About the Condemnation of War and the Actual Actions of the Head of Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate

ukrainian church

In this new column dedicated to church matters in Ukraine, I will analyze the statements of Metropolitan Onufriy, the head of the UOC (MP), to determine whether there is genuine condemnation and a desire for separation from Moscow.

In the UOC (MP), there is often a reference to Metropolitan Onufriy's appeal at the beginning of the war, where he called for the defense of Ukraine and appealed to "the President of Russia to immediately stop the fratricidal war." Yes, he did make that call, it's true. But the irony is that with each such reference, the uniqueness and exclusivity of this text and the inability of their own leader to produce similar texts over the past one and a half years become more apparent.

Contradiction and Insincerity

Metropolitan Onufriy's text was effectively disavowed within a few days by the UOC (MP) Synod, under the same Metropolitan Onufriy's signature, which, for some reason, they prefer not to mention. Let me remind you that the thesis of "two sides of the conflict" was put forward there, and instead of addressing the aggressor to immediately cease the war they initiated, there was an appeal to "both sides":

  • "war has come to our native Ukrainian land" (where it came from – unknown, perhaps the blame lies with the State Department);
  • "combat actions continue between the Russian Federation troops and the Armed Forces of Ukraine" (apparently, something was not divided among them);
  • "we address President of Ukraine Volodymyr Oleksandrovych Zelenskyy and President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin" (and, according to the tradition of rhetoric, the first addressee has greater responsibility than the second);
  • "the sin of armed confrontation of our fraternal peoples" (that is, no one attacked anyone, there is no aggressor and victim, aggression and defense, just "confrontation," something was not divided among them).

So, over the past one and a half years of the war, this appeal by Metropolitan Onufriy remains the only one, and even that was quickly disavowed by his own Synod. However, there are numerous texts by Metropolitan Onufriy where he deliberately introduces formulations that allow for opposing interpretations, where the enemy is not named, Russia's actions are not directly condemned, and he calls on Ukrainians to "be humble" in response to aggression, destruction, and killings (but there are no calls for humility when communities transition to the OCU).

Nothing Has Changed

Furthermore, there are approving appeals to the occupiers, Kirill Gundyaev (the head of the Russian Orthodox Church), and calls to preserve unity with the Moscow Patriarchate among their own episcopate and even Synod members without any(!) condemnation or even remarks from Metropolitan Onufriy. Numerous statements by the episcopate and members of the Synod that "nothing has changed," that the UOC has the same status as before. The second person in the UOC (MP), Metropolitan Antoniy Pakanych, has not condemned Russian aggression or Kirill Gundyaev even once(!) in one and a half years of war, unlike constant condemnations of the Ukrainian government, the West, and the OCU.

And now, on behalf of the UOC (MP), he makes a statement that effectively asserts that the UOC is indeed the MP and cannot imagine itself outside the MP in actions, thoughts, or worldview, and anyone who wishes to distance themselves from the MP is a schismatic, a heretic, and a traitor. And again, there is no condemnation of these statements or even remarks from Metropolitan Onufriy or his colleague Metropolitan Antoniy. Everything is fine and perfect.

All of this, on the one hand, undermines any efforts of sensible people in the UOC (MP) to somehow change the situation in the Church and preserve its image from ultimate destruction. Any statement from such people will only be perceived as a "private opinion," in contrast to the statements of official spokespersons. On the other hand, this once again raises questions about Metropolitan Onufriy's suitability as a leader or even just a shepherd. If such a shepherd finds it extremely difficult to call black black and to be an example of the Gospel's "let your 'yes' be 'yes' and your 'no' be 'no,' anything beyond this comes from the evil one" (Matthew 5:37), and instead regularly provides examples of texts "from the evil one," then does he have any pastoral qualities at all? He is simply a lukewarm individual.

Holy fathers defined lukewarmness as indecision, the absence of a clear "yes" or "no," an attempt to combine God and Satan, Christ and Belial for the sake of one's own comfort or image. And the evangelist reminds us of what happens to salt that loses its saltiness: "But if salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot" (Matthew 5:13). So, it should come as no surprise that the same fate will befall the lukewarm Metropolitan and the lukewarm Church.


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