Ukrainian church tries to get independent, but Patriarch does not comply


Eastern Europe


Russian soldier close to a church in Ukraine. Photo EPA, Sergei Ilnitsky

The Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) has tried to distance herself from the Russian mother church in the updated statute. The Russian church, however, replies that Ukraine cannot change the constitution on its own. And at the same moment, the Russian church annexes the church in Crimea.

Ten days ago, the UOC announced to break all ties with the Moscow Patriarchate. After having seen the new text of the statutes, the theologian Archimandrite Cyril says the new statute does not explicitly severe bonds with Moscow.

He wrote so on his Facebook page, Risa.ru reports. Cyril compared several parts of the new statute with the old one. He concluded that only the circumstances in which the new statute is drawn up show the desire of the UOC for autocephaly.

For example, the old statute states that “the Primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church is elected for life by the episcopate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and is blessed by His Holiness, Patriarch of Moscow and all Rus.” However, the new statute leaves out the last part. It asserts only that the Primate is chosen by the episcopate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

Another difference with the old statute is seen in how the new statute leaves out the clause about the unity with other local churches, Risa reports. The old statute says that the Ukrainian Orthodox Church is united with the local Orthodox Churches through the Russian Orthodox Church. This clause cannot be found in the new statute anywhere.

“Return to Moscow Patriarchate is easy”

According to archimandrite Cyril, the new statute still leaves open the possibility of returning to the Moscow Patriarchate if circumstances change. “The new statute also includes a reference to the Patriarchal Charter of October 1990. This reference was not included in the old statute.” The Patriarchal Charter contains a clause that reads that the Ukrainian Orthodox Church is united with the Russian Orthodox Church.

Therefore, Cyril concludes that the new statute does not declare the UOC explicitly independent. “The new norms are spelt out so that new practices of independence are possibly behind them, but according to the same new provisions, it is easy to roll back to the practices of dependence on the Russian Orthodox Church.”

Not unilateral

The Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) itself has replied that the UOC cannot unilaterally change its status. According to Radio Sputnik, the ROC warns for a “split” if the Ukrainian church is working independently from Moscow.

In reply to the measures taken by the Ukrainian church, the Holy Synod of the ROC decided that the three dioceses on the Crimean Peninsula are directly part of the Russian church now. Until Tuesday, they were part of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. The bishops were subordinated to Metropolitan Onufry (Kyiv), but they are now under Patriarch Kirill (Moscow).



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