Op-Ed by Very Rev. Archpriest Vladimir Malchenko

This open letter with regards to the March 5, 2015 press release of Peter Goldring, MP from Edmonton East ( http://www.petergoldring.ca/media/2015-03-06-goldring(1).pdf ) was written by the Very Rev. Archpriest Vladimir Malchenko, Rector of Holy Trinity Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (Toronto, ON), head of the RCC Committee for Religious Affairs, and confirmed by the Russian Congress of Canada.

 To the Most Reverend Bishops, Clergy, Pious Laity Of the Orthodox Church,

And All Christian People of Canada.

 Christ is Risen! Christos Anesti!

 No words can express the disappointment caused by reading Mr. Goldring’s press release from March 5, 2015, where he talked about the unity of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. How can someone who had met with religious, political, and community leaders including His Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew eighty times be so wrong and so far from the truth in his attempts to establish a unified Orthodox Church in the Ukraine?! Our Lord’s words: Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear(Mark 8:18) immediately come to mind.

 It appears that Mr. Goldring completely misunderstands the situation of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. After all, he is a Canadian politician, and the issue here concerns the Holy Orthodox Church in Ukraine, an institution which is based on the Holy Canons and Traditions of the Holy Orthodox Church and not on politics. Internal canonical matters within the Ukrainian Orthodox Church are not the appropriate area for politicians to intervene, especially for politicians from a foreign country.

Mr. Goldring’s plan for unification of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church presumably involves a non-governmental working team, which will create a blueprint for the Ukrainian Orthodox Church unity. This team is supposed to consist of two former Ukrainian presidents Viktor Yushchenko and Leonid Kuchma, various “specialists from the country”, Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, and the self-styled “Patriarch” Filaret.   The proposal is incomprehensible and shows a fundamental failure to understand Orthodox the Church Canons and Traditions, as it does not include the historic mainstream canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church under the leadership of Metropolitan Bishop Onufriy, which has its seat in the famous Dormition Monastery of the Kiev Caves and is the largest oldest and the only legal Orthodox Church in the Ukraine. How can any attempt to unify all the churches in the Ukraine excluding the largest and the only legitimate body of Orthodox believers in the country have any hope of success? By excluding them, the scheme shows a deep disrespect for the mainstream canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church with its head Bishop Onufriy and for its mother church, the Moscow Patriarchate.

Furthermore, Ukraine’s former presidents Leonid Kuchma and Viktor Yushchenko are political and not church leaders. What is the reason for including them? Also, who are the “specialists from the country”, and what selection criteria is being used for them? Mr. Goldring proposed His Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew to participate, even though patriarchs of other Orthodox Churches do not meddle in the affairs of their brother patriarchs. Mr. Goldring put forth the self-styled “Patriarch” Filaret as a candidate, yet former Metropolitan Filaret has no legal claim to this title, nor is his claim to use the title recognized by any other canonical or legal Orthodox Church anywhere in the world.   Moreover, “Patriarch” Filaret is a defrocked bishop with a troubled past, who was defrocked for serious canonical and moral crimes and who proclaimed himself as the “Patriarch” of Kiev, thus starting a serious schism within the Ukrainian Church which this very initiative is attempting to address. How does Mr Goldring propose to re-unite the Orthodox churches under the auspices of the very man who caused this schism in the first place? This proposal is simply unrealistic.

When “Patriarch” Filaret visited Toronto a few years ago, I was told by the Ukrainian clerics that not one Ukrainian Canadian Orthodox cleric attended the banquet arranged in his honour. Yet Mr. Goldring plans to use this man as the key player in the unification of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church!

Metropolitan Onufriy, the Canonical Ukrainian Orthodox leader in Kiev, was called a saint by Bishop Andrew of Toronto of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Canada, Constantinople jurisdiction, in our conversation in October of 2014. Yet Mr. Goldring suggests a working group that excludes the saintly Metropolitan Onufriy, the legal canonical leader of the only canonical Orthodox Church, and proposes in his place a man tainted by canonical and moral crimes against the Orthodox Church!

It is noteworthy that the mainstream canonical and legal Ukrainian Orthodox Church with Metropolitan Onufriy at the head has been bound by the Holy Canons of the Orthodox Church for many centuries. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church since its beginning has been practicing the ancient and venerable liturgical language of the Rus’ people, Church Slavonic language. The Orthodox Church of the Ukraine is tied into the spiritual fabric of the Russian Orthodox Church for many centuries, the church that bonded Rus’ people with mutual love and unity for hundreds of years. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church is also anchored to the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. The presence of His Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew and the Patriarch of Moscow at solemn services held by the canonical and legal Ukrainian Orthodox Church at the Dormition Monastery of the Kiev Caves of St. Vladimir’s Day is the testimony to this fact. Yet this canonical mainstream Orthodox Church is excluded from Mr. Goldring’s scheme. It is unbelievably discourteous!

Numerous attacks on the churches and clergy of the legitimate canonical Holy Ukrainian Orthodox Church by the militant illegal uncanonical group of the so-called Orthodox Church with “Patriarch” Filaret of Kiev, militant clergy of the Catholic (Uniate) Church, as well as the attacks by the Ukrainian nationalists have caused deaths and injuries to the clergymen of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church throughout Ukraine. Entire churches have been seized by the militant nationalists.

The crimes against the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church today are too many to mention and were brought to the attention of Mr. Goldring during the eighty meetings that he managed to organize. These crimes against the faithful and legal Ukrainian Orthodox Church are also a well-known fact to Mr. Goldring’s colleague Mr. Andrew Bennett, Canada’s Ambassador for Religious Freedom, and the two Ukrainian clerics, who wrote to me about these sad events. However, the evidence is overlooked by both, Mr. Goldring and Mr. Bennett.

Concerned Ukrainian and Russian Orthodox Christians have been focusing their attention on the violence and militant activities aimed against the legitimate Ukrainian Orthodox Church with Metropolitan Onufriy at the head, yet Mr. Andrew Bennett and Canadian Ukrainian clerics have tried to shift the attention away from the violence and intimidation and instead blame President Putin for all the sorrow in the life of the Ukrainian Church.

As a Russian Orthodox priest, I have written letters expressing concerns with the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and in return received nothing but meaningless political statements from Mr. Goldring, Mr. Bennett, and other Canadian Ukrainian clerics, all of whom ignore the real issues of persecution and harassment of the mainstream canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church. I would like to know when can we focus on the actual issues which are not sidetracked by politics?

Perhaps most troubling of all is the fact that a member of the Canadian Parliament became involved in the internal church matters of another country, using the tax-payers’ money and exploiting his official position, particularly where such intervention takes a highly politicized and partisan stance, and undermines the canonical rules of that church. It is highly inappropriate and unacceptable.

Recently I made a presentation to the clergy of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad at our annual Lenten retreat in Montreal, where Archbishop Gabriel of Montreal and Canada was present. I talked about Mr. Goldring’s activities and Mr. Bennett’s statement, as well as the activities of the Bishops of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Canada (of Constantinople) in respect of the proposed unity of the Orthodox Church in Ukraine (details can be found on their website) which bear a striking similarity to Mr. Goldring’s scheme.   All clergy members were in shock and dismay.

Please do not judge me harshly for the content of this letter. I humbly believe that Mr. Goldring and the Orthodox Church clergy should be aware of how disturbed we are by this preposterous proposal. We are churchmen and not politicians, thus we insist that church matters in Ukraine must be approached through the prism of the Holy Canons and Traditions of the Orthodox Church and not through politics, and certainly not the highly partisan politics of another country.

 Christ is Risen!