KESTON NEWS SERVICE: 11.00, 25 July 2001.
Reporting on violations of religious liberty and on religion in communist
and post-communist lands.
______________________________________

I. UKRAINE: BREAKTHROUGH FOR ORTHODOX UNIFICATION?
Following an agreement reached during a visit by a mixed delegation of the
Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAOC) and the Ukrainian
Orthodox Church of the Kiev Patriarchate (UOC KP) to Istanbul between 12
and 14 June, the two sides have entered into an active dialogue aimed at
unifying at least the two smaller of the three branches of Orthodoxy in the
country. The Moscow Patriarchate is not participating in the unification
process, but representatives have attended a meeting about it.

II. UKRAINE: STATE COMMITTEE TO KEEP FOREIGNERS OUT? On
10 July a meeting was held between representatives of the Ukrainian
Orthodox Church of the Kiev Patriarchate (UOC KP) and the Ukrainian
Autonomous Orthodox Church (UOAC), where practical issues relating to
the creation of a single Ukrainian Orthodox Church were discussed. The
chairman of the State Committee for Religious Affairs in Ukraine, Viktor
Bondarenko, also took part. Representatives of both churches expressed the
opinion that one independent church should be formed, but the State
Committee was more circumspect. It appears that, in its desire to avoid �the
destabilisation of society�, the State Committee is pursuing a policy of
forming an episcopate for the future church only from local bishops.

I. UKRAINE: BREAKTHROUGH FOR ORTHODOX UNIFICATION?

by Anna Vassilyeva, Keston News Service

Following an agreement reached during a visit by a mixed delegation of the
Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAOC) and the Ukrainian
Orthodox Church of the Kiev Patriarchate (UOC KP) to Istanbul between 12
and 14 June, the two sides have entered into an active dialogue aimed at
unifying at least the two smaller of the three branches of Orthodoxy in the
country. Representatives of both churches recognised that there is already
inter-communion between priests, and a similar relationship is under
discussion at an episcopal level. Although there are a number of points of
disagreement, a joint commission is working to resolve them.

The agreement, which was signed at the residence of Ecumenical Patriarch
Bartholomew in Istanbul and has been circulated in the national media, sets
out the aims of the negotiation process: `We, representatives of two
Orthodox Ukrainian Churches, having met at the Ecumenical Patriarchate:
Metropolitan Andrei of Lviv and Sokal and Archbishop Daniil of Rovno and
Ostrozh of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kiev Patriarchate; and
Metropolitan Mefodi of Ternopol and Podolsk and Bishop Makari of Lviv of
the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church, in the presence of
Metropolitan Constantine (Buggan) of Irinupolis from America, have,
following an exchange of views and opinions, and recognising the obligation
and necessity of uniting with each other in order to achieve as an end result
one united Ukrainian Orthodox Church, resolved the following:

1. Both sides have declared that there are no ideological differences between
them as far as Orthodox theology is concerned. 2. Representatives of the two
churches, the UOC KP and the UAOC, should meet in Kiev to discuss the
details and prospects for full unification of our two churches, as a first step
towards unification of all Orthodox believers in Ukraine. 3. To form a joint
commission of the two churches, made up of: Metropolitan Andrei of Lviv,
Archbishop Daniil of Rovno, Bishop Dimitri of Pereyaslav-Khmelnitsky,
Metropolitan Mefodi of Ternopol, Metropolitan Andrei of Ivano-Frankivsk
and Bishop Makari of Lviv, to discuss the details that may arise in the course
of unification of the two churches, the UOC KP and the UAOC.'

According to the agreement `the commission will work under the aegis of
Archbishop Vsevolod of Skopelos (of the Ecumenical Patriarchate), who
will keep the Ecumenical Patriarchate regularly informed of the results of the
commission's work. Both sides are obliged to realise the above-cited
resolutions.'

Speaking from Lviv on 10 July, the same day bishops of the UAOC and
UOC KP met in Kiev (see separate KNS story), Bishop Makari told Keston
he regarded the key issue as `inter-communion between the bishops'. He said
that Metropolitan Mefodi and Archbishop Andrei represented the UAOC at
the meeting. He had not attended because, he said, `he did not agree with the
ban imposed by the UOC KP on those priests who had moved over to the
UAOC'. He said that if Patriarch Filaret did not lift the ban, he would
withdraw his candidature for the joint commission.

On the same day, the secretary to Metropolitan Andrei (of the UOC KP),
Father Vladimir Bachinsky, confirmed to Keston that a dialogue had
developed between the churches and also that, on 24 June, a meeting had
taken place in Ternopol as scheduled. In his opinion, there were currently no
obstacles to unification of the churches.

Bishop Makari and Father Vladimir confirmed that priests of the UAOC and
the UOC KP were practising inter-communion, which is also confirmed by
the UAOC Patriarchate.

Bishop Makari sees an obstacle to the creation of a single church in the
anathema pronounced on Patriarch Filaret. `We in the UAOC have not
anathematised anyone, and if the Ecumenical Patriarch can lift the anathema,
then there will be no other obstacles.'

After a period of waiting for the development of an active dialogue (see
KNS 16 March 2001) there was an initial visit to Kiev between 26 and 28
May of this year of a joint delegation of the Moscow and Ecumenical
Patriarchates, as well as its previous meeting in the Swiss town of Zurich, in
April. The delegation from Kiev was made up of Archimandrite Athenagoras
(Peckstadt), and an interpreter, hieromonk Illarion (Rudnik) from the
Ecumenical Patriarchate; archpriest Nikolai Balashov, secretary for inter-
Orthodox relations in the Russian Orthodox Church, and Pyotr Lagovsky of
the Department of External Church Relations from the Moscow Patriarchate.
Although meetings with representatives of the UAOC and the UOC KP took
place in hotel rooms where members of the delegation were accommodated,
Archbishop Igor Isychenko of the UAOC thought that `there had been a
virtual recognition of the Ukrainian churches by participants in the talks',
although, in an e-mail to Keston on 5 June, he noted that this `had not been
referred to in the official press releases of the Moscow Patriarchate'.

All those interviewed by Keston, including Archbishop Igor, were united in
the view that a united Ukrainian Orthodox Church should be `independent
and equal with all the Orthodox Churches throughout the world'. `Although,'
writes Archbishop Igor, `representatives of the Moscow Patriarchate have
carefully tried to propose autonomous status for the future church, this
suggestion was immediately turned down by representatives of the Ukrainian
churches.' Recently, Father Vladimir and Bishop Makari confirmed that the
Moscow Patriarchate was not taking any role in the unification process.

However, the Moscow Patriarchate did take part in the subsequent meeting
that took place in Zurich from 12 to 14 July, being represented by
Metropolitan Kirill, the head of the Department for External Church
Relations, and Father Nikolai Balashov. The UAOC and UOC KP were
represented by two bishops each, the UOC MP by one bishop (Metropolitan
Agafangel of Odessa), with Metropolitan John of Pergamon and
Metropolitan Meliton of Philadelphia representing the Ecumenical
Patriarchate. Several sources told Keston that the presence of Viktor
Bondarenko, the chairman of the Ukrainian government's State Committee
for Religious Affairs, was vetoed by the Russian Orthodox Church.

One source told Keston on 20 July that as a compromise, the ROC agreed to
give three regions in western Ukraine - Lviv, Ternopol and Ivano-Frankivsk
- to the UOAC and grant it autocephaly, and then to discuss the issue - as it
was put - of unification over the next 20-30 years. Patriarch Filaret
(according to the source) is out of question for the ROC and was not
defended by the Ecumenical Patriarchate. The next meeting is to take place
at the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Bondarenko is also reportedly trying to take
part.

Archimandrite Athenagoras Peckstadt, who was part of the Ecumenical
Patriarchate's delegation, told Keston from Belgium on 24 July that `no
decisions had been taken at the meeting except to continue the dialogue and
to take the next steps'. He declined to reveal the content of the discussions,
but confirmed that the next meeting will take place `at the end of the
summer'.

`The ideal solution for all the Orthodox Churches in Ukraine is the creation
of a single, autocephalous Orthodox Church in Ukraine,' Archimandrite
Athenagoras stressed. `This is what the Ecumenical Patriarch desires to see
in the nearest future.'

Keston also sought comments from Metropolitan Meliton about the course
of the unification process, but he did not respond. (END)

II. UKRAINE: STATE COMMITTEE TO KEEP FOREIGNERS OUT?

by Anna Vassilyeva, Keston News Service

On 10 July a meeting was held between representatives of the Ukrainian
Orthodox Church of the Kiev Patriarchate (UOC KP) and the Ukrainian
Autonomous Orthodox Church (UOAC), where practical issues relating to
the creation of a single Ukrainian Orthodox Church were discussed. Not all
the bishops who are members of the previously-created commission for the
unification of the two branches of Orthodoxy in the country attended the
meeting, which took place with the participation of the chairman of the State
Committee for Religious Affairs in Ukraine, Viktor Bondarenko. And
although representatives of both churches expressed a similar opinion that
one independent church should be formed in the country, the State
Committee was more circumspect.

On 10 July, four days later than previously scheduled, a meeting took place
at the Patriarchate of the UOC KP between `a group of bishops from the
UAOC, who are members of the commission for unification of the UAOC
and the UOC KP' and the UOC KP Patriarch Filaret (Denisenko), according
to a statement from the UAOC Patriarchate. Metropolitan Andrei
(Abramchuk), Metropolitan Mefodi (Kudryakov), Archbishop Roman
(Balashuk), Archbishop Ioann (Modzalevsky) and Bishop Yakov
(Makarchuk) also attended the meeting on behalf of the UAOC, while
Metropolitan Andrei (Gorak), Archbishop Daniil (Chekalyuk) and Bishop
Dimitri (Rudyuk) represented the UOC KP.

According to press releases from the UAOC Patriarchate, there had been no
recent notification of the date of the meeting; the invitation to participants
had been communicated `verbally, by the chancellor of the Ternopol
diocese, archpriest Bogdan Skaskivisky'.

Patriarch Filaret's participation in the meeting demonstrates a clear
development in the process of dialogue, given that meetings with a
representative of the joint delegation of the Moscow and Constantinople
Patriarchates, who visited Kiev in May of this year, were attended neither by
Metropolitan Constantine (Buggan), head of the UAOC parishes in North
America under the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarch, nor by Patriarch
Filaret.

And despite certain differences in attitude, which in particular were the
reason for the absence of Bishop Makari (Maletich) from the meeting (a
UAOC bishop and a member of the joint commission for unification of the
churches), issues relating especially to inter-communion between bishops
were to be discussed at the recent meeting.

`Now there is no unification process like this one,' Bondarenko told Keston
by telephone on 13 July from Kiev. `Two churches, which are related by
their public and political positions, are extending their range of contact.'

Commenting on the outcome of the 10 July meeting, Bondarenko noted that
both churches had recognised that there were `no obstacles to joint services'.
But he stressed that `bishops may not make their communion together'.

Unlike representatives of the UAOC and the UOC KP, which see the future
united Ukrainian Orthodox Church as `equal to other Orthodox Churches',
the State Committee has been more cautious in its pronouncements,
declaring that `there is no organisational move into unification', and that at
this stage the discussion is about establishing `normal relations between the
churches'.

Bondarenko noted that he had not participated in the discussion at the
meeting on 10 July, but had `followed its progress, taking the view that
unification brought with it the threat of new schisms and consequently, the
destabilisation of society'.

Without having information on the UOC KP, Keston has learnt that the
overwhelming majority of UAOC bishops who took part in the meeting -
four or five - used to be clerics in the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC).
(Patriarch Filaret too used to be a metropolitan in the ROC.) Asked to
comment on this, Bondarenko said he did not find anything remarkable in it,
as `practically all the UOC bishops were once clerics in the ROC' - an
assertion that clearly points up the division between, in particular, the two
parts of the UAOC - in Ukraine and abroad. `I believe that people have
expressed their attitude to that church [the ROC] by leaving it.'

It appears that, in its desire to retain control over the process, the State
Committee is pursuing a policy of forming an episcopate for the future
church from the local bishops. At a meeting with Keston in October 2000,
Bondarenko stated categorically that he did not see the head of a future
united church being chosen `from among the Varangians [i.e. foreigners]'.
The authorities believe Metropolitan Constantine Buggan might assume the
post, as he was the favoured choice of the late Patriarch Dimitri as his
successor as head of the UAOC. Being the most recent newcomer to the
canonical structures of the UAOC abroad (under the jurisdiction of the
Ecumenical Patriarch), he would have recognised de facto the canonical
nature of the UAOC in Ukraine.

The election of the head of the UAOC, a post taken by Metropolitan Mefodi,
formerly an employee at the Department of External Church Relations in the
Moscow Patriarchate, was attended not only by officials of the State
Committee, but was accompanied by a certain pressure on UAOC clergy,
Keston has learnt.

The presence at the meeting on 10 July of an overwhelming majority of
former ROC bishops may be explained, believes Archbishop Igor Isychenko
(UAOC), `in the attempts by the Ukrainian political establishment to prevent
direct contacts between the UAOC and the diaspora and our departure from
state control'. Commenting on the establishment of a wing of former ROC
clergy within the UAOC, Archbishop Igor admitted in an e-mail to Keston
on 25 April that `a section [of the episcopate] of the UAOC is absolutely in
favour of taking certain steps to join the "Moscow Patriarchate". But even
the officials who are "supervising" this group understand that such a move is
only possible independently, without the parishes. True, Bishop Ioann
(Modzalevsky) has nothing to lose. He too, over the course of last year,
spoke out with even more candour than Bishop Mefodi as an opponent of
contacts with the Ukrainian Orthodox diaspora.' (END)