A UKRANIAN metropolitan of the Kiev Patriarchate has resigned from the country’s defence-chaplaincy advisory council over its refusal to bar representatives of the Moscow Patriarchate from serving as military chaplains. Metropolitan John Jaremenko said that his objection to Moscow Patriarchate chaplains was based on national security.
The Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) is the canonically recognised Orthodox Church in Ukraine; and it has often sided with Russia over the annexation of the Crimean peninsular and the ongoing fighting over eastern Ukraine; as has its sister Church, the Russian Orthodox Church.
The Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Kiev Patriarchate) is an independent Orthodox Church whose leader, Patriarch Filaret, is seeking to unite the various Orthodox churches in Ukraine into a single autocephalous Church. The canonical status of this Church is currently being considered by the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.
In an interview on Tuesday with the Religious Information Service of Ukraine (RISU), Metropolitan John acknowledged that the Moscow Patriarchate had been a part of the Council of Pastoral Care since its inception in 2010; but he said that, since the conflict began in 2014, “the position of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) has become openly hostile, destructive, and anti-Ukrainian.”
He said that it was “unfeasible” for the Moscow Patriarchate to remain a member of “a deliberative body under the Ministry of Defence” because it “has repeatedly been seen in helping the enemy in possession of weapons, its priests have been hiding and directly blessing separatists and foreign mercenaries, and there is evidence of personal involvement of its priests in using combat weapons against the Ukrainian army and the like.”
The bishop’s proposal was met with almost total opposition: the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church and a Muslim group abstained; while the remaining members of the chaplaincy council supported the continued presence of the Moscow Patriarchate.
In the interview, Metropolitan John accused Moscow Patriarchate chaplains of misleading troops into believing that they were from the Kiev Patriarchate; and he called for that Church to change its name to the Russian Orthodox Church in Ukraine to prevent further confusion.
Tensions in the breakaway eastern regions of Ukraine have grown this week with the stepping up of blockades by Ukrainian war veterans who are angry that the government continues to trade with the rebel-held areas. The BBC reports that Ukraine is dependent on anthracite — a type of coal used for graphite — from the eastern region, while Donetsk and Luhansk need Ukrainian-produced coke.
Meanwhile, the leader of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church, Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, has called for diplomatic pressure to end the violence in eastern Ukraine. He told Vatican Radio that “the suffering of a million children is the suffering of the innocent.”