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Polish Orthodox Church head: Ukrainian church head Epifany never ordained as priest

Also he branded the emergence of a new religious body in Ukraine as a dangerous precedent

KIEV, January 9. /TASS/. Metropolitan Sawa of Warsaw and All Poland has called Epifany, the head of the new Orthodox Church of Ukraine, a secular person but not an ordained priest, so the Polish archbishop will not congratulate him on election.

"This young secular man was harmed a lot when he was appointed an archbishop. Under the canon law, he is not a clergyman. He has never been ordained as a priest in a canonical church," Metropolitan Sawa was quoted as saying on Tuesday by the press office of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Moscow Patriarchate.

The archbishop stressed that Ukrainian politicians grossly interfered into the church’s affairs.

"In Ukraine, the state has the entire power and it can even deny registration for a church," he said, "But the main thing is that at the same time a church is created by uniting worshippers. They have to decide what church they want to belong to."

The head of the Polish Orthodox Church branded the emergence of a new religious body in Ukraine as a dangerous precedent and supposed that the fact might have a negative effect on the situation in Poland.

"It cannot be ruled out that a group of believers might appear in Poland, home to more than one million of Ukrainians. Filaret [earlier, the head of schismatic Kiev Patriarchate - TASS] will attempt to set up his own parishes. I have heard recently that the Right Sector (a Ukrainian far-right organization, which is outlawed in Russia) was considering Epifany’s possible visit to Poland. This could cause chaos for us," he said.

Constantinople Independence

On January 6, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople handed the Tomos of Autocephaly (or a decree on independence) to the head of a newly-founded Ukrainian church, the so-called Orthodox Church of Ukraine (PCU). The Tomos translated into Ukrainian, which was circulated by the Ukrainian ambassador to Turkey, said that "the rights of the Ecumenical Throne to the Exarchate in Ukraine and the sacred Stavropigia remain undiminished", and the PCU’s "significant issues" should be solved at Constantinople. In addition, according to the text of the document, the autocephalous PCU is limited to the borders of the Ukrainian state, it cannot ordain bishops or set up paraffies outside Ukraine, and, unlike the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC), it cannot independently make Chrism, or a consecrated oil used in the administration of certain sacraments.

The canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church dubbed the presentation of Tomos as a legitimized schism, which had existed in the Ukrainian Orthodox Church for 30 years.

Church crisis in Ukraine

Since the February 2014 coup, Kiev has sought to create an independent church in Ukraine that would sever ties with the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church. In April 2018, Ukrainian President Pyotr Poroshenko wrote a personal letter to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople asking for autocephaly for the Ukrainian church.

On December 15, Kiev hosted the so-called ‘unification’ council held under the supervision of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople and brokered by the Ukrainian authorities. The canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church refused to take part in the event, stressing that both the ‘unification council’ and Poroshenko’s newly founded ecclesiastical establishment were illegitimate. Nevertheless, after the council, the Ukrainian president announced the establishment of this new church in the country.