The Orthodox Church of Ukraine is an autonomous, Eastern Orthodox Christian denomination in Ukraine. It was founded in 1876 and was granted Autocephaly by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. Today, there are several differences between the Ukrainian and Russian Orthodox churches. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church is an autocephalous Orthodox church. It practices a number of Christian beliefs, including those of the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches.
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Autocephaly granted by Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople
In 1924, the Church of Romania obtained autocephaly from the Church of Constantinople. The Church of Constantinople, however, rejected it and granted a separate tomos in 1922. The Church of Serbia followed in 1922 and was recognized by Constantinople in 1937. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church also achieved autocephaly from the Ecumenical Patriarchate in 1992.
The ROC is also ready to act independently in the conflict in Ukraine. Its activities are already affecting its relations with other Christian churches. The Metropolitan Hilarion hurried to meet with the Roman Catholic Church to confirm good relations. In the meantime, the ROC has withdrawn from the Ecumenical Council of Orthodox and Roman Catholic Church led by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.
The granting of autocephaly to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church has been a hotly contested issue. The Russian Orthodox Church has seen it as an infringement of jurisdiction and authority. In response, Patriarch Bartholomew announced the dispatch of two envoys to Kyiv to prepare for Ukrainian autocephaly. In response, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow removed the names of Bartholomew from diptychs and said he would not concelebrate with him.
Separation from Russian Orthodox Church
The Separation from the Russian Orthodox Church is the latest controversy to erupt in the Christian faith in the world. While the Russian Orthodox Church is in danger of losing a lot of territory and believers, they are also facing a huge loss in terms of their spiritual authority over the Ukraine. The separation from the Russian Orthodox Church has been condemned by both the Ukrainian government and Russian President Vladimir Putin. However, the debate continues.
Many members of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church are troubled by the encroachment of Catholicism and other Christian denominations into the country. They argue that a secular Communist regime has left the Orthodox Church too weak to compete on an equal footing with the Western Churches. They also view Catholic proselytizing as unfair competition for the recovering Russian Church. Whether or not this is a good thing remains to be seen, but for now, the question remains, “Why does the Russian Orthodox Church feel threatened by the separatism of Ukrainian Christians?”
Intercommunion with other Christian faith traditions
The Ukrainian Orthodox Church has separated from its Russian counterpart after 300 years of affiliation. The split reflects the ongoing military conflict between Russia and Ukraine and the political importance of Orthodox Christianity in the region. In the meantime, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) has maintained its independence and is a part of the Russian Orthodox Church. While this recent split is unfortunate, it does not mean that the Ukrainian Orthodox Church is no longer connected to other Christian faith traditions.
While some may see the intercommunion with other Christian faith traditions in Ukraine as a goodwill gesture for future unification, Orthodox Christians consider it an official conclusion of doctrinal and administrative reconciliation. Although this agreement has made progress in Ukraine, it is a long way from a final unification. Orthodox Christians continue to face difficult issues in the region, despite the recent progress.
Claims of religious intolerance
Despite the current climate in Russia, the Ukrainian orthodox church remains a prominent player in the country’s political and cultural debate. Mainstream religious associations actively participate in public debates on issues related to human rights, such as the non-recognition of same-sex marriage, the strengthening of traditional families, banning of abortions, and the right to conscientious objection. Despite claims of religious intolerance, the Ukrainian church continues to operate freely and holds most parishes and believers.
The new Orthodox Church of Ukraine has been proclaimed independent from Moscow in December 2018. The ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople blessed a solemn council in Kyiv, which created the new church and elected Metropolitan Epifaniy as its leader. The Ecumenical Patriarch also recognized the Ukrainian Orthodox Church as an equal member of the worldwide communion of Orthodox churches.