The Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church yesterday announced its decision to excommunicate and cast anathema upon Filaret, Patriarch of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Kiev Patriarchate, and the parish priest Gleb Yakunin. The Russian Synod’s decision, adopted unanimously at a meeting chaired by Patriarch Aleksy II, condemned "monk Filaret" for "schismatic activities." In Kiev, Patriarch Filaret instantly dismissed the decision on the grounds that he and Yakunin did not belong to the Church that claimed to excommunicate them. (Interfax-Ukraine, NTV, February 20)
The Russian Orthodox Church seeks to its retain its supremacy over Orthodox churches in former Soviet republics. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Kiev Patriarchate was formed in 1992 through separation from the Russian Church in a move that mirrored Ukraine’s political independence. Filaret (lay name Denisenko), who had headed the Ukraine Exarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church as a Metropolitan appointed by Aleksy II, eventually identified fully with Ukrainian independent statehood. He became Patriarch in 1995. A substantial part of clergy and laity, however, have remained within the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate, canonically a part of the Russian Church. There also exists a Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church, which never recognized Moscow’s supremacy and was persecuted by the Soviet authorities.
Yakunin, a Russian priest, Soviet-era campaigner for church freedom, and prisoner of conscience, has been persecuted in the post-Soviet era by Aleksy and the Russian Orthodox hierarchy for having criticized their cooperation with the KGB. Defrocked by the Russian Church, Yakunin last year joined the Ukrainian Church and is currently the priest of a parish near Moscow affiliated with the Kiev Patriarchate.
Crimean Parliament in Conciliatory Mood.