Russia’s invasion of eastern Ukraine in 2014 provoked Ukrainians to break cultural ties with Moscow and fortify their sense of national identity, one of which involved religion. One of the more contentious of these disagreements involved religious affiliation.
The Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC MP), one of Ukraine’s two main Orthodox churches, is currently facing severe issues resulting from its continued links with Russia. A ban has been put in place by government while security services conduct raids against UOC MP. Meanwhile, internal turmoil exists within its ranks.
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What happened with the Ukranian orthodox church?
The Ukrainian Orthodox Church and its Russian counterpart have had an ongoing feud due to ongoing hostilities between Russia and Ukraine, compounded by Russian actions such as its occupation army.
Recently, Russian Orthodox Church and its military have increased attacks against UOC. On October 25, 2018 however, Ukrainian Orthodox Church decided to split from its Russian counterpart after three centuries of being linked by faith ties.
Since that time, the UOC has found itself at a crossroads. Unable to withstand Russia’s attacks on it and having expelled several senior clergy members due to Russian pressure; furthermore it has come under attack by Ukrainian authorities for secretly supporting Russia during eastern Ukraine conflict.
Many believe the Ukrainian Orthodox Church leadership to have broken its canonical obligations to Ukraine by supporting Russia. As a result, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s government took steps to stop religious organisations collaborating with Russian-influenced centres of influence.
These measures include an outright ban on the UOC, restrictions on Russian priests entering Ukraine, and investigations of church leaders. Furthermore, the government plans to investigate canonical relations between church and Moscow Patriarchate as well as identify those who helped or abetted Kremlin interests.
UOC’s reputation has been marred by attacks and raids against its churches and monasteries, arrest of multiple clergy, as well as links to Kremlin-connected military units serving in its region. A number of its leading clerics have even served with Russian military units directly.
As a result, the church is struggling to remain an acknowledged denomination. Parishes are losing members by the thousands each month while nationalists accuse their leader of being a Russian spy and demand his death.
As its leadership has lost credibility with most Ukrainians, many clergy members were advised not to refer to Russia when praying.
What is the Ukranian orthodox church?
The Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) is one of the numerous jurisdictions within the worldwide Orthodox communion. While Roman Catholicism is led by one spiritual head (patriarch), global Orthodoxy is comprised of autocephalous churches governed independently of each other.
Orthodox faith is founded upon a fundamental belief in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of the world, drawing inspiration from both Scripture as well as early Church sources. Christians who accept its teachings and practice them are part of its ranks; membership requires receiving baptism, confirmation and holy unction sacraments in order to join its ranks.
Orthodox Christianity dates back to the fourth century with St. Andrew the Apostle who preached Christianity across Ukraine before later being martyred for it. Today, millions of members worldwide worship with this church tradition.
There are various branches of Orthodoxy Churches worldwide, each led by its own bishop and presided over their territory. Some branches may be recognized by other Orthodox churches while others might not.
Ukraine is home to three main church jurisdictions, each with their own ecclesiastical leadership: Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Kyiv Patriarchate (UOC-KP), Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAOC), and part of Russian Orthodox Church of Moscow Patriarchate (UOC MP).
Before Russia launched its military intervention into Ukraine in 2014, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) was the most dominant church, accounting for over 80% of parishes nationwide. Following Russia’s military campaign however, hundreds of UOC parishes began shifting allegiances toward the newly formed Autocephalous Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU), which later amalgamated both KP and UAOC churches into one entity.
However, both Moscow and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) have attempted to undermine OCU autonomy through controlling Ukrainian parishes abroad and imposing their own governance model upon Ukrainians; UOC has even been accused of fomenting extremism by some members within OCU.
In October 2018 the OCU officially separated itself from its Russian counterpart, prompting a major split within Orthodoxy that has been called one of Christianity’s biggest in over 1,000 years.
What is the Russian orthodox church?
The Russian Orthodox Church, also known as the Orthodox Christian Church of Russia or The Moscow Patriarchate, is an autonomous Eastern Orthodox church in communion with other Eastern Orthodox churches and led by an autocephalous Eastern Patriarch known as Patriarch Riansor (Russian: riersor). Riansor oversees Church of Russia hierarchy.
The Church of Russia is one of the largest and most influential Eastern Orthodox churches, serving as a major religious entity within Russia’s Federation. Members include ethnic Russians as well as Belarusians and Ukrainians who identify with its beliefs. This Eastern Orthodox faith emphasizes sacraments, devotion to saints and icon worship in worship services.
Icons are an integral component of Orthodox worship and represent the Theotokos (Virgin Mary), whom Christians celebrate as God’s gift to humanity. Russian Orthodox believers consider Mary to be their Mother as well, considering her to be one of the primary figures within their Church community.
However, while Catholicism traditionally considers Mary to be Christ’s co-redeemrix, the Russian Orthodox Church esteems her more highly and views her more like any Saint – actually elevating Mary even higher on its ranks than Catholics do.
The Church experienced one of its greatest expansions during the 17th century. Missionary efforts reached from Siberia into Alaska and California; prominent people such as Saint Innocent of Irkutsk and Saint Herman from Alaska became canonized saints within this era.
By the 18th century, numerous missionaries had been trained and began spreading Christianity among Native Americans due to burgeoning Russian settlements across North America.
Orthodox Church has always been an integral part of Russian cultural identity, serving as spiritual guide and source of hope to many Russians. Since the fall of Soviet Union, faith and activity within Russia’s Orthodox Church has experienced a revival across many communities.
What is the Russian orthodox church in Ukraine?
The Russian Orthodox Church is one of the dominant religions in modern Ukraine and an increasingly controversial political issue; with 51% of Ukrainians (or 51%) stating it as at least somewhat important in order to truly identify as Ukrainian.
Ukrainian Orthodoxy has two primary churches: Metropolitan Epiphanius’ independent Orthodox Church of Ukraine and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, an offshoot of Russian Orthodoxy. Up until 2018, when its members received Tomos of Autocephaly from Constantinople Patriarchate of Constantinople granted this status which unifies these various bodies into an autocephalous Orthodox Church of Ukraine.
Since its formation, the UOC-MP has played an influential role in Ukraine’s politics, offering assistance to anti-government protesters who helped topple Viktor Yanukovych in 2014 and providing nationalist fervor following Russia’s invasion of Crimea last year. But today it finds itself embroiled in controversy.
As the conflict with Russia escalated, many in the Russian-affiliated church have called for change and genuine independence. Protests began in parishes where priests faced increasing public anger due to their links to Moscow; eventually transforming into an organization-wide movement.
These parishioners began refusing to honor Patriarch Kirill of Moscow – an outspoken supporter of Russia’s war against Ukraine – at church services, while demanding their leadership renounce ties with Moscow. Additionally, they demanded structural changes within their church and formal separation from its Moscow patriarchate but none have come into fruition thus far.
At present, several lawmakers in Ukraine have introduced legislation to ban and transfer UOC property to an autonomous diocese within OCU – Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAOC). A number of politicians from President Volodymyr Zelenskyi’s cabinet have supported this proposal as well.
On December 26, Kyiv’s Pechersk Lavra’s top cleric, Metropolitan Pavlo, issued an appeal claiming that the UOC had been informed its lease on key areas – such as its cathedral – would not be renewed and that access would be closed off after December 31. This provoked outrage across Ukraine.