Tomorrow, The Unity Synod will be held in Kyiv, of course, there were some different points of view on Constantinople and the UOC-KP during the preparation. For the most part, it concerned the presence of lay people and the format of voting, and then the president’s participation was also the focus of community discussions. Opinion has found out whether there is a need for the presence of ordinary believers, what this might affect, what should be the format of voting, and whether Petro Poroshenko should take part in the Synod.
Lay people at the Synod: to be or not to be?
The discussion, in particular, of this issue, began with Patriarch Filaret’s recent statement regarding his own disagreement with certain proposals from Constantinople. There were two differences in the imagining of the Synod: the participation of believers and ordinary priests and the format of voting. Constantinople insisted on the presence of lay people and secret ballot. Filaret stressed that the final decision should depend on the Kyiv Patriarchate.
“The Kyiv Patriarchate is the largest church. And it depends on us, whether we will accept what is demanded from us or not. If it will be useful to us then we will accept it. If this does not benefit us, the state, or the church, we simply will not vote, we will reject it,” said Filaret.
However, a few days ago the spokesman of the UOC-KP Yevstratii Zoria said, that the lay people will actually take part in the Synod, as Patriarch Bartholomew proposed. Zoria added, that different points of view do not mean that, in the end, a common decision will not be agreed.
“The Kyiv Patriarchate prepares for the Synod and intends to take part in it. According to the blessing of the Holy Universal Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the bishops, clergyman, monks and lay people will participate in the work of the Synod. The availability of proposals from the Kyiv Patriarchate to the Rules of the Synod or the procedure for the election of the Metropolitan doesn’t mean that, in the end, a common decision won’t be agreed. As members of the Synod, we obviously have the right to make our proposals, to argue and support them,” assured the archbishop.
The Metropolitan of the UAOC Makariy told us, that after all the lay people will be present at the Synod, arguing that the invitation clearly said: one priest and one layman with the bishop.
“How can we call the Synod archiereus, if one priest and one layman with a bishop are invited? You know, I will not judge anyone. We obey the Ecumenical Patriarchate temporarily. It was clearly stated that each bishop takes one priest and one layman with him,” was said in the comment.
The question of the creation of a single local church is an issue that went beyond purely church life, and therefore the lay people should be present at the Synod. This opinion was voiced for Opinion by Serhii Tsyhipa, a political expert, publicist and a reservist of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.
“The participation of the lay people in the work of the Unity Synod is a requirement of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. In my opinion, thus the secular component is added to the Synod. And this makes sense, because the creation of the United Ukrainian Local Orthodox Church is a requirement of time because the question of the creation of a single church has long gone beyond purely church life,” the expert says.
Maryna Bahrova, a member of the Board of the Institute of National Policy International Union, believes that the presence of the lay people can be proof of commitment and support for spiritual guidance. The presence also plays an important role from a political point of view, as it helps to confirm the legitimacy of the Synod.
“The lay people, along with bishops and clergymen, have the right to take part in the Unity Synod. In this event, the lay people will mainly act as supporters of the association of Orthodox churches and a support group for their spiritual guidance. From a political point of view, this factor will confirm and strengthen the legitimacy of the Synod. The United Synod with the participation of a wide range of lay people will have a serious informational effect, which will increase the positive image of not only the authorities but also of the newly formed United Ukrainian Orthodox Church. Citizens of Ukraine wanted to have a canonical Orthodox Church that is in line with the national interests of the country, and they received it – that is the massage of Ukrainian power to the world community as a whole and to the rest of the Orthodox world,” Maryna Bahrova emphasized.
Dmytro Bohuslavskyi, a lawyer, also told us about the role of the lay people in the context of the legitimacy of the Synod. However, according to the expert, it is worth remembering, that this notion is not synonymous with legality, and it only means recognition of the decision of the Council by the believers themselves.
“Formally, this issue is regulated exclusively by the internal rules of the church. There is a Bartholomew letter, which states that lay people can take part. Their (non) participation affects the legitimacy of the Synod only. Legitimacy is not in the sense of legality (these words are not synonyms), but in the sense of recognizing the decisions of the Synod by believers,” the lawyer is convinced.
Secret or open: about the format of voting
Metropolitan of the UAOC Makariy, answering journalists’ questions about the format, emphasized that, despite the desire of Filaret to openly express the will, nobody will agree to do that, as the church statute emphasizes: the metropolitan is elected by a secret ballot.
“Although Patriarch Filaret says it is open, nobody will vote open. Both in our statute and in the statute of the church of the Kyiv Patriarchate, it is said that the metropolitan has to be chosen by the Local Council and by a secret ballot,” Makariy said.
Commenting on the format of voting, Serhii Tsyhipa noted that the secret expression of will is a more democratic way, as it will help to avoid a certain pressure. The ultimate agreement of the UOC-KP on this very format is undoubtedly a positive decision since the agreement with Constantinople was reached.
“Secret voting is a more democratic way of expressing will. After all, voting open theoretically can cause psychological pressure from the leadership of the uniting sides on the priests. Constantinople, therefore, insisted on a secret ballot. And it is great that, despite his negative attitude towards this, the head of the UOC-KP Filaret agreed to a secret ballot,” the expert thinks.
However, Dmytro Bohuslavskyi is convinced that there is no sense in talking about the format of voting, since ignoring the demand of Constantinople for the secret expression of will can only lead to negative consequences. In the end, the main goal is to get the Tomos.
“If the goal is the recognition of the Synod by Constantinople, then the ballot should be secret. You can talk for a long time about the theoretical advantages and disadvantages of secret / open voting, but this has no practical sense. Even if under the weight of the irresistible theoretical arguments (which I don’t see) the open ballot will be favored (which is very unlikely), then this vote would have no meaning for Fener. All votes of the Council will be worthless, the process of creating an autocephalous Orthodox church in Ukraine will not be completed and it will not receive Tomos”, the expert explained Opinion.
Participation of Petro Poroshenko in the Unity Synod
As Dmytro Bohuslavskyi explained to our media, the main attitude of the opponents of the idea of Presidential presence at the Synod is that Petro Poroshenko can intervene in the process, while supporters in the possible presence of the guarantor can only see the additional support for an independent church. In the end, Bohuslavskyi believes that there is a good chance that Poroshenko will be present because electoral advantages can overcome a possible negative.
“The attitude of the opponents of participation can be reasoned by the fact, that the President interferes and creates the benefits for one of the churches. The attitude of the supporters of his participation can be reasoned by the fact, that this is not a question of interference (and all the churches are equal), but of support for the establishment of an independent church, recognizing the right of other believers to participate in any other.
Taking into account that the state (the president and parliament) supported the autocephaly by formal acts, most likely, the electoral advantages of the participation of the President in the Synod will be recognized more positive than a possible negative, and Poroshenko will take part in the work of the Synod,” the lawyer said.
However, the archbishop and the UOC-KP spokesman Yevstratii Zoria believes, that there is nothing illegal in the presence of the president, even more, it can contribute to the more responsible conduct of the Unity Synod.
“This is not a political project by Petro Poroshenko. Speaking about the project, this is a project of the Ukrainian people, but not in the sense of politics or some kind of party affairs, but in the initial sense, the effort and the desire to independently manage their affairs.
From a church point of view, this is not forbidden. He is a member of the Orthodox Church, not just a president. If he had another religion, then there could be some problems. I believe that the presence of the president is an important element that will contribute to a more responsible conduct of the Synod,” said Yevstratii Zoria.
Serhii Tsyhipa, in his turn, stressed that the president’s presence could be explained only if he came as an ordinary layman, as the procedure implies in another format, Petro Poroshenko should not take part.
“Personally, I don’t really like the idea of President Poroshenko’s presence during the work of the Synod. If he is there as an ordinary layman with one archbishop – then his presence will be clear. In any other case, the tenant of the presidential office under the church canons should not be involved in a pure church event,” said Serhii Tsyhipa.
Maryna Bahrova has an entirely different point of view, she is sure: the president’s presence can be explained by the peculiarities of obtaining a canonical status since, without the consent of the national authorities, this is unlikely to happen.
“The appropriateness of the presence of the head of state on the United Orthodox Synod is determined by the fact that, according to the canons of the Orthodox Church, the Orthodox Church cannot obtain a canonical status without the consent of the national authorities, in contrast, for example, with the Roman Catholic Church, whose capital is the Vatican – a separate state that was specially created for the management of the church, which we don’t have in Orthodox Christianity. Therefore, according to the canons of Orthodox Christianity, the president must take part in the unity Synod,” was mentioned in the comment.
By Dmytro Zhuravel