Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) declares its 'full independence'

Onufriy, Metropolitan of Kyiv and All Ukraine for the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate), at a liturgy in Kyiv, May 8, 2016. Onufriy, Metropolitan of Kyiv and All Ukraine for the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate), at a liturgy in Kyiv, May 8, 2016. | Sergento via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0)

A council of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) on Friday resolved on its “full self-sufficiency and independence,” distancing the Church from Russian Orthodoxy.

The decision comes amid the third month of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which has been prominently supported by Patriarch Kirill of Moscow.

“The Council adopted relevant amendments and additions to the Statutes on the administration of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, indicating the full self-sufficiency and independence of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church,” the Church resolved May 27 in Kyiv.

The council also condemned the Russo-Ukrainian War, gave terms for dialogue with the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, and broached the possibility of making chrism, which has been considered a sign of autocephaly in the Russian tradition.

“The council condemns the war as a violation of God’s commandment Thou shalt not kill,” it said, and it expressed its “disagreement with the position of Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia regarding the war in Ukraine.”

It asked that Russian and Ukrainian authorities continue to negotiate. 

Given the difficulties of communication amid the war, diocesan bishop were granted “the right to independently make decisions on certain issues of diocesan life that fall within the competence of the Holy Synod or the primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, with the subsequent informing of the hierarchy, when the opportunity is restored.”

Considering the flight of millions of Ukrainians amid the war it resolved to support the diaspora, expressing “its deep conviction that the Ukrainian Orthodox Church cannot leave its faithful without spiritual care, must be close to them in their trials, and organize church communities … It’s necessary to further develop the mission abroad among Orthodox Ukrainians in order to preserve their faith, culture, language, and Orthodox identity.”

Eastern Orthodoxy in Ukraine is split between the UOC-MP and the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, which was granted autocephaly by the Ecumenical Patriarch in 2019. Since the Russian invasion, some parishes of the UOC-MP have transferred to the OCU, and some have stopped commemorating Patriarch Kirill in the Divine Liturgy.

The council expressed “deep regret over the lack of unity in Ukrainian Orthodoxy,” saying it was “particularly disappointing” that the granting of autocephaly to the OCU “deepened misunderstandings and led to physical confrontation.”

Dialogue could resume, it said, if the OCU stops “the forcible seizures of churches and forced transfers of parishes” of the UOC-MP; “realize that their canonical status … is actually not autocephalous”; and “resolve the issue of the canonicity of the OCU hierarchy, because for the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, as for most Local Orthodox Churches, it’s quite obvious that in order to recognize the canonicity of the OCU hierarchy, it’s necessary to restore the Apostolic Succession of its bishops.”

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