His Grace Bishop Agapit talked about His Eminence Metropolitan Onouphry, Primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, on the latter’s 70th birthday.
“I first heard of Vladyka Onouphry in the 1990’s. Our nuns in Jerusalem said that Vladyka Onouphry looks very much like our Vladyka Laurus, who later became Metropolitan and First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia.
“Later I was to see this myself. At the time, when the Russian Orthodox Church was divided, Vladyka Laurus was a great spiritual leader for us in the diaspora. Vladyka Onouphry immediately made us feel comfortable. I think that had we not come to now such a hierarch as Vladyka Onouphry, we ‘zarubezhniki’ [people of the diaspora] would have found it much more difficult to overcome the barrier of human mistrust, even enmity, and everything else that divided us, and to finally unite with the Russian Church in Russia.
“I must say that most of our clergymen, even until the moment of unification, were of Ukrainian origin. This happened after World War II. Maybe that is why the ‘mentality’ of our spiritual life of Ukraine is dear to us.
“I sensed this back in 2003, before reunification, when I was fortunate enough to make a pilgrimage throughout Ukraine. A great deal of this was made possible through the efforts of Vladyka Melety, Vicar of the Chernovitsa Diocese.
“It was then that I discovered church life in Ukraine, which I really hadn’t known, though my mother hails from Kharkov.
“Then I understood that the Ukrainian land is the Kiev Lavra, Pochaev Lavra, and all her other monasteries, which are no less holy to me than Mt Athos or the Holy Land, which I also know well.
The crowning point of our pilgrimage that year was Northern Bukovina, its remarkable, genuine monasteries, and Chernovtsy. My personal acquaintance with Vladyka Onouphry, within whom both monastic dignity and archpastoral wisdom are combined. Among the hierarchs it would be difficult to find someone who, despite their lofty responsibilities, continues to maintain a modest and earnest monastic life, who not only cherishes the life of the monk’s cell but daily services in church. I then saw Vladyka Onouphry when he visited our monastery in Munich. I remember our bishops in the same way—Metropolitan Laurus of blessed memory, and Archbishop Mark. They are very similar in this way.
“In today’s world, we often misunderstand one event or another, but the main thing is Divine Providence which is inherent in them. It is well enough when this understanding only comes later.
“Today I started talking about Vladyka Onouphry, and remembered our Vladyka Laurus. How providential was it for the Russian Church Abroad that in such a difficult period in our history, our leader was a hierarch like Vladyka Laurus. How providential, too, that in this time of crisis in Ukraine and for the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Vladyka Onouphry stands at her helm: ‘For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens.’"
UNIAN-Religia, the official website of the UOC