An Overview of How the Orthodox Church Lives in Ukraine
This article provides an overview of how the Orthodox Church lives in Ukraine. We cover issues like the schism between Patriarch Kirill and Patriarch Onufriy, Priests’ precarious position and more. You’ll also discover what’s new in the Orthodox Church of Ukraine.
Table of Contents
Patriarch Kirill’s schism
Patriarch Kirill’s schiism in the orthodox church in Ukraine has sparked controversy among orthodox Christians. He has defended his position as a conservative, while traditionalists have been wary of his reformist approach. He has condemned fraudulent parliamentary elections, and has defended “lawful negative reaction” to corruption. In his own words, it would be a bad sign if the Kremlin didn’t pay attention to him. While he has lavished his money on lavish apartments, Swiss chalets, yachts, and other luxuries, Kirill has a “conservative stance” and is unlikely to be seen as a reformist.
Despite this, Kirill’s position in the Ukrainian church has been undermined. Some Ukrainian bishops have refused to mention the name of Patriarch Kirill. This has been seen as a pro-Russian move by the Ukrainian leadership. This is a problem for the church in Ukraine.
While the Russian Federation’s invasion of Ukraine has been met with criticism, the Patriarch of the Orthodox Church in Ukraine, Patriarch Onufriy, has not yet withdrawn his support for the Ukrainian government. He has not yet ruled out the possibility of declaring the UOC-MP council void, but that’s likely to be difficult, if not impossible. In any event, Onufriy is trying to maintain the middle ground.
Onufriy was consecrated Bishop of Chernivtsi and Bukovina on December 9, 1990, and signed the request for autocephaly for the Orthodox Church of Ukraine with Patriarch Alexy II on 22 January 1992. Onufriy later transferred to the Ivano-Frankivsk diocese, but was later restored to the Diocese of Chernivtsi. He served as Bishop of Chernivtsi for twenty-three years. He was promoted to Archbishop on July 28, 1994, and appointed permanent member of the Holy Synod of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
Hierarchical Divine Liturgy
During the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy of this Orthodox Church in Ukraine, a number of clergy members and visitors from Ukraine took part. The clergy included Metropolitan Yurij, the head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Canada, Metropolitan Antony, the head of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Canada, and Bishop Christopher, the head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA. The Cathedral choir also participated in the service.
The Hierarchical Divine Liturgy was attended by over 500 people in Sydney, Australia. The priests concelebrated the Liturgy with over forty Archbishops, including Cardinal Charles Bo SDB, Archpriest Michael Hutsko, and Metropolitan Taras Lonchyna. The choir was directed by Adam Wesselinoff. The Divine Liturgy was broadcast live on EWTN. It will be telecast at 3 p.m. ET on Sunday, July 9.
Priests’ precarious position
The Ukrainian Orthodox Church has long been the dominant spiritual force in the country. Up until May of this year, its spiritual leadership was located in Moscow. The new government aimed to remove church leaders from power and imposed strict antireligious legislation. This resulted in an increase in pressure on the Orthodox Church, placing bishops and priests in an extralegal position. This led to concerns that the broader church could become a Trojan horse for pro-Russian views.
In response, parishioners became increasingly angry about the Russian Orthodox Church’s support of the war in Ukraine. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church, however, continues to stress its role in helping civilians in the country and presiding over funerals of Ukrainian servicemen and civilians. Despite this, some priests have stopped commemorating Kirill in services, and some have even called for Metropolitan Onuphury to break away from Moscow.
The conflict in Ukraine has exposed deep divisions within the Orthodox world. Research has shown that religion plays a vital role in national identity. Church affairs are important to the temporal leaders of a state, both in defending against external aggressors and in state-building. The conflict in Ukraine is a mirror image of the political divisions within eastern Europe.
The government is investigating allegations that Russia-backed priests are infiltrating the church. Ukrainian authorities believe that the priests have been providing targets for Russian artillery, spying on Ukrainian activists and transferring information about Ukrainian troops’ positions.
The Holy Synod of the Romanian Orthodox Church has reiterated its position on the ecclesiastical situation in Ukraine. It called for bilateral dialogue between the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Moscow Patriarchate to preserve the unity of faith while respecting the pastoral and administrative freedoms of the Ukrainian clergy. It also called for the restoration of Eucharistic communion.
In 1990, the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church re-established itself in Ukraine. Its autocephalous church primate was the former Metropolitan of Canada. His name is Epiphanius I, Metropolitan of Kyiv and All Ukraine.