Characteristics and Limitations of Ukrainian Tomos – Part III

Dear Readers:

Welcome back once again, as I continue to plug through this analysis by Professor Vladimir Burega of the Kiev Theological Academy.  Where we left off, Burega was about to deal with the very thorny issue of the Church-State relationship.  Which, in the Ukrainian case, is sort of a joke anyhow, since this new Church was founded, for all intents and purposes, by President Poroshenko!  Which is why I like to compare him with Henry VIII!

On the other hand, remember how Jesus said that people should not look at the beam in somebody else’s eye?  Meaning that the Russian government should not cast stones either, as they have a bit-too-cozy relationship with the Russian Orthodox Church.  Still, it’s not quite the same thing.  Putin may be a little too chummy with Patriarch Kirill, but at least they don’t go golfing together along with Turkish Nazis.  Long story…

Anyhow, let us continue with the translation…

Church And State

Professor Vladimir Burega

In all the Tomi of the 19th century the special role of the State in the creation of the new Autocephalic Church, was emphasized.  The Constantinople Patriarch always accentuated the fact, that the desire to announce an Autocephaly stems, not just from the Church hierarchs, but also from the leaders of the corresponding government.  For example, in the Tomos granting Autocephaly to the Serbian Church (1879), it is explicitly stated, that the request for granting of an independent church status was sent to Constantinople first of all, by Serbian Prince Milan Obrenović; and secondly, by the Belgrade Metropolitan Mikhail.  Similarly, in the Tomos granting Autocephaly to the Greek Orthodox Church, in 1850, they didn’t even mention the Church hierarchs making any request of Constantinople.  It was merely stated that the Greek people and clergy desire to have their own independent Church.  The Constantinople Patriarch “learned about this issue from the epistle of honorable ministers of the God-protected nation of Greece”.  In other words, it was the request of the Greek government itself, which laid the basis for the granting of Autocephaly.

Milan I of Serbia: Wanted his own Church

There was one other characteristic detail in the 19th-century Tomi.  The proclamation of new Autocephalic Churches is always motivated by the creation of new independent governments.  The appearance of the Helladic (Greek), Serbian, and Romanian churches followed soon after international recognition of the independence of Greece, Serbia, and Romania, respectively.

The Tomos texts of the 20th century, as a rule, do not emphasize the role of the government to such a degree.  In the Tomi for the Polish, Bulgarian and Czecho-Slovak churches, nothing is even said about the government.  In the Albanian Tomos, the government is mentioned, but not as the initiator of the creation of the new church.  It was only stated here, that the (Albanian) government gave guarantees to the Constantinople Patriarch, that members of the Albanian Orthodox Church will have “full independence and freedom to prosper”.  It is completely obvious, that the Tomi of the 20th century reflected a new situation in Church-State relations.  Governments now declaim their secular nature and non-interference in church affairs.

In this respect, the Ukrainian Tomos clearly is a throwback to the 19th century.  Here, the creation of an Autocephalic Church is motivated, primarily, by the existence, already for almost 3 decades, of an independent Ukrainian state.  It is especially emphasized, that during the course of all this time, the rulers of Ukraine appealed, on many occasions, to the Throne in Constantinople, with requests to grant them Autocephaly.  It is especially mentioned in the Tomos, that it is granted, not just to the Kiev Metropolitan, but also the President of the Ukraine.  One could say that this Tomos was composed from the perspective of a “symphony” between the secular and clerical powers; which, in our 21st century, appears as an obvious anachronism.

[to be continued]

This entry was posted in Religion and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Characteristics and Limitations of Ukrainian Tomos – Part III

  1. Ryan Ward says:

    “The proclamation of new Autocephalic Churches is always motivated by the creation of new independent governments.”

    This is an important point. It’s always been an accepted principle in the Orthodox Church that Church administration should generally parallel state administration. This was the original reason for the prominence of Constantinople itself, whose “primacy among equals” was first recognized by the Council of Chalcedon in the fifth century, explicitly on the basis that Constantinople was by that time the capital of the empire.

    The upshot of this in the present case is that the Ukrainian church really should be autocephalous. The idea that Ukraine is part of a “Russkiy Mir”, and that as a result of that, should be under Moscow, is an example of “phyletism”, the belief that church jurisdiction should be ethnically based, which was condemned in the 19th century (see Wikipedia: So the EP is right on the broad point at issue.

    However, there’s a right way and a wrong way to do things, and the way the EP has acted is about as wrong as it could be. Autocephaly is supposed to be something that comes to the whole church of a country, under its legitimate leaders. It’s most certainly not supposed to be a coup where splinter groups of dubious orthodoxy and even more dubious character are used to supplant the legitimate leaders of the local church.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s