Celebrations marking 20th anniversary of the Kharkov Council of Bishops of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and Metropolitan Vladimir’s ministry at the chair of Kiev
On the eve of the commemoration day of St. Vladimir Equal-to-the-Apostles, July 27, representatives of Local Orthodox Churches assembled at a grand dinner to extend congratulations to His Beatitude Metropolitan Vladimir of Kiev and All Ukraine on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the Council of Kharkov and his primatial ministry.
Metropolitan Emmanuel of France greeted Metropolitan Vladimir on behalf of His Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople and read out his congratulatory message stating in particular that ‘the feeling of unity has always prevailed among Orthodox Churches, their clergy and faithful – the unity of the faith but also the unity of accomplishments and aspirations. Especially in this period, in this historical context when the world is changing and humanity is experiencing a common crisis of values, it is necessary to feel this unity and experience it so that we may succeed in the cause of our Lord God and Saviour Jesus Christ… This cause devoted to the ministry of Orthodox unity is really great, excellent and pleasing to God’.
Metropolitan Peter of Aksum (Patriarchate of Alexandria), speaking on behalf of His Beatitude Patriarch Theodore II of Alexandria, made a special mention of the personal friendly relations between the Metropolitan of Kiev and the Patriarch of Alexandria.
Archbishop Niphon of Philippopolis, representative of the Patriarch of Antioch in Moscow, in his speech, underscored the need to preserve spiritual unity between Ukraine and the Russian Orthodox Church, referring to the history of the Kharkov Council of Bishops of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which took place with the support of the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church, and to the personal example of the late Metropolitan Nikodim of Kharkov and Bogodukhov. ‘Let us pray to the Lord that those who have fallen away from the unity of the Mother Church may return to her fold. In this lies our sacred duty before the whole Christendom and the holy history of the past and the future’, he said.
Archbishop Theopylactus of Jordan, Patriarchate of Jerusalem, thanked Metropolitan Vladimir for the invitation to the celebrations and the opportunity to celebrate the festive liturgy together.
Metropolitan Gerasim of Zugdidi and Tsaishi, chairman of the foreign department of the Georgian Orthodox Church, conveyed to Metropolitan Vladimir a congratulatory message from His Holiness and Beatitude Catholicos-Patriarch Iliya II of All Georgia.
Bishop Irinej of Bac extended congratulations to Metropolitan Vladimir on behalf of His Holiness Patriarch of Serbia and thanked the Ukrainian and Russian Churches for the support they give to the Serbian Church in defending shrines in Kosovo. He also conveyed congratulations from Serbian President N. Nikolic. He spoke of the need for Serbia to orientate herself to the Orthodox East rather than to the West. He contrasted the unity and conciliarity of the Ukrainian Church with the pernicious activity of church schisms, saying, ‘By her example, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church has shown to the Orthodox world that a church can be independent in her culture while preserving the unity of the Church’.
A congratulatory message from His Holiness Patriarch Daniel of Romania was read out. It underscored in particular the providential nature of the election of His Beatitude Vladimir to the chair of Kiev, his courage shown in a difficult situation, his wisdom, experience and prophetic work.
Metropolitan Gabriel of Lovec, Bulgarian Orthodox Church, read out a congratulatory message from His Holiness Patriarch Maxim of Bulgaria.
His Beatitude Chrysostomos II, Archbishop of Jew Justiniana and All Cyprus, conveyed his congratulations to Metropolitan Vladimir through Metropolitan Basilios of Constantine, who was present at the celebrations.
Metropolitan Nikolaos of Mesogaia and Laureotica thanked His Beatitude Vladimir for the invitation and, on behalf of His Beatitude Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens and All Greece, expressed to him love and best wishes. He compared the church schism in Ukraine with the Greek Old Calendar schism and expressed the wish that Metropolitan Vladimir, who witnessed the beginning of the schism, may become a witness to its ultimate abolition.
Archbishop Avel of Ljubljana and Holmes, speaking on behalf of the head of the Polish Orthodox Church, compared the primatial feat of Metropolitan Vladimir with the Old Testament feat of the Prophet Moses, who led the people of God to the Promised Land. He also pointed to spiritual unity in the history of the Russian Orthodox Church and the Orthodox in Ukraine and expressed the wish that Metropolitan Vladimir may preserve this unity in the future.
There were also congratulatory messages from the head of the Orthodox Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia read out by Bishop Joachim of Godonin and from the Orthodox Church in America read out by Bishop Alexander of Toledo.
In his response, Metropolitan Vladimir, in the first place, thanked Patriarch Kirill for his visit to Ukraine and participation in the celebrations and invited him to come to Ukraine again and again. ‘For us, your every visit is like a new Pascha’, he said. He also thanked the representatives of Local Orthodox Churches for coming, noting that it testified to the unity of Local Orthodox Churches with the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. He also thanked the ROC Holy Synod members for the joint work they carried out and the meeting they held in Kiev and concluded his speech with asking Patriarch Kirill for his blessing and the words, ‘May the name of God be blessed now and ever unto the ages of ages!’
In conclusion of the dinner, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia thanked Metropolitan Vladimir for his primatial ministry, saying, ‘We are delighted at your recovery; we have prayed for you when the Lord visited you with an illness, and now you again show us the power of your word, the power and beauty of your thought. We thank the Lord that twenty years ago He pointed at you and our episcopate here, in Ukraine, unanimously elected you as their head. In these twenty years, there have been many joys and sorrows. What was required of you were great patience, courage, wisdom, calm and daring. It is easy to name this qualities but it is so difficult to combine them in one person in a situation you have had to go through together with your Church. Today we rejoice in what has happened in these twenty years, as despite divisions, temptations and other manifestations of human sinfulness, the Church has preserved her power and unity. I would like to thank all the brothers who have responded to my invitation to come. We are rejoicing today in the successes of the Ukrainian Church, in the 20th anniversary of the Council of Kharkov and the Day of your Beatitude’s Patron Saint. May God grant that the unity of Universal Orthodoxy may never be broken, because on this unity depends not only the salvation of our souls, the souls of those responsible for church life, but also the destiny of the human race…’