A delegation of the Autocephalous Orthodox Church of Ukraine, headed by Archbishop Hilarion of Rivne, visited the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.
This pilgrimage of the Ukrainian Orthodox to the holy Mother Church of Constantinople was intended to give thanks and honor to Saint Euphemia, who intervened in a miraculous way in the correct decisions of the Fourth Ecumenical Synod in Chalcedon. In addition to dogmatic definitions, the Council gave to the Archbishop of Constantinople the responsibility to accept appeals from clergy and laymen of every Church, but also established his extraterritorial jurisdiction and responsibility.
Thus the Autocephalous Church of Ukraine, recognizing that, owing to these responsibilities of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, it was granted Autocephaly after many centuries, its schism was healed, ecclesiastical penalties were dealt with, and the conditions were created for the restoration of true unity to the faithful the people of the country, decided to nominate an official delegation to undertake this pilgrimage on July 11, the anniversary of the memory of the miracle of St. Euphemia, in order to pay tribute to her relics, which are kept intact in the venerable Patriarchal Church, and once again to thank the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew for the fact that as an independent Church, the clergy and the people of Ukraine have the opportunity to manage their internal affairs freely and at their own discretion.
At the official audience of the delegation on July 12 with the Ecumenical Patriarch, in the presence of a number of Hierarchs and the new Mayor of Athens, who visited the Phanar on that day, Archbishop Hilarion of Rivne expressed the gratitude of the Autocephalous Church and the Ukrainian people to the Ecumenical Patriarchate and their love for His All-Holiness. “We have come to express our gratitude to St. Euphemia for her miracle and our filial love for the venerable Ecumenical Patriarch. We believe that the day that the Church celebrates the miracle of St. Euphemia is also a feast for the Orthodox Church of Ukraine. Please accept our humble love and respect on behalf of the Primate of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine and all His Hierarchs, and our thanks for everything you did for us,” said Archbishop Hilarion, among other things.
His All-Holiness cordially welcomed Archbishop Hilarion and his synod, as well as the Consul General of Ukraine in the City, Oleksandr Gaman, who was also present, and said that it was a blessing that the Ecumenical Patriarchate had preserved the holy relic of St. Euphemia.
And Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew emphasized:
“With regard to the Holy Church of Ukraine, the newly-autocephalous Church, our sister who is to be added to the number of the other ancient Patriarchal and Autocephalous Churches, you should not thank us, because we simply did the maternal duty of the Church of Constantinople for the godly Ukrainian people, and nothing more. On the one hand, you took what belonged to you, and on the other hand, we gave you what we had the right and the duty, only we, as Constantinople, to give you. Among many others, the professor Antonios-Emilios Tachiaos, said this in a report to the Ecumenical Patriarchate which he sent at an unexpected time, in the early 1990s; after a thorough study and presentation of his views, I say that Constantinople has not only the right but also the duty to grant Autocephaly to Ukraine. The subject of Autocephaly in Ukraine did not suddenly arise; it has a history, and we saw this when we handed over the relevant files, from last year, mainly, and thereafter. For decades, not to say for centuries, the Ukrainian people wanted to have their own Church, its internal self-government. And the new regime, the developments we have seen in recent months, would have been accepted by all other sister Churches if there had been no political agendas and political pressures to the contrary. This recognition of your Autocephaly will come sooner or later, and the first sister Church to recognize this status will be the Holy Church of Greece. I take advantage of the opportunity of your happy and blessed visit to the courtyards of the Mother Church to send the warm greeting and the blessing of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to the Ukrainian people, and my brotherly enthusiasm to the Metropolitan Bishop and all the Hierarchy of the Ukrainian Church, in those days when you are preparing to commemorate the memory of St. Vladimir and the anniversary of the historic baptism of Rus on July 28." His All-Holiness announced that the Ecumenical Patriarchate will send an official delegation to these celebrations, led by the Metropolitan of France, Emmanuel, who will carry a sacred relic of the Holy Apostle Andrew the First-Called, so that on this historic anniversary he can worship with and bless the faithful people of Ukraine. The Ecumenical Patriarch then pointed out that the sacred historical ties between Constantinople and Kiev “were strengthened quite recently by the canonization by the Holy Synod of our Patriarchate of your great compatriot, the miracle-worker St. Luke of Simferopol, because it was requested by His Eminence Epiphanios, and because we know the great reverence and the great respect that St. Luke enjoys and the Greeks, in the Church of Greece, and more widely.”
At this point, His All-Holiness referred to the Metropolitan of Veria, Naoussa and Campania, Panteleimon, who earlier in his private audience had spoken to him about the devotion and respect of the people of his ecclesiastical province for the person of St. Luke, and also of his initiative to build a great church in his honor in the Holy Metropolis of Veria, and invited him to speak to all those present about the holy Fathers of the Ukrainian Church.
Panteleimon, the Metropolitan of Veria, delivered a lively address about St. Luke the Physician, Archbishop of Simferopol, his life and the wonders attributed to him, and the great respect and reverence with which the faithful of his Metropolis honor him.
Then the Archbishop of Rivne, impressed by the testimony of the Metropolitan of Veria, thanked him and invited him to go to Ukraine in order to give addresses about the saint and his miracles to the Orthodox faithful of the country.