O Bart, Bart! Wherefore art thou Bart?

(cf. Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Act 2, Scene 2, Line 33)

Those are the words that came into my head when I watched the news. The punk actor, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who has been elevated inexplicably to president of the largest country in Europe outside Russia is deliberately persecuting the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC). He has expelled the hundreds of monks and students at the Lavra (large monastery) of the Kievan Caves on the pretense that the ecclesiastical property belongs to the Ukrainian state, which will do with it whatever it will. The ostensible reason for the eviction? They say these religious are accused of having ties too close to Moscow, even though they and the UOC have demonstrated their unfailing loyalty to Ukraine during the year-old war. The UOC has even declared its full independence from the Russian Orthodox Church. This unjustified persecution is an action that is tantamount to expelling the pope and the curia from the Vatican for being good Catholics loyal to the Roman Catholic Church.

Mr. Tough Guy

Tucker Carlson addressed the issue with an Orthodox guest at the thirty-minute mark of his presentation on March 14. They discussed it for three minutes, so now millions of Americans know about the situation, Carlson’s show is so popular. He has brought the issue up before because this is not the first step in Zelenskyy’s crackdown on the UOC. However, what has not been mentioned is the complicity of Bartholomew’s faux church, the OCU. That would be the so-called “Orthodox Church in Ukraine”, a bastard ecclesial group hatched just five years ago by the machinations of the vaunted patriarch of Constantinople, the one and only self-aggrandizing prelate by the name of Bartholomew. Certain members of our own U.S. federal government, specifically the Dept. of State, were involved in the creation of this monstrosity along with Zelenskyy’s predecessor, former president Petro Poroshenko.

Our sorry excuse for a U.S. president is all-in for Zelenskyy and his defense of Ukraine against Russia, so he and his government are partly responsible for this present persecution. As a religionist, Biden is about as unserious as they come, so there’s no surprise there. St. Patrick’s Day has recently passed, but it’s doubtful that our Irish Catholic president is aware that Patrick is an orthodox saint, since the apostle of the Emerald Isle lived and evangelized long before the Great Schism between East and West. If Biden were aware of that little factoid, would he care? Probably not.

Nevertheless, now that we know the ugly truth of Zelenskyy’s persecution of Ukraine’s genuine Orthodox Church, we must ask ourselves whether this means nothing to us. Tucker Carlson raised the question about the church leaders in the United States. Do we hear their voices in protest? Where is the outrage that this persecution of fellow Christians is taking place in a Christian country?

As of the deadline for eviction from the monastery, March 29, several metropolitan bishops have voiced their protests, even some American ones. Most notable amongst the Orthodox hierarchs may be Patriarch Porfirije of Serbia, whom I quote in full:

Patriarch Porfirije of Serbia

in connection with state terror
against the Ukrainian Orthodox Church

The Ukrainian Orthodox Church, as is well known, is the canonical and legitimate Orthodox Church in Ukraine, and at the same time the largest religious organization in this country. It is recognized by all Orthodox Churches in the world, as well as by all non-Orthodox Churches and denominations, while the non-canonical schismatic structure, which, although it calls itself the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, does not even have the elementary attributes of a church, is recognized by only four Orthodox Churches, which make up a very small percentage of the total number of believers in the Orthodox world. 

Of course, if the numerical disparity were in favor of a non–canonical structure, that is, not in favor of the canonical Church, this still wouldn’t change anything on the ontological level, because the Church is the Church, and an illegal parasynagogue can become a Church only through repentance and canonical procedure, but not by the stroke of anyone’s pen. 

The Ukrainian Orthodox Church is not at all one of the “warring parties,” but a living and functioning Church of God, which is in unity of faith and liturgical communion with the Russian Orthodox Church and other Orthodox Churches. Wars, both just and unjust, are waged by states, not Churches. In itself, the treatment of the Church as an enemy is monstrous, because believers from both sides of the tragic confrontation belong to it. 

The Church is always for peace. It constantly prays for peace and does everything in its power to make friendship and love replace enmity and hatred between people. The Church doesn’t divide people into “friends” and “strangers,” “fellow citizens” and “foreigners.” In the name of God, Who is Love, the Church strives to embrace with love and pastoral care for the salvation of the soul and life of everyone who needs brotherly love and help. 

The best example of such a position and behavior is given to us by the Ukrainian Orthodox Church—its primate, His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev and All Ukraine, its episcopate, priesthood, monastics, and faithful people. Therefore, it is with deep concern, sorrow, and compassionate brotherly love that the Serbian Orthodox Church beholds the patience of the saints (Rev. 14:12; cf. 1:9) in Ukraine, beholds the oppression, violence, and persecution that the current Ukrainian government is carrying out against the canonical Church, and thereby against the majority of its own citizens, given the fact that we are talking about the largest religious community in the country. 

The persecution literally culminated in recent days with the forcible seizure of churches in favor of a pseudo-church schismatic structure enjoying the status of a kind of “state Church” and an informal inquisition. 

The upcoming peak of terror, conceived exactly according to the scenario of the Soviet persecution of the Church, was also announced—the expulsion of two hundred and fifty monks, as well as over a hundred teachers and students of theology from the Kiev Pechersk Lavra, the spiritual source and century-old center of Holy Rus’, the Baptismal Font of Eastern Slavic Christianity and Orthodoxy in modern Ukraine, Russia, and Belarus. 

The Kiev Caves Lavra with its sacred treasures is not only a symbol and center of Orthodox Ukraine and, more broadly, of the “Russian world” (however this term is understood), but also an inexhaustible life-giving spiritual font for all Orthodoxy. Moreover, the spiritual and cultural heritage of the Lavra is an extremely important and visible element not only of the Ukrainian and all–Russian, but also of the world cultural heritage. 

In the light of these facts, the decision of the current state leadership of Ukraine to expel Metropolitan Onuphry, the monastic brotherhood and the Theological Academy from the Lavra is nothing but a synonym for the horrific state terror over the Church, as well as the grossest violation of its fundamental rights, violation of both religious freedoms and freedom of conscience in general. 

The behavior of the Ukrainian state leadership testifies that its true and probably ultimate goal is the destruction of historical memory and all traces of the original Orthodoxy in Ukraine in order to change its code and historical identity, which the Church has created in patience and torment, preserving for centuries, from the Holy Prince Vladimir to the present day. 

Feeling and knowing that the only existing Orthodox Church in Ukraine, headed by Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev, carries its cross with courage and humility, hopefully ascending to Golgotha—both Christ’s Golgotha and its own, we are certain that the Crucified and Resurrected Lord, thanks to deep faith, forgiveness and love for everyone, including those who have become its enemies by their own choice, will grant His Church the strength to endure all the incumbent sufferings that it can bear. 

Simultaneously with this cry, we raise our voice against the terrible injustice and state terror over the Church in Ukraine, which “cries out to Heaven.” We hope that Churches and religious communities, institutions and organizations that care about peace, justice, and at least some kind of order in the world will condemn the gross violation of religious rights and freedoms in Ukraine. 

Praying fervently to the Lord for the cessation of the fratricidal war in Ukraine and for the speedy establishment of blessed peace on its land, we await with faith, hope, and love the triumph of the Cross and the Resurrection of Christ over the forces of darkness, evil, and death. Before Thy Cross, we bow down in worship O Christ, and Thy holy Resurrection we glorify.

Patriarch Porfirije

Joe and Elpi are chums.

In contrast to that very clear statement by the Serbian patriarch in support of the Lavra, we have this rubber chicken statement today from the archbishop of the Greek Orthodox Church in America:

“(We) are compelled to lend our voices, our strength, our energy, to the defense of liberty and democracy in every way that we are able. To speak for the voiceless. To advocate for the defenseless. To fight for the powerless, even as we are bold to speak truth to power.”

That was Abp. Elpidophoros speaking in Washington at a dinner on the occasion of the annual celebration of Greek Independence.

High-minded platitudes these are indeed, and yet not a word was spoken by the vaunted archbishop in defense of the innocent monks and seminarians of the largest and oldest monastery in Ukraine on the very day of their eviction! What an opportunity he was granted to support his fellow Orthodox! What a disappointment that he didn’t take it! The man is absolutely tone-deaf. But, of course we know why. Oh yes. Elpi stands in full support of Patriarch Bartholomew, the Grand Wizard of Istanbul, who offered and executed the “tomos of autocephaly” to the OCU. That is the aforementioned Orthodox Church in Ukraine, which is neither Orthodox – because it is an illegitimate organization, nor a Church – because there is only one Ukrainian Orthodox Church. The so-called metropolitan of the OCU is Epiphany Dumenko, a schismatic imposter whose very existence snarls in contempt for the true shepherd of Ukraine, Met. Onuphry of the UOC.

Epiphany and Bartholomew, arch-schismatics

O Bart, Bart, wherefore art thou Bart?! It is at crucial times like this that we look eastward toward the rising sun and to Istanbul, hoping for some utterance of consolation and spiritual encouragement from our Chief Shepherd. But, what endearing words do we hear from his excellency, the Holiest of Holies and most worthy Ecumenical Patriarch?

The cacophonous sound of crickets on a summer’s night...

So far it appears that Patriarch Bartholomew has had nothing whatsoever to say about the eviction of the rightful residents of the Lavra of the Kievan Caves. At this point, his silence has become deafening. Will we hear from him soon? That’s doubtful. What thief would raise his hand and cry out, “I admit it. I’m the one who stole the money!”? Bart’s uncharacteristic reticence belies his complicity in the overthrow of the Lavra and the UOC in general. He’s the chief conspirator in this confounded intrigue. Church historians will hold him culpable for this bait-and-switch that has led to so much suffering. The schismatic patriarch will be held responsible for driving a wedge into Orthodox unity that may take decades, even centuries, to overcome.


Author: Lawrence B. Wheeler

B.A., M.Div. Former Anglican priest, convert to Orthodoxy.

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