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Patriarch Filaret (secular name in Ukrainian Mykhailo Antonovych Denysenko, in Russian Mykhail Antonovich Denisenko, officially His Holiness, the Patriarch of Kyiv and All Rus’ - Ukraine Filaret; born 23 January 1929) is the head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church - Kyiv Patriarchate (since 1995), former Metropolitan bishop of Russian Orthodox Church (until 1992; excommunicated in 1997).

Early years[]

Mykhailo Denysenko was born into a worker's family in the village of Blahodatne in the Amvrosiivsky Raion (district) in the Donetsk Oblast (province) in Eastern Ukraine. He obtained theological education at the Odessa Seminary 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. After his graduation he stayed at the Moscow Theological Academy as a professor (from 1952) and Senior Assistant to the Academy inspector. 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 Kyiv Theological Seminary. In July 1958 he was further elevated to the rank of Archimandrite and appointed seminary rector.

Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church[]

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

In 1961 Filaret served in the mission of the Russian Orthodox Church 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. In 1964 he returned to Moscow as the Bishop of Dmitrov and rector of Moscow Theological Academy and Seminary.

In 1966 he became an archbishop and soon after the Metropolitan of Kyiv 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, and responsible for electing the Moscow Patriarch. 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 suppression of Ukrainian churches that refused to associate with the ROC: the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church.

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, and was marked by the return of numerous church buildings to the ROC.

Upon the death of Patriarch Pimen I on May 3, 1990, Filaret was widely viewed as a front runner in the Russian Orthodox Church patriarchal election, especially when he became a patriarchal locum tenens. However, on June 6, 1990 the Sobor of the Russian Orthodox Church elected Metropolitan Alexius (Alexey Ridiger) of Leningrad Novgorod, who was enthroned as Patriarch Alexius II.

On October 27, 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 the word autonomy or autocephaly) to Metropolitan Filaret, and enthrone Filaret, heretofore “Metropolitan of Kyiv”, as “Metropolitan of Kyiv and All Rus-Ukraine”.

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

Following Ukraine's declaration of independence from the Soviet Union on August 24, 1991, a national Sobor of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church was held from November 1-3. At the sobor, the voting delegates, (who included include 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. 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. 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 April 14, 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 whom, 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.

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 June 25, 1992. The delegates agreed to form a combined church named theUkrainian Orthodox Church - Kyiv Patriarchate under Patriarch Mstyslav.

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.

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.


There have been various, but unsubstantiated, rumours regarding Patriarch Filaret: he is alleged to have a common-law wife and also children in contravention of his monastic vows; it is alleged that he was recruited as a KGB agent; also that he had been guilty of improper financial dealings. On June 11, 1992, the Hierarchical Council of the Russian Orthodox Church defrocked Patriarch Filaret and then excommunicated him in 1997, claiming his actions had constituted a schism. The Synod of the UOC-KP refused to recognise these acts, claiming that the Russian Orthodox Church does not have any authority over clergy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

See also[]



ja:フィラレート (キエフ総主教) ru:Филарет (Денисенко) uk:Філарет