Metropolitan Onufriy of Kyiv and All Ukraine. As the first among the equals, he could then have confirmed the establishment of autocephaly. But autocephaly itself must be granted by the patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church. They are ignoring the canonical group led by Metropolitan Onufriy. And they only negotiate with the schismatic group, a group which is not recognized by the Orthodox Churches. In my opinion, they should have started with negotiations between the two parts of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, so that they could discuss, meet, and solve their problems. Then we could have started to talk about autocephaly. In this case, they are going to grant autocephaly to a minority group, while the greater part of the Orthodox Church in the Ukraine will be considered illegal in the eyes of the government.
– As we have seen, not all in Ukraine are in favor of autocephaly. Why is this so important to us? Those who are against will remain under the Patriarchate of Moscow.
– One of the problems is that the non-canonical group has a very aggressive attitude toward the Ukrainian Orthodox Church led by Metropolitan Onufriy. In many cases, churches and parishes are seized by force. There are many unjust acts towards our canonical Church.
– Is that the will of the whole Patriarchate of Constantinople or to a large degree, Patriarch Bartholomew’s initiative? What do you think?
– I think it’s indeed more his personal initiative. And maybe the initiative of some Ukrainian Orthodox living abroad. Those who are not in union with our Church also hope for autocephaly, but for political reasons. They have strong anti-Russian feelings. They consider that because of the liturgical commemoration of Patriarch Kirill by the Orthodox Church of the Ukraine, that Church is made up of enemies of the Ukraine. Political and nationalist feelings are intertwined here. We are therefore hearing about attacks against the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which is connected with the Moscow Patriarchate. And there are now threats against Bishop Onufriy and other hierarchs. It is really scary.
– As a consequence, politics is involved. But does the relationship between Russia and the Ukraine affect the Church situation?
– The (Russian) State has nothing to do with that. It is the Russian Orthodox Church that defends the Orthodox Church of the Ukraine against attacks.
– You have been coexisting with Constantinople for a long time. Was there no conflict before this one, when you were not able to reach common agreements?
– We got along in quiet and peace. We have an assembly of canonical Orthodox bishops. It is only now, since the Patriarchate of Constantinople send exarchs to the Ukraine, that our Patriarch Kirill and the Holy Synod have decided to no longer concelebrate, in the hope that things will change and calm down. But if things turn out negatively, we will be forced to continue to refrain from concelebrating. It only concerns the bishops, not the priests or the faithful. This has already been going on for two or three weeks.
– But if in spite of everything they decide to separate, what will happen next?
– The Assembly of Bishops (of the Russian Orthodox Church) will have to re-examine the situation. Or at least the Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church will decide how to act afterwards. A deterioration in our relationship will naturally follow.
– Many say that in fact, the question of autocephaly had already matured in the time of Patriarch Alexy II. It is raised again today with political conflicts in the background.
– As early as 1920, some wanted to establish autocephaly in the Ukraine. There were attempts to consecrate bishops for Ukrainian autocephaly, but no one agreed to do it. The group of Ukrainians in favor of autocephaly was known as “the self-consecrated”. It’s an old story. But the majority of the faithful and representatives of the clergy were happy to be part of the Russian Orthodox Church.
– But this question was raised again in the 1990s, wasn’t it?
– Yes, more or less. However, the Ecumenical Patriarch himself declared at the time that he could have no relationship with those who were starting a schism. It was understandable to everyone. Now, I think the patriarch of Constantinople is under strong pressure from different sides, from the Ukraine and the West. Europe and the US are strongly anti-Russian.
– Could they use this situation for the escalation of the conflict?
– The Patriarchate itself is a very small group of people in Turkey. They depend on different organizations that support it. When political changes occur, the Patriarchate of Constantinople is shaken.
– Do you mean they are financially dependent on the West?
– Yes, indeed. Where would they get money from in Turkey? They are persecuted and bullied. They depend heavily on the Greek faithful.
– Can political forces help to peacefully resolve the conflict? Or maybe it’s not their business?
– Presidents shouldn’t interfere in ecclesiastical affairs. The Church does not interfere in the affairs of the State, and it should be the same the other way round. There must be a “symphony”, a collaboration for good works.
Source in Russian