The visit of His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I to Ukraine, which took place as part of the solemn celebration of the 30th anniversary of Ukraine’s Independence, has been completed.
This was a historic event, not only due to the fact that the 30th anniversary of independent Ukraine symbolically coincides with the 30th anniversary of the patriarchal ministry of His All-Holiness but also due to the fact that this is the first visit of the top hierarch to our state after the unification of Ukrainian Orthodox denominations into the Orthodox Church of Ukraine.
The visit was compounded by the enormous opposition of Ukraine’s adversaries and opponents of the unity of world Orthodoxy, who had made titanic efforts to intimidate, blackmail, threaten, and use other methods traditional for the Kremlin to disrupt the visit or have it canceled altogether.
Despite all the efforts by Moscow, the visit did take place. And the very fact of this could already be considered a success, given the current situation.
During the visit, it became clear that the love that the Ecumenical Patriarch cherishes for Ukraine, its people, and the newly created autocephalous church cannot be leveled even by the most insidious intentions and actions by the Russian aggressor. True brotherhood and unity in prayer withstood the pressure of the Putin regime and gave many reasons for sincere joy.
It should be recalled that earlier this year Russian agents of influence in Ukraine, including Andriy Derkach, Nestor Shufrych, and others, wrote a letter to the Ecumenical Patriarch urging him not to visit Ukraine at the invitation of the authorities and the OCU.
Shortly afterwards, the “backbone” of the Russian Orthodox Church in Ukraine (UOC-MP) and other pro-Russian forces began to form in our country. The Myriany (Laymen – ed. ) NGO was at the forefront of protests against the visit of Patriarch Bartholomew I.
The “laymen” (Myriany) held a series of protests, which, thanks to the Kremlin and Vadym Novynsky, rallied thousands of people, for a symbolic sum, to hold posters insulting the Ecumenical Patriarch, the OCU, and the Ukrainian government.
But all the efforts of pro-Russian forces proved futile. On the eve of the arrival of Patriarch Bartholomew I, Nikolaos Papachristou, chief of the Press and Communications Department of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, spoke in an interview with the Spiritual Front of Ukraine about Phanar’s attitude to information attacks.
“Had they (ROC and ROCinU – ed.) been really interested in Church unity, they would not have remained indifferent to the split in Ukraine for 30 years and would not make insulting statements against the Ecumenical Patriarch, which are often repeated,” he told the Papachrist.
He added that the First Throne Church of Constantinople will continue its ministry for the benefit of the unity of the Church and the faithful people of God. “Lies and slander do not affect or stop the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Let them understand this once and for all, and maybe in this way they will change their course while there is time,” Nikolaos Papachristou said.
But the ROCinU could not be stopped. The “laymen,” controlled by the religious organization, tried to spoil the mood of the highly respected delegation of the Mother Church by a protest rally along the Boryspil highway, holding posters declaring that “their leader is Onufriy.”
However, the protests never achieved their goal. And from the first minutes of their stay in Ukraine, the delegation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate launched its Archpastoral mission.
Dialogue with the Ukrainian authorities
Immediately after arriving in Kyiv, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I met with President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky. The next day – with Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine Dmytro Razumkov, and on Tuesday morning – with Prime Minister of Ukraine Denys Shmyhal.
At each meeting, the Ecumenical Patriarch noted the high level of cooperation between government and church in Ukraine and stressed the importance of further steps that would help implement a number of initiatives. In addition, the authorities and His All-Holiness discussed issues beyond church-related ones. Much attention has been paid to environmental issues and other challenges facing all humankind.
Boundless love for the Ukrainian people
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I never forgets what Ukraine sacrifices every day in fighting for its own freedom. Despite the fact that 30 years have passed since the declaration of independence, our state is forced to defend its own territory from an extremely strong adversary, the Russian Federation.
Every day His All-Holiness recalls our state in prayers, praying to the Lord to grant peace and freedom to the Ukrainian people.
While on the Dnipro hills, he honored the defenders of Ukraine who have died for the freedom and independence of Ukraine since the beginning of the Revolution of Dignity, as well as the victims of the Holodomor genocide of 1932-1933.
“We remember those soldiers, volunteers, doctors who have been defending this land since 2013. And today, as we recognize and honor those who have served in the Armed Forces, we also remember those who have made the greatest sacrifice for their country and nation. May their memory shine forever. Today, the Church of Constantinople, which is now the sister Church of the newly formed Orthodox Church of Ukraine, sends its blessings to your ancient country, which is constantly renewed, washed with blood, suffering, and great sacrifice, but this land has given the Slavic peoples everything, the holy Orthodox faith in all its beauty and infinite wisdom,” Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew said, addressing the IV International Volunteer and Veterans Forum “Ukraine 30. Defenders.”
And then, His All-Holiness met with a girl from Volyn, named Martha, who was saved from death by Patriarch Bartholomew’s prayer. The meeting was full of incredible joy.
One day, when the Ecumenical Patriarch was going to serve in the Patriarchal Cathedral in Phanar, a priest, an exarch in Ukraine, approached him and asked for prayer and blessings for a girl who found herself in a difficult situation, on the verge of life and death. The patriarch listened intently, asked her name, and went on to pray for her.
God let her live, to the joy of her parents. She recovered.
Three years on, the girl, for whom Patriarch Bartholomew had prayed, came to Kyiv to thank him personally. Overwhelmed, she gave the patriarch a bouquet of white flowers. “You and gratitude to you will always be in my heart,” the girl said anxiously to the silver-haired patriarch, who hugged, kissed, and blessed her for life.
Constant prayer for Ukraine
Almost every day of his stay in the capital of Ukraine, His All-Holiness dedicated himself to prayers for our state.
Worship in St. Michael’s Golden-Domed Cathedral alongside the OCU clergy, the evening service in St. Andrew’s Church – Stauropegium of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and a solemn liturgy with the participation of the Primate of the Constantinople Orthodox Church and the Primate of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine in the St. Sophia of Kyiv National Reserve were the climax of the big visit.
Each service has become a clear fact of confirmation of the correct actions by Constantinople in the difficult Ukrainian church issue, which due to the destructive actions of the Moscow Patriarchate had been troubling Ukraine for almost 30 years.
In particular, during the meeting of Patriarch Bartholomew with members of the Council of Churches, the head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church Archbishop Sviatoslav (Shevchuk) thanked the Ecumenical Patriarch for the fact that he, as a good pastor, feels all modern-day pains of the Ukrainian people.
Only the inhabitants of the mythical “Russian world” didn’t rejoice.
To the Kremlin’s great disappointment, the persecution of “Russian Orthodoxy” just didn’t happen…
Every day, August 20-24, the Kremlin’s servants went out on their senseless protests against His All-Holiness’s visit. It was clear that the visit has taken place, and its significance for modern Ukraine is difficult to overestimate.
Such actions by Ukrainian law enforcement irritated the Kremlin no less than the visit of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. After all, now no one has any doubt that the “persecution of Orthodoxy” is a sorry invention of Russian propagandists. And from now on this card will be increasingly difficult to play.
The extremely professional approach of the National Police of Ukraine has perfectly demonstrated which country (northeast of Ukraine) builds totalitarianism, and which (southwest of Russia) builds democracy, respects mutual respect, and is open to any worldview.
So tonnes of dirt, lies, and insults poured out of Moscow – due to their hopelessness and helplessness. Representatives of the ROC were also noted to this end.
In particular, a clergyman of the Russian Orthodox Church, Archpriest Andrei Tkachev, who is referred to as a favorite preacher of Patriarch Kirill (Gundyaev), who fled from Ukraine to Russia a few years ago, was marked by a stream of solid Russian Orthodox hatred.
The representative of Russian “Orthodoxy,” the alleged preacher of love, did not hide his indignation.
“Ukraine is a country under external control, a country with a disoriented, tortured or crazy people. The state of crazy Russians, because more than half the population are Russians. Ukraine is a demon that seeks to shed blood of its children. It wants to fight and restore nuclear weapons,” he said.
As for the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, he compared him to one who “clung to the harlot” and became one with it. “Bartholomew is in Kyiv, and Kyiv is celebrating 30 years of madness,” Tkachev said in his “enchanting” welcome speech.
But Russian propaganda was unable to influence the outcome of the festive and solemn events.
With love for Ukraine in his heart
In conclusion, we should note that the visit of the Ecumenical Patriarch gave the Ukrainian people the joy of contact with His All-Holiness. The patriarch left a part of his heart and warmth in Ukraine, as well as testified to his support and love for our homeland.
So now, Ukraine has received new inspiration and, having received the blessing and prayerful support of His All-Holiness, can soon expect victory over all enemies, visible and invisible, after which the long-awaited true peace in freedom will reign on our land.
In the evening of August 24, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I and his entourage took off from Boryspil Airport for Istanbul (Constantinople). “Thank you for everything and may God bless everyone!” the patriarch said to the Ukrainians.