Articles Shumilo, Sergey

Self-styled “Bishop” Vikentii Chekalin and His Involvement in the First UAOC Episcopal Consecrations in March 1990

A recent photo from

An investigation into a canonical succession of a person who wanted to join the ROCOR in 1990 as a bishop of the Catacomb Church. in 2019 the Ecumenical Patriarchate entered into communion with a church originated from Chekalin.

In 1990, the Brotherhood of Saint Job in Moscow, represented by Yurii Zelenin and Andrei Psarev, released a rebuttal of Bishop Vikentii Chekalin’s article “How the Rotten Apple of Phariseeism is Spoiling the Barrel of Russian Orthodoxy Abroad”, which was published on May 8, 1990, in Issue No. 14 of the Moscow samizdat journal Svobodnoe Slovo (“The Free Word”). Having re-read both this article by Chekalin and our reply, over almost 30 years later, I, unfortunately,  have to agree with his observations about the triumphalism and xenophobia that were to be found among representatives of our Church. These qualities played their part in the process whereby believers in Russia were received under the omphorion of the ROCOR – against which Chekalin had cautioned. Ultimately, the mass movement of believers away from the Moscow Patriarchate that I had expected did not occur. A crisis took place that led to the negotiations between the ROCOR and the Moscow Patriarchate and to the restoration of canonical communion in the Russian Church in 2007. Our reply to Chekalin thus might have been more philosophical and less self-assured. However, the “score” is nevertheless still 1:1, as there has been no confirmation of Chekalin’s episcopal consecration. The question of whether he had ever been canonically consecrated bishop has gained in relevance since the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople entered into communion in 2019 with the hierarchy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Autocephalous Church, whose origins lie in an episcopal consecration in which Chekalin took part.
Sergey Shumilo is Director of the International Institute of the Athonite Legacy in Ukraine The content of his paper has the approval and blessing of His Eminence Metropolitan Kallistos Ware of Diokleia (Ecumenical Patriarchate), Honorary President of the International Institute for the Athonite Legacy in Ukraine. This report has been sent to His Holiness Bartholomew I, Archbishop of Constantinople and New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch. 
Deacon Andrei Psarev,
January 10, 2020

In recent times, Vikentii Chekalin’s “episcopal succession” and the validity of his involvement in the first episcopal consecrations performed in the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAOC) in March 1990 have become especially relevant. Allegations have appeared in the media that Chekalin was “secretly consecrated” bishop in 1986 by two hierarchs of the Moscow Patriarchate together with Vladimir Abramov, an uncanonical hierarch of the “Sekachevtsy” semi-catacomb movement. This information was published on the Web-based “Drevo” [“The Tree”] Open Orthodox Encyclopedia 1, among other places; in his article of August 25, 2019, the editor of Drevo, Dmitrii Gorevoi, asserts that Chekalin “was consecrated bishop in August 1986 by Metropolitan Alexii Konoplev of Kalinin and Kashin and Bishop Ioann Bodnarchuk of the Moscow Patriarchate, and Bishop Vladimir Abramov of the Catacomb Church”. According to Gorevoi, ‘even if Abramov is not regarded as a lawful bishop, there were two Moscow Patriarchate hierarchs who took part in Chekalin’s episcopal consecration and who did have apostolic succession. This is sufficient for apostolic succession to pass to Chekalin as well. There are many rumours about what Chekalin subsequently became (ranging from a Protestant to a Buddhist), but these are of little interest to us. Indeed, in 1990, he was nothing other than an Orthodox bishop consecrated in succession with other bishops” 2. A Greek version of this article was published on August 26, 2019, on the news website “The Light of the Phanar” (Φως Φαναρίου), which provides daily coverage of the activities of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. 3

As we can see, nobody has challenged Chekalin’s “episcopal rank”; rather, it is presented as “an established fact”, including on a site associated with the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. Moreover, in response to criticism of these assertions, the editors of the Cerkvarium Web site and the Greek Orthodox news agency published another article in September 2019, noting: “Chekalin’s subsequent life (and we have no intention of whitewashing it here) has nothing to do with this matter. since what is important is his status at the time when he performed the consecrations and passed on the apostolic succession to Vasilii Bodnarchuk. What Chekalin has since become does not have any effect on this consecration, nor does it retroactively annul the grace of the Holy Spirit”. 4 The same article also refers to the long-standing research of the author of this report, prompting the explanations that follow.

However good the authors’ motives may be in defending Chekalin’s “episcopal rank”, in such matters, the search for the truth should always be above any personal, corporate, or political interests. Apostolic succession is one of the foundations on which the Universal Church of Christ has been based for nearly two millenia. Any manipulations of it are unacceptable and fraught with grave consequences. It is not by chance that the strict observance of apostolic succession in consecrating new bishops is prescribed by Canon I of the Holy Apostles (“A Bishop must be ordained by two or three bishops”). 5 At all times, the preservation of apostolic succession and validity of a particular hierarchy has been of key value.

In an appendix to the articles on Cerkvarium and Phos Phanariou, a copy of the certificate of consecration (dated March 31, 1990) of the first bishop of the UAOC was displayed alongside a certified copy of a written eyewitness testimony to the event, from November 2, 1994. According to the authors of the article, these very copies were presented to the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople in support of the validity of the UAOC hierarchy. 6 Most probably, they served as a ground for the October 2018 decision of the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to recognize and receive UAOC bishops “in their current rank”. 7

A diagram representing an understanding of the EP from Memorandum to Orthodox Christian Clergy and Laity Regarding the Unity in Ukraine

Since there is every reason to believe that these documents presented to the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople are actually forgeries, let us consider here in more detail the events linked with the rebirth of the UAOC and its first episcopal consecrations in 1990. Until recently, no attempts had been made to undertake a serious and detailed study of the background and activities of Vikentii Chekalin by using archival sources and eyewitness accounts. Therefore, we will try here to systematize the information available to us, and to ascertain this person’s true identity and his status when he carried out the first UOAC ordinations. This article is the first to make use of documents from the archives of the ROCOR Synod of Bishops in New York and the archives of the Moscow Patriarchate, as well as eyewitness accounts, samizdat publications, and periodicals from the early 1990s.

As a foreword to this study of Vikentii Chekalin’s background, it must be noted that under the Soviet Communist regime in the USSR and after Metropolitan Sergius Stargorodskii’s 1927 Declaration of loyalty to the Soviet authorities, the Russian Church split into the legal church structure of the Russian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate), a Church “abroad” (the ROCOR), and a number of illegal (“catacomb”) movements and branches. The latter were often called “Tikhonovtsy”, “non-commemorators”, “true Orthodox” or “the catacomb church”. During the persecution of the Church carried out by the Soviet regime, by the early 1960s, this internal opposition movement within the Church had lost its continuity with the canonical episcopate from before the Revolution, which led to favorable conditions for various impostors and self-ordained persons pretending to be “catacomb hierarchs” to appear. 8 The KGB, which resorted to such means to bring illegal church life in the country under its control, was behind many of these cases. Thus, self-ordained, semi-underground hierarchies came to exist in the USSR: the “Sekachevsty”, “Alfeevtsy”, and so on. They were monitored by the Soviet secret services. 9 The best known among these self-appointed “catacomb bishops” were Serafim Pozdeev, Gennady Sekach, Kheruvim Degtyar′, Alfei Barnaulskii, Yevgenii Zhiganov, and others. 10 Doubts have also been cast upon the canonicity of the episcopal succession of particular catacomb hierarchs, such as Antonii Golynskii-Mikhailovskii, Mikhail Yershov, Feodosii Bakhmetyev, Mikhail Kostiuk and Savvatii Gruzinov. 11 As regards these and other catacomb hierarchs, the Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) by its resolution of May 2/15, 1990, notes that “with regret we do not find it possible, in view of the absence (or failure to produce) the appropriate proof, to recognize the validity of apostolic succession and canonicity of the ordinations of these underground hierarchies”. 12

The appearance and activities of Vikentii Chekalin, another self-appointed “catacomb bishop” in the late 1980s/early 1990s, might be more appropriately considered in the context of the spread of self-appointed hierarchies in the catacomb milieu in the Soviet period; otherwise, it is difficult to understand the motivation and nature of the actions carried out by both Chekalin and other adventurists like him. 13

Viktor/Vikentii Chekalin: From Soviet Sociologist to Deacon and Self-styled Bishop

Vikentii Chekalin in 1990

According to an autobiography Viktor Vladimirovich Chekalin’s sent to the ROCOR Synod of Bishops in New York in July 1989, he was born on February 19, 1952, in the city of Tula. In 1969, he finished secondary school; in 1974, he graduated from the Tula Polytechnic Institute. In 1978, he received a degree in sociology. He worked in “state institutions” and, from 1980, he was a member of the Soviet Socialist Association (SSA), which brought together Soviet sociologists as well as ideological instructors from the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (KPSS) and VLKSM (Communist Union of Youth in the Soviet Union). He was married but divorced shortly thereafter. In February 1981, “he left the civil service and served first as a reader and singer on the left kliros of the Holy Savior Church in Tula and thereafter as a warehouse keeper, steward, and clerk for the administration of the Diocese of Tula. In April 1982, Bishop Herman Timofeev of Tula and Belev ordained him deacon. He served in parishes of the Diocese of Tula.” 14 In 1983, he moved to the Patriarchal Danilov Monastery, Moscow, which had been handed over that year by the USSR government “in order for the Administrative Centre of the Moscow Patriarchate” and a residence for the Patriarchs of Moscow to be established in it and on adjacent land. 15 According to his own testimony, as a celibate deacon, he was given the obedience of cellarer in the monastery while it was being restored. 16 However, just a year later, in May 1984, Chekalin was dismissed from the monastery and discharged from its staff. As Archbishop Yevlogii (Smirnov), Abbott of Danilov Monastery, recalled: “Evidently, what he was seeking was not monasticism, but rather a plum job and the possibility to live in a monastery in grand style. Later, I was told that this deacon, upon his return to Tula, passed himself off as a ‘monk of Danilov Monastery’ in pursuit of his personal goals. The priest who had recommended him apologized to me.” 17

In Danilov Monastery, Deacon Viktor Chekalin was denied monastic tonsure. His history of imposture began from that moment. As he asserted in his letter to the ROCOR Synod in May-July 1982, he “made his monastic vows in the Holy Trinity-St. Sergius Lavra with the name of Vikentii to Archbishop Sergii Golubtsov, who was living in retirement there. 18 At the same time, it was recorded in the minutes of the meeting of the ROCOR Synod on January 31, 1990, that “Viktor Nikolaevich does not remember the date and time”. 19 However, it is known that Archbishop Sergii, 76, the former Archbishop of Kazan and Mari, who had resided in the Holy Trinity-St. Sergius Lavra in retirement from spring 1982, was seriously ill and, being bedridden, he could not conduct divine services. Hegumen Andronik Trubachev, who was close to the hierarch and was a novice at the Holy Trinity-St. Sergius Lavra at that time, testified that in the late 1970s and 1980s, Archbishop Sergii did not perform any ordinations or monastic tonsures at all. 20 He died of a serious disease on June 16, 1982, and he could hardly have carried out the tonsure and ordination of Chekalin in the days before his death. Moreover, to perform a tonsure at the Holy Trinity-St. Sergius Lavra, one must have a resolution from the Lavra’s leadership allowing the postulant to join the monastic community, and ordaining him would have required the written permission of Patriarch Pimen as Holy Archimandrite and Abbot of the Lavra. As is recorded in the minutes of the ROCOR Synod of Bishops, Chekalin failed to present any such documents. A search for documents has revealed that the archives of the Holy Trinity-St. Sergius Lavra have never contained a personal file on a monk named Vikentii Chekalin; there is no mention of him in the documents of the Lavra’s Spiritual Council, nor in the Lavra’s correspondence with its Abbot (Patriarch Pimen) or with the office of the Moscow Patriarchate. 21

Therefore, there is every reason to believe that former Deacon Viktor Chekalin has never had the rank of presbyter nor even the monastic dignity, while the name “Vikentii” is more likely a creative pseudonym or was assigned by the secret services rather than being a monastic name.

Equally strange is Chekalin’s observation that Archbishop Sergii Golubtsov tonsured and ordained him “secretly” at the request of the “catacomb Metropolitan” Gennadii Sekach (1904-1987). 22 This assertion gave cause for due doubt in the ROCOR Synod, since Gennadii Sekach, while passing himself off as “a metropolitan of the True Orthodox Church [TOC]”, had performed monastic tonsures and priestly and episcopal “ordinations” without reservation for all who desired them, including for full-time clergy of the Moscow Patriarchate (Antonii Piletskii, Andrian Lapin, Kheruvim Degtyarʹ, etc.). He lived in a North Caucasus village together with the “cell-dwellers” Metropolitans Feodosii Gumennikov and Gregorii, together with whom he performed secret “episcopal consecrations”. Because he had his own hierarchy, the leader of this movement felt there was no need to approach a Moscow Patriarchate hierarch to ask for assistance in performing tonsures and ordinations, and there never were any other precedents of this kind. For this reason, Sekach (actually a suspended former rank-and-file priest of the Moscow Patriarchate pretending to be a “catacomb metropolitan”), could not provide Deacon Chekalin with any leverage with a prominent hierarch of the Moscow Patriarchate, who at that time was engaged in providing general guidance for the monastic spiritual fathers in the Holy Trinity-St. Sergius Lavra.

In this matter, it is worth noting that Chekalin listed June 1982 as the date of his feigned tonsure and ordination; this was just a few days before the death (on June 16, 1982) of Archbishop Sergii Golubtsov, who had allegedly “ordained” him. As we will see below, he repeatedly resorted to such forms of manipulation later on by falsifying information about both his “episcopal consecration” and the first ordinations he performed in the UAOC in 1990.

Now let us move on to look at Chekalin’s account of his supposed “secret episcopal consecration” within the Moscow Patriarchate in order to provide pastoral care of “Catacomb Church communities”. On various occasions, he gave different names, dates, and accounts of this “consecration” that do not concur with one another. For instance, in his July 1989 petition to the ROCOR Synod, he asserted that only two hierarchs had been present at his consecration: “In 1986, Metropolitan Alexii Konoplev of Kalinin and Kashin and Bishop Vladimir of the Catacomb Church consecrated me as bishop. The consecration took place in secret… I received all my orders from hierarchs of the Moscow Patriarchate. I have a certificate for my ordination as deacon, but I have nothing to confirm my priestly and episcopal ones other than the oath I made before the cross and the Gospel”. 23

At a January 1990 meeting of the ROCOR Synod in New York, Chekalin reiterated his testimony, which is recorded in Synod’s Minutes No. 685: “In June 1986 – Viktor N. Chekalin does not remember the date and the day — in Tver, in the chambers/at the flat of Metropolitan Alexii Konoplev, at night, in secret, without outside witnesses, Hieromonk Vikentii was allegedly elevated to the rank of archimandrite and on the same occasion ordained as bishop by Bishop Vladimir Abramov of the Catacomb Church and Metropolitan Alexii Konoplev of the Moscow Patriarchate”. 24

This is the story Chekalin first told in New York in July 1989/January 1990. At that time, Chekalin did not mention any third hierarch, maintaining that “his episcopal consecration” was accomplished by two hierarchs. At the same time, just as in the case of his tonsure and priestly ordination, the two hierarchs he referred to as allegedly having “ordained” him in 1986 both happened to be dead.

As is widely known, Metropolitan Alexii Konoplev of Kalinin and Kashin, who had never opposed  the Moscow Patriarchate leadership or the Soviet regime, and who toon part in the Moscow Patriarchate’s Local Council and in official trips abroad, died on October 7, 1988. For this reason, he could not refute the statements Chekalin made in 1989-1990. This was done, however, on his behalf by his former longstanding sub-deacon and secretary, Bishop Viktor Oleinik of Tver and Kashin. In his 1990 report, he refuted Chekalin’s allegations concerning his consecration by Metropolitan Alexii: “As a person close to Metropolitan Alexii who always accompanied him on his travels, I consider it my duty to testify that His Eminence the Metropolitan, being a faithful son of the Russian Orthodox Church and a strict observer of its canons, did not perform any episcopal consecration without the permission of His Holiness the Patriarch and the Holy Synod. This lie set forth to discredit Metropolitan Alexii is revolting and insulting”. 25

As for the participation of the non-canonical “Sekachevtsy” hierarch Vladimir Abramov in Chekalin’s consecration, this assertion is equally doubtful. Vladimir (secular name: Vadim) Abramov was born in Moscow in 1955. In 1983, he met “Metropolitan” Gennadii Sekach, who tonsured him at the age of 28 with the name of Vladimir and ordained him “priest” and “bishop”. Around 1985, he had to leave Moscow and move his permanent residence to the North Caucasus, settling near the village in which Gennadii Sekach and two of his “cell-metropolitans”, Feodosii Gumennikov and Grigorii, were living. He died on January 15, 1987, at the age of 32 from a heart attack (it was rumored he was poisoned) in Geogrievsk, Stavropol Region. 26 Representatives of the “Sekachev” semi-catacomb movement have denied that Vladimir Abramov participated in Chekalin’s consecration and never recognized him as a hierarch of their group. 27 According to their testimonies, Abramov never met with Metropolitan Alexii Konoplev and other hierarchs of the Moscow Patriarchate. Moreover, Chekalin never had a single catacomb community under his pastoral care and, most probably, never served as “catacomb bishop” or “catacomb priest”.

When Chekalin declared his “episcopal rank” in 1989-1990, none of the hierarchs he indicated as alleged participants in his “secret consecration” was alive. This was most probably deliberate. In devising a plan to infiltrate the ROCOR before his 1989 trip to the USA, Chekalin specially selected for his story (probably with KGB participation) the names of hierarchs who had died not long before and who could not confirm or refute what he said. The story about the involvement of a third hierarch, Ioann Bodnarchuk, in Chekalin’s consecration would emerge a little later, in late 1990, and it does not in any way concur with the initial story he told to the ROCOR Synod. It is even stranger that at the time of Chekalin’s trip to the USA in October 1989, Bishop Ioann Bodnarchuk had officially left the Moscow Patriarchate to join the UAOC, making his alleged involvement in the “consecration” completely pointless. Moreover, had they been acquainted at that time, Chekalin would have secured Bishop Ioann’s indisputable written testimony of his “consecration” before his trip to the USA, but nothing was done to this effect – which only confirms that they first met later, in February-March 1990.

From March 1986, Chekalin worked as a handicrafts and mathematics teacher in a middle school in Yagodnoe village, Kaluga Region. 28 However, after being denounced by parents of children at the school, he was arrested in September 1986 on charges of pedophilia. 29 He served a half-year term at a prison in Kaluga. During the investigation, he was subjected to a psychiatric examination after which, on February 26, 1987, the Ulyanovsk People’s Court of the Kaluga Region convicted him and sentenced him under RSFSR Criminal Code Article 120 (“indecent assault on minors”) to 3.5 years of compulsory penal labour in Kaluga Region. 30 In December 1987, he was released early and returned to Tula. His being released on parole gave rise to rumors that he was recruited by the KGB while in prison. At large, Chekalin adopted his former pupil; to this end, he married the boy’s mother, who died soon after the conclusion of the fictitious marriage. 31

On May 15, 1988, Viktor Chekalin was stripped of his rank of deacon for bigamy. The letter from the Moscow Patriarchate chancellor Metropolitan Vladimir (Sabodan) of Rostov and Novocherkassk to Archbishop Maxim of Tula and Belev, No. 903 of 26 May 1988, contains the resolution made by Patriarch Pimen of Moscow on the matter:

“The Chancellery of the Moscow Patriarchate hereby informs Your Eminence of His Holiness’s resolution on your Report No. 120, concerning the defrocking of Deacon Viktor Chekalin, a former cleric of the diocese of Tula:

“05.15.1998. Deacon Chekalin is to be stripped of the rank of deacon for violation of Apostolic Canon 26”. 32

It is worth noting that Chekalin’s criminal sentencing and defrocking were not forms of repression for “dissent” or “opposition views”, which he is not said to have had. They were purely moral and criminal acts, with his imaginary “secret episcopal rank” and involvement in the “catacomb church” not being discussed at the time. He began making these claims much later, after his release and deposition by the Moscow Patriarchate.

In his July 1989 letter to the First Hierarch and the Synod of the ROCOR, Chekalin wrote:

“In January 1989, in an open letter to Patriarch Pimen, I declared my withdrawal from the Moscow Patriarchate because of the absence of communal order, widespread corruption, deceit, flattery, obsequiousness, absence of the living Word of God in churches, doubts about the canonicity of the Moscow Patriarchate.

“At present, I see the revival of Orthodoxy in Rusʹ as being in the establishment of legal parishes of the Russian Church Abroad, whose ministry could be carried out openly, in defiance of the reaction and potential resistance of the authorities. The Church should use all available resources to preach the Gospel…  This is what is lacking in the Moscow Patriarchate. The Catacomb Church, as an underground organization, cannot effectively preach the Word of God. What is necessary is the return of true Orthodoxy to Russia from abroad. This can be done by establishing legal parishes of a Church in Russia under the care of Your Eminence.

“Because of the absence of full-fledged service to the Lord and because of the persecutions by the authorities, I was on the verge of emigrating, but the thought of millions of my dear Orthodox brothers and sisters remaining without a genuine Church gives me no rest. It seems that the Lord has not blessed me to go abroad. I would be happy to play my part in establishing parishes of a true Orthodox Church in Russia to the extent that I can. I respectfully ask for Your Eminence’s blessing for this.

“I have doubts about the canonicity of the Moscow Patriarchate, as the apostolic succession was probably interrupted in it in 1939… In that case, all ordinations performed by them are uncanonical. Yet I have received all my orders from the Moscow Patriarchate…

“As for the catacombs, their canonicity is also doubtful, because it is difficult to keep track of apostolic succession in an underground environment. Everything is regarded on a spiritual level, but the doubts that arise prevent the development of the Church.

“Therefore, I humbly ask Your Eminence to accept me under your omophorion.33

It is noteworthy that Chekalin signed his appeal to the First Hierarch and the Synod of the ROCOR not as “Bishop”, “Hieromonk” or “Deacon”, but as “Monk Vikentii”. 34 At the same time, he distances himself  in it not only from the Moscow Patriarchate, but also from the Catacomb Church. Moreover, with regard to the latter, he shows no less of a bias against it than against the Moscow Patriarchate. This only confirms the fact that, in reality, the catacomb party had not accepted him.

As is evident from Chekalin’s letter, he broke with the Moscow Patriarchate only in January 1989, that is, after he was deprived of the rank of deacon. Later, from October 1990 onward, he began to set out a different account according to which he broke with the Moscow Patriarchate in May 1984. 35 However, this assertion of his contradicts his own arguments set forward in 1989.

From December 1989-January 1990, Chekalin somehow managed to leave the USSR for the USA, where he appeared at a meeting of the ROCOR Synod of Bishops in New York. He spoke there before the members of the Synod and answered their questions. On this matter, the minutes of the ROCOR Synod from January 31, 1990, state:

“Heard: 1. The letter of petition of July 17, 1989, which came to the Chairman of the Synod of Bishops, the Most Reverend Metropolitan Vitaly, signed by “unworthy servant Vikentii” and sent by mail from the city of Tula, USSR. In this letter, the petitioner, monk Vikentii, gives brief information about himself followed by a statement that he is a bishop of the Catacomb Church in Russia.

“2. Heard the autobiography of the petitioner, since he himself has arrived in the USA (in New York City) and presented in writing a full report about himself and his case.

“3. Several members of the Synod of Bishops spoke to the petitioner Viktor Nikolayevich Chekalin, who goes by the names of Monk Vikentii and Bishop Vikentii, and privately acquainted themselves with him and his case.

“Thus, having discussed the circumstances of this case, the Synod of Bishops, resolves:

“1. Based on the available information presented by the petitioner, Viktor Nikolaevich Chekalin, who goes by the name of Vikentii, the Synod of Bishops does not deem it possible to recognize the petitioner as having the rank of bishop or presbyter.

“2. In connection with the above, the petition of Viktor Nikolaevich Chekalin is unsuccessful.

The petitioner is to be informed of the same.” 36

The minutes are signed by the Chairman of the ROCOR Synod of Bishops, Metropolitan Vitaly Ustinov, the Secretary of the Synod, Archbishop Lavr Shkurla, and Synod members Bishops Daniel Aleksandrov and Hilarion Kapral. 37

The member of the Synod who had carried out а private investigation into Chekalin was Bishop Lazar Zhurbenko, who had been secretly ordained by the ROCOR for the Catacomb Church in the USSR as far back as 1982. He asked Chekalin a number of probing questions, which the latter failed to answer credibly, while becoming confused and thereby disclosing his imposture and fraud. 38 At the same session of the ROCOR Synod, the suspicion was voiced that Chekalin was a KGB agent sent to the Synod in the guise of “a catacomb bishop” with the aim of infiltrating the ROCOR and bring its creation of legal church structures in the USSR under the control of the Soviet security services. Suspicions were also raised by Chekalin’s early release from prison in 1987. After the Synod refused to recognize him, it was suggested that he spend a probationary period as an ordinary novice in Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville under  the observation of the monastery authorities and, in case of a positive outcome of this period of probation, that he could be received as an ordinary monk or his future ordination as a priest could be considered. However, Chekalin rejected this proposal. Having realized that his plan had failed, he attempted to steal a Holy Table Antimins, a bishop’s pectoral icon, and liturgical vessels from the sanctuary of the Synodal Cathedral in New York, after which he was unceremoniously thrown out. 39

Revival of the UAOC in 1989-1990 and Bishop Ioann Bodnarchuk

After his ignominious departure from the ROCOR Synod in early February 1990, which rejected his rank not only of “bishop” but even that of “hieromonk”, Chekalin returned to the USSR from the USA. By an extraordinary coincidence, upon his return, he did not go back to his native Tula, but rather turned up in Lvov, Western Ukraine, where he presented himself as “a bishop of the ROCOR” and met with Ioann Bodnarchuk, the former bishop of Zhitomir and Ovruch, who not long before had defected from the Moscow Patriarchate to the UAOC.

The sudden defection of Bishop Ioann Bodnarchuk from the Moscow Patriarchate to the UAOC and his recruitment of the impostor Chekalin to perform the first ordinations in the UAOC in themselves give cause for a great number of suspicions and questions, down to an attempt by the KGB to bring the spontaneous and uncontrolled process of the revival of the UAOC under its control. 40

In order to come to a better understanding of the processes at work at the time in the Ukraine, let us briefly consider the first stages of the development of the UAOC in the period from 1989 to 1990. From February 1989, the spontaneous formation of the first communities of the UAOC began on the back of a growing wave of anti-communist and national-patriotic sentiment, which was a cause for serious concern in the KGB. The first “action committee” was formed in Kiev and was headed by Priest Bogdan Mikhailechko from Latvia. As early as February 15, acting on behalf of the committee, he sent out an appeal to the Supreme Soviets of the Ukrainian SSR and USSR, to Patriarch Demetrios of Constantinople, to the UAOC in the USA, as well as to the episcopate and clergy of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Ukrainian Exarchate. At the same time, the first community of the UAOC was formed in Kiev. 41 Among the first to respond to the committee’s call was Archpriest Vladimir Yarema, a dissident priest in Lvov and Rector of Ss. Peter and Paul Cathedral. At a meeting of the parish council on August 18, 1989, he and the second priest of the cathedral, Ioann Pashchulia, read out the appeal of the committee and announced their break with the Moscow Patriarchate. 42 Even before then, there had been many cases in Lvov and throughout Western Ukraine of local clergy breaking away from the Moscow Patriarchate, but they all went to the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC), which had re-emerged from the underground. Archpriest Vladimir Yarema, reluctant to move to the Uniates, proposed an alternative in the form of a national autocephalous church for those displeased with Moscow. His example was shortly followed by three priests from the diocese of Lvov: Igor Eliiashevskii, Miroslav Maksimovich, and Stefan Zhigal. 43 Later, they were joined by nine more priests.

From August 1989, Lvov began to be considered the center of the revival of the UAOC. An announcement was made about a temporary transfer to the fold of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, and Patriarch Demetrios of Constantinople began to be commemorated at divine services. 44 Concurrently, Archpriest Vladimir Yarema received a notice from the head of the UAOC in the USA, Metropolitan Mstislav Skripnik, saying that he was taking the Lvov and other parishes in Ukraine under his care. 45

In its statement of September 1989, the Committee for the Revival of the UAOC wrote, “…The primary task of our Committee today is to restore the hierarchy of the UAOC within the Ukraine… We hope that we will soon have a bishop and then we will be able to supply all our communities with priests”. 46

In their search for a canonical hierarch, the Committee appealed to the Patriarchates of Constantinople and Georgia, but did not receive any reply. Only the UAOC in the USA expressed its readiness, but its hierarchs, headed by Metropolitan Mstislav Skripnik, did not have the right to enter the USSR and it was extremely difficult at that time for a candidate to go abroad for ordination. In this situation, it was agreed to appeal to the Moscow Patriarchate hierarchs for one of them to agree to join the UAOC or to help ordain a bishop for the UAOC. Negotiations on the consecration of a bishop for the UAOC were held even with Metropolitan Vladimir Sterniuk, the head of the UGCC. 47

It was around this time that it became known that on September 13, 1989, the Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate had discharged Bishop Ioann Bodnarchuk of Zhitomir and Ovruch from its staff. 48 A native of Ternopol Region who was born into a Uniate family that had re-joined the Orthodox Church, he had been connected with the anti-Soviet underground OUN-UPA [Ukrainian Insurgent Army] in his youth, for which he was sentenced in 1949 and spent time in Stalin’s camps and in exile. In 1956, he entered the Leningrad Theological Seminary and Academy, and was Bishop of Zhitomir and Ovruch from 1977 onward. 49 As a former participant in the OUN-UPA underground and a former prisoner of Stalin’s concentration camps, he was ideally suited for the role of the UAOC leader.

Less than a month after his forced retirement, on October 9, 1989, the first meeting took place between representatives of the Lvov group of the UAOC and Bishop Ioann Bodnarchuk, during which he gave his preliminary consent to transfer to the UAOC. 50 However, on the same day, he wrote another petition to the Synod, asking “to appoint him to hierarchal ministry” and attaching a medical certificate stating that he was “entirely able-bodied”. 51 Without waiting for an answer and after some consideration and consultations, on October 20, 1989, he gave his final consent “to receive the UAOC under his spiritual care and become its head’. 52 On 22 October, already as a hierarch of the UAOC, Bodnarchuk performed his first diaconal ordination for the UAOC 53 during a liturgy in the Lvov Cathedral of Ss. Peter and Paul. On the same day, he issued an appeal that he signed as “Bishop Ioann, First Hierarch of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church”. 54

Even his self-proclamation as “First Hierarch of the UAOC” seemed immediately to give rise to differences between Bishop Ioann and the Lvov clergy of the UAOC, since as early as October 31, the UAOC Church Rada headed by Archpriest Vladimir Yarema resolved to receive into the UAOC only those priests from the Moscow Patriarchate who “unconditionally recognize Metropolitan Mstislav as the primate of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church”. 55 The same resolution of the UAOC Rada stated that it was known that the leadership of the Communist Party of Ukraine (CPU) planned to create, as distinct from the UGCC, a fictitious UAOC “obedient to the regime”, “falsely calling it autocephalous and even transferring St. George’s Cathedral in Lvov to it”. The UAOC Rada members declared these plans to be “attempts of the party bureaucracy to prevent the legalization of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church with the help of a mass transfer of churches in Galichina to a fictitious, non-authentic Orthodox autocephalous church”. 56      

Later, in 1991, allegations about Bishop Ioann Bodnarchuk’s cooperation with the Soviet security services in his capacity as a UAOC hierarch were voiced publicly by both Archpriest Vladimir Yarema and the head of the UAOC, Metropolitan Mstislav Skripnik, while Ioann Bodnarchuk was dismissed as head of the UAOC and later, in April 1992, fully expelled from the UAOC episcopate. 57 Moreover, after the failed “August putsch” of the State Committee on the State of Emergency (SCSE) in 1991, documents were discovered in the archives of the Lvov Regional Committee of the Communist Party of Ukraine showing that Ioann Bodnarchuk had cleared many of his actions as head of the UAOC with Ukrainian Communist Party leaders and the KGB regional directorate. The chairman of the Lvov Brotherhood of St. Andrew the First-Called, Bogdan Rozhak, and Archpriest Vladimir Yarema, tried at that time to make these documents public, but they were “excommunicated” from the UAOC by Ioann Bodnarchuk. 58

All these facts were revealed much later, but at that time, the Lvov clergy of the UAOC were glad to have their own bishop. Despite the initial attempts of Ioann Bodnarchuk to declare himself unilaterally “first hierarch of the UAOC”, Archpriest Vladimir Yarema managed to thwart these plans and to secure the newly joined bishop’s acknowledgement of the supremacy exercised over him by Metropolitan Mstislav Skripnik, the head of the UAOC in the USA. In exchange for this, the latter issued a decree in late October 1989 elevating Ioann Bodnarchuk to the rank of “Archbishop of Lvov and Galich”. 59

On November 1, 1989, Ioann Bodnarchuk declared his withdrawal from the Moscow Patriarchate in a telegram to Patriarch Pimen and the ROC Synod in Moscow. After that, he was summoned by the Synod several times to consider his case, but he never came. Bodnarchuk was deprived of his hierarchal rank and his monkhood by a resolution of the Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate on November 13, 1989. 60

The First UAOC Ordinations and Chekalin’s Involvement in Them

By early 1990, the UAOC already counted about 200 parishes and communities, predominately in Western Ukraine. 61

The first UOAC episcopal consecration was performed on March 31, 1990, in the village of Mikhailevichi, Drogobych District, Lvov Region. Fr. Ioann Bodnarchuk, the brother of former Bishop Ioann Bodnarchuk and rector of the church in Mikhailevichi, who had taken monastic vows with the name  Vasilii the day before, was ordained as “Bishop of Ternopol and Buchach”. This consecration was held without a conciliar discussion or an election of the candidate, secretly, bypassing the UAOC’s Church Rada. Even the head of the UAOC in the USA, Metropolitan Mstislav Skripnik, was not notified. One other hierarch of the UAOC, Andrei Abramchuk, was consecrated in the same secret and hasty way as “Bishop of Ivano-Frankovsk and Kalomyia”. Those involved in his consecration were Ioann Bodnarchuk, the impostor Chekalin, and the newly-consecrated Vasilii Bodnarchuk (as “Bishop of Ternopol”). Subsequent consecrations of UAOC hierarchs were accomplished already by these three “bishops” on their own, without Chekalin’s participation.

At the First All-Ukrainian Council of the UAOC, which was held on July 5-6, 1990, at the Central Cinema House in Kiev with the permission of the authorities of the Republic, Ioann Bodnarchuk made public for the first time the fact that the first UAOC consecrations had taken place with the involvement of Vikentii Chekalin, whom he called “a bishop of the Russian Church Abroad”. 62 At the same time, nothing was said about the participation of any third bishop in these consecrations. Bodnarchuk was so confident in the canonical standing of this “ROCOR bishop” that, at the time, he did not doubt the validity of the consecrations he had jointly performed.

Later, in his letter of repentance of January 15, 1993 to Patriarch Alexis II of Moscow and to the Synod of the ROC (Moscow Patriarchate), former Bishop Ioann gave this testimony on the consecration: “The following persons took part in the first consecration of Vasilii of Ternopol: I, former Bishop Ioann of Zhitomir and, as he introduced himself, Bishop Vikentii of Yasnaia Polyana. The consecration was celebrated in the church of the Holy Unmercenaries Cosmas and Damian in the village of Mikhailevichi, Drogobych Deanery, Diocese of Lvov.” 63

At first, Chekalin was taken seriously in the UAOC as “a bishop of the UAOC”. The UOC’s official body in Canada called him an “ordainer” of UAOC bishops on its Web site. 64 Ioann Bodnarchuk even suggested that Chekalin should head the Russian-speaking diocese of the UAOC in Odessa. However, soon after the July Council of the UAOC, when information about Chekalin’s participation in consecrations in the guise of “a bishop of the ROCOR” became a public knowledge, representatives of the ROCOR began sending evidence that this man was an impostor. 65 As Bodnarchuk confirmed later, the scandal was caused, among other things, by the appeals of “the parish of the Catacomb Church” in Chernigov, which was under the care of the ROCOR Synod and knew Chekalin to be an impostor. 66

In late summer 1990, the ROCOR Synod of Bishops issued an official statement: “The ROCOR Synod of Bishops notifies the clergy and laity of all the Orthodox parishes that Vikentii Chekalin who passes himself off as a bishop of the Catacomb Church recognized by the Russian Church Abroad is actually not such, and all the sacraments performed by him cannot be recognized as grace-giving… The ROCOR Synod of Bishops gives a warning against even greater canonical mistakes because the fulfilment of episcopal consecration could involve someone not possessing the grace of apostolic succession.” 67

The ROCOR Synod’s statement was a bombshell. Testimonies of the imposture of “the consecrator of the UAOC bishops” caused turmoil within the UAOC itself. Many priests of the Moscow Patriarchate who had contemplated moving to the UAOC refrained from taking such a step. Those who had already made this move began to ask questions and to challenge the canonicity of their own episcopate. From now on, it was impossible to expect that the Patriarchate of Constantinople or other Local Churches might recognize the newly formed church structure. Metropolitan Mstislav Skripnik, who was declared “Patriarch of Kiev and All Ukraine” by the June Council of the UAOC, likewise began to issue stern demands for an account and explanations.

Finding himself in an embarrassing situation, Ioann Bodnarchuk, at one of the press conferences in Kiev, instead of repentance and canonical rectification of the situation, resorted to apparent falsification by alleging that he, together with the deceased Metropolitan Alexii Konoplev of Kalinin and Kashin and the late Sekachevtsy “bishop” Vladimir Abramov, had “secretly consecrated” Chekalin in 1986 as “Bishop of Tula and Yasnaia Polyana.” 68 This statement ran contrary to Chekalin’s own earlier testimonies to the ROCOR Synod in July 1989 and January 1990, in which he stated that he had been “ordained as bishop by only two hierarchs: Metropolitan Alexii Konoplev and Vladimir Abramov”. 69 Furthermore, whereas at the ROCOR Synod Chekalin stated that he had been elevated to the rank of “archimandrite” by Metropolitan Alexii Konoplev at his home, he now began alleging that this had been done by Bishop Ioann Bodnarchuk of Zhitomir and even produced an “exact date”, June 28, 1986, 70 even though he refused to indicate any date at the ROCOR Synod.

Consequently, in his testimonies before ROC Synod members in September 1992 and January 1993, Ioann Bodnarchuk, having filed a penitential petition asking to return to the Moscow Patriarchate, presented an exhaustive testimony about the first UAOC episcopal consecration, of his brother Vasilii Bodnarchuk, on March 21, 1990.[/ref]Bodnarchuk, Letter of Repentance.[/ref] He also confirmed that only two persons took part in that consecration: he and Chekalin, and that there had been no third bishop with them. He also confirmed then that until late February or early March 1990, he had never met Chekalin, nor performed any “episcopal consecration” for him together with the late Metropolitan Alexii Konoplev.

Ioann Bodnarchuk, who signed one of his first penitential letters of April 1992 to Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow as “former bishop”, asked:

“I am entreat you, Your Holiness, to make a decision at the next Holy Synod concerning my petition to remove the bans on me and restore me to my former rank. I am greatly grieved at the present moment. Concerning the non-canonicity of the hierarchy of the UAOC, I am ready to tell all in an interview with any newspaper at any time when you should invite me to Moscow. But I would like to request that this should not happen earlier than a month to a month and a half after my petition has been reviewed by you, Your Holiness, at the Holy Synod, and after my case has been handed over to the Head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.” 71

There is a surviving draft copy of the transcript of the aforementioned interview of Ioann Bodnarchuk with the ROC Synod members which was produced in September 1992, in which he testified that Mstislav Skripnik had demanded explanations from him with regard to Chekalin’s participation in the UAOC consecrations, because he had received information from representatives of the ROCOR about his being an impostor. Since Chekalin insisted on the validity of his “episcopal rank”, Ioann Bodnarchuk allegedly performed an additional laying-on-of-hands for him and on this ground began affirming later that he had taken part in his “consecration”. 72 How far this explanation is true is impossible to verify. It is not improbable that it is a falsification or fabrication.

Who exactly introduced Bodnarchuk and Viktor/Vikentii is still a mystery. And why did the latter, immediately after his return from the USA, not go home to Tula, but rather wound up in Lvov, where he began passing himself off as “bishop of the ROCOR”? Later, Bodnarchuk testified to the ROC Synod members that he had first met Chekalin in late February and early May 1990 in Lvov, and had believed that he was a lawful “ROCOR bishop”. At the same time, he reported that Chekalin was introduced to him as a “ROCOR bishop” by one of his acquaintances in the Communist Party regional committee. 73

Bodnarchuk did not mention the name of this mysterious “acquaintance” of his from the regional committee staff. However, if this testimony is accurate, it partially confirms previous suspicions that Chekalin’s involvement in the first episcopal consecrations and the creation of the UAOC hierarchy was planned by the KGB as part of its attempt to rein in the spontaneous and uncontrolled process of the revival of the UAOC.

According to one of the UAOC hierarchs, Igor Isichenko: “No episcopal consecration in the USSR was held without the sanction of the KGB… It would be naïve to assume that the revival of the UAOC went unnoticed by the KGB. It is not known whether we will someday learn how it came to be that precisely at the time when the UAOC was being revived, a hierarch from Galicia was deprived of his diocese in the Moscow Patriarchate. How did members of the Action Group from Lvov come in contact with him? How did a bishop, a stranger to Metropolitan Mstislav, manage to acquire the title of “First Hierarch of the UAOC in Ukraine” and, independently of the Primate of the UAOC, manage to form a UAOC episcopate at his sole discretion by organizing episcopal consecrations in such a crafty way as to have the possibility of blackmailing the hierarchs ordained by him?… This was the work of an agency that likes to operate without a trace.” 74

Supposed Involvement of Bishop Varlaam Iliushchenko

In the beginning, in all their testimonies about the first episcopal consecration of Vasilii Bodnarchuk as “Bishop of Ternopol”, Archpriest Vladimir Yarema and others stated that only two hierarchs had participated in it: Ioann and “ROCOR” Bishop Vikentii Chekalin. 75 This was stated in public by Ioann Bodnarchuk at the First All-Ukrainian Council of the UAOC (Kiev, June 5-6, 1990) and later in a letter to Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and the Moscow Patriarchate Synod (January 15, 1993). 76 Similarly, Chekalin, too, testified no later than summer 1990 that he had performed the first UAOC episcopal consecration in March 1990 together with Ioann Bodnarchuk, with no mention of any third “bishop”. 77

After the scandal concerning Chekalin’s imposture broke out in summer 1990, Ioann Bodnarchuk suddenly stated at a press conference in Kiev that along with him himself and Chekalin, another person, a certain “patriarchal” Bishop X, who wished to remain anonymous, had allegedly taken part in the “consecration” of Vasilii Bodnarchuk on March 31, 1990. It was declared that the participants and witnesses who were present at the consecration swore “on oath not to reveal this mystery till death”. 78 This story about the oath was also presented a year later, in October 1991, when references continued to be made in the UOAC to “the oath unto death” with its ban on the disclosure of the identity of the third “Bishop X”. 79

In November 1990, the “Patriarch” of the UAOC, Mstislav Skripnik, no longer taking on trust Ioann Bodnarchuk’s contradictory statements, effectively discharged him. At the same time, Archpriest Vladimir Yarema and some other priests in Lvov and the UAOC Lvov Brotherhood accused Ioann Bodnarchuk for the first time of collaboration with the KGB and subversion aimed at corrupting the UAOC from within. In early 1991, Mstislav forbade the UAOC hierarchs to consecrate bishops and sent Archbishop Anthony Shcherba to Ukraine from the USA to ordain new bishops for the UAOC without any participation of the “Chekalin line” of hierarchs. As Canadian priest Timothy Minenko writes, “Patriarch Mstislav believed the first UAOC bishops were not canonically ordained because at that time he did not know as yet that the third mysterious bishop who participated in the consecration of the first UAOC bishops was a bishop of the Kiev Patriarchate, close to Metropolitan Philaret”. 80

Ioann Bodnarchuk refused to reveal the name of this mysterious “Bishop X” up until he was removed from the UAOC leadership. Only after that did he begin alleging in private conversation that the third hierarch who had participated in the episcopal consecration of his brother Vasilii Bodnarchuk was the chancellor of the ROC Exarchate of the Ukraine, who at that time was the Archbishop of Simferopol and Crimea: Varlaam Iliushchenko, who had died on September 17, 1990. Later, Ioann Bodnarchuk presented a “certificate of consecration” issued for Vasilii Bodnarchuk with three signatures: the first that “Vikentii, Bishop of Yasnaia Polyana of the Free Orthodox Church”, the second that of a certain “most humble Varlaam”, and the third that of “Ioann, Archbishop of Lvov and Galich in Volynia”. 81 At the same time, while the names and titles of Chekalin and Bodnarchuk were originally typed in the document in full, there is an ellipse next to the name “Varlaam” (with no the title) and the see has filled written in by hand. This fact confirms that when the document was drafted at the time of Vasilii Bodnarchuk’s consecration, the name of the third participant was still unknown and for this reason a blank was left with an ellipse and the name itself was inserted much later, after the event – most probably after Archbishop Varlaam Iliushchenko had passed away in September 1990.

As we can see, this is already the fourth hierarch whose name was used posthumously in the course of Chekalin’s adventures to justify uncanonical consecrations or imposture (the first three were, as indicated above, the late Archbishop Sergii Golubtsov, Metropolitan Alexii Konoplev, and Sekachevtsy “bishop” Vladimir Abramov). In all four cases, the handwriting is one and the same. The names of the bishops seem to have been deliberately chosen by virtue of their deaths so that they could not disprove anything.

Later, in September 1992, speaking before members of the ROC Synod, Ioann Bodnarchuk confessed that the name of Archbishop Varlaam Iliushchenko was added to the certificate of consecration after the event and confirmed that only two men had participated in the consecration of Vasilii Bodnarchuk: himself and Chekalin. 82 He explained that a blank space with an ellipse had been left for the name of the third “bishop” due to his negotiations with several Moscow Patriarchate hierarchs prior to the consecration as to whether they would be able to take part in the ordination of his brother Vasilii. As he did not know who would be able to come, he left a blank in the certificate for the signature of the third hierarch. However, since nobody else came to the Mikhailevichi, the consecration had to be performed with just Chekalin. Moreover, according to Ioann, the name of Archbishop Varlaam Iliushchenko was inserted in the blank line in the certificate after his death in autumn 1990 became and was copied from Varlaam’s holiday greeting letters from precious years that Ioann had at his disposal. 83 Expert analysis of the signatures for “Varlaam” and “Ioann” in this document demonstrated that the both signatures belonged to the same hand.

It is worthy of note that in the Vasilis Bodnarchuk’s consecration certificate of March 31, 1990, Chekalin’s name comes first and only after it do we see the name of Ioann Bodnarchuk. This fact shows that the “consecration” was most likely presided over and performed by none other than Chekalin, while Bodnarchuk merely concelebrated with him. Most probably, Bodnarchuk, at that time already deposed in the Moscow Patriarchate, wished to play things safe by mitigating possible accusations of holding consecrations after being deposed, and for this reason proposed that the consecration be led by a “ROCOR bishop” whose canonicity had not yet been questioned.

Bodnarchuk repeatedly altered his statements. For this reason, it is very difficult to determine with accuracy when he was sincere and truthful. On 11 June 1993, the Moscow Patriarchate Synod resolved that the restoration of Ioann Bodnarchuk as bishop would be possible only by a decision of the supreme church court, which for the episcopate is a Local Council. As a matter of fact, with the refusal to accept him in his present rank and without the wish to wait for a Local Council, in June 1993, Bodnarchuk moved to the UOC (Patriarchate of Kiev) in which he radically changed his previous testimonies. A week before his death on 2 November 1994, he for the first time signed a written statement alleging that it was “His Eminence Varlaam of Volyn and Rovno” who took part in Vasilii Bodnarchuk’s “episcopal consecration”. 84 At the same time, the statement gives no indication of the place or date of the consecration to which it refers, and the title of Archbishop Varlaam as “Archbishop of Volyn and Rovno” is incorrect, since Varlaam Iliushchenko had actually had the title of Archbishop of Simferopol and Crimea since February 1990.

The document, signed by “Metropolitan” Ioann Bodnarchuk, “Archbishop” Vasilii Bodnarchuk, and the priests and brothers Igor and Miron Sas-Zhurakovsky, states that they swore to keep the name of “Archbishop Varlaam” secret until his death and that Vasilii’s consecration was videotaped by Archbishop Varlaam’s chauffeur, who did not leave behind a copy of the film. Consequently, attempts were made in the UAOC to present as proof some excerpts from a low quality video in which it is impossible to recognize anyone except for Ioann Bodnarchuk, but as it turned out, this video was made of a different consecration, celebrated later, and not Vasilii’s.

This story is astonishing, in that the signatories to this document, if they really swore to keep the name of “Archbishop Varlaam” secret until his death, inexplicably attested to this fact four years after he died, not immediately after his death in September 1990, when a public scandal broke out in the UAOC because of Chekalin’s imposture and participation in the uncanonical consecration of the UAOC hierarchy. It appears very strange, too, that the document was allegedly drafted a week before Ioann Bodnarchuk’s death on November 9, 1994, but the document itself also contains a signature of Archpriest Miron Sas-Zhurakovsky dated August 15, 1995, that is, nine months after Bodnarchuk’s death. It is thus still questionable whether Ioann really put his signature under this document – or was it inserted later by someone else instead of him? In his previous statements, made in 1992, he asserted that the first UAOC episcopal consecration was celebrated by him together with Chekalin.

It ought to be pointed out that Metropolitan Philaret Denisenko, former Moscow Patriarchate Exarch in the Ukraine, also denied that Archbishop Varlaam Iliushchenko had taken part in the first UAOC episcopal consecrations. For the same reason, Metropolitan Philaret, when he joined with the UAOC, insisted on the need to re-ordain the leading hierarchs of the “Chekalin line of succession”: Vladimir Romaniuk, Antonii Masendich, and Daniil Kovalchuk. 85

The account of Archbishop Varlaam Iliushchenko’s participation in the first UAOC consecration was also rejected in written statements by Archbishop Varlaam’s chauffeur, Nikolai Yakovlevich Andrukhov (b. 1943), and by the Archbishop’s Protodeacon Vasilii Anatolievich Marshchuk (b. 1961). Both witnesses, whose testimonies were given under oath, stated that on March 30-31 and April 1, 1990, Archbishop Varlaam Iliushchenko, then ruling bishop of the Moscow Patriarchate diocese of Simferopol and Crimea, did not leave his diocese and served during those days at the Cathedral in Simferopol.

In particular, the testimony given by Archbishop Varlaam’s chauffeur states:

“I, citizen Nikolay Yakovlevich Andrukhov, was employed as a driver for the Crimea diocesan administration from March 1985 to the end of 1991.

“On February 19, 1990, Archbishop Varlaam Iliushchenko was appointed as ruling bishop of the diocese of Simferopol. At that time, I was the only driver in the Crimean diocesan administration.

“From February to May 1990, His Eminence Varlaam did not leave the bounds of the diocese. Every day he was at the Diocesan Administration office and on days off and holidays, he celebrated at the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity in Simferopol.

“On March 30 and 31, 1990, His Eminence Archbishop Varlaam Iliushchenko of Simferopol and Crimea conducted statutory divine services at the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity in Simferopol, since it was the period of Great Lent. Moreover, I can add that His Eminence would not miss any service.

“His Eminence Varlaam travelled exclusively in a black GAZ-24 (Reg. No 03-16 КРА) and a white GAZ-24 (Reg. No. 48-56 КРА) during his trips in the diocese. His Eminence did not go outside of the diocese. His Eminence objectively could not have performed an episcopal consecration on March 31, 1990, at Mikhailovichi village, Lvov Region, and come back to Crimea within half a day in order to be back in time for the evening service on March 31 and the liturgy on April 1 […] I accompanied him on all his trips. In March 1990, His Eminence Varlaam could not have taken part in the ‘consecration’ of Vasilii Bodnarchuk. As I have already said, at the time, I was the only driver and assistant to His Eminence Varlaam. Therefore, I can truthfully testify to this.

“At that time, neither His Eminence Varlaam nor I had a video/cine camera but only a picture camera. I did not even know and do not know how to shoot a video.” 86

Similar evidence was presented by Fr. Vasilii Marushchak, who in 1990 served as protodeacon in the Diocese of Simferopol under Archbishop Varlaam Iliushchenko. In particular, Fr. Vasilii Marushchak affirmed under oath that “in the Lenten period, namely from March 31 to April 1, 1990, Archbishop Varlaam Iliushchenko celebrated divine services at the Holy Trinity Cathedral in Simferopol, at which I was a concelebrant. His Eminence Varlaam used a car in his trips within the diocese. During his visits to parishes, His Eminence was accompanied by me together with his driver N. Y. Andrukhov. As far as I remember, His Eminence did not go outside of the diocese during that period… I consider untrue and contrary to fact the statements of the representatives of the UOAC and UOC (Kievan Patriarchate) which were published in the media and on the Internet after the event and after the death of His Eminence Varlaam of eternal memory, alleging that he consecrated the first ‘bishop’ of the UAOC. I do not remember His Eminence Varlaam mentioning anything about the UAOC in his sermons. In my view, Archbishop Varlaam Iliushchenko will ever be remembered as a zealous arch-pastor and faithful son of our Mother Church.” 87

Therefore, as is evident, the account of the participation of Archbishop Varlaam Iliushchenko of Simferopol and Crimea in the episcopal consecration of Vasilii Bodnarchuk on March 31, 1990, remains unverified.

Chekalin and Bodnarchuk in Russia

It is a little known fact that Ioann Bodnarchuk and a group of “bishops” of the UAOC performed a number of episcopal consecrations in Russia in secret from “Patriarch” Mstislav, thus initiating the formation of the hierarchy of such totalitarian sects as “The Centre of the Mother of God” and “The True Church of the Revelation of John the Theologian”. It was through Chekalin that, in summer 1990, Bodnarchuk met with the Sekachevtsy “priest” and “prophet” Ioann Bereslavskii and Priest Constantin Vasiliiev, Rector of the Holy Dormition Cathedral in the town of Kashira near Moscow, who left the Moscow Patriarchate under his influence. 88

On August 22, 1990, in the town of Drogobych in Lvov Region, Bodnarchuk and “bishops” Vasilii Bodnarchuk and Daniil Kovalchuk, who had been ordained with Chekalin’s assistance, elevated priest Konstantin Vasiliiev to the rank of “bishop” with the title “of Moscow and Kashira”. 89 Signed by Ioann Bodnarchuk, Danila Koialshuk, and Lazar Valiiev. Copy. Private Archive of S. V. Shumilo. They assigned him the monastic name of “Lazar” (thus at first managing to mislead some followers of the TOC-ROCOR, since the canonical catacomb ROCOR Bishop Lazar Zhurbenko, who had exposed Chekalin as impostor, had the same name). 90 Later, on December 14, 1990, at Solonskoe Village, Drogobych District, Lvov Region, on the initiative of the very same Chekalin, Ioann Bodnarchuk, Daniil Kovalchuk, and Lazar Vasiliiev elevated a certain Vladislav Filippov to the rank of “bishop” with the title “of Zelenograd and Kolomna”, and assigned him the monastic name of Tikhon. 91 On the same day, by his decree No. 569, “in recognition of the service he rendered to the True Orthodox Church and for his missionary work for the benefit of the Church of God and the great Russian People”, Ioann Bodnarchuk elevated Lazar Vasiliiev to the rank of “Archbishop of Moscow and Kashira”. 92

All these consecrations and appointments were made by Ioann Bodnarchuk while bypassing “Patriarch” Mstislav and not notifying him. Later, in 1992, he tried to conceal these facts from the ROC Synod when he sent Patriarch Alexis II his letter of repentance.

On December 19, 1990, the newly ordained “bishops” Lazar Vasiliiev and Tikhon Filippov, with the “blessing” of Ioann Bodnarchuk, established the so-called “Russian Autocephalous Orthodox Church” (RAOC) and held a “local council” at which they elected the “prophet” Ioann Bereslavskii as “Bishop of St. Petersburg and Valamo”. Bodnarchuk endorsed this decision in writing on December 21, 1990. It reads, “I give my blessing to Archimandrite Ioann to be the Bishop of St. Petersburg and Valamo. His Beatitude Metropolitan Ioann”. 93 On December 25 of the same year, this was followed by the “consecration” itself performed by Vasiliiev and Filippov. 94  Bodnarchuk wrote the following resolution on Bereslavskii’s consecration certificate: “I have familiarized myself with it. Very glad. His Beatitude Metropolitan Ioann.” 95

Initially, it was Chekalin who was meant to become the head of the so-called “RAOC”. However, after the ROCOR Synod’s statements about his imposture, he had to abandon this idea, which resulted in a refusal to invite him to the so-called “Local Council of the RAOC” in December 1990. Later, on June 1, 1991, during another “local council”, Vasiliiev, Filippov, Bereslavskii, and Popov renamed the “RAOC” the “Orthodox Church of the Mother of God” (“Center of the Mother of God”). 96

In this way, the totalitarian charismatic sect of the “paracletists” known as “Center of Mother of God” was formed with the involvement of Bodnarchuk and Chekalin (other names: “Russian Church of Mary”, “The Church of the Mother of God the Transformer” and “The Orthodox Church of the Mother of God the Powerful”). It is led by the “Archbishop” Ioann Bereslavskii, the “prophet of the Virgin Mary”. 97 On June 15-19, 1991, he organized “The First All-Russia Council of the Mother of God” in Moscow, declared that “the Fatima prophecies [had been] fulfilled,” and enacted the “consecration [of Russia] to the heart of the Virgin Mary”. On November 12, 1991, he organized another spectacle entitled “All-Russian Council of the Mother of God” in the Krasnyi Oktiabrʹ movie theatre in Moscow, in which a dramatized performance called “The Coronation of Virgin Mary for the Throne of Russia” was shown. Bereslavskii held a dialogue with the leaders of the White Brotherhood occultist sect, “Mary Devi” Tsvigun and “Prophet” Ioann Krivonogov, some of whose followers initially took an active part in Bereslavskii’s “Councils of the Mother of God”. Later, after Bodnarchuks’s death, Bereslavskii “canonized” him.

In summer 1991, “Archbishop” Lazar (Konstantin Vasiliiev) broke away from the “The Centre of the Mother of God” to head up his own sect called “The True Church of the Revelation of John the Theologian”. 98 Just like Bereslavskii, he declared himself to be “a prophet of the apocalypse”, “Patriarch of All Russia”, “the lamb of the revelation”, “a divine infant set up to tend to the nations of a new grace, new land and new heaven”, as well as “the spiritual leader of new holy Rusʹ” and its “anointed tsar”. 99 The director of the Prois healing centre in Moscow, Leonid Prokopiev, who passed himself off as “a KGB colonel”, belonged to this sect for some time. Given the monastic name of Raphael and called Seraphim as a hermit, he later changed his surname to “Motovilov”, received the rank of “bishop” from the UAOC-generated “hierarchy”, and established his own sectarian movement called “The Orthodox Russian Church” (ORC).

In addition, the following “bishops” were consecrated by the UAOC for Russia in 1996: Ioann Modzalevskii, Stefan Linitskii and Serafim Kuchinskii. These “bishops”, in their turn, consecrated over 60 “bishops” in Russia at various times, who formed over a dozen new sects. Among those whose “Chekalinist succession” was derived from the UAOC are such “hierarchs” as Raphael Prokopiev (alias Seraphim Motovilov, mentioned above), Didim Nesterov, Mikhail Vishnevskii, Kiriak Temirtsidi, Sergei Sarkisov, Vilalii Kezhevatov, Rostislav Melnikov, Damian Akimov, Andrey Tregub, Oleg Vedmedenko, Viktor Veriaskin, Vladimir Mocharnik, Aleksei Gomes, Osii Osios, Antonii Korbat, Mark Voinov, Mikhail Gordienko, Ioann Abramenko, and many others. After degenerating into outright sectarianism, many of these “hierarchs” have built their own small sectarian groups, and some of them have fully broken away even externally from Orthodoxy (the so-called “Reformed Orthodox Church”, “Apostolic Orthodox Church”, “Apostolic Reformed Orthodox Church”, “Apostolic Orthodox Church”, “True Orthodox Catholic Church”, “Russian Orthodox Catholic Church”, “Orthodox Church of Russia/True Orthodox Church”, “United Orthodox Royal Russian Church”, “Patriarchate of the Russian True Orthodox Catacomb Church”, “Holy Catholic Apostolic Church”, etc.). Many of them have styled themselves as the “True Orthodox Church” (TOC), though actually they have nothing in common with the historical catacomb communities and groups of the True Orthodox Church/Russian Orthodox Church Abroad (TOC-ROCOR).

As for Chekalin, after Mstislav Skripnik had removed Bodnarchuk from the UAOC administration at the beginning of 1991 and challenged the canonicity of the hierarchy of the “Chekalin succession”, he hastily tried to go over to the UGCC. As Chekalin reported in an interview to the Moscow samizdat bulletin Vestnik IRAR in February 1991, “On January 4, 1991, in Lvov, Metropolitan Vladimir Sterniuk incorporated me into the episcopate of the Catholic Church. On January 10, by the power of Pope John Paul II of Rome, a Decree was signed installing me as the First Hierarch of the Russian Catacomb Catholic Church”. 100

Chekalin’s joining the UGCC was actually effected by Metropolitan Vladimir Sterniuk on January 4, 1991, in the domestic chapel of the Metropolitan Palace in Lvov, where he, in the presence of witnesses, confessed and took an oath of allegiance to “the holy Catholic faith”. 101 On January 10, Sterniuk signed a certificate, which read: “By the power invested in patriarchs or patriarchal vicars of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church by His Holiness the Pope of Rome, I install the Right Reverend Vikentii (Viktor Vladimirovich Chekalin), Bishop of Yasnaia Polyana, as First Hierarch of the Russian Catholic Church with the right to install and accept bishops, to form dioceses, and all the other rights of governance.” 102

In mid-January 1991, Chekalin registered the first Greek-Catholic community in Moscow, after which he established the “diocesan administration” of the so-called “Russian Orthodox Catholic Church” (ROCC). He addressed the Moscow City Council with a request to hand a number of churches in Moscow over to him: “The present Russian Catholic Church,” he wrote, “is the mother of not only the Russian Greek Catholic Church, but also the Russian Orthodox Church. However, our church is still lacking necessary church buildings and administrative facilities”. 103

The following marginal pseudo-bishops have derived their “succession” from Chekalin in Russia: Mikhail Anashkin, Aleksey Lobazo and Manuil Platov (alias Mikhail Potemkin), who have constituted the “hierarchy” of the so-called “Russian Orthodox Catholic Church” (RPCC). 104 Another odious impostor hierarch, Nikon-Sergey Lemekin, has cooperated with this sect. 105

On February 3, 1991, Patriarch Alexii of Moscow sent a letter to the Vatican requesting to explain how a man deprived of priestly rank could be a Catholic bishop. A short time later, the president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, Cardinal Edward Cassidy, and the Papal Nuncio to the USSR, Archbishop Francesco Colasuonno, stated that Chekalin was not a bishop and was not in communion with, or within the jurisdiction of, the Catholic Church. 106 After that, in August, Metropolitan Vladimir Sterniuk was discharged. Cardinal Miroslav Ivan Liubachivskii, newly appointed to the Ukraine, stated that he had exceeded his prerogatives and had appropriated the rights of the First Hierarch. 107

In early 1992, Chekalin tried to join the Old Catholic Church, but did not remain in it for long. According to media reports, having kidnapped a small boy from a family, Chekalin changed his surname to Berg and fled with him to Australia, after which Interpol initiated a search for him. 108

For a long time in Australia, Vincent Berg (the new name of Viktor-Vikentii Chekalin) passed himself off as “a victim of the repressive politics of the USSR”, “a bishop of the Anglican Church”, and even “a psychiatrist from a secret KGB school”. He presented forged documents to the Australian authorities stating that he had a medical education, which helped him to land jobs as a psychiatrist at medical institutions in Queensland from 1999-2003. Later, he was under criminal investigation for the rape of underage patients. The last report about him in the foreign media stated that in September 2018 in Australia, Southport District Court in the state of Queensland had sentenced Vincent Berg (Viktor Chekalin) to up to 4 years 3 months in prison for repeated fraud and forgery. 109

In Lieu of an Afterword

The documents, testimonies and facts presented here confirm that only two persons took part in the first UAOC episcopal consecration in Mikhailevichi, Lvov Region, on March 31, 1990: former Bishop Ioann Bodnarchuk and Viktor Chekalin, who had no episcopal rank and was an imposer and a swindler. Furthermore, this “consecration”, judging by the certificate of consecration, was led by Chekalin, who was lacking not only the rank of bishop, but also that of monk and priest. The name of Archbishop Varlaam Iliushchenko in Vasilii Bodnarchuk’s consecration certificate was inserted only later after the Archbishop’s death. Therefore, the first episcopal consecrations and the origins of the UAOC in the early 1990s can, regrettably, be traced back to an impostor who has no apostolic succession. This violates the 1st Apostolic Canon (“A Bishop must be ordained by two or three bishops”). 110 Neither Mstislav Skripnik nor Philaret Denisenko subsequently recognized the episcopal consecrations of the “Chekalin succession” as valid. However, because many of them, convinced of the lawfulness of their rank, refused to be re-ordained, the “Chekalin succession” has partly survived in the UAOC and the UOC (Kievan Patriarchate). Nobody has re-ordained the priests and deacons ordained by the hierarchs of the “Chekalin succession”, not only in the UAOC, but also in the UOC (Kievan Patriarchate). It was with this status that many of them were received into communion with the Patriarchate of Constantinople.

In particular, the official delegation of the Ukrainian Church of Constantinople at the ceremony of the bestowal of the tomos of autocephaly in the Phanar on January 5-6, 2019 included Andrei Abramchuk, “Metropolitan of Galich”, who was one of those consecrated as bishop by Vikentii Chekalin, 111 and who concelebrated in the Phanar with Patriarch Bartholomew and other hierarchs of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. In spite of Metropolitan Philaret Denisenko’s insistent requests for him to consent to re-ordination, Andrei Abramchuk vehemently refused to do so, because he had joined the UOC (Kievan Patriarchate) in 1993 in his “present rank”, becoming a member of its Synod and the head of its synodal commission for canonisation. Later, he returned to the UAOC to become a member of the Synod and participate in the consecration of new bishops of the UAOC. After his move to the UOC (Kievan Patriarchate), another hierarch of the “Chekalin succession”, Vasilii Bodnarchuk, refused to be re-ordained. During his “episcopal” service from 1990 to 2006, he ordained over 300 priests in the UAOC and the UOC (Kievan Patriarchate) and participated in the consecration of many hierarchs. When another hierarch of the “Chekalin succession”, Petr Petrusʹ, transferred to the UOC (Kievan Patriarchate) in 1992, he refused to be re-ordained by Metropolitan Philaret Denisenko. The former First Hierarch of the UAOC, “Metropolitan” Makarii Meletich was ordained by hierarchs of the ‘Chekalin succession’, namely, Dimitrii Yarema and Igor Isichenko, as was the former hierarch of the UOC (Kievan Patriarchate), Mefodii Kudriakov. Thus, some of the UAOC bishops who joined the Ukrainian Church (Patriarchate of Constantinople) in 2018 were also bearers of the “Chekalin succession” by virtue of priestly and episcopal ordinations accomplished by Andrei Abramchuk, Makarii Meletich, and others.

The aforementioned copy of Vasilii Bodnarchuk’s certificate of consecration from March 31, 1990, with the forged signature “Varlaam”, and the copy of the certificates issued to Ioann and Vasilii Bodnarchuk and to priests Igor and Miron Sas-Zhurakobskii on November 2, 1994, were presented to the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople as “proof of the canonicity of the UAOC hierarchy”. 112 These very documents seem to have been accepted and taken into consideration when the decision was made to recognize the UAOC hierarchs in their “present rank” without any additional laying-on-of-hands or consecrations, and to receive them into communion in October 2018. 113 If this is so, then it may turn out that the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople made its decision on the basis of forged documents presented to it. This discovery must be studied in detail in order to consider whether earlier mistakes can be rectified. Ever since the UAOC hierarchy and clergy were received into communion with the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, this issue has extended its reach beyond the domestic conflicts in the Ukraine and become a problem for the entire universal Orthodox Church. Sooner or later a well-reasoned answer will have to be given that takes into account all the circumstances and facts at hand.


  1. “Chekalin, Viktor Vladimirovich”. Otkrytaia pravoslavnaia entsiklopediia “Drevo” [“Drevo” Open Orthodox Encyclopedia]. (accessed 08/22/2019). [All quotations are translated from Russian unless otherwise stated —ed.]
  2. Gorevoi D. “Pro khirotonii v UAPTs” [On the Consecrations in the UOAC]. Cerkvarium. (accessed 08/22/2019). [Initial translation from Ukrainian to Russian by Sergei Shumilo —ed.]
  3. “Περί των χειροτονιών στην Ουκρανική Αυτοκέφαλη Ορθόδοξη Εκκλησία.” Fos Fanariou. (accessed 08/26/2019)
  4. Gorevoi D., Derkach T. “Iak v UPTs (MP) khotili diskredituvati Cerkavrium, ale sili v kaliuzhu”. Cerkvarium. (accessed 09/04/2019). [Translation from Ukrainian to Russian by Sergei Shumilo —ed.]; Apantisi ston Prothierea Nikolao Danilebits [“Reply to Archpriest Nikolai Danilevich”]. (accessed 09/08/2019).
  5. Quoted in Russian from Pravila sviatykh Apostol, Sviatykh Soborov, Vselenskikh i Pomestnykh, i sviatykh otets s tolkovaniiami. Moscow: 1876. pp. 13-14.
  6. “Περί των χειροτονιών…”; Gorevoi, “Pro khirotonii…”
  7. Proclamation of the Holy and Sacred Synod, October 11, 2018. Ecumenical Patriarchate. (accessed 10/11/2019)
  8. Shumilo, Sergei. V katakombakh. Pravoslavnoe podpolie v SSSR [In the Catacombs. The Orthodox Underground in the USSR]. Lutsk, Ukraine, 2011. pp. 115-116, 134-135, 140-141, 181-182, 193-201.
  9. Ibid.
  10. Alekseev, V., Nechaeva, M. Voskresshie Romanovy?.. K istorii samozvanchestva v Rossii XX veka [The Romanovs Resurrected? On the History of Imposture in 20th-century Russia]. Ekaterinburg, 2000. Pt. 1, pp. 209-349; Nechaeva, M. “Ot «velikogo kniazia» do «arkhiepiskopa». Evoliutsiia samozvantsa Mikhaila Pozdeeva v kontekste tserkovnoi sredy” [“The Evolution of the Impostor Mikhail Pozdeev in the Context of the Church Milieu”], in: Religioznoe mnogoobrazie Uralskogo regiona. Materialy Vserossiiskoi nauchno-prakticheskoi konferentsii [Religious Diversity of the Ural Region]. Orenburg, 2014, pp. 168-181; Slesarev, A. “Osnovatel «serafimo-gennadievskoi vetvi» Katakombnoi tserkvi «skhimitropolit» Gennadii (Sekach)”, in: Sektovedenie. Almanakh [Sect Studies: An Almanac], Zhirovichi, Belarus, 2012. Vol. 2, pp. 112-147; “Lzhearkhiepiskop Kheruvim (Degtar) i vnutritserkovnoe sektantstvo” [Pseudo-archbishop Kheruvim Degtyar′ and Sectarianism within the Church], in: Religiia v Ukraine [Religion in the Ukraine]. (accessed 07/05/2012).
  11. Shumilo, Sergei. V katakombakh, pp. 115-116, 134-135, 140-141.
  12. Information from the Office of the ROCOR Synod of Bishops, May 2/15, 1990. Source: Archives of the ROCOR Synod in New York.
  13. Shumilo, Sergei. V katakombakh, pp. 181-182, 199-201.
  14. Vikentii Chekalin, Petition to ROCOR First Hierarch Metropolitan Vitaly of July 17, 1989, ROCOR Archives, New York.
  15. Zhurnal Moskovskoi Patriarkhii [Journal of the Moscow Patriarchate], No. 8 (1983), p. 2.
  16. Vikentii Chekalin, Petition…; Chekalin, Vikentii. “Pismo bratu-christianinu” [“Letter to a Brother Christian”], in: Svobodnoe Slovo [Free Word, official newspaper of the Moscow “Democratic Union” party], No. 38 (68), Moscow, 1990, p. 6.
  17. Smirnov, Evlogii, Archbishop. Eto bylo chudo Bozhie [That Was a Miracle of God]. Moscow, 2000, pp. 197-198.
  18. Vikentii Chekalin, Petition…
  19. Minutes of the Synod of Bishops of the ROCOR, No. 685 for January 18/31, 1990. ROCOR Archives, New York.
  20. Letter No. 1029, of November 5, 2019, of Bishop Paramon of Sergiev Posad, Deputy Superior of Holy Trinity-St. Sergius Lavra
  21. Ibid.
  22. Vikentii Chekalin, Petition…; Minutes…
  23. Vikentii Chekalin, Petition…
  24. Minutes…
  25. Moskovskii Tserkovnyi Vestnik [Moscow Church Bulletin], No. 2 (46), 1991, p. 7.
  26. Oral testimonies of “Metropolitan” Epifanii of Kaminskii and catacomb nuns given to the author in the town of Svetlogorsk, Gomel region, 1993;  Moss, V. Zhitie episkopa Vladimira Abramova [Life of Bishop Vladimir Abramov]. (accessed 08/09/2019)
  27. Oral testimonies of “Metropolitan” Epifanii of Kaminskii, “Archbishop” Vasilii Beliak, “Archbishop” Kheruvim Degtyar, “Hegumen” Germogen Dunnikov, ‘Hegumen’ Alexander from Minsk, and others, 1993-1998; Yashunskii, I. “Nashi katakombi” [“Our Catacombs”], in: Vestnik RKhD [Bulletin of the Russian Christian Movement]. No. 3 (166), Paris, 1996, p. 49.
  28. Shumilo, V katakombakh…, pp. 199-201
  29. Ιδρυτής σχισματικών της Ουκρανίας καταδικάσθηκε για απάτη και πλαστογραφία. (accessed 11/27/2018)
  30. Extract from a Reference from the Tula Regional Prosecutor’s Office, in: Moskovskii Tserkovnyj Vestnik, No. 2 (47), 1991, p. 7.
  31. K istorii avtokefalnogo i filaretovskogo raskolov [Towards a History of the Autocephalist and Philaretist Schisms]. Kiev, 2000; Shumilo, op. cit., pp. 199-201.
  32. Letter No. 903 of May 26, 1988, from Moscow Patriarchate Chancellor Metropolitan Vladimir Sabodan of Rostov and Novocherkassk to Archbishop Maxim of Tula and Belev. Archives of Tula Diocese of the Moscow Patriarchate.
  33. Vikentii Chekalin, Petition…
  34. Ibid.
  35. Chekalin, Pismo Bratu-Khristianinu…
  36. Minutes…
  37. Ibid.
  38. Oral testimony of Archbishop Lazar Zhurbenko to the author, July 1993; Psarev, A. Gde eshche ne opusteli bochki russkogo meda. Otvet na stat’iu «episkopa» Vikentiia Chekalina v gazete «Svobodnoe slovo» [Where the Barrels of Russian Honey Have Not Yet Run Empty. Reply to “Bishop” Vikentii Chekalin’s Article in Svobodnoe Slovo Issue No. 4 of August 5, 1990]. Moscow/Jordanville: St. Job of Pochaev Print-shop, 1990, p. 12.
  39. Shumilo, op. cit., pp. 181-182.
  40. Isichenki, I, Archbishop. Avtokefal’na Tserkva na mezhi tisiacholit’ [The Autocephalous Church at the Turn of the Century]. (accessed 06/06/2010).
  41. “Zvernennia Initsiativnogo komitetu vidnovlennia UAPTs”, in: Nasha vira — Pravoslav’ia. Vidannia parafii UAPTs v Ukraіni. (Ukrainian) Samizdat. No. 1 (1989), p. 2.
  42. Lokhvits’ka, L. “Podiі: vesna — lito 1989 roku”, in: Nasha vira — Pravoslav’ia…, p. 2; Yarema, V., Archpriest. “Trete vidrodzhennia UAPTs”, in: Ukraіns’ke pavoslavne slovo. South Bound Brook, New Jersey, 1991, No. 4-5, p. 9.
  43. Yarema, op. cit., p. 9.
  44. “Zaklik Komitetu vidrodzhennia UAPTs do ukraіns’kikh vladik, panottsiv, diiakoniv, chentsiv ta vsikh viruiuchikh na Bat’kivshchini i v diaspori”, in: Nasha vira — Pravoslav’ia…, p. 2.
  45. Yarema, op. cit., p. 9.
  46. “Zaklik Komitetu vidrodzhennia UAPTs do ukraіns’kikh vladik, panottsiv, diiakoniv, chentsiv ta vsikh viruiuchikh na Bat’kivshchini i v diaspori”, in: Nasha vira — Pravoslav’ia…, p. 2.
  47. “Zaklik Komitetu vidrodzhennia UAPTs do ukraіns’kikh vladik, panottsiv, diiakoniv, chentsiv ta vsikh viruiuchikh na Bat’kivshchini i v diaspori”, in: Nasha vira — Pravoslav’ia…, p. 2.
  48. Zhurnal Moskovskoi Patriarkhii, 1990 (No. 1), p. 30.
  49. Zhurnal Moskovskoi Patriarkhii, 1977 (No. 12), p. 80; Zhurnal Moskovskoi Patriarkhii, 1978 (No. 2), p. 80; Tsap, M., Archpriest. “Mitropolit Ioan (Bodnarchuk) i trete vidrodzhennia UAPTs ta progoloshennia Kiіvs’kogo Patriarkhatu”, in: Volins’kii Blagovisnik. Lutsk, 2013 (No. 1), pp. 221-223; Tsap, M., Archpriest. “Malovidomi podiі iz zhittia ta arkhipastirs’kogo sluzhinnia mitropolita Ioana (Bodnarchuka)”, in: VVolins’kii Blagovisnik. Lutsk, 2013 (No. 6), pp. 193-194; Prelovs’ka, I. “Diial’nist’ mitropolita Ioana (Bodnarchuka) u spravi vidrodzhennia Ukraіns’koі Avtokefal’noі Pravoslavnoі Tserkvi u 1989–1990 rr.”, in: Ukraіns’ke pravoslav’ia u konteksti vitchiznianoі istoriі ta suspil’nikh transformatsii. Materiali Vseukraіns’koі naukovo-praktichnoі konferentsiі (27–28 listopada 2014 r., m. Ternopil’). Ternopil’/Kiіv, 2014, pp. 168–173.
  50. Pashulia I., Archpriest. “Chas Bozhogo onovlennia i blagoslovennia”, in: Uspens’ka vezha. Lvov, 2004, No. 8 (146), pp. 5-6.
  51. Pisik, Nestor, Archbishop. “Mitropolit Ioan (Bodnarchuk): zhittia ta arkhipastirs’ka diial’nist’.”митрополит-іоан-боднарчук-життя-та-архіпастирська-діяльність (accessed 26/04/2017)
  52. Nasha vira – Pravoslav’ia…, 1989 (No. 2-3), pp. 1–2.
  53. Ibid.
  54. ”Zvernennia arkhipastiria UAPTs do vsikh khristiians’kikh siniv i dochok ukraіns’kogo narodu”, in: Nasha vira – Pravoslav’ia…, 1989 (No. 2-3), pp. 1-2.
  55. “Ukhvali Tserkovnoі Radi UAPTs v Ukraіni”, in: Nasha vira – Pravoslav’ia…, 1989 (No. 2-3), p. 2.
  56. Ibid.
  57. Minenko T., prot. Do pitannia tserkovnoі smuti v suchasnii Ukraіni // Visnik. Vinnipeg. 1993. No. 3 (2579). S. 8; Isichenko Iu. Sud’ba Ukrainskoi avtokefal’noi tserkvi // Religiia i demokratiia: Sb. statei pod obshchei redaktsiei S. Filatova i D. Furmana. M., 1993. S. 385–413; Blazheiovs’kii D. Ierarkhiia Kiivs’koi Tserkvi (861–1996). L’viv, 1996. S. 544; Ishchuk O. V. Ierarkhichni superechnosti ta mizhtserkovna polemika iak viiav krizi ukraіns’kogo avtokefal’nogo rukhu 1990–1993 rr. // Naukovi zapiski Natsional’nogo universitetu «Ostroz’ka akademiia». Seriia «Istorichne religieznavstvo». Ostrog, 2012. Vip. 6. S. 184–186.
  58. In a conversation with the author in December 1991, B. Rozhak showed copies of these documents. Testimony of S. B. Shumilo.
  59. Nasha vira — Pravoslav’ia…, 1989 (No. 2-3), p. 2.
  60. “Opredeleniia Sviashchennogo Sinoda” [“Resolutions of the Holy Synod”], in: Zhurnal Moskovskoi Patriarkhii, 1990 (No. 2), pp. 4-5; “Arkhiereiskii Sobor Russkoi Pravoslavnoi Tserkvi 30–31 ianvaria 1990 goda” [“The Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church of January 30-31, 1990”], Zhurnal Moskovskoi Patriarkhii, 1990 (No. 5), pp. 4-12.
  61. Isichenko, op. cit. 114 There was an acute need to ordain new bishops for the rapidly growing church organization, but there was no second hierarch to do so, as hierarchs of the UAOC diaspora could not yet travel to the USSR from abroad. It was precisely in this strange combination of circumstances that Chekalin, who had just returned from the USA and presented himself as a “bishop of the ROCOR”, offered his services.

    This is how those events were described by one of the founders of the UAOC, Archpriest Vladimir Yarema (later “Patriarch” Dimitrii of the UAOC, d. 2000), rector of Ss. Peter and Paul church in Lvov:

    “By now, one bishop [Ioann Bodnarchuk –S. Sh.] was not enough, as we had to think about the establishment of a hierarchy for other dioceses. With the help of Bishop Vikentii of the Russian Church Abroad, consecrations of bishops took place; they are now already archbishops: Vasilii [Bodnarchuk’s brother –S. Sh.] of Ternopol and Buchach and Andrei [Abramchuk –S. Sh.] of Ivano-Frankovsk and Kolomyia. Shortly thereafter, our own hierarchs consecrated Danilo [Kovalchuk –S. Sh.] of Chernovrtsy and Khotyn, Vladimir [Romaniuk, later ‘patriarch’ of the UOC (Kievan Patriarchate), d. 1995 – S. Sh.] of Uzhgorod and Khust, Roman [Blashchuk –S. Sh.] of Chernigov and Sumy, and Antonii [Masendich –S. Sh.] of Rovno and Zhitomir.” 115Yarema, op. cit., Ukrainian-Russian translation by the author.

  62. Oral testimony by S. V. Shumilo, who was present as an observer at the First All-Ukraine Council of the UAOC and witnessed the discussions and decisions it made, and also had conversations with Ioann Bodnarchuk, Archpriest Vladimir Yarema, and others.
  63. Letter of repentance of former Bishop Ioann Bodnarchuk to Patriarch Alexis II of Moscow and All Russia and the Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate (Rus.), of January 15, 1993. Source: Moscow Patriarchate archives.
  64. Visnik. Winnipeg, 1991 (No. 3/2555).
  65. Among other things, at the time, the author of this article (S. V. Shumilo) informed a ROCOR bishop about Chekalin’s involvement in the UAOC episcopal consecrations and, having received information about Chekalin’s imposture and lack of recognition by the ROCOR, handed this over to Antonii Masendich, Vladimir Romaniuk, Eevgen Sverstiuk, Vladimir Kotelnitskii, Vyachelsav Login, and others. Draft copy of the transcript of the questioning of former Bishop Ioann Bodnarchuk for the Moscow Patriarchate Holy Synod members, September 1992, Moscow, typescript from the personal archives of Metropolitan Philaet of Minsk and Slutsk, Patriarchal Exarch of Belarus.
  66. Draft copy of the transcript of the questioning of former Bishop Ioann Bodnarchuk for the Moscow Patriarchate Holy Synod members, September 1992, Moscow, typescript from the personal archives of Metropolitan Philaet of Minsk and Slutsk, Patriarchal Exarch of Belarus.
  67. “Zaiavlenie Kantseliarii Arkhiereiskogo Sinoda RPTsZ, 24 avgusta / 7 sentiabria 1990 g.” [“Declaration of the Chancellery of the ROCOR Synod of Bishops, August 24/September 7, 1990”], in: Pravoslavnaia Rus’ [Orthodox Russia], 1990, No. 19.
  68. Moskovskii Tserkovnyi Vestnik, 1991, No. 2 (47), p. 7; Chekalin, Vikentii. Pismo bratu christianinu, p. 6.; Bondarenko V. “«Zaradi sluzhinnia Bogovi ta poriatunku liudini». Interv’iu chlena Patriarshoі Radi UAPTs episkopa Antoniia (Masendicha)”, in: Liudina i Svit. Naukovo-populiarnii religieznavchii zhurnal, 1991, No. 10 (373), p. 16.
  69. Vikentii Chekalin, Petition…; Minutes…
  70. Chekalin, Pismo…, p.6
  71. Ibid.
  72. Draft copy of the transcript of the questioning…
  73. Ibid.
  74. Isichenko, op. cit.
  75. Yarema, op. cit., p. 9.
  76. Letter of Repentance…
  77. Oral testimony given by Chekalin in the city of Tula during a talk with V. V. Shumilo on May 4, 1990. During that talk at Chekalin’s home, a young woman was there as well as two small children, one of whom ran up to Chekalin and called him “daddy”.
  78. Bondarenko. “«Zaradi sluzhinnia Bogovi ta poriatunku liudini»…”, p. 16.
  79. Ibid.
  80. Minenko. Do pitannia tserkovnoі smuti…, p. 8.
  81. Copy of the certificate of consecration of UAOC Bishop Vasilii Bodnarchuk of Ternopol’ and Buchach of March 31, 1990; Gorevoi, “Pro khirotoniі v UAPTs
  82. Letter of Repentance…
  83. Draft copy of the questioning…
  84. Copy of the certificate signed by Metropolitan Ioann Bodnarchukm, Archbishop Vasilii Bodnarchuk, and priests Igor Sas-Zhurakovsky and Miron Sas-Zhurakovsky, November 2, 1994; “Περί των χειροτονιών…”; Gorevoi, “Pro khirotoniі v UAPTs…”
  85. Yarema, R., Priest. Tserkovnye raskoly v Ukraine [Church Schisms in the Ukraine]. Kiev, 2007, pp. 52-53.
  86. Notarially certified testimony of Andrukhov Nikolay Yakovlavich (b. 1943) of 09/19/2019. Certified by a notary of the Simferopol Municipal Notarial District; registered No. 82/4–н/82–2019–2–565.
  87. Notarially certified testimony of Marushchak Vasilii Analolyevich (b.1961) of 09/19/2019. Certified by a notary of the Simferopol Municipal Notarial District; registered No. 82/4–н/82–2019–2–566.
  88. Moskovskii tserkovnyi vestnik, No. 2 (47), January 1991, p. 6.
  89. Episcopal consecration certificate of Tikhon Filippov as Bishop of Zelenograd and Kolomna, No. 568, 12/14/1990.
  90. Pozdniaev, M. Gorestnye fakty [Lamentable Facts]. Australia, 1992.
  91. Certificate of the consecration of Lazar Vasiliiev as Bishop of Moscow and Kashira, No. 288, of 08/22/1990. Signed by Ioann Bodnarchuk, Vasilii Bodnarchuk and Danila Kovalchuk. Copy. Private Archive of S. V. Shumilo.
  92. Decree of Metropolitan Ioann Bodnarchuk, No. 569 of 12/14/1990, on the elevation of Lazar Vasiliiev to the rank of Archbishop of Moscow and Kashira. Copy. Private Archive of S. V. Shumilo.
  93. Resolution of the Holy Council of the Russian Autocephalous Orthodox Church of 12/19/1990, with a resolution by Metropolitan Ioann Bodnarchuk of 12/21/1990. Copy. Private Archive of S. V. Shumilo; Rytsar very [Knight of Faith], 1994, No. 8 (22), p. 12.
  94. Certificate of the elevation of Ioann Bereslavskii to the rank of Bishop of St. Petersburg and Valamo, of 12/25/1990. Signed by Ioann Bodnarchuk, Lazar Vasiliiev and Tikhon Filippov. Copy. Private Archive of S. V. Shumilo.
  95. Ibid.
  96. Decree of the Holy Council of the Russian Autocephalous Orthodox Church of 06/16/1991. Signed by Lazar Vasiliiev, Tikhon Filippov, Ioann Bereslavskii, and Ilia Popov. Copy. Private Archive of S. V. Shumilo.
  97. Slesarev, A. A. “Pravoslavnaia Tserkov’ Bozhiei Materi Derzhavnaia” [“The Orthodox Church of Our Lady Derzhavnaia”], in: Religii narodov sovremennoi Rossii: Slovar’ [Religions of the Peoples of Modern Russia: A Dictionary], ed. Mchedlov, M. P., Aver’ianov, Iu. I., Basilov, V. N., et al., Moscow, 2002.
  98. Moskovskii tserkovnyi vestnik, 1991, No. 2 (47), p. 6.
  99. Nebesnyi Grad. Gazeta Istinnoi tserkvi apokalipsisa Ioanna Bogoslova [The Heavenly City: Newspaper of the True Church of the Revelation of John the Theologian], 1993 (No. 8)
  100. Interview with Bishop Vikentii. Vestnik IRAR. Samizdat. Moscow, February 1991.
  101. Svidotstvo pravliachogo arkhiereia Galits’koі Mitropoliі UGKTs mitropolita Volodimira (Sterniuka), 4 sichnia 1991 r. Copy. Private Archive of S. V. Shumilo.
  102. Certificate of the Vicar of the UGCC Metropolitan Vladimir (Sterniuk) of  January 10, 1991 (Rus.). Private Archive of S.V. Shumilo.
  103. Moskovskii tserkovnyi vestnik, 1991, No. 7 (52), p. 9.
  104. Slesarev, A. V. “Rossiiskaia pravoslavnaia kafolicheskaia tserkov’” [“The Russian Orthodox Catholic Church”]. Antiraskol. Informatsionno-spravochnyi portal po raskolovedeniiu [Antiraskol. Information and Reference Portal for Schismology]. (accessed 09/15/2011).
  105. Lamekin, Nikon. Ierarkhiia tserkvei [Hierarchy of the Churches]. (accessed 09/19/2018)
  106. K istorii avtokefal’nogo i filaretovskogo raskolov
  107. “Vatican Rejects the Russian Catholic Church”. KNS. April 18, 1991, p. 15;  Moskovskii Tserkovnyi Vestnik, 1991, No. 7 (52), p. 9; Pospelovskii, D. V. Russkaia pravoslavnaia tserkov’ v XX veke [The Russian Orthodox Church in the 20th Century]. Moscow, 1995, p. 434.
  108. Averbukh, V. “Otets-samozvanets. Mnimyi sviashchennik vtaine ot roditelei uvez russkogo mal’chishku v Avstraliiu” [“Self-styled Father. Sham Priest Takes Russian Child to Australia without Parents’ Knowledge”], in: Rossiiskaia gazeta, August 26, 2005 (No. 3857). (accessed 08/26/2005); Shumilo, V. katakombakh… p. 201; Iashunskii, I, op. cit., p. 49.
  109. Ιδρυτής σχισματικών της Ουκρανίας καταδικάσθηκε…
  110. Pravila sviatykh Apostol…, pp. 13-14.
  111. “Mirnii vizit Mitropolita Kiіvs’kogo Epifaniia do Vselens’kogo Patriarkha Varfolomiia. Pidpisannia ta vruchennia Tomosu pro avtokefaliiu Ukraіns’koі Tserkvi, 5-6 sichnia 2019 r.” – ofitsiinii web-sait PTsU. (accessed 01/06/2019)
  112. Περί των χειροτονιών…; Gorevoi, “Pro khirotonii v UAPC…”; Tsap, op. cit., p. 225.
  113. Announcement of the Holy and Sacred Synod of October 11, 2018. Ecumenical Patriarchate. (accessed 11.10.2018)

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