(All-Venerable Patriarchal Church, January 6, 2019)
Your Beatitude Metropolitan Epiphanios of Kyiv and all Ukraine,
Your Excellency Mr. Petro Poroshenko, President of the Ukrainian Republic,
Most Reverend and Right Reverend brothers in Christ,
Dearly beloved people of Ukraine,
“Behold, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; the flowers appear on the earth, the time for singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land.” (Song of Songs 2.11–12)
We feel that these lyrics of the wise Solomon describe today’s feast and celebration when the Holy Great Church of Christ in Constantinople is elevating the Holy Metropolis of Kyiv and all Ukraine to an Autocephalous Church. Indeed, “the winter is past” for schisms and divisions. “The rain is over and gone” for ecclesiastical isolation. The flower of unity “appears on the earth” and “the time has come” for the glorious Holy Metropolis of Kyiv to acquire its ecclesiastical independence, being included in the body of the local and most holy Orthodox Autocephalous Churches, through the addition of the honorable name of Your Beatitude to the records of the Orthodox Canonical Diptychs.
Glory to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.
It is known that the Ecumenical Patriarchate founded the Holy Metropolis of Kyiv after previously demonstrating its concern for the illumination and baptism of the glorious and Christ-loving Kyivan people. In the unfolding of the centuries throughout its history, the Church of Constantinople always proved an affectionate Mother, sacrificially caring about the challenges that arose periodically, protecting and preserving this sacred eparchy like the apple of its eye from temptations to change faith, Orthodox doctrine and ecclesial mindset. And whenever historical circumstances so imposed, through our ever-memorable predecessor Dionysios IV, the Ecumenical Patriarchate permitted the ordination of the Metropolitan of Kyiv by the presiding Patriarch of Moscow, albeit never conceding its canonical jurisdiction to the Russian Patriarchate. After all, the inviolable condition of commemorating the name of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in the Sacred Services and the Divine Liturgy demonstrates the perpetual canonical dependence of the Metropolis of Kyiv from its Mother Church of Constantinople. However, as witnessed by archival sources and events, both past and more recent, not even the Kyivan people ever accepted that it constitutes part of the Church of Moscow, actually on occasion raising vehement objection to this. Already from the year 1325, when the see of the Metropolis of Kyiv finally was transferred permanently to Moscow, the faithful people of Kyiv desired its ecclesiastical independence—a desire that with the passing of centuries was rendered “a powerful and unbearable desire of the soul.” This is also why the historical first Constitution of Ukraine, composed in the year of the Lord 1710, envisioned that “the Orthodox Church in Ukraine should remain under the most holy Apostolic Throne of Constantinople.”
Along with all this irrefutable and unwavering historical evidence, we have of course taken into consideration the periodical requests for the bestowal of autocephaly both on the part of the Hierarchy and on the part of the State. Moreover, we have deemed especially significant the requests of Your Beatitude, representing the Hierarchs, clergy and pious people of the recently convened Unification Synod (Sobor), as well as of His Excellency Mr. Petro Poroshenko, President of the Ukrainian Republic. Thus, having come together in the Holy Spirit, we reached the synodal decision to grant the ecclesiastical status of autocephaly to the blessed land of Ukraine.
Today, a new page opens in the history of Ukraine. The Church of Constantinople, which in similar manner bestowed the ecclesiastical status of autocephaly to all the newly-founded local Churches, today likewise presents to Your hands, through the grace of Christ who appeared on earth, the Tomos of Autocephaly for Your Church. The all-merciful God has reserved this sublime honor to You, “God has chosen you, entrusted you, not by human election . . . Do not blaspheme or shame the election of God,” as St. John Chrysostom asserts.
Today, officially and canonically, you become the fifteenth Church in the blessed choir of Autocephalous Churches. We entreat and exhort You to strive for unity and peace, first and foremost on a local level with Your brother Hierarchs in Ukraine; and not only with them, but also with those brother Hierarchs who still remain under the omophorion of His Beatitude our brother Patriarch of Moscow, in order that, through Your inspired presence and prudent administrative service, you may help them understand that Ukraine deserves a united church body. Create the presuppositions for reconciliation. Work only on the basis of ecclesiological criteria. Administer with love, humility and self-sacrifice. The future belongs to You.
Finally, never forget this benevolence of the Mother Church, which commenced from the time of the baptism of Your pious people and is today sealed with the bestowal of ecclesiastical administrative independence. The history of the Orthodox Church is a history of redemption and salvation. Aware of this, our Holy Great Church of Christ is today acting without any self-interest, but only for the unity of the Ukrainian people and the salvation of its faithful. Therefore, follow this way of redemption and salvation; and regard the Tomos of Autocephaly, which You receive today, not as a symbol of power but as a testimony of love and sacrificial mind, so that You may offer salvation and Christ to Your flock in Ukraine. Make good use of the privileges contained in this Tomos, treating them as elements of crucified love and not as premises for the establishment of an authoritarian Church.
As for us, from this venerable Orthodox Center, we shall affectionately follow Your steps and always extend a supportive hand, whenever You so desire. We also look forward to our positive and excellent collaboration, for the glory of God and the salvation of our faithful.
Be strong and be well, then, Your Beatitude and dear brother; and serve as First Hierarch for the sake of righteousness, truth and meekness. May the grace of Christ who appeared on earth be with You and with our Holy Churches. Amen.
– photo credit: Nicholas Manginas / Ecumenical Patriarchate