The arrival of Metropolitan Onufry, the head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, was the topic of the new column of the rector of the Seminary of Saint Peter of Cetinje, Gojko Perovic, published yesterday (February 26) in a daily Vijesti. The significance of the information reflects in father Gojko’s announcement that the honorable guest will lead, with other clergymen, the Litany of St. Simeon in Podgorica on Saturday, February 29.

Analyzing the column’s content, certain claims and sentences were found not to correspond to the facts. The text says:  

1. “On Friday, February 28, the head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, His Beatitude Metropolitan Onufry of Kiev and All Ukraine will pay a visit to Montenegro.”

Since the recognition of autocephaly to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church by the highest authority in the Orthodoxy – Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, Metropolitan Onufry, represented by SPC and Gojko Perovic, in this case, as the Metropolitan of Kiev and All Ukraine, holds actually the title of Metropolitan in Kiev of the Moscow Patriarchate. Charter presented to Onufry by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I in October 12, 2018, stated that the Ecumenical Patriarchate, with Ukraine as its constituent part, had abolished all his titles and designations, thus making him the Metropolitan in Kiev. The title of the head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, i.e. of Metropolitan of Kiev and All Ukraine, was given to Metropolitan Epiphanius in December 15, 2018. Therefore, the person coming to Montenegro is a Russian Metropolitan in Kiev and not a Metropolitan of Kiev and All Ukraine

2. “Tomorrow, accompanied by several Ukrainian Archbishops and together with the believers, clergymen and monastics of SPC in Montenegro, he will lead the Litany of Saint Simeon in Podgorica..”.

The text stated that Onufry, accompanied by several Ukrainian archbishops, would lead the Litany of Saint Simeon, but actually, it is not the case.

It is not about Ukrainian archbishops, because they are not coming from the autocephalous and recognized Orthodox Church in Ukraine, but about bishops of the Moscow Patriarchate in Ukraine. According to the 2020 Schematism of Orthodoxy (the annual publication of the Ecumenical Patriarchate), they have been abolished titles and decorations. The same publication refers to the abovementioned Metropolitan Onufry as Metropolitan in Kiev, because, according to the Orthodox canons, one eparchy may have only one bishop, and not two or more. In this case, this is Metropolitan Epiphanius, metropolitan of Kiev and All Ukraine.

3. “Another significance of Onufry’s visit to Montenegro is the testimony of the invincibility of the blessed God’s order, compared to all secular political intrigues.”

Father Gojko associates the autocephaly of the Orthodox Church in Ukraine (PCU) with secular political intrigues, thereby questioning the order of the Orthodox churches, which reads: 1. Constantinople 2. Alexandria 3. Antioch 4. Jerusalem 5. Moscow 6. Belgrade…… 15. Kiev, as well as the authority of Ecumenical Patriarchate, i.e. its millennial and exclusive right to grant and abolish autocephaly. The Serbian Orthodox Church exercised the same right in 1922, when it received autocephaly from the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

4. “The Orthodox Church in Ukraine, the heir to the ancient Kiev Metropolitanate, and subsequently the so-called Kiev Exarchate of the ROC has existed, as an integral part of Moscow Patriarchate – under the name of Ukraine Orthodox Church – for three decades.”

The Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate is not the heir to the ancient Kiev Metropolitanate, which, from its establishment to the granting of autocephaly to Kiev was an integral part of Ecumenical Patriarchate. In 1686, it was assigned to the administration of the Moscow Church with the obligation to mention the Ecumenical Patriarchate as the Head in all liturgies. In addition, the Moscow Patriarchate could not independently elect the Kiev Metropolitan, but with the permission of Constantinople.

5. “Autonomy that it has in relation to Moscow represents the example of the largest possible autonomy in the whole Orthodox world.”

Autonomy that the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (UPC-MP) has now is not the same as one it was granted in 1990 by Patriarch Alexy II. The then autonomy was fundamentally changed by Decision of the Consecrated Bishops’ Council of the Russian Orthodox Church “On Amendments to the Charter of the Russian Orthodox Church and Other Documents of the Russian Orthodox Church”, held from November 20 until December 2, 2017.

Amendments to the Charter of RPC, made upon a proposal of the then Metropolitan of Kiev and All Ukraine Onufry, intended to minimize the existing autonomy as much as possible. Some of the changes included: 1) the name of the Russian Patriarch needs to be mentioned at all liturgies; 2) decisions on establishing and abolishing eparchies of UPC-MP shall be taken with approval by the Council of Bishops of the Russian Church; 3) all decisions of the Council of Bishops of the Russian Church are binding on the UPC-MP; 4) UPC-MP shall receive the Holy Peace exclusively from the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia; 5) the court of the Council of Bishops is a church court of higher jurisdiction for UPC-MP. Summa summarum, from the great autonomy it used to have, now the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate takes permissions and orders about all important decisions from Russia.

6. “Its relations with the Russian Orthodox Church are firm and clear, but, they are not numerous in the sense of administration.”

The decisions brought at the Bishops’ Council of the Russian Orthodox Church in 2017 are the best indicator of the administrative (or „not numerous“) relations between the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate and the Russian Orthodox Church. In the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church, Metropolitan Onufriy is on the second place while the first place belongs to the Russian Patriarch, (Kirill, nowadays). Additionally, the court of the Council of Bishops is the court of higher jurisdiction for UPC-MP, which demonstrates that the church in fact does not have the autonomy, or more precisely, that its autonomy from 1990 has been abolished.

7. “Therefore, the  Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, whose head, His Beatitude Metropolitan Onufry of Kiev and All Ukraine is visiting us in two days, has the international support and trust of the majority of Orthodox population in Ukraine.”

According to the research of the public opinion on trust of the majority of Orthodox population in Ukraine, the situation is the following: 34 per cent of Orthodox believers support and identify themselves with the  Orthodox Church of Ukraine, 14 per cent support the  Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate while 27.6 per cent identify themselves as Orthodox Christians but it is all the same to them which church they are going to.

8. “In its work – everything occurred within the state borders; everything was dressed in the Ukrainian state symbols (maximum level of respect for the flag, anthem, etc.); everything comprised of the domicile clergymen and usage of the Ukrainian language.”

The Russian Church in Ukraine does not use Ukrainian as a liturgical language, but the Russian variant of the Church Slavonic language.

9. “Either way – the church experiment of Poroshenko did not move beyond the laboratory. Canonic, and recognized by all, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, preserved until nowadays, its internal unity with more than 50 eparchies, 10 000 parochies and 200 monasteries.”

When it comes to the significant Ukrainian Orthodox monasteries or churches, they belong to the State of Ukraine, which allows the churches located there to use it.

Therefore, the residency of Metropolitan Onufriy in Kiev, famous Lavra, is owned by state and used by the Moscow Patriarchate.

10. “And even larger one is – the Church headed by Metropolitan Onufry has kept its national name “Ukrainian”, while the newly-established and newly-schismatized “PCU” has lost such name, because, oh my, it should have to “reconcile the orthodox spirit of Ukraine”.

The Orthodox Church in Ukraine has obtained such name upon a decision and Tomos of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and not because of alleged political aims and goals. It is worth mentioning that the Ecumenical Patriarchate has the only right to grant autocephaly independently, as that was the case with SPC in 1922, while not recognizing that sovereign right has consequences for the churches’ issues on territories both of Montenegro and North Macedonia.