Filaret (Denysenko)

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Filaret Denysenko July 2014.jpg
Church Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyivan Patriarchate
See Kiev
Installed July 1995
Term ended Incumbent
Predecessor Volodymyr
Ordination 18 June 1951
Consecration 4 February 1962
by Pimen I of Moscow
Personal details
Birth name Mykhailo Antonovych Denysenko
Born (1930-01-23) 23 January 1930 (age 88)
Blahodatne, Amvrosiivsky Raion, Donetsk, Ukrainian SSR
Signature Filaret's signature

Patriarch Filaret (secular name in Ukrainian Mykhailo Antonovych Denysenko, in Russian Mikhail Antonovich Denisenko, officially His Holiness, the Patriarch of Kiev and All Rus’ - Ukraine Filaret; born 23 January 1930[1]) is the head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyivan Patriarchate (since 1995), and a former Metropolitan bishop of the Russian Orthodox Church (until 1992; excommunicated in 1997).

Early years[edit]

Mykhailo Denysenko was born into a worker's family of Anton and Melania Denysenko in the village of Blahodatne in the Amvrosiivsky Raion (district) today in the Donetsk Oblast (province) in Eastern Ukraine.[1] He obtained theological education at the Odessa Seminary (Moscow Patriarchate) and the Moscow Theological Academy where he became a close associate of Patriarch Alexius I of Moscow. He took monastic vows in 1950 assuming the monastic name Filaret and was ordained hierodeacon in January 1950 and priest in June 1951.[1] After his graduation he stayed at the Moscow Theological Academy as a professor (from 1952) and Senior Assistant to the Academy inspector.[1] In 1956 he was appointed Inspector of the Theological Seminary in Saratov and elevated to the rank of hegumen. In 1957 he was appointed Inspector of the Kiev Theological Seminary.[1] In July 1958 he was further elevated to the rank of Archimandrite and appointed seminary rector.[1]

Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church[edit]

From 1960 Filaret was effectively in charge of the Ukrainian Exarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church and served at St Volodymyr's Cathedral in Kiev, the exarchate's mother cathedral.

In 1961 Filaret served in the mission of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) to the Patriarch of Alexandria. In January 1962 Filaret was elected vicar Bishop of the Leningrad Eparchy and, in February, was ordained bishop in Leningrad by Metropolitan Pimen (later Moscow Patriarch) and other bishops. Filaret was appointed to several diplomatic missions of the Russian Orthodox Church and from 1962 to 1964 served as ROC Bishop of Vienna and Austria.[1] In 1964 he returned to Moscow as the Bishop of Dmitrov and rector of the Moscow Theological Academy and Seminary.

In 1966 he became archbishop of Kiev and Halych, thus becoming one of the most influential hierarchs in the Russian Orthodox Church, where the office of the Kyiv Metropolitan is highly regarded. At that time he also became a permanent member of the Holy Synod, the highest collegiate body of the Russian Orthodox Church, which has the responsibility of electing the Moscow Patriarch. In 1968 Filaret became Metropolitan of Kyiv and Galicia.[2] It is notable that he became the first ethnic Ukrainian in the post of Kyiv Metropolitan for 150 years.

As a leader of the Russian Orthodox Church in Ukraine, Filaret actively and publicly supported the persecution of Ukrainian churches that refused to join with the ROC: the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, the Ruthenian Catholic Church, and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church.

As late as October 1989 Filaret was still saying, "The Uniates will never be legalized in our country."[3]

With the ailing physical condition of Pimen I, the Patriarch of Moscow and All Rus', Filaret personally oversaw the preparation and celebration of the Baptism of Rus' millennium anniversary in 1988. That celebration redefined the relationship between the Soviet state and the church,[citation needed] and was marked by the return of numerous church buildings to the ROC.

Upon the death of Patriarch Pimen I on 3 May 1990, Filaret was widely viewed[by whom?] as a front-runner in the Russian Orthodox Church patriarchal election, especially when he became a patriarchal locum tenens. However, on 6 June 1990 the sobor (synod) of the Russian Orthodox Church elected Metropolitan Alexius of Leningrad, who was enthroned as Patriarch Alexius II.

On 27 October 1990, in a ceremony at St. Sophia Cathedral in Kyiv, Patriarch Alexei handed to Metropolitan Filaret a tomos granting "independence in self government" (the tomos did not use either of the words "autonomy" or "autocephaly") to Metropolitan Filaret, and enthroned Filaret, heretofore "Metropolitan of Kyiv", as "Metropolitan of Kyiv and All Rus-Ukraine".[1]

In 1992 the Russian Orthodox priest and Soviet dissident Fr. Gleb Yakunin accused Exarch Filaret of having been an informer for the KGB. Father Gleb stated that he had seen KGB files which listed Exarch Filaret's codename as Antonov.[4] According to internal KGB documents, tasks the KGB assigned Filaret as an agent included promoting Soviet positions and candidates in the World Council of Churches (WCC), the Christian Peace Conference (CPC) and other international bodies, and, by the 1980s, backing the Soviet authorities’ attempts to prevent the long-suppressed Ukrainian Catholic Church (disparagingly called ‘Uniates’) from regaining an open existence, and backing state attempts to prevent religious believers demanding their rights as glasnost and perestroika opened up the sphere of public debate.[5]

Creation and leadership of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church - Kyiv Patriarchate[edit]

Following Ukraine's declaration of independence from the Soviet Union on 24 August 1991, a national Sobor of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church was held from November 1–3.[1] At the sobor, the voting delegates, (who included all UOC bishops, clergy and lay delegates from each diocese; a delegate from each monastery and seminary, and recognized lay brotherhood) unanimously passed a resolution stating that henceforth the UOC would operate as an autocephalous church.[1] A separate resolution, also unanimous, affirmed the church's desire that Metropolitan Filaret be its Primate.

In March–April 1992, the Hierarchical Council of the Russian Orthodox Church met with a single agenda item: to consider the resolution passed by the UOC Sobor four months earlier. Although the issue itself was not discussed, Filaret was asked to resign.[1] On the second day of the meeting, Metropolitan Filaret agreed to submit his resignation to the UOC Synod, and the ROC Synod passed a resolution which stated:

"The Council of Bishops took into account the statement of the Most Reverend Filaret, Metropolitan of Kyiv and of All-Ukraine, that for the sake of church peace, at the next Council of Bishops of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, he will submit a request to be relieved from the position of the Primate of the UOC. Understanding of the position of Metropolitan Filaret, the Council of Bishops expressed to him its gratitude for the long period of labour as Archbishop of the See of Kyiv and blessed him to serve as Archbishop at another cathedral of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church."

However, after returning to Kiev, Filaret recanted his resignation. On 14 April, Metropolitan Filaret held a press conference in which he alleged that undue pressure was exerted at the ROC Synod in Moscow, both directly and through threats made by FSB personnel who, he said, were present at the gathering. Filaret stated that he was retracting his resignation on the grounds that his resignation "would not bring peace to the Church, would contradict the will of the believers, and would be uncanonical."

Shortly thereafter, the Russian Orthodox Church, unable to prevent the creation of what it viewed as a "schismatic church" in independent Ukraine, helped to organize a rival synod which was held in Kharkiv in May 1992. These bishops elected a bishop of the Russian Orthodox Church, Bishop Volodymyr (Sabodan), Metropolitan of Kyiv, and received recognition from Moscow as the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

Euromaidan activist kisses the hand of Filaret in the aftermath of 2014 Ukrainian revolution.

The bishops loyal to Metropolitan Filaret and a similar group from the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (another recently revived church in Ukraine) organized a unifying sobor which was held on 25 June 1992. The delegates agreed to form a combined church named the Ukrainian Orthodox Church - Kyiv Patriarchate under Patriarch Mstyslav.[1]

After the death of Patriarch Mstyslav in 1993, the church was headed by Patriarch Volodymyr, and in July 1995, upon the death of Volodymyr, Filaret was elected head of the UOC-KP by a vote of 160-5.[1]

Patriarch Filaret currently leads the drive for his church to become a single Ukrainian national church, but attempts to gain a canonical recognition for the church remain unsuccessful.

It is reported that he suffered an assassination attempt in 2018.[6]

Political views[edit]

Early September 2014, amidst the 2014 Russian military intervention in Ukraine,[7] Filaret implied that Russian President Vladimir Putin "calls himself a brother to the Ukrainian people, but in fact according to his deeds, he really became the new Cain, shedding the brotherly blood and entangling the whole world with lies" (referring to the bible story in which Cain kills his brother Abel).[8] He went on to conclude about Putin "Satan went into him, as into Judas Iscariot".[8]


State awards[edit]



See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Filaret:A Statehood-oriented Patriarch, The Ukrainian Week (8 November 2012)
  2. ^ Compare: Losiev, Ihor (2012-11-08). "Filaret: A Statehood-oriented Patriarch". The Ukrainian Week (International ed.). Ukrainian Week LLC. Retrieved 2016-11-22. Held several top offices in the Russian Orthodox Church in 1960-1990, including Exarch of Central Europe, Bishop of Vienna and Austria, Rector of the Moscow Ecclesiastical Academy and Seminary, Exarch of Ukraine, Metropolitan of Kyiv and Galicia (since 1968) 
  3. ^ Christopher Andrew and Vasili Mitrokhin, The Sword and the Shield: The Mitrokhin Archive and the Secret History of the KGB, (1999). Page 503.
  4. ^ Lawrence A. Uzzell, The KGB's Agents in Cassocks, By Lawrence A. Uzzell, The Christian Science Monitor, April 28, 1992.
  5. ^ The Antonov Files: Patriarch Filaret and the KGB
  6. ^ "There was an attempt to assassinate Ukraine's Orthodox Church Patriarch Filaret". 
  7. ^ Ukraine crisis timeline, BBC News
    Ukraine crisis: Ceasefire is 'largely holding', BBC News (6 September 2014)
  8. ^ a b Ukrainian Church leader likens Putin to Cain and says he is under the influence of Satan, The Independent (6 September 2014)

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