On November 13, His Beatitude Metropolitan Onufriy of Kyiv and All Ukraine presided the session of the Assembly of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which took place at the Kyiv Caves Lavra, following the session of the Holy Synod of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. 83 bishops out of 90 bishops who have the right to vote took part in the assembly and adopted the following message:
“The Assembly of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church Bishops, gathered at the Kyiv Caves Lavra of the Holy Dormition on November 13, 2018, after listening to His Beatitude Metropolitan Onufriy of Kyiv and all Ukraine on the challenges that have recently arisen for the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, decided that:
- The Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which is canonical and recognized by the local Orthodox Churches, while serving God and the Ukrainian people, supports on principle the independence and territorial integrity of Ukraine. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church is present in all regions of Ukraine and unites territories that are under the control of Ukrainian authorities with those that are not, thus sharing all the joys and sufferings of its people.
- The Ukrainian Orthodox Church is self-governed, endowed with all the rights of independence and autonomy that are today necessary for the fruitful service of God and of the people of Ukraine.
- The Ukrainian Orthodox Church has always and consistently advocated for the healing of schism, for the restoration of unity, that is to say, for a single Church. However, the restoration of the unity of Ukrainian Orthodoxy should not mean the transformation of the Church into an element of politics or propaganda, since this contradicts the nature of the Church. We are convinced that divisions must be overcome without interference from State, political, and other external forces.
- The Assembly of Bishops opposes any attempt to change the name of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, as already announced by the leading figures of the State, and any manifestation of discrimination against the faithful of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, at the legislative level. In the event of the adoption of such bills by the Ukrainian Parliament, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church will defend its rights by all legal means provided for in “The Fundamentals of the Social Conception of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church” [text adopted in 2000], in Ukrainian legislation, and in the European Convention on Human Rights.
- The Assembly of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church Bishops considers that the October 11, 2018 decisions of the Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Constantinople concerning the Ukrainian ecclesial issue are invalid and have no canonical value. In particular, the decision concerning the establishment of the jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Constantinople on the territory of Ukraine results from a speculative interpretation of ecclesial history. As for the decision to lift the anathema and other ecclesiastical bans put on the leaders of the schism, as well as the recognition of pseudo-ordinations celebrated by these schismatic leaders, they are the result of a distorted interpretation of ecclesiastical canons. In Church History, there is no such thing as eradicating a schism by its mere legitimation. In making such an anti-canonical decision and in recognizing the schismatics in their present rank, the Patriarchate of Constantinople, according to ecclesiastical canons, has engaged itself on the path of schism. Therefore, the Eucharistic communion of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church with the Patriarchate of Constantinople is currently impossible and suspended.
- We consider unacceptable the unlawful interference of the Patriarchate of Constantinople in the affairs of another local Church, as well as attempts to settle the Ukrainian ecclesial issue with the participation of State authorities as well as schismatics, while ignoring the voice of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church. We also note with regret that hundreds of thousands of appeals from the faithful of our Church to Patriarch Bartholomew, asking him to not legitimize the schism under the pretext creating an autocephaly, remained unattended.
- The Assembly of Bishops stresses that the process of granting the so-called tomos of autocephaly is artificial and imposed from the outside. It does not reflect the internal ecclesial necessity and brings no real ecclesial unity, but rather deepens the division and intensifies conflicts in the Ukrainian people. Under such conditions, we consider it impossible to unite this episcopacy, clergy, and laity to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church through such a process.
- On principle, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church adheres to the canonical approach to overcoming ecclesial division. The basis of this approach is the imperative need for penance for former schismatics. The gates of the Church have never been closed to those who want to be in spiritual union with Christ.
- The Assembly of Bishops notes that the illegal actions of the Patriarchate of Constantinople are leading to a deep ecclesial crisis both in Ukraine and in world Orthodoxy. We pray that the voices of many millions of faithful in the Ukrainian Orthodox Church will be heard, and that the actions taken so far will be corrected.
- The Assembly of Bishops calls on the Patriarchate of Constantinople to dialogue with the Ukrainian Orthodox Church with the fraternal participation of all the local Orthodox Churches, for the purpose of a conciliar resolution of this problem.
- The Assembly of Bishops asks the Primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, His Beatitude Metropolitan Onufriy of Kyiv and All Ukraine, to address the primates of the local Orthodox Churches on the occasion of the crisis situation created in the ecclesial life of Ukraine, because of the illegal interference of the Patriarchate of Constantinople.
- The Assembly of Bishops calls on all the faithful of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church to strengthen their prayers, to maintain unity between each other, to be faithful to the Holy Church of Christ, and not to fear possible tribulations, remembering the words of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ: “Take courage, I have overcome the world” (Jn 16,33).
In Kyiv, November 13, 2018 »
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