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Holy Synod of Romanian Patriarchate on Ukraine (a cura Redazione "Il sismografo")

Orthodoxy bis(Peter Anderson) Yesterday the Holy Synod of the Romanian Patriarchate met.  The official English translation of the communique on yesterday’s meeting has been posted here. Although the Synod refrained from stating its “official position on
the situation of Orthodoxy in Ukraine,” it did make a number of observations.  I have pasted the part of the communique relating to Ukraine at the end of this report.
Aside from specific recommendations relating to Romanian parishes in Ukraine and a question concerning the status of UOC-KP parishes in the West, the Holy Synod essentially repeated its recommendations made in May and October 2018.  These recommendations first involve a bilateral dialogue between Constantinople and Moscow to find a solution “by preserving the unity of faith, by respecting the administrative and pastoral freedom of the clergy and faithful in this country (including the right to autocephaly), and by restoring Eucharistic communion.”  If this fails, there should be a meeting of all of the primates of the Local Orthodox Churches to solve the problem.  The communique states that the Holy Synod will express its formal position “[a]fter completing the above consultations.”  It not clear whether the “consultations” to be completed refer to just consultations on the Romanian parishes in Ukraine and on the question of the UOC-KP parishes in the West or whether they also include dialogues between Local Orthodox Churches.  In any event, it could be a considerable wait before the Romanian Synod expresses its “formal position.”   In evaluating this communique, it should be remembered that the relations between the Romanian Patriarchate and Constantinople are generally very positive and that the OCU was hopeful in obtaining rapid recognition by the Romanian Patriarchate.  For the OCU, yesterday’s development should be sobering news.

The full text of the decision of the Church of Cyprus with respect to Ukraine, posted on February 18, is now available in unofficial French (https://orthodoxie.com/eglise-de-chypre-communique-concernant-la-situation-en-ukraine-texte-complet/) and English (https://spzh.news/en/news/60269-opublikovan-tekst-kommyunike-sinoda-kiprskoj-cerkvi-po-ukrainskomu-voprosu?fbclid=IwAR1fZfO-9oP1PyvVhEr0LjFH-xHeujXW1wwVcpFAU1JN-_i20w_m03_Pdg8) translations.  In many ways the decision makes statements favorable to the Ecumenical Patriarchate.  However, the decision expresses “reason to doubt” the validity of ordinations performed by banned, excommunicated, and anathemized bishops.  In other words, did the granting of Filaret’s appeal by the Ecumenical Patriarch mean that the original sanctions were removed so that subsequent events should be viewed as if the sanctions were never imposed in the first place?  If so, it would mean that all the UOC-KP bishops ordained by Filaret would be validly ordained.  Or can the granting of the appeal mean that Filaret could only be restored prospectively?  In such a case his prior ordinations of others would not be valid.  The Ecumenical Patriarch obviously contends that he has the power to grant the appeal with retroactive effect.  Although the Ecumenical Patriarch may be correct, this may be an issue on which reasonable minds could differ.
The Cyprus decision also states that “the Ecumenical Patriarchate must again find a way to calm the consciousness of believers regarding the authenticity of ordinations and sacraments, performed by this leadership.”  How does one calm the doubts of believers?  As a practical matter, it is unlikely that the distribution to believers of a scholarly dissertation on the retroactive effect of an appeal, for which most people do not have the educational background to understand, would calm their doubts.  Perhaps, the Holy Synod of Cyprus may be alluding, without express mention, to a conditional ordination of the OCU bishops who were formerly with the UOC-KP or UAOC by bishops whose orders are beyond dispute.  This is something that everyone could understand.  Perhaps I am demonstrating my ignorance or naïveté, but it seems to me that this could be an easy solution to one of the major disputes involving the Ukrainian churches.  If the conditional ordinations were limited to the essential elements of laying on of hands and certain prayers, it could be accomplished for all of the bishops in a few hours.  The Ecumenical Patriarchate could publicly state that it has no doubts concerning the retroactive effect of the granting the appeals, but that the conditional ordinations are being done simply to allay the doubts of the Church of Cyprus and others.  In fact, it is unlikely that the UOC-MP and the OCU will ever be reconciled into one church unless the doubts of the UOC-MP are resolved.
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
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EXCERPT FROM COMMUNIQUE:
As regards the ecclesiastical situation in Ukraine, the Holy Synod stressed the following aspects:
  1. For almost thirty years, the issue of the Ukrainian schism was not solved, nor was any appeal made for a pan-Orthodox mediation, as was the case in the past with the schism in Bulgaria.  Noticing this deadlock in resolving the situation, the Ecumenical Patriarchate granted the Tomos of autocephaly to the hierarchs, clergy, and believers who were in schism with the Russian Orthodox Church and the entire Orthodoxy, but this Tomos was accepted only by the Ukrainian Orthodox people who were not in communion with the Moscow Patriarchate.  Therefore, the problem of Ukrainian ecclesiastical unity is not fully resolved at present, also because in Ukraine there is a large Russian population having a direct relation to the Moscow Patriarchate.
  2. Regarding this tense ecclesiastical situation in Ukraine, the Holy Synod of the Romanian Orthodox Church reiterates its stance expressed during its previous working sessions of 24 May and 25 October 2018.  It was then recommended that, through dialogue, the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Moscow Patriarchate identify a solution to this ecclesiastical dispute by preserving the unity of faith, by respecting the administrative and pastoral freedom of the clergy and faithful in this country (including the right to autocephaly), and by restoring Eucharistic communion.  In the event of an unsuccessful bilateral dialogue, it is necessary to convene a Synaxis of all Primates of Orthodox Churches to solve the existing problem.
  3. For a concrete and correct decision of the Holy Synod of the Romanian Orthodox Church, at a forthcoming working session, the Holy Synod will consider with priority that there are 127 Romanian Orthodox parishes in Ukraine, especially in Northern Bukovina, which are under the jurisdiction of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Moscow Patriarchate. A real consultation is needed with these Romanian Orthodox people, who are concerned with preserving their ethnic and linguistic identity. In this sense, it is necessary to obtain written assurances from Ukrainian ecclesiastical and state authorities that the ethnic and linguistic identity of these Romanians will be respected, and that these Romanian Orthodox will have the possibility to organise themselves within a Romanian Orthodox Vicariate and to be able to cultivate spiritual relations with the Romanian Patriarchate, in order to be supported by sending liturgical and theological books in their mother tongue, that is, in the Romanian language. It was noted that a Ukrainian Orthodox Vicariate has been operating in Romania since 1990.
  4. In addition, the Romanian Patriarchate will ask the Ecumenical Patriarchate to clarify the problem of the non-canonical hierarchs and priests in the West, who belonged to the former ‘Kiev Patriarchate’.
After completing the above-mentioned consultations, the Holy Synod will express its official position on the situation of Orthodoxy in Ukraine.