Secretary & Spokesperson
For Dept. of Church Research and Studies – Orthodoxy Cognate PAGE
“By the rivers of Babylon,
There we sat and wept
When we remembered Zion”
(Psalm 136) The Orthodox Study Bible.
Types of Orthodox Churches in Ukraine:
Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Moscow Patriarchate – UOC-MP
Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Kievyan Patriarchate-UOC-KP
Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church-UAOC
Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Canonical-UOC- Canonical
These are my Personal Reflections on the Situation of Orthodoxy in Ukraine.
Read More – UNION OF KHARKIV-POLTAVA EPARCHY OF UAOC AND UGCC IS IMMINENT – PATRIARCH SVIATOSLAV ADDRESSES AUTOCEPHALOUS CLERGY
I was shocked to learn the recent developments in Ukraine between UAOC (Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church) and UGCC (Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church under the Roman Catholic Church). Kharkiv-Poltava Eparchy of the UAOC will enter Union with UGCC! What kind of Union is this? How can UAOC stay as an Orthodox Church if they enter in false union with Rome? One thing is for sure, that Rome will fully swallow UAOC and ‘Latinize’ it within a few years and they will be left without any sort of identity of their own. The False union will not protect and preserve the traditions or spiritual heritage of the Single Kievyan Church. The Christian tradition of Kiev and Ukraine is purely Orthodox and how will this tradition be preserved by entering union with an Eastern Catholic Rite under Rome? Rome is always tactful. Kievyan spiritual heritage and Orthodox tradition will be crushed under the Roman Papacy. The concept of UNIATISM or Eastern Catholicism is a false format of the union. Whether Kharkiv-Poltava Eparchy is a breakaway group of UAOC or not, I see the danger in such a union. All Eastern Catholic Churches has lost many of their original spiritual traditions. They have a mix of Orthodox and Latin practices and are struggling to gain more recognition along with their Latin counterparts.
The Assyrian Church of the East was invited for a union with Chaldean Catholic Church in 2015, which was refused by the Assyrian hierarchy.
Where are we moving? What is the recognition of Orthodoxy in Ukraine now? The Orthodox fight between each other and end up in false union with Rome? We need to be alert. We have political problems and ethnic tensions, but this doesn’t mean that we have to live in ignorance. Our ignorance and political issues should not be allowed to disintegrate holy Orthodoxy in Ukraine. The focus is now on political conflicts with Russia and transferring of church buildings from one jurisdiction to another. Orthodox Church leaders in Ukraine should refocus on dialogue to achieve conciliar inter-orthodox unity. Inter-Orthodox problems should be resolved with priority. If church leaders ignore inter-orthodox unity and dialogue it will result in the total mess for Orthodox faithful in Ukraine.
The Unification council of UOC- KP, and UAOC have undergone further complexities. But what we need here is a dialogue between all Orthodox Church in Ukraine and find a common solution. In September 2015, there was a meeting between the Primates of UGCC (Uniate Rite) and UAOC for cooperation. For me, this is a contradiction. Cooperation is required among all. Ecumenical cooperation and interfaith dialogues are very important. But for the Orthodox, the first cooperation should be among themselves. To create a single Ukrainian Orthodox Church or to create several canonical churches under one major Ukrainian Orthodox Council will only be possible through intense dialogue, prayer, faith, and respect. There should not be ant room for hierarchal ego or personal politics. The dialogue should not be halted between UOC- MP, UOC-KP, and UAOC. It should be extended to the UOC- Canonical, which is the smallest independent Orthodox jurisdiction in Ukraine.
Let me take this, opportunity to present an article I had written a few years back.
A Humble Call for Unity Among Ukrainian Orthodox Churches
It is indeed sad that the Orthodox Churches in Ukraine are split into different factions. We will not investigate the history of the conflicts, rather we will try to discuss some practical steps to find any solutions to end the schism within Ukrainian Orthodoxy.
The Ukrainian Orthodox Church is now divided into UOC- MP, UOC-KP, UAOC, and UOC-Canonical, where UOC – MP is the only Canonical Church. Dialogues are being initiated between UOC-MP and UOC- KP which has generated some hope. UAOC have also taken steps by sending a request to Ecumenical Patriarchate in order to become accepted into the canonical league which is extremely encouraging. As of 2016 all inter-orthodox dialogues and unity efforts have come to standstill.
Effects of Schism
The politics and unhealthy competition between Orthodox Churches have resulted in the double advantage for other groups, like the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC) and Protestant denominations. It has been reported that a large number of Protestant groups are emerging in Ukraine, which is traditionally an Orthodox hub. Due to the schism, several families in Ukraine are divided. People find themselves in serious trouble with worship, hence Protestants find it a good pasture to evangelize.
Even the UGCC is benefiting considerably from the schism. The UGCC finds this a good opportunity to pull ropes to gain recognition as one of the ‘National Churches’ in Ukraine. It is not the UGCC alone, but it is the dream of all Eastern Catholic Rites to get recognized as the ‘National’ Church in the respective country since all Eastern Catholics have a serious identity crisis, they are neither Roman nor are they Orthodox. The recent move by UGCC to construct a Cathedral in Odessa is part of this hidden agenda.
The Orthodox Church in Ukraine is very much required to preserve the faith and to safeguard the loss of flocks from heretical teachings. But how far is this possible and practical with such divisions within the Orthodox Church? The priority should be given to Orthodoxy, the one holy Catholic and Apostolic Church of our Lord Jesus Christ. Orthodoxy and its value should be preserved. Put Orthodoxy first and not personal agenda or political interests. It is the duty of the Church to preserve the conciliar unity of Orthodoxy in Ukraine.
Initially, a National Council for Orthodox Churches should be formed in Ukraine, to exclusively deal with the issues within Orthodoxy. The council should have an equal participation of all Orthodox Churches in Ukraine. A good office structure should be developed, with mutual co-operation. The council should be responsible for holding dialogues between Orthodox Churches in Ukraine, and the Moscow Patriarchate and the Ecumenical Patriarchate should be represented there. The council is not to be dominated by a single Church, but it should be a stage for the equal participation and co-operation between all Orthodox Churches in Ukraine. The National Orthodox Council should also involve Oriental Orthodox Churches in Ukraine (The Armenian Orthodox Church in Ukraine).
The Canonical Issue
As mentioned earlier the UOC-MP is the only canonical Church in Ukraine. It would be highly recommended that the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Moscow Patriarchate recognize the canonical status of the other two Orthodox Churches i.e., there shall be three canonical Orthodox Churches in Ukraine, UOC-MP, UOC-KP, UAOC, which shall be in full communion with Ecumenical Patriarchate, Moscow Patriarchate and rest of the Orthodox Churches. Internal autonomy for each Church should be encouraged. Ideally, none should interfere in the internal matter of the others Church. Common discussions and declarations should be made via the National Council.
Recognizing UOC-KP and UAOC will not be a compromise by the Moscow Patriarchate, but it will definitely strengthen the position and presence of Orthodoxy in Ukraine. Hence the three canonical Orthodox Churches can also safeguard their own interest. All existing positions of the hierarchy and clergy in each Church can be retained in the present manner, reducing the fear of compromise on both position and power.
A protocol should be signed between the EP, MP, UOC-MP, UOC-KP, and UAOC to ensure present and future aspects of Orthodox Churches in Ukraine. The protocol should include all details regarding canonical status, defined areas of operation, manner to solve conflicts (present and future), encouraging inter-Orthodox collaborations, titles of each primate, jurisdiction etc. The National Orthodox Council of Ukraine should deal with common ecumenical matters pertaining to Orthodox Churches in Ukraine. The National Council should also involve Oriental Orthodox Churches in Ukraine (Armenian Orthodox Church).
Experience the power of United Orthodox Witness
If UOC-KP, UAOC are willing to enter EP as Metropolitan Churches they shall be permitted, to do so or they can enter canonical Orthodoxy in their present status i.e., UOC-KP as a separate Patriarchal Church and UAOC as a separate Metropolitan Church. It is an agreement within disagreement, a dialogue for unity with freedom and prosperity. Here unity does not mean the amalgamation of one Church into another nor imposing force on any Church to conquer them. Extra care should be exercised not to hurt the feelings of your counterpart whilst engaging in dialogue.
Every Church has her own individual interest, which is well and good, but such interest should not hinder the unity of Orthodoxy. It should not challenge, it should not subjugate nor overrule Orthodoxy, which is the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church of Jesus Christ. It is not Pope of Rome nor the WCC that should decide for Orthodoxy, but we Orthodox should decide for ourselves, it is our future. We should not allow Ecumenism to swallow Orthodox unity and faith.
Several attempts and discussions have been initiated by the Church, many discussions have been held by UOC-MP and UOC- KP as well as UOC-KP and UAOC to reconcile and to build one Ukrainian Church, but they could not yield a proper outcome. We saw the hierarchies of the Ukrainian Churches criticizing each other for the failure of dialogue.
It is not an easy task to build one national Ukrainian Orthodox Church but is possible to build it with unified spiritual commitment, the holiness of prayers and genuine hard work. This is not the time to criticize each other, but to think and act in humility, forgiveness, and peace, for a hopeful future.
If we can have dialogues with WCC, Rome, cooperate with heterodox and drink coffee together; why can’t we have dialogues with our Orthodox brethren?
As an Orthodox Christian, I know that people are well aware of what I have written, especially the Church hierarchy, and they are well informed and know more than I on such issues. I have not visited Russia or Ukraine, but it is out of my love for Orthodoxy that I have written this article. I belong to the Indian Orthodox Church, but I have seen and experienced the bitterness of schisms, administrative and power conflicts between the Syrian and Indian Orthodox Churches. Let us not repeat the mistake again. Orthodox Christian unity is the need of the hour, hence let us stand united.
Also, I wonder why we Orthodox are not trying to find solutions rather than making the situation more complex mixing it with ethnic issues and politics. This is where we need a change in our thinking process. It also requires compromise, love, and respect for each other.
Dept. of Church Research and Studies
Orthodoxy Cognate PAGE
Pan-Orthodox Christian Society