Patriarch Filaret, the head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which is set to receive its autocephaly from the Russian Orthodox Church just after the first of the year, has made his appreciation of a former CIA official well known this week.
The church leader presented Jack Devine, the former CIA associate director who retired from government service in 1999, with the Order of St. Andrew, the church’s highest decoration. It’s not entirely clear when the award was presented, but it was reported in Ukrainian media on Thursday.
In presenting the award, Devine was thanked for American support for Ukraine’s independence and “the creation of the unified autocephalous Ukrainian Orthodox Church.” The Ukrainian church led by Filaret broke off from the Russian Orthodox Church in the early 1990s following the fall of the Iron Curtain.
It was around that time that Devine took over international operations for the CIA. Since his retirement, the former spymaster has run the intelligence operations for The Arkin Group, which he co-founded with New York City attorney Stanley Arkin and that provides high-end international intelligence and investigative services.
During the ceremony, Devine, who is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, expressed his “sincere admiration” for Ukrainians’ purported support for Filaret’s push for autocephaly. He also praised the church leader’s “outstanding role” in establishing an “independent” church in Kiev.
Filaret has previously made a show of awarding Sen. John McCain with the Order of St. Vladimir First Class for “his support for Ukraine during the Russian occupation of Crimea and Donbas.” It’s been previously reported that McCain and the U.S. intelligence community had played a role in the overthrow of Ukraine’s former pro-Russian government, which eventually triggered the Russian annexation of Crimea and current separatist fighting in the Donbas region.
Thursday, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople—the head of the worldwide Eastern Orthodox church—will grant the Ukrainian church’s official independence from Moscow on Jan. 6, which is Christmas Eve in the eastern faith. Senior figures of the Ukrainian church are now gathering for the purpose of electing a new leader, which will have the title of Primate, with deliberations set to begin Saturday.
There are currently three Orthodox denominations in Ukraine:
• Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, which is still subordinate to Moscow
• Ukrainian Orthdox Church of the Kiev Patriarchate, which is led by Filaret
• Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church, which led by Metropolitan Makariy of Kiev
The Moscow Patriarchate, which refuses to acknowledge the Ukrainian church’s separation, has said it will not attend Saturday’s deliberations. In fact, the Moscow church has announced it is breaking its ties with Constantinople.
TASS reported today that 83 Ukrainian Orthodox bishops had signed onto a letter declaring the gathering as illegitimate. The letter states, in part:
“From the standpoint of Orthodox Christian religious doctrine, this council is not a legitimate church event, and those who are going to take part in it and their decisions will have neither church significance nor canonical force whatsoever.”
The head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church Synodal Information Department, Archbishop Clement, also said that if any of the bishops attend the gathering Saturday, it will be because they were pressured by government officials. He said this movement to split up the churches was pushed by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.
(Photo Credit: Hakan Henriksson via Creative Commons 3.0)