Andrii Derkach
Member of
Ukrainian Parliament
Publications List

Politicians and religion: keep out of the burning bush!

Yesterday I was watching the leaders of Ukraine got "into the burning bush", when they voted to adopt a resolution on the president's appeal to the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to provide the Autocephality Tomos to the Orthodox Church in Ukraine.
  • 20.04.2018
  • Andrii Derkach Facebook

And the angel of the Lord appeared to Moses
in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush.
Moses said: “I will now turn aside, and see this great sight,
why the bush is not burnt”.
And He said: “Draw not nigh hither”
And Moses hid his face,
for he was afraid to look upon God.
Exodus chapter 3

Yesterday I was watching the leaders of Ukraine got “into the burning bush”, when they voted to adopt a resolution on the president’s appeal to the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to provide the Autocephality Tomos to the Orthodox Church in Ukraine.

I remember well the Lord`s words in the Bible, who called upon Moses not to come nigh the burning bush. Then Moses was afraid and did not break the word of God. It is scary to break the word of the Lord! I, as a layman, refused to participate in the decisions of church problems within the parliament, and as a people`s deputy I abstained from voting. Because yesterday’s decision of the deputies is a big mistake.

I will explain my position and the consequences that Ukraine can expect after the decision of the authorities to take up religion.


The legal side

Ukraine is a country of many religions. In such a state, no government agency has the right to decide what kind of religious structure or any religious group should be.

The task of the state is to create equal rights and conditions for the free exercise of any faith, if this does not violate the law.

There is a Constitution, which directly says that the church in Ukraine is separated from the state.

Nonetheless, there is the initiative of the president and yesterday’s decision of the VRU to intervene in the issues of religion. This directly violates the Constitution of Ukraine. We together with the deputies are preparing an appeal to the Constitutional Court. And the court must decide. But there is another facet of the problem.


The ethics

The first. It is important to remember that the political deputies are also people with their religious beliefs.

Among the deputy corps there are also Protestants, Catholics, Greek Catholics, Jews, representatives of the Charismatic formations and many others.

Yesterday they all tried to impose their vision on what kind of Orthodoxy in Ukraine should be. And each of the deputies voted not for the interests of citizens, but partly for the interest of their confession in the fight against Orthodoxy.

For some of them it was faith, for some, it was competition on the field of “religious services”. And for someone, it was both. Thus it was… And I looked at the happy faces of Protestants, Greek Catholics in the hall with regret. And, taking into account their emotions, replicas and actions, yesterday they had acted, to put it mildly, not for Christian love and leniency.

The second. Those who yesterday voted on the question of the Orthodox Church probably did not understand that such actions completely destroy the principle of the conciliar nature of the Orthodox Church.

Such decisions are the exclusive prerogative of the Sanctified Council, where three important participants are present: bishops, priests and laity. This is the basis of all Orthodoxy. The integrity of the church is its conciliarity. If there are no these three components, there is no conciliar decision.

In addition to being a deputy representing my constituents, I am a layman of the Orthodox Church, and I also do not want the split of the Orthodox. Like other deputies, I had no right to vote “for” or “against” this decision. So I pressed the “abstained” button.


What comes next

Do deputies know what they asked for? Do they understand together with other leaders of the country the real causes and consequences of their actions?

Yes, the motives for bringing the issue of autocephaly to the top of the agenda at the session are also the beginning of the presidential campaign; and a scandal with Onishchenko’s films – he had to be hidden in a veil of smoke. And many other motives.

All this was said by deputies from the rostrum, all over the air and on the news. But in reality, everything is not quite as it seems at first glance. And the technologists, the staffs of the candidates, and the parties are all preparing for the presidential elections and hope that they will ride the electoral wave.

From the religious point of view, if we talk about the possible actions of the two canonical Patriarchs: the Ecumenical and the Moscow Patriarchies, we must even be very cautious in projections, following the two principles: respect and “do no harm.”


What actually can outgrow

A consequence of the first. Extraterritorial status of the diocese with autonomy rights

One option may not be autocephaly for some of the existing parts, but an intermediate extraterritorial status of the diocese with the rights to autonomy.

And the Ecumenical Patriarchate, having a thousand-year experience of state-church relations around the world, will find a brilliant canonical explanation for this status.

And this status will remain until the Unification Council will be held or there will be a “Tomos with a postponed decision”.

It can be assumed how many decades it will take to gather all the parties. Suspended the situation…

In addition, the Ecumenical Patriarchate is not so monolithic in decisions. Both the bishops and the metropolitan are also people with their temptations and desires. The Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate is chosen by rotation. And if today everything seems to be good for the solution of the Ukrainian question, tomorrow it is not so clear.

The variant with the extraterritorial status of the diocese with autonomy rights is not needed either by the Kyiv Patriarchate, by the UAOC, or even by the UOC.

Such a status is needed only by the Ecumenical Patriarchate itself, which will then offer bishops and parishes to join this newly formed canonical structure. This will lead to the parishes of traditional churches in Ukraine “pour down”. This will be accompanied by scandals, strife, conflicts.


The second consequence. The final split

If the granting of autocephaly to the now existing UOC and UOC-KP takes place, it will be supported only by several Patriarchates on the one side and by several Patriarchates on the other.

That will certainly result in the final rupture in the family of the Orthodox churches of the whole world. We will get a split in Orthodoxy on the basis of the “Ukrainian theme”.

And I, as a citizen, would be very reluctant to see the Ukrainian government that got into this “burning bush” split the whole Orthodox world.


The third consequence. The conflict property redistribution

In the case of autocephaly, there is a risk of redistribution of church property on the balance sheet of the penitentiary system, hospitals, military units, and municipal organizations. And this will cover the whole country with conflicts and will only divide the Ukrainians.

In addition, if the attempts to seize power and redistribution of property from the Greek Catholics would be doubtful, including in the Pochaev Lavra issue, under the God-fearing Lyubomir Guzar, then, under the efficient primate of the UGCC, an active politician, administrator and diplomat, the situation with seizures “with blood weeping and gnashing of teeth” in a result, can be possible.

The task of the authorities is to sew Ukraine together, but not split.

And the authorities not only climb into the “burning bush”, but also drag a log with them.


How each President of Ukraine has been burned

Yesterday’s decision was initiated and adopted by those who did not dare to consider the newest historical background of Ukraine.

And what does the history of Ukraine teach us? Every time the president tried to interfere in church relations, it ended up with a problem or a challenge for him, but not a rise in the ratings.

I’m not a supporter of conspiracies and mystical coincidences, but you can count the number of months when Kravchuk together with the secret services tried to create a split in Orthodoxy. After that, the presidential elections and his departure took place.

One can recall Leonid Kuchma’s letter “about autocephaly” and his attempt to interfere in Orthodoxy in 2000. Six months later, he was given a test, which was difficult to pass – the Melnichenko`s films appeared.

In 2008, Viktor Yushchenko arranged a visit to Kyiv for the Ecumenical Patriarch and tried to oppose Moscow and began talking about the transfer of Sophia Kyiv as the metochion. He barely made it to the end of the presidential term.

I remember exactly how Viktor Fedorovich in September 2013, took up Orthodoxy with an attempt to retire His Beatitude Vladimir. Everyone knows where Yanukovych is now and what his fate is.

As history has shown, interference in religion by the powerful never benefits them.


What we were talking about with Poroshenko

At the beginning of the presidential term of Petro Poroshenko, I had a conversation with him. At that time I told him it is very important not to confuse personal image with faith and not to interfere in the affairs of confessions.

To listen to the advice of an Orthodox brother or not is a private matter.

In fact, it is very important for the Orthodox in his serious deeds to receive a blessing.

Everybody does things in their lives which will be granted with the God’s grace or deeds for which will be ashamed. Now – there is the dangerous moment when exactly such actions are committed, for which they will be ashamed.

I do not want to seem edifying, but I know for sure: the Head of the Church is the Lord, and not the respected patriarchs, bishops, laymen, presidents, deputies. There will be times when you have a temptation and an illusion that you or someone is “in the driving seat” of the church, but…

Do not tell the Lord your plans. All will be as He planned. If someone from the authorities really believes that he figured out all the risks of yesterday’s decision, then he is either a smart alec or a madman.

Be not tricked; God is not made sport of.

God dwells not in strength, but in truth.