Since the beginning of the 1990s, especially after the final exposure of V. Chekalin as a swindler, there were many rumors, hypotheses and assumptions about the participation of some mysterious “acting bishop of the Moscow Patriarchate” in the first ordination of the UAOC. They also talked about the film or video of this ordination, where the figure of the “unknown bishop” is seen. However, there was no documentary evidence of this until Dmitry Gorevoy published copies of several documents of unknown origin on the Cerkvarium Internet portal, as if confirming the participation in the first ordination of the canonical bishop of the Ukrainian Exarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church, Archbishop Varlaam (Ilyushchenko). Unfortunately, the author was unable to study these “documents” carefully, as well as other materials that shed light on the events of March 1990, including the episcopal ordination of Vasily Bodnarchuk. So, let’s try to examine this issue.
At the beginning of autumn 1990, it became known that patriarch Mstyslav (Skrypnik) was to arrive in Ukraine, who insistently demanded from the lord Ioann (Bodnarchuk) to provide him with convincing evidence of the canonicity of ordinations, because there was a lot of public evidence that V. Chekalin did not have the episcopal dignity. Having no real opportunity to attract any bishop of the Moscow Patriarchate, the participants in the consecration of bishop Vasily (Bodnarchuk) resort to outright falsification. This is how describes it Ioann (Bondarchuk) himself: “Closer to the autumn of 1990, it became clear to me that it was not possible to persuade the bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church I knew to participate in the “ordinations”, and the “patriarch” Mstyslav demanded a full account of the first “ordination”. Moreover, in September 1990 he heard about the death of archbishop Varlaam (Ilyushchenko). He was perfect because he was the archbishop of Volyn and Rivne, and I had many holiday congratulations from him (with a personal signature). Therefore, he entered his name in the “letter of ordination” and informed the “patriarch” Mstyslav and some other “bishops” of the UAOC. We gathered (who was at the first “ordination”) and made such a decision.”
When we turn to the biography of archbishop Varlaam (Ilyushchenko), we will note that he was an exemplary cleric of the Ukrainian Exarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church. Already in 24, immediately after graduating from the Kyiv Theological Seminary, he was recruited into the office of the Exarchate, and in 1969 he was appointed as the manager of the Exarchate and Dean of Kyiv. Since 1972 – vicar bishop of the Kyiv diocese (later, as a managing bishop, he successively headed several more dioceses of the exarchate). In general, lord Varlaam’s career in the time of the USSR was very successful, which could not have happened without cooperation with the KGB. The latter fact is confirmed by the fact that in 1984 he was allowed to visit Greece and Athos.
In 1989, being the managing bishop of the Rivne-Volyn diocese, lord Varlaam actively opposed the autocephalous movement, was one of the initiators of the harsh punishment of lord Ioann (Bodnarchuk) for moving to the UAOC. In general, while studying the available materials, we did not find even a hint of any attachment of the archbishop not only to the idea of Ukrainian autocephaly, but to the Ukrainian movement in general.
Therefore, in our opinion, there is no reason to believe that archbishop Varlaam suddenly decided to help the UAOC in the formation of its own hierarchy.
One of the first convincing proofs that archbishop Varlaam (Ilyushchenko) did not participate the first ordination of the UAOC, unexpectedly manifested itself back in August 1991. The documents were found in the archives of the Lviv regional committee of the Communist Party of Ukraine, according to which lord Ioann (Bondarchuk) coordinated his main actions with the leadership of the regional committee of the Communist Party of Ukraine and the regional administration of the KGB. Later, it was those documents that were transferred by the chairman of the Lviv Brotherhood of St. Andrew the First-Called Bohdan Rozhak to patriarch Mstyslav (Skrypnyk). There is no mention of the fact that lord Varlaam took some part in the life of the UAOC.
The second evidence of the non-participation of archbishop Varlaam (Ilyushchenko) in the ordination of Vasily Bodnarchuk are documents on his service in the Simferopol-Crimean diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church. We should note that there was a very careful monitoring of the bishops and priests of the Russian Orthodox Church, this determined the Soviet era. KGB informants were among both priests and church officials. In addition, an appropriate delegate, and sometimes more than one, supervised each service. Separately, they monitored the movements and meetings of the ruling diocesan bishop. This concerns the fact that it was almost impossible to hide something then. Therefore, the official church documents of the times of the USSR on the ministry of the episcopate are quite credible.
That is why, at our request, our Belarusian colleagues turned to the ROC archives in Moscow to find out the ministry of archbishop Varlaam (Ilyushchenko) in March 1990. According to the reply received, “archbishop Varlaam (Ilyushchenko), even before the beginning of Lent 1990 (02.26.1990 – ed.), passed his affairs in the Volyn-Rivne diocese and was permanently in the Simferopol-Crimean diocese. According to his ministry on March 30 – 31, 1990, according to the diocesan report, these days he served in the diocesan cathedral”.
The director of the International Institute of Athos Heritage Sergiy Shumylo also confirmed this information: “We managed to find the driver of bishop Varlaam (Ilyushchenko), who was his personal driver from February to July 1990 and accompanied him at that time on all his trips. He confirmed everything that you were told. This was Great Lent, and from February to April lord Varlaam did not leave the Crimean diocese at all and did not travel outside the Crimea, and then they did not have a movie camera in the diocese. The driver confirms that in those days Varlaam served in the Cathedral of Simferopol.” According to S. Shumylo, these data were recorded on a video camera and certified by a notary…
So, taking into account the distance from Simferopol to Drohobych, archbishop Varlaam, even hypothetically, could not participate in the episcopal consecration of Vasily Bodnarchuk on Saturday, March 31, 1990, and then return to his cathedral for the evening service.
In the “certificate” the title of archbishop Varlaam (Ilyushchenko) is indicated as “Archbishop of Volyn and Rivne”. But for more than a month, since February 19, 1990, he had the title of “Simferopol and Crimean”, and died with the title “Dnepropetrovsk and Zaporozhye) (since July 20, 1990). It is hard to believe that the participants and witnesses of the ordination did not know the correct title of their colleague, because during the liturgy he is mentioned for several times. This fact can only be interpreted by one thing – after leaving the Moscow Patriarchate and joining the UAOC in 1989, neither bishops John and Basil, nor Fr. Miron Sas-Zhurakovsky, nor his son Igor saw lord Varlaam (Ilyushchenko) and did not closely watch the life of the UOC. Therefore, they all remembered him exclusively as “Archbishop of Volyn and Rivne”, as he had been since December 31, 1986.