Characteristics and Limitations of Ukrainian Tomos – Part II

Dear Readers:

Welcome back to my post!  As everybody knows, the Ukrainian Tomos was issued last Saturday and nailed to the door of the Cathedral.  Cub Reporters were waiting breathlessly on the steps.  Professor Vladimir Burega of the Kiev Theological Academy snapped up a copy and shot off this initial quickie analysis, which I hereby dutifully translate from Russian into English.  Burega’s caveat is that he just sort of skimmed it to get the highlights and get a jump on the rest of the herd.  A fuller analysis of this historic Tomos will take years of study, probably in Burega’s classroom at the Theological Academy.

Personally, as an atheist, I always wondered about Theological Academy.  I mean, how does one spend four years of one’s life studying invisible things that don’t exist?  On the other hand, it seems like an easy A, because there are really no wrong answers.  God has three heads?  Sure, why not.  Who can prove otherwise?  If the professor challenges you on a quiz, you just accuse him of heresy and settle for a B.  But enough of me and my rude apostasy.  Let us return to Burega’s very informative analysis.  Where we left off, he was  ticking off the necessary bullet points of the normal Tomos checklist:  What the new church is called (it always has the name of the country included in the title, in this case “Ukraine”); who is the Primate (that would be the alpha-male ape of the new religion); and what’s in their Diptych?  Most of this following section concerns the Diptych.  Not to be confused with a Dipstick, that’s the thing you use to check your oil levels.  But all of these mysteries will be explained as we continue…



Professor Vladimir Burega

In all Tomi granting Autocephaly, without exception, there is the demand that the Primate of the Church note, in his Diptych, the name of the Constantinople Patriarch and all other Primates of the national churches.  Let us explain that this Diptych is a universally recognized list of heads of national Orthodox Churches.  Every Primate, in every prayer service, mentions the name of all the other Primates in order of the Diptych.  Not only that, but the Primate of every Autocephalous church is obliged, upon entering into the duties of his office, to send notices to the Constantinople Patriarch and all the other heads of the national churches.  There are analogous requirements in the Tomos of 5 January.

[yalensis:  Here I cannot help butting in with my own inside knowledge.  Because I remember reading, when this Ukrainian Autocephaly first went down, that Russian Patriarch Kirill, as payback, deleted Constantinople Patriarch Bartholomew from the Russian church Diptych!  Nowadays, the Russian prayerbook reads something like:  “God bless Timmy, and Suzy, and Vanya — but NOT that heretic Bartholomew!”]

Left to Right: Metropolitan Epiphany, Henry VIII, and a very disgruntled Filaret

These completely standard clauses give rise to, in the Ukrainian context, a very ticklish question.  The head of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU) Metropolitan Epiphany, at this morning’s service [this was written on Sunday 6 January] prayed for all the Primates of the national Orthodox churches except for Moscow Patriarch Kirill.  He said straight out that he would not pray for Patriarch Kirill on account of Russian military aggression against the Ukraine.  On the other hand, Constantinople Patriarch Bartholomew did mention in his morning service, among others, the Moscow Patriarch.  [yalensis:  Bart is taking the high road — good for him!]  The Tomos granting Autocephaly to the Ukrainian church directly obliges the Kiev Metropolitan to mention all the names, without exception, of the national Primates, and that includes Patriarch Kirill!  Refusing to mention him in the Diptych goes directly against the unambiguous terms of the Tomos.

Constantinople As the Highest Court

In all Tomi granting Autocephaly, there is also contained a requirement to appeal to the Constantinople Patriarch and to other national Primates for the most important issues of dogma and canon.  It is true that this demand was formulated differently, in different historical eras.  In the Tomi of the 19th century the requirement was rather vague, more of a recommendation than a requirement.  For example, in the Tomos granting Autocephaly to the Serbian Church (1879), it was written that the Serbian Metropolitan should “according to ancient custom” appeal to the Orthodox Patriarchs and other Autocephalic churches “on issues of common interest to all the churches, which require a general vote and approval”.  Here the Constantinople Patriarch was not given special treatment outside of the other national churches.  However, in the Tomi of the 20th century we can see a completely different type of rhetoric.

Western Pope, meet Eastern Pope!

Already in the Tomos of the Polish Orthodox Church, it is written that the Constantinople Patriarch bears the obligation for “caring about the Orthodox Churches who find themselves in need”.  For this reason, the Polish Metropolitan, “in all issues exceeding the boundaries of jurisdiction of each Autocephalic Church” must appeal to the Constantinople Patriarchal Throne, “via which all communication with other Orthodox churches takes place”.  This verbiage is repeated word for word in the Tomos granting Autocephaly to the Albanian Church.  And in the Tomi for the Czech and Slovak churches it is stated quite clearly, that the Constantinople Throne “is entrusted with caring for all the holy Churches.”  In this last case, it is even stated, that the Czech and Slovak churches may invite hierarchs of the Constantinople Patriarchate to decide important jurisdictional disputes.

These expressions are not just ritual phrases.  Since the beginning of the 1920’s the Constantinople Patriarch has been forming a teaching regarding the special rights of the Ecumenical Patriarch.  As is known, this teaching is currently being actively contested by the Moscow Patriarch, and in this lies a source of deep conflict between the Constantinople and Moscow branches of the church.

In the Tomos granting Autocephaly to the OCU, we also see unambiguous phraseology regarding the special status of the Constantinople Throne.  It is stated clearly that, for the resolution of important issues of a churchy, dogmatic, or canonical character, the Kiev Metropolitan must appeal to the Ecumenical Throne, in order to receive from him the authoritative explanation.  Such appeals are not required for the other Autocephalies.  [yalensis:  In other words, the other Autocephalies are big boys, and the Ukrainian Autocephaly is a child.]

Not only that, but the 5 January Tomos grants the Constantinople Patriarch the right to receive appeals from the Ukrainian Bishops if they don’t agree with decisions made [by Metropolitan Epiphany] which concern them.  In such cases the verdict of the Ecumenical Patriarch will be the final one, not subject to appeal.

Next:  But what about the separation of Church and State?

[to be continued]

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