New Local Orthodox Church in Ukraine: Explained
Press secretary of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate (UOC-KP), Archbishop Yevstratiy (Zorya) says the main risk factor for the unification process of Ukraine churches would be an attempt of external intervention and influence on its individual participants to disrupt or slow down the procedure.
"It seems to me that logical and correct would be the approach to continuing the unification process that would exclude dependence on categorical destructive actions," he said, according to the Ukrainian news outlet Glavred.
According to the cleric, church unity is a voluntary process, not a forced one. "And if someone, especially under a far-fetched pretext or the one provoked by some external forces, refuses to participate in the process or tries to block it, then I believe the unification process should move on, and such a person or persons should not become an insurmountable obstacle," Zorya said.
The archbishop expressed the opinion the efforts and steps that had already been taken by the Ukrainian churches, the Ukrainian state, and the Ecumenical Patriarchate on the path toward unity were so significant and valuable that no one in charge would allow any attempts to make the process anyone's hostage.
"It is no longer possible to hinder the unification process. After all, a strong canonical base has been created, while there is a strong will both in Ukraine and the Ecumenical Patriarchate," the UOC-KP press secretary said, adding that there would be attempts to disrupt the process, while the ultimate "initiators of such attempts are Moscow forces both abroad and here in Ukraine."
"Therefore, our common task, both of the churches and the state, and the society as a whole, is to prevent them from enjoying even the slightest success," Zorya said.
According to the press secretary, nearly 10 bishops of the Moscow Patriarchate (MP) support the unification process, and it will be clear how many will take part in the unification council in the process of its preparation. Zorya predicts that after receiving a tomos, the majority of those who are now part of the Moscow Patriarchate will join the Ukrainian Church. "According to my forecasts, this will continue for several years and, as a result, at least two-thirds of those who are with the MP will join the Ukrainian church," he said.
In addition, Zorya said the Unification Council would elect the head of the unified church, but so far not a single candidate, except for "the candidacy of Patriarch Philaret, whom we as bishops of the Kyiv Patriarchate will nominate and support as the Patriarch of the unified church, has not been voiced by anyone." Therefore, it is hypothetically possible to say that the Council may choose any worthy hierarch from among the Ukrainian bishops to take part, Zorya said.
"If we talk about the possibility of electing Metropolitan Onufriy [Head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate], it should be noted so far he has not shown any desire to be a participant in the unification process. Therefore, the question is whether he may take helm of the unified local church is rhetorical," the Archbishop said.
Zorya also noted the idea of placing the autocephalous church on the Moscow Patriarchate's fairway as a way to prevent Russian provocations is, in fact, no better than the proposals of Russian Minister Sergei Lavrov on the federalization of Ukraine or the autonomous status for the occupied Donbas.
"Our task is to do everything so that the Unified Local Orthodox Church will in no way be under the influence of Moscow in the future. Our natural ally and the Pan-Orthodox center we were guided by and will be oriented to is the Ecumenical Patriarchate. And with the Moscow Patriarchate we would like to have the same relationship as with all other local churches, which exclude the possibility of subordination to Moscow or following its political interests," Zorya said.