Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 15.11.2018
A unification council will be held in Ukraine on November 22 to create a single Orthodox church. This will be the first time the Ukrainian Orthodox Church will choose its own head, the Metropolitan of Kyiv, in 332 years. The illegal annexation of the Ukraine Orthodox Church by Moscow is at an end.
What used to be called the “Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Moscow Patriarchate (the UOC-MP)” no longer exists. Now known properly as the Russian Orthodox Church in Ukraine, this Kremlin-controlled entity only has whatever ecclesiastical authority its congregations in Ukraine decide to give to it. Canonically, the church that emerges from the unification council that will start on November 22 will be the “Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Kyiv Patriarchate.” The prelate who will be chosen to be the Metropolitan of Kyiv will receive a tomos of autocephaly from the Ecumenical Patriarch, the Archbishop of Constantinople, Bartholomew I.
Some of the priests of the former UOC-MP will go to the unification council. Most will not. The announcement of the unification council was made by the former spokesperson of the UOC-MP, Archpriest George Kovalenko, who now says he is attached to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
On November 13, the President of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko, invited representatives of the former UOC-MP to a meeting at Ukrainian House in central Kyiv to discuss autocephaly of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. He was extending the invitation of the Ecumenical Patriarch and of the Ukrainian state to all Orthodox believers in Ukraine to come together in the “peace of Christ” to create a single church with a self-chosen head.
Instead of attending, hierarchs of the former UOC-MP held a meeting at Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra. They did so on the same day as the Ukrainian House meeting in order to thwart President Poroshenko. Their efforts were not entirely successful. Three hierarchs of the Moscow Patriarchate – the former UOC-MP – did attend a closed-door meeting with President Poroshenko: Metropolitan Pereyaslav-Khmelnitsky and Vishnevsky Alexander (Drabinko); Archbishop of Nova Kakhovka and Henichesk Filaret; Metropolitan of Vinnitsa and Barsky Simeon.
The rump of the UOC-MP that met at Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra did Moscow’s bidding and cut themselves off from ecumenical communion with Constantinople and from unity with their mother church in Ukraine. It is difficult to see what attraction such an anti-Ukrainian and anti-Eastern Orthodoxy “Russian Orthodox Church in Ukraine” will have for Ukrainian parishioners once the tomos of autocephaly is granted. Ukraine has constitutionally-protected freedom of religion, has no state church, and church property is given for use and not actually owned by organized religious groups. Sticking with the Kremlin regime that is at war with the Ukrainian nation, the Russian Orthodox Church in Ukraine is on very weak ground.
It looks like Ukraine will have a single Orthodox church with its own head by the end of the year. This will mark the restoration of a mode of civil life in Ukraine that has existed for 1,030 years. Barring the necessary liberation of Crimea and Donbas – which still must come – autocephaly removes the last vestige of colonial misrule and oppression by Muscovy over Ukraine.