There is a story that during the war, the Catholicos-Patriarch of Georgia at the time, Calistratus (Tsintsadze), came to see Stalin. Stalin ( who at one time had studied at the Tbilisi seminary and who had even met the future primate) invited him to lunch, to sit and gossip. The patriarch arrived in civilian clothes to see the “great leader.” During lunch, while giving several flowery toasts according to Georgian custom, Stalin asked him: “Whom do you fear more: God or me?” The patriarch began to explain in the same high-sounding manner that he respects both God and the “great leader.” However, Stalin interrupted him : “There is no need to pretend. You fear me more than God. Otherwise you would have worn church clothing.”
This story came to mind when Metropolitan Onufriy, the primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP), did not stand up during the solemn meeting of the Verkhovna Rada (Ukraine’s parliament — Ed.) when President Poroshenko called out the names of the ATO heroes — both the living and the dead — and when all the people in the room stood up, without exception, including members of the opposition and the foreign delegations. It also came to mind when the press service of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate issued an explanation of the metropolitan’s position:
“During the speech of the President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko those present stood during the reading of the names of those who were awarded the title of Hero of Ukraine for their participation in the defense of the homeland in the east of our country. The blessed Metropolitan Onufriy did not react to that speech in the same way as all the other guests and participants at the solemn meeting in order to emphasize that the war must end immediately! He has often paid tribute to all the heroes who are defending Ukrainian borders. However, there can be no justifications for fueling the fires of war that almost daily are taking the lives not only of the military but also of Ukraine’s defenseless civilians, including children. They are dying on both sides of the frontline.”
It would have been better if the press service had remained silent: Ukrainians and foreign guests would have thought that Metropolitan Onufriy was simply, to put it mildly, an ill-mannered man. Now everyone knows that he is “Moscow’s slave” who fears Putin more than God. Because in a situation where there is daily shelling of Ukrainian troops by Russian-terrorists groups, where Ukrainian soldiers and civilians are dying almost daily from these attacks, where Russia has brought into Ukraine a huge quantity of new and offensive military equipment, where the pro-Russian puppet “leaders” at LNR and DNR repeatedly announce that they will soon “liberate” all of Donbas and then go on to Kharkiv, Zaporizhzhia and Dnipropetrovsk, that kind of announcement unmistakably clarifies certain matters: the Metropolitan Onufriy, and in his person the entire direction of the UOC-MP, is demanding the unconditional surrender of Ukraine and Ukrainians. Because the “immediate end to war” can mean nothing else when the occupying Russian forces and gangs ignore the Minsk agreements, prepare for attack and openly proclaim their plans. Or perhaps Metropolitan Onufriy and his team believe Ukraine’s laws confirming the occupation and the status of the occupied Donbas territories are meaningless and perhaps he considers that this is purely an internal conflict in the Donbas between “Orthodox brothers” with no external aggression? Then he and the UOC-MP leadership should either leave the Ukrainian state or answer to it for their anti-state activities.
And regarding the statement that “there can be no justification for fueling the fires of war,” let the Metropolitan Onufriy demand these initiatives from Putin and (Patriarch) Kirill (primate of the Russian Orthodox Church — Ed). But no, the fact that Metropolitan Onufriy fears them on a very basic level is clear from the behavior of this church leader who is so different from the late Metropolitan Volodymyr, who was a cautious person and resolute in action. But people like Volodymyr (Sabodan) are no longer present in the leadership of the UOC-MP, otherwise Onufriy probably would have already lost his position…
However, these cassocked individuals who defiantly sat in the hall of the Verkhovna Rada do not fear President Poroshenko or the Ukrainian authorities. I think they do not fear God either because, by and large, they are concerned with the Moscow Patriarchate and not the Church of Christ. This Moscow Patriarchate would be better described as “Stalinist” because the Russian Orthodox Church, which supposedly was “revived” in 1943, is in fact a typical “remake” dating from the militant Bolshevik era and the result of the efforts of the propaganda department of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and “competent authorities.” For this reason the “laws on de-communization” should apply to this organization as well.
But judge for yourself. Here is just a portion of the document titled “Greetings from the clergy and laity of the Russian Orthodox Church to the leader of the nations of the USSR, the Generalissimus Joseph Stalin on his 70th birthday,” which was signed by the entire leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church at the time: the patriarch, 5 metropolitans, 21 archbishops, and 47 bishops.
“On the day of your 70th birthday, … we, church people, feel the moral need to add our voice to the powerful choir of congratulations … As citizens of the great Soviet Union and the faithful children of the people, we first of all deeply respect the achievements of your very productive life, your unreserved struggle for the freedom and happiness of the people, and we see in this achievement the exceptional strength and dedication of your spirit…
The triumph of justice is revealed to us in your wise and firm leadership and the charitable transformation inside the country, while the desire for the common good inspires the far-sighted foreign policy of our state… Witnessing at every step your noble efforts to make people’s lives peaceful and happy, we see in your person not only a great statesman and leader, guiding the lives of people in a new direction of history, but also a fatherly, caring trustee of all aspects of our human existence with all its various needs…
In the name of the Russian Orthodox Church, we bring you, dear Stalin … our profound gratitude and we warmly greet you on this day that is significant for all of us who love you and we pray for your strength… and wish you many years of life for the happiness and joy of our great Motherland…
Admit it, weren’t you disgusted by these tributes to the “great leader” who is practically unmatched in history when it comes to persecuting Christians?
But something else is the core issue here. The Russian Orthodox Church has never repented for the vile behavior of its hierarchy, for its servility to Stalin’s anti-Christian regime, for its lies and servility. As recently as the 1980s, Orthodox students were expelled from the Kyiv University and the Kyiv Technical Institute if they refused to work for the KGB. Moreover, the Russian Orthodox Church is trying to downplay the criminal nature of Stalinism and to disguise its anti-Christian character altogether.
“Without justifying but condemning the repressive regimes, we must still distinguish between repressive and people-hating regimes, Patriarch Kirill has declared. ” For me Nazism is an anti-human regime, while Stalinism is a repressive regime,” he explained.
So the question arises: is the UOC-MP preparing to remain a branch of the “Stalinist patriarchate?” Several years ago it seemed that it was not, that implicitly positive processes were taking place. Today we see that the activities of the UOC-MP, at least at the highest levels, are defined by the fear of Putin and servility to the Kremlin and not the selfless service to God and people.