Position of the Serbian Orthodox Church on the Ukrainian question
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The following letter was addressed by Patriarch Irinej of Serbia (on the left on the picture, with Patriarch Bartholomew) to Patriarch Bartholomew concerning the official position of the Serbian Orthodox Church on the Ukrainian question.

“Belgrade, February 6, 2019

Re: your December 24, 2018 letter, protocol #1119 regarding your actions in Ukraine

Your All Holiness,

Having received your December 24 letters (protocol #1119), in which you were kind enough to communicate to our humble person what you had done in Ukraine concerning the problems therein existing, and were asking of us and of our Church to accept your acts and measures taken, we now proceed to answer as we should and following our conscience.
First of all, we remind you that the position of our Church, unanimously expressed and in the most official and responsible manner by the Assembly of our Bishops, was communicated to you from the beginning, before the opposition of any other sister autocephalous Church. However, you remained silent as the grave, and the reception of our letter has not even been confirmed by you.
In the same way, the call that followed, or rather the cry of anguish of our permanent Holy Synod was ignored by you. As well as our fraternal request during our meeting and concelebration in Thessalonica for you not to hasten in this matter, but rather to listen to the voices of most primates and synods of local Churches sharing the Orthodox faith, and to consider the matter conciliarly and in a pan-Orthodox way instead of unilaterally and on your own.

In responding to your request, Your All-Holiness, we will not dwell on the weak or unfounded points of your reasoning, by which you motivate and justify your actions and those of your Holy Synod in this issue, given that our critique of these have already been exposed in the letter sent by our hierarchy. Therefore, in addition to formally (or rather apparently) new data concerning this whole issue, we present here our new commentary of the situation, and we proceed to express our position and attitude as follows :

  1. The Serbian Orthodox Church does not recognize your obviously non-canonical “intrusion” in the canonical territory of the Most Holy Russian Church, given that the Kyiv metropolis cannot be identified, not even to the slightest degree, with the current “Ukraine”, which is made up of dozens of other dioceses. The metropolis of Kyiv has been handed over to the Moscow Patriarchate since 1686, which can be concluded from Patriarch Dyonisius IV of Constantinople’s documents, from decisions made by his successors, and by the “Taktika”, “Syntagma”, Diptychs, “Calendars”, and “Almanacs” released ever since, not only by other Churches, but also by the Patriarchate of Constantinople itself, and even from your personal statements and remarks, expressed until April of 2018.
  1. At the same time, we do not recognize the “Church of Ukraine” which was proclaimed autocephalous, but which is non-existent canonically, and in reality was imposed by force and is an artificial “confederation” of Ukrainian schismatic small groups (already opposing each other and irresistibly heading for division). The schismatics have remained schismatics. Once a schismatic, always a schismatic, except cases of sincere conversion and profound penance. The only Church recognized by the Serbian Church is the Ukrainian Orthodox Church headed by His Beatitude Metropolitan Onufriy of Kyiv and All Ukraine.
  1. It follows that we do not recognize the “Council” of Kyiv, wrongly called “Unification Council“, in which no hierarch of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church took part, since the day before and without canonical leave of their Church, you received Alexander Drabinko and Simeon of Vinnytsia in your most holy Church. The scenes that surrounded the climate and background of this strange mob, to avoid a harsher word, are known to you as to us. So let’s not mention them! In our opinion, we are dealing here with a pseudo, anti-unifying, separating, and divisive council, which widens even more the gap of alienation and disintegration of the unfortunate country of Ukraine. For all these reasons, the Serbian Church considers these uncanonical decisions as invalid and therefore, in no way binding for her.
  1. We do not recognize the schismatic hierarchy as an Orthodox hierarchy, nor the schismatic clergy as Orthodox clergy, since those belonging to Denisenko’s clan have received their “existence” from a hierarch deprived from his rank, a hierarcg who was deposed, excommunicated, and anathematized by the Church (a fact that you yourself officially recognized at the time), while the members of Maletich’s clan are deprived of the apostolic succession and the priesthood in general. No document, Your All-Holiness and dear brother in Christ, no “pen stroke”, can ever transform what was into what was not, nor what is nonexistent into existence. Therefore, we do not recognize Mr. Dumenko (Epifaniy) to be a hierarch, let alone the primate of an autocephalous Church. This latter quality is not even recognized by his own “spiritual father”, Mr. Denissenko, the “true primate” for life, and what is more, the”patriarch”.
  1. Finally, we are obliged, according to the rules, to recommend to their Eminences our hierarchs and reverend members of our clergy, to avoid liturgical and canonical communion, not only with the aforementioned Mr. Epifaniy (Dumenko) and those who are with him, but also with those who concelebrate and are in communion with him, hierarchs and members of the clergy, according to the canonical principle according to which the one who communicates with the excommunicated becomes himself excommunicated.

In conclusion, “lamenting and weeping” about the destroyed unity of our holy Orthodox and Catholic Church, we ask again, pray urgently, and supplicate Your All-Holiness to review the decisions you have made so far, and to restore the previous blessed love as well as the unity of the local holy Churches of God, as nothing is more necessary nor more precious than love, peace, and concord between brothers.

That being said, we remain with love and respect, your afflicted brother in Christ,

+ Irinej of Peć, Belgrade and Karlovci, President of the Holy Synod of the Serbian Orthodox Church »

Source in Greek

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About the Author

Emma Cazabonne

Emma Cazabonne

Emma Cazabonne was born and raised in France. She taught English before entering the Cistercian Order. She translated and published articles relevant to her interest in Cistercian spirituality, the Middle Ages, and Orthodoxy. She moved to the United States in 2001, converted to Orthodoxy in 2008, and married. Her husband is an Orthodox priest. She continued to publish articles, a Cistercian texts anthology, then finally launched her career in literary translation, while teaching French. If you are interested in having your book translated into French, she can be contacted here https://wordsandpeace.com/contact-me/

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