Who does the OCU believe in?
In light of the ongoing attempts by the Ukrainian authorities to force the UOC communities to join the OCU, it is relevant to know the inside-out of this structure.
The authorities of Ukraine do not give up their attempts to get the UOC and the OCU “married”, using very harsh methods. For example, Metropolitan Pavel, the abbot of the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra, said in an interview with the UOJ that the SBU offered him a “compromise”, according to which if he joined the OCU, he would receive freedom and immunity from any government claims. Ordinary priests in parishes are offered a similar choice. By converting to the OCU, they instantly transform from "Moscow priests" into patriots, receiving support from the government and society. On a human level, this may seem tempting. However, from a Christian perspective, the situation looks different.
Increasingly, we see actions of representatives of the OCU, which are extremely far from the teachings of Christ. This manifests in various ways, and the reasons behind it are complex.
OCU and UOC: "priests" and priests
Not so long ago, the Internet was actively discussing the shortage of personnel in the OCU, which they tried to sort out through enticing ads. The problem for the OCU is not new, as far back as the autumn of 2019, announcements appeared on poles in Zhytomyr offering the opportunity to complete emergency courses and become a priest of the OCU. However, there were certain requirements, such as being of legal age, having no previous marriage, and having no "canonical impediments".
Similar situations occurred in other regions as well. For example, “Metropolitan” Daniel Kovalchuk of Chernivtsi urged the villagers to search for men willing to work as priests in the OCU: “We implore you – search for men in the villages who are worthy to serve the Lord God in the Holy Church. Men who can take on the burden of the priesthood – do it for the sake of the future of your children, our Church, and the state.”
Nearly four years later, with hundreds of UOC temples already transferred to the OCU, advertisements on the internet are now appearing, inviting applicants to join the OCU and become priests, deacons, or subdeacons within just three weeks. The ads promise a stable income and career advancement, which speaks volumes about the situation.
Would we trust our health to a "doctor" who only has a high school diploma with minimal grades and three weeks of medical education? Definitely not. Would we let a "nurse" perform even the most basic medical procedures after watching an instructional video? No, we wouldn't. Just like we wouldn't allow a gas worker into our homes knowing they received only three days of training.
To become a priest in the UOC, for example, seminarians dedicate four years of rigorous study at the seminary, followed by additional education at the theological academy. Many priests, in addition to their religious education, also hold secular higher degrees. Furthermore, with the recent events and challenges, diocesan hierarchs increasingly send priests to attend theological academies.
However, the most crucial aspect is that a priest understands that they will be held accountable for all their actions in the Dread Judgment, and they will also be responsible for their congregation, spiritual children, wife, and children.
"Clergy" of the OCU: "Witcher", "Separ" and "bishops"
It turns out that in the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU), becoming a priest and receiving ordination (hirtoniya) does not require anything special or significant. Even attending seminary is not mandatory. However, it is not always fair to speak about the complete illiteracy of OCU priests. Nevertheless, the issue is not merely educational but also related to the moral level of those who call themselves "priests" of the OCU. There are seminaries and even academies within the OCU, but to what extent do they help instill Christian thinking in their students?
On the Saturday of the Trinity and the Feast of the Trinity, parishioners of the Trinity community in Pereyaslav were forced to pray in the house of a priest because their church was transferred to the OCU.
The transfer was executed by a chaplain of the OCU, a devoted follower of Dumenko with a very eloquent call sign "The Witcher," originally from Transcarpathia (as previously mentioned).
In the Kyiv region, the new head of a transferred church is a former member of the Azov Battalion, convicted of robbery, with the call sign "Separ" – also a devoted follower of Dumenko.
Agreeably, the trend is indeed intriguing, although not surprising, considering the "quality" of the "episcopate" within the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU). For example, there is Tykhon Petraniuk, the "bishop" of Ternopil, who changed jurisdictions multiple times (from the UOC-KP to the UAOC, and then to the OCU). There is also a happy owner of an "LPR passport", and a member of the security services of that "republic" with the call sign "Queen".
Another example is "bishop" Adrian Kulik, who brutally beat his neighbor.
The list of such "shepherds" in the OCU could go on for quite a while. But even with all that has been said, a question arises: whom do the parishioners and "clergy" of the OCU actually believe in, having "witchers" and "separatists" among their ranks? Clearly, at the very least, not the God in whom Christians believe.
Faith in God and "faith" in ... grenades
On the “National Day of Prayer for Ukraine” in Bucha, representatives of the OCU, the RCC, the UGCC, as well as various Protestant denominations, prayed together. A unique aspect of this event was a request for modern weaponry for the war in Ukraine, made in the name of Christ by Andriy Tishchenko, Senior Bishop of the “New Generation” Christian Churches. Neither representatives of the OCU, nor Uniates or Catholics, during or after the event, objected to such requests, which contradict the spirit of the Gospel and the teachings of Christ.
Moreover, the “priest” of the OCU, Oleksandr Dediukhin, decided to get creative and promoted the sale of the inscriptions “God’s mercy” and “grace” on grenade launcher ammunition, which, according to him, should fall on the heads of the invaders – for them to meet with the Lord more quickly.
Even earlier, on Easter, the Ukrainian military prepared "gifts" for the enemy. And none of the OCU chaplains tried to reason with their soldiers. Painted grenades look particularly blasphemous...
So what kind of God do they believe in the OCU? The "god" of war? Is it possible to say that for the OCU, “god” is the one who was called a “serving spirit” in ancient times, and who must satisfy any request of the caller?
The second question is why is everyone so eager to win God over to their side, but does not think about which side they are on?
Whom do people believe in, painting grenades and shells with “blessings”? Whom or what do they lead their flock to?
The answers to these questions are as evident as the empty temples of the OCU. Despite having incredible influence in the government and all conditions for "prosperity," it appears that hardly anyone among the faithful follows the leaders of the OCU. Moreover, the "clergy" present in the OCU are either individuals with dubious backgrounds like "The Witcher" and "Separ," or figures like Drabinko and Dediukhin. So, what is the real issue?
Perhaps, the fundamental problem lies in the fact that for a structure claiming to be a Church, Christ should be at the forefront. As it is said, "Your house is left to you desolate" (Matthew 23:38) if it is not so. The emptiness of their churches might be a reflection of the absence of Christ in them. Where Christ is present, there is love.
Agreeably, people are tired of hatred, and what they truly need is love. Love has the power to heal their spiritual and physical wounds, to give them hope and faith in the future. When every person enters a church, they come to their Heavenly Father and, like any child, want to be embraced by a fatherly love. That is what matters most for human beings.
Therefore, it seems to us that the problem of the OCU is not merely a lack of qualified personnel, but primarily the absence of true faith in God and love for one's neighbor. If they do not comprehend this, they will never find Christ. Never.