Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has decided to award Patriarch Filaret (Denysenko) of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) the title “Hero of Ukraine”, he announced on his official Facebook page.
“No level has yet been invented which could measure the contribution of Patriarch Filaret to the fight for our own local church. He has been and remains the spiritual leader of the Ukrainian church, the spiritual leader of the Ukrainian people. That is why I have decided to grant him the title Hero of Ukraine,” the President wrote.
The relevant presidential decree has been published on his official website.
“The title Hero of Ukraine is awarded to Filaret for his outstanding historic role in the formation of the independent UOC, his activity aimed at reviving the spirituality of the Ukrainian nation, raising the authority of orthodoxy, and affirming the ideals of mercy and interconfessional agreement,” Poroshenko’s press service wrote.
On December 15, the unified and independent Ukrainian Orthodox Church was formed, uniting the UOC of the Kyiv Patriarchate, the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church, and part of the UOC of the Moscow Patriarchate. Bishop Epifaniy was elected as primate of the new church, and was given the title Metropolitan of Kyiv and all Ukraine. Patriarch Filaret, the former primate of the UOC of the Kyiv Patriarchate, received the lifelong title of honorary patriarch of the newly formed united church.
In an interview with Radio Liberty, Filaret effectively admitted that he had been forced to resign from his position as head of the local church. However, he said that he did not fight for the position.
“My goal is to create a unified orthodox church in Ukraine. Not to put myself on a pedestal, but to achieve the goal that I set at the very beginning. And for the sake of this goal, that is for the sake of the unified Ukrainian Orthodox Church, I gave way to it. If hadn’t given way, we would not have achieved unification and would not have received the tomos on the autocephaly (independence) of the Ukrainian church,” Filaret observed.
Patriarch Filaret’s 90th birthday will be celebrated on the government level in Ukraine on January 23, 2019.
On January 5, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew signed the tomos of autocephaly for the UOC. On January 6, the document was officially handed over to Metropolitan Epifaniy of Kyiv and all Ukraine (Dumenko).
On January 7, the primate of the UOC conducted a service in the St. Sophia Cathedral in Kyiv.