Every second Saturday of the month, 4 pm - Divine Liturgy in English of Sunday - Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral of the Holy Family, Duke Street, London W1K 5BQ. Followed by refreshments.
Next Liturgy: Saturday 10th November - 3pm Great Vespers, 4pm Divine Liturgy for Sunday

Followed by the Society's AGM.

To purchase The Divine Liturgy: an Anthology for Worship (in English), order from the Sheptytsky Institute here, or the St Basil's Bookstore here.

To purchase the Divine Praises, the Divine Office of the Byzantine-Slav rite (in English), order from the Eparchy of Parma here.

The new catechism in English, Christ our Pascha, is available from the Eparchy of the Holy Family and the Society. Please email johnchrysostom@btinternet.com for details.

Sunday, 12 August 2018

Arjakovsky: The recognition of the Church of Kiev by Constantinople will be a wise decision


Professor Antoine Arjakovsky, Orthodox historian and author of “From Saint Petersburg to Moscow: Anatomy of the Russian Soul” (Salvator, 2018),  writing for La Croix (7.8.2018) explains what is at stake with the possibly imminent acknowledgement of  autocephaly for the Church of the Patriarchate of Kiev.


The Orthodox Christian Church, ever since she ceased to acknowledge the primate of the Church of Rome, considers the Patriarch of Constantinople as the “first among equals” of the fourteen Churches which recognise each other as Orthodox.

This primacy of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, termed “Ecumenical” since at least the 5th century A.D., has been challenged by the Church of Muscovy from the 15th century onwards, when the Imperial City was subjugated by Turkish invaders. At the end of the 16th century, the Patriarch of Constantinople was forced by the Ottoman Turks to bring himself to recognise the Moscow Church’s status of autocephaly, that is to say, its power to elect its own primate without seeking Constantinople’s authorisation. Thus the Church of Moscow came to bear the honour of the fifth place among the Churches of the East.

But the Ecumenical Patriarch refused to accept that the jurisdictional authority of the Patriarchate of Moscow extended to include Ukraine. Indeed the Church of Kiev, which received baptism in 988 as a result of the missionary effort of the Byzantine Church, was still recognised, even after the conquest of eastern Ukraine by the Czars at the end of the 17th century, as coming under the de jure authority of the Church of Constantinople.

This is the basis on which the Patriarch of Constantinople granted the status of autocephaly to the Polish Orthodox Church in 1924. Now this Church contained within itself numerous Orthodox parishes that are situated in what is now western Ukraine. In 1994, following the same logic, Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople integrated the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the United States and Canada, which had self-proclaimed its autocephaly in the era of Soviet persecution, into his own jurisdiction. 


The Tomos of Autocephaly Likely to be Granted Soon

In the present day, Patriarch Bartholomew, whose headquarters are in Istanbul but who is still called “of Constantinople” for the sake of the historical legitimacy of his see, has gone one step further. In all likelihood, the Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Constantinople is going to grant the Tomos of Autocephaly to the Church of the Patriarchate of Kiev.

This Church, led since 1992 by Patriarch Philaret (Denysenko), has not so far been recognised by any Orthodox Church in the world, because Moscow is categorically opposed to it. Indeed , ever since 1688 the Patriarchate of Moscow has had a Ukrainian Orthodox Church of its own creation subject to its direct jurisdiction.

Nevertheless, since Ukrainian independence in 1991, the great majority of Ukrainian Orthodox have chosen to follow this self-proclaimed Church (with a good 15 million faithful, as opposed to the 10 million belonging to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church coming under Moscow, even though the latter counts a larger number of registered parishes), so as both to extricate themselves from the control of Moscow and to worship in the Ukrainian language (and not in Old Slavonic, the liturgical language used by the Patriarchate of Moscow in Russia and Ukraine).


Re-establishing Historical Truth

There are three main reasons why Patriarch Bartholomew’s decision is wise. First, contrary to the myth propagated in Russia, the Byzantine Patriarch is re-establishing the historical truth in recalling that the Church of Moscow, which only dates from 1588, is the daughter of the see of Kiev and not the other way round.

The political consequences to this are well understood. Clearly, if Moscow received its baptism subsequently to the conversion of Prince Volodymyr a Chersonesus in Crimea in 988, it was mediated by the Church of Kiev. The annexation of Crimea by Russia, against which Patriarch Kirill of Moscow has made no protest, effectively amounts to the suppression of the Church of Kiev’s identity, which is something that the Patriarch of Constantinople cannot accept.

Secondly, Patriarch Bartholomew is granting recognition to the maturity of the Orthodox Church of Kiev that it has been awaiting for at least a century. Despite the marginalisation that it has been subjected to, this Church has maintained a highly dynamic ecclesial life. In particular it is in constant dialogue with Ukraine’s Catholic and Protestant Churches. Meanwhile, the Patriarchate of Moscow in Ukraine, to judge by the Pochaiv monastery in Volhynia, is renowned for its highly intransigent attitude towards “western heretics”.

Finally, Constantinople, after the snub of the Russian Church’s no-show at the Pan-Orthodox Council at Kolymbari in Crete in 2016, is reasserting its leadership vis-à-vis Moscow, reminding it that throughout history and to the present day it has always been Constantinople that granted the status of autocephaly to local Churches (for example the Church of Serbia, or that of Romania).


Breach of Communion between Moscow and Constantinople Probable

It seems obvious, in the light of declarations from the Russian Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev), but also from the strenuous efforts of the Kremlin on this front (leading to the recent expulsion of two Russian diplomats by Greece and a meeting between President Putin and Patriarch Kirill on 11th July right in the middle of the football World Cup), that Constantinople’s decision is going to provoke a breach of communion between Moscow and Constantinople.

It is also going mean that each Orthodox Church (and the Catholic, Protestant and Anglican Churches too) will have to choose sides. There is every chance that Constantinople’s decision could be received favourably by the majority.  It is also certain that in Ukraine it will lead to many of the Orthodox faithful, who were once hesitant to belong to a non-canonical Church, turning to the Patriarchate of Kiev.

Doubtless, too, President Poroshenko, who is heavily invested in all this, and who carries with him the support of the great majority of deputies in the Rada, will benefit from a big popularity boost. But this schism, a further injury in relations between Russia and the rest of the world, will need to be treated. For this to happen, it will be necessary to move beyond a narrowly political and confessional logic to a vision that is ecumenical and oriented towards the common good.

Sunday, 5 August 2018

A Millennial Problem: 1,030 years after the Baptism of Rus’, the Vatican is turning its back on Ukrainian Catholics

Pragmatism towards Russian Orthodoxy is beginning to look like appeasement, says Fr Raymond J de Souza in the Catholic Herald

Is Pope Francis, like Donald Trump, guilty of abject capitulation to Russia’s Vladimir Putin? That question was raised by one of the most respected Vatican commentators, John Allen, bringing to greater prominence a criticism often made behind closed doors.

“As with Trump, albeit in a very different key, the question that appears destined to plague Francis going forward is how much is too much – when flexibility and pragmatism, in other words, turn into craven placation?” Allen wrote. “So far, the verdict would appear to be that for both men, the answer remains a work in progress.”

Allen recounts how, since the first months of his pontificate, Pope Francis has proved an ally of Putin in Syria, where Russia has now re-established its Middle East presence in an alliance with President Bashar al-Assad. And since 2014, Pope Francis has been muted in his criticism of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and annexation of Crimea, repeatedly disappointing members of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC).

I noted here last month (in our June 15 issue) that, in a meeting with a delegation of the Russian Orthodox Church in May, Pope Francis appeared to take the Russian side in all matters Ukrainian. That was noticed, apparently, in Kiev, for on July 3 there was a private audience granted to Major-Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, head of the UGCC, by the Holy Father, ostensibly to honour the 1,030th anniversary of the baptism of Kievan Rus’ in 988.

The UGCC statement pointedly noted that the meeting had been requested by Major-Archbishop Shevchuk. Indeed, the lengthy statement by the UGCC after the meeting systematically refuted all the points made by Pope Francis in his meeting with the Russian Orthodox.

All of which is remarkable in 2018, which marks 30 years since the millennium of the baptism of the eastern Slavs in 988. In 1988, with the Cold War still on, Gorbachev’s Soviet Union was prepared to recognise the baptism of Kievan Rus’, the kingdom out which Russia, Belarus and Ukraine would eventually emerge.

In 1988, all were still part of the Soviet Union, and the Russian Orthodox Church claimed for itself the exclusive inheritance of the baptism of 988. Indeed, for the Russian Orthodox, the UGCC should not even exist, and the Soviet Union was right to crush it.

John Paul, though, insisted that the Greek Catholics of the Ukraine – still suppressed and illegal at that time – participate in the millennium celebrations, as heirs to the baptism of Kievan Rus’. He published two apostolic letters to that effect in the spring of 1988, and celebrated Mass with the UGCC hierarchy in Rome in July 1988.

John Paul was making an argument in 1988 that the millennium belonged to more than just Moscow. Vladimir the Great ruled from Kiev – there was no Moscow at the time. He chose to be baptised in the Byzantine tradition of Christianity – this was before the split with what would become Orthodoxy – in Crimea.

That is why, when Putin speaks about Crimea, he partially justifies Russia’s annexation of it by noting that the baptism of Vladimir took place there, making it a place of Russian heritage.

John Paul and the Ukrainian Catholics saw it differently. The baptism of Russia in 988 was a baptism into a Byzantine Christianity in full communion with Rome, and took place in Ukraine’s capital. Today, who are the Ukrainians of Byzantine tradition who are in full communion with Rome? The UGCC.

“The gift of the Christian faith has been passed down as our greatest treasure,” said Major-Archbishop Shevchuk on July 15. “Today we thank God that it was the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church who was privileged to be a successor to Prince Vladimir and his holy baptism.”

In 1988, both the UGCC and the Vatican were making the same argument. In 2018, Major-Archbishop Shevchuk is repeating the argument independent of Rome, or even in contradiction to it.

The political tension between Russia and Ukraine and the conflict between the Ukrainian Orthodox and the Russia Orthodox are all rooted in the history of 988. Over the millennium the gravitational centre of Orthodoxy and political power in the Slavic world shifted east from Kiev to Moscow. Today, Russia – both Putin and the Russian Orthodox Church – argue that this should mean a Ukraine that takes its lead, politically and religiously, from Moscow. Ukrainians disagree, feeling that Ukraine ought to move away from Moscow’s dominance, re-staking its own claim to the inheritance of 988.

July 28 is the date marking the baptism of Vladimir and the eastern Slavs. Thirty years ago, the Polish Pope made the relevant claims on behalf of the Ukrainian Catholics, for the millennium was not only about the past but also the present. Today, Major-Archbishop Shevchuk does the same in Kiev. But the Holy See appears to have forgotten the position it took in 1988.

Fr Raymond J de Souza is a priest of the Archdiocese of Kingston, Ontario, and editor-in-chief of convivium.ca

This article first appeared in the July 27 2018 issue of the Catholic Herald. Please visit the Catholic Herald website to see it there and, to read the magazine in full from anywhere in the world, go here.