This letter is of particular importance, given the weightiness of the matter of Apostolic Succession and the credibility of Sergey Shumilo, the director of the International Institute for Athonite Legacy in Ukraine, a recognized scholar who has good relations with the Ecumenical Patriarchate and was an eyewitness to many of the events that he examines. Moreover, it was composed and sent with the blessing of Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware). The accompanying report, which Shumilo submitted to Patriarch Bartholomew, may be read in English translation here and in Greek here. The Greek original of the letter may be found here.
January 3, 2020
His Most Divine All-Holiness
Archbishop of Constantinople,
New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch
Kyr. Kyr. Bartholomew
All-Holy Father and Master, bless!
I humbly send Your All-Holiness for consideration independent expert research about the self-proclaimed “bishop” Vikenty Chekalin and his participation in the ordinations of the hierarchy of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church in 1990. The report is based on little-known archival documents which have never been published. It was prepared with the blessing of my spiritual father on Mount Athos, who happens to be a clergyman of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. The honorary President of our International Institute of the Athonite Legacy, His Eminence the Metropolitan of Diokleia Kallistos Ware, has also taken note of its contents and blessed it.
In September of last year, thanks to Your blessing and generous hospitality, I worked for two weeks in the Patriarchal Archive of the Ecumenical Patriarchate at the Phanar. For many years, I have been engaged in the study of the history of the Church and Orthodox heritage in Ukraine. In the context of my research, I have collected evidence and documents, among other things also regarding Vikenty Chekalin, whom some of my relatives knew personally in 1990. In June 1990, I was present at the First Pan-Ukrainian Gathering of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAOC) and am an eyewitness of many events. I knew personally the first hierarchs of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church, Ioann Bodnarchuk, Vladimir Romaniuk, Antony Masendich, Polycarp Pokhaliuk, Dimitri Yarema and others. Being informed in June, 1990 at the First Gathering of the UAOC about the participation of Vikenty Chekalin in the ordinations of the first hierarchs of the UAOC, I then gathered eyewitness testimonies and documents which confirm the self-proclaimed character of Vikenty Chekalin and handed them over to the judgment of the hierarchs and the Patriarchal Council of the UAOC. The protosyngelos of the UAOC, Metropolitan Antony Masendich and others promised me at the time that they would examine this issue and take action. But corrective actions were never taken, a fact that prevented me from entering into communion with the UAOC. The issue of the canonicity of the origin of the hierarchy and the keeping of apostolic succession has had and continues to have a great deal of importance and fundamental significance for me. This issue preoccupies my Christian conscience until the present.
Given that in August-September 2019 the websites Phos Phanariou and Romfea.gr published articles in Greek in which claims were made about the “validity” of the “episcopal dignity” of Vikenty Chekalin– in fact, in one of these articles there was a reference to a very old text of mine– I was forced to conduct independent expert research on the basis of archival and other documents and testimonies, the result of which is the present report, which I offer for Your judgment.
Published as an attachment to the aforementioned articles on the websites Phos Phanariou and Romfea.gr were the certificate of ordination from March 31, 1990 of the “bishop of Ternopil and Buchach” Vasily Bondarchiuk and a copy of the testimony from November 2, 1994 of Ioann and Vasily Bondarchiuk and the priests Igor and Myron Sas-Zurakofsky which, as mentioned in these publications, were submitted to the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople as “proof of the canonicity” of the hierarchy of the UAOC. Evidently, precisely these texts were taken into account when the decision was made to recognize the hierarchy of the UAOC “in their current rank” without there being performed any additional laying-on of hands or re-ordination and reception into communion in October 2018.
Given that there is every good reason to believe that these documents are fake and the elements presented in them do not correspond to reality, it may be the case that the Ecumenical Patriarchate made decisions on the basis of untrustworthy documents and testimonies that were submitted to it. The resulting situation requires a more detailed investigation of the present issue and an inquiry and consideration of correcting past errors.
As good as the motives may seem for justifying V. Chekalin’s “consecration” and the “ordinations” that he performed in 1990, the search for the truth in such matters should take priority over any personal, collective or political expediencies. Apostolic succession is one of the fundamental foundations upon which the Universal Church of Christ has been based for two thousand years. Any trick regarding it are unacceptable and bear serious consequences.
Our scholarly and social society, whose honorary President is His Eminence the Metropolitan of Diokleia Kallistos Ware, from the beginning has not participated in ecclesiastical and political disputes and has as its purpose the independent and objective study of the history of the Church in Ukraine and attempts to examine all its positive and negative moments in the light of truth.
Therefore, I submit to the judgment of Your All-Holiness the report which details the substance of the issue in question. I hope that the contents of the report will make better understood the complicated ecclesiastical events of the early 1990s.
We ask for Your holy prayers and blessings,
With filial respect and in the love of Christ,
The Director of the International Institute of the Athonite Heritage