Former President of Ukraine Viktor Yushchenko has written on his Facebook page that he too will be stepping into Church affairs to try to bring about the creation of an autocephalous Local Ukrainian Church.
Current President Petro Poroshenko sent an appeal to the Ecumenical Patriarchate in April asking for a tomos of autocephaly to be granted to a new Ukrainian church that would be made out of the two schismatic bodies operating in Ukraine, the so-called “Kiev Patriarchate,” and the so-called “Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church.”
Yushchenko’s statement is no surprise, given that he has already personally met several times with His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to plead the case for a Ukrainian Church that would be wholly independent of the Russian Orthodox Church, which those of a Ukrainian nationalist bent view as an agent of the Russian aggressor state.
“The unity of the Ukrainian people, the great strength of which will be an Autocephalous Orthodox Church, will become an insurmountable spiritual fortress in the fight with Russian aggression against Ukraine,” the former president writes, showing his political motivations for wanting to create a church.
According to polls, the majority of Ukrainians are either against or wholly indifferent to the question of an autocephalous Church. Moreover, hundreds of thousands of signatures have been sent to Constantinople against the granting of autocephaly.
He also promised to use all of his experience to help create an autocephalous Ukrainian Church. He served as the third president of Ukraine from January 23, 2005 to February 25, 2010.
“Undoubtedly, it will be a long-awaited, truly historical event for the whole of Ukrainian society,” Yushchenko added.
“I support the efforts of the President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko on these important issues for Ukraine, and I call upon all citizens, all responsible politicians and public figures to unite around this great goal and to work together for the creation of an Autocephalous Orthodox Church in Ukraine.”
Earlier, the Presidents of Ukraine Leonid Kravchuk, Leonid Kuchma and Viktor Yushchenko signed a joint “Appeal to the Ukrainian people, who believe in Ukraine, regarding the provision of autocephaly to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.”
The initiative is not backed by the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which believes its canonical status as an autonomous body within the Moscow Patriarchate in no way hinders its evangelical work. The Church has noted that such political interference in Church life is against the Ukrainian constitution, and Orthodox hierarchs from other Local Churches have stated the same, such as His Eminence Metropolitan Rostislav of the Czech Lands and Slovakia.