(ZENIT News – Russian World, (Asia News) / Moscow, 09.07.2022).- The first official dialogue get-together between the delegations of the Autocephalous Ukrainian Orthodox Church (PZU) and the Moscow Patriarchate’s (UPZ) Orthodox Church of Ukraine, which recently severed relations with the Russian Mother Church, was held in the Metropolitan Palace of the historic Cathedral of Saint Sophia in Kiev, without yet defining its legal-ecclesiastical status.
The meeting, which lasted three hours, was held thanks to the mediation of the State Service for Ethnic Policy Issues and Freedom of Conscience (GESS), Father Andrej Dudčenko of Pzu announced on the social networks. “It was good to see old friends again and to meet new ones,” added the clergyman The meeting gathered 21 priests of the two jurisdictions; the dialogue was moderated by Elena Bogdan, leader of the GESS.
The objective of the conversation was “first of all, to highlight what unites, which is much more than what divides” the two national Churches. They acknowledged that they have “a common faith and common theological, liturgical and canonical traditions, as well as a common history in which, however, we “differ in the assessment of certain events,” hence it’s necessary to revise and reread Ukraine’s whole religious history.
What especially unites the two Communities today is the condemnation “of the destructive position “ of the Moscow Patriarchate, which supported the Russian War in Ukraine. Moreover, “there are many common problems, given that both Churches have arisen from the separation of the Russian [Mother Church]. Pointed out was the deficient preparation of the clergy and of Bishops, and an “excess of the Byzantine,” in the almost exclusive emphasis on ritualism and the attributions given to the Authorities of the Civil Power.
By way of conclusion, they all agreed on the “necessity to revive Kiev’s tradition, both in the Liturgy as well as in ecclesiastical art, in architecture and in the formation of the clergy and of the episcopate,” recalling the great legacy of the Mogiliana Theological Academy, which goes back to its Founder, Metropolitan Peter Mogila of Kiev, at the beginning of the 17th century.
The priests of the two groups agreed that “it’s essential to abstain from using a mutually hostile language.” Since 1992, when Metropolitan Philaret (Denisenko) decided to separate from Moscow, proclaiming himself Patriarch of Kiev, tensions have never been lacking between the two jurisdictions. The two bands confronted one another over churches and monasteries, accusing each other of treason and heresy. The new distancing from Moscow, does not erase automatically these long-cultivated hostilities, which are often very personal.
Although in the recent Synod of Phanar the UPZ Church declared that it no longer considers itself bound to the Moscow Patriarchate, it did not adopt a position against “brothers” of the PZU. Many Bishops, priests, monks and faithful are resolutely opposed to a reunion. Some continue being faithful to Russia, as happens obviously in the occupies areas of the Donbass, not to mention the annexed Crimea, which has declared its complete return to the Moscow Patriarchate. In many other cases, despite opposition to the Russian invasion, there continue to be sentiments of loyalty to the tradition and enmity toward the other band.
It should be noted that the UPZ’s parishes are double the number of those of the PZU (12,000 as opposed to 6,000, more or less). However, Moscow has had the cunning of duplicating and even triplicating many churches in recent years, to accentuate the historical superiority of the pro-Russians. The question continues unresolved of parishes abroad, which change jurisdiction with greater facility than those that are on native soil. In the background is the interested look of the Greek-Catholics, who share the same traditions as the Orthodox and are ready to take part in an even broader dialogue on the national integration of Christianity of the Byzantine tradition.