Metropolitan Serafym (Zaliznytskyy) of Ivano-Frankivsk was the first to make his way to Moscow. It happened on the eve of the great invasion. One day, Serafym left his see and went north without explaining anything to anyone. That is, he had been warned about the attack.
This is not the first time Zaliznytskyy has moved to Moscow. In 2007, the Synod of the UOC ousted him from running the Severodonetsk diocese and put him out of the staff, and then Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow gave him asylum by appointing him rector of a Moscow church.
After Serafym's escape in February 2022, the Ivano-Frankivsk see was empty for more than six months, until the Synod of the UOC (allegedly not of the MP) appointed "barefoot Nykyta" to head it. Metropolitan Onufriy ordained Archimandrite Nykyta Storozhuk as a bishop (in secular language, he officially promoted him so that he could go to Ivano-Frankivsk Region) already after the story of the choirboy "in panties". The scale of the scandal and the opening of a case over child pornography found in computers (during searches of the diocesan administration in Chernivtsi) did not change the mind of the head of the UOC. A week later, at a solemn service in honour of the 32nd anniversary of his episcopal ordination, Onufriy spilled the chalice of the Sacrament on himself. Nothing could be worse for a priest. But this is just a side note.
The second famous fugitive metropolitan is Yelisey (Ivanov) of Izyum. During the occupation of Kharkiv Region, he blessed the "head" of the occupying administration, Vitaliy Ganchev. Together they fled to Russia's Belgorod Region.
And the third is Metropolitan Iosif (Maslennikov) of Romny. In Romny, Sumy Region, Iosif stopped commemorating Onufriy during services and asked to be placed under the omophorion (in direct subordination, that is) of Moscow, where he later fled.
Since we are talking about traitorous metropolitans, you can rightly remind me of Crimean Lazar, who, the day after the May Synod of the UOC-MP (where they announced their alleged break-up with Moscow), said that he was not going to obey, and all Crimean parishes also asked to come under Moscow's omophorion. The ROC, of course, did not refuse.
Or about Luhansk's Panteleymon who sat in the Kremlin at the ceremony of "annexation of new territories".
But I would like to emphasise once again that we are currently talking about fugitive metropolitans.
So, Serafym, Yelisey and Iosif. All of them were stripped of Ukrainian citizenship and faced sanctions.
Now they are in Russia, and the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church has decided to use them for propaganda purposes.
Namely to appoint one of the Ukrainian metropolitans as the abbot of a monastery in Moscow Region.
Of course, it would be good to reward all three, but the monasteries in Moscow Region are not just anything. They are large, rich.... no, more than that, they are extremely rich monasteries. Why did I make this correction? Because, for the most part, these monasteries are natural "laundromats" through which "respected people" launder money under the guise of "donations".
It is not known which of the three fugitives is Kirill's favourite at the moment. But, in the end, it doesn't really matter.
The goal of the Russian Orthodox Church is to set an "example" for the clergy of the UOC-MP. They say, do not be afraid to come under the omophorion of the ROC, as Crimea, Romny and Rovenky did. You will not be punished for this, on the contrary, you will receive bonuses.
The target audience is primarily those clergymen of the UOC-MP who are currently in the occupied territories but are not in a hurry to come under Moscow's omophorion.
For example, it is a "message" to Metropolitan Panteleymon Povoroznyuk of Luhansk, who was "smart enough" to go to the Kremlin, but also smart enough not to ask for the omophorion of the Russian Orthodox Church (I will write a separate text about this. It is very interesting).
In other words, Gundyaev's plan was to show potential defectors a "bright future".
A monastery in Moscow Region, as we found out, is a gold mine. Moreover, the Moscow diocese is ruled directly by Patriarch Kirill. And if you are put in charge of a monastery there, you automatically become a "patriarchal vicar".
On the other hand, the appointment of a metropolitan as the abbot of a monastery is an obvious demotion (usually people are sent to a monastery for some kind of failure. Just as, in the days of Yanukovych, the National Security and Defence Council was a place for everyone who had nowhere else to go). If he wished, Kirill could find dioceses in Russia for those who fled from Ukraine (one decision of the Synod and voila), but he does not trust them, they are still strangers to the system. So, it's easier to place them – under the supervision of the FSB – somewhere near Moscow.
And what does Metropolitan Onufriy have to say about all this, you might ask?
First, how did he react to the fact that these three fled, leaving their sees?
After all, we know that according to the norms of canon law, they have no right to leave their sees for more than 14 days without the blessing of the head of the UOC and the decision of the Holy Synod.
For example, paragraph seven of the decision of the Council of the UOC (allegedly not of the MP) of 27 May reads: "For the period of martial law, when relations between the dioceses and the church governing centre are complicated or absent, the Council considers it expedient to grant diocesan bishops the right to make decisions independently on certain issues of diocesan life that fall within the competence of the Holy Synod or the Primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, with further informing the hierarchy when the opportunity arises."
The Crimeans referred to this clause when they asked to come under the omophorion of Moscow. Because it was written for them. In essence, if translated into secular language, it is permission for the diocese and its bishop to leave the UOC-MP.
But, as Michael Schur says, "there is one thing".
After all, we are talking about the fact that the bishop left the diocese.
As a wise man once said: "A sinking ship can be moored to another shore, but the captain still has no right to leave it."
This, in particular, since we are already entering the jungle of canon law, to which the UOC (allegedly not of the MP) likes to refer, is said in: Ap. 33; I All. 15; IV All. 5; Trulus, 20; Antioch. 13, 16, 18, 21; Serdica 1, 2, 17; Carth. 48.
Canon14 of the Holy Apostles states: "A bishop is not to be allowed to leave his own parish, and pass over into another, although he may be pressed by many to do so, unless there be some proper cause constraining him, as if he can confer some greater benefit upon the persons of that place in the word of godliness. And this must be done not of his own accord, but by the judgment of many bishops, and at their earnest exhortation."
That is, from the point of view of the canons, Serafym, Yelisey and Iosif are criminals. And Metropolitan Onufriy is obliged to defrock them and ban them from ministry (as, for example, priests of the UOC-MP who have joined the OCU are banned from ministry).
Did he do it? Of course, he didn't!
All three were simply sent "to rest". Without explanation. An "acting" priest was appointed to replace Yelisey. Well, maybe he will change his mind and come back).
But that's not all.
Because a representative of the UOC-MP cannot just decide to join the ROC. According to the internal rules (because globally, we are still talking about one church), if, for example, Yelisey from Izyum wants to transfer and addresses Patriarch Kirill with such a request, he, in turn, must ask Onufriy if he is okay with it. For his part, Onufriy has to send Kirill a dossier of the "applicant" and a so-called "letter of leave". The latter is a prerequisite.
A clergyman cannot just run back and forth (this, by the way, also applies to those who want to transfer, say, to Constantinople or somewhere else. In some cases, they even need a relevant decision of the Synod).
Of course, if the decision to appoint one of the Ukrainian "refugees" as the head of a Russian monastery is made, Kirill will not ask Onufriy for any permission. Just as he did not ask permission to annex (and it was an annexation) all Crimean parishes.
But Metropolitan Onufriy – at the behest of his Russian "brothers" – will again find himself in an idiotic situation.
If he did not give a "letter of leave", it means that the defectors are schismatics whom he must condemn (but before that – for leaving the sees without permission). If Moscow did contact him, it means that Kyiv maintains communication with them, despite all its "declarations of good intentions".
What will the head of the UOC-MP choose? As usual, he will take an ostrich position: he will pretend that he does not notice anything and that nothing is happening.
Just as it was after the annexation of the Crimean parishes by the Russian Orthodox Church.