Metropolitan. The head of an ecclesiastical province in the Ukrainian Catholic church and Ukrainian Orthodox church. Originally a metropolitan was a bishop residing in the principal city, or a metropolis, of a civil province of the Roman Empire whose authority extended over all the eparchies of the province. This title continues to be used, both in Eastern and Western churches, but the authority of the office and the method of appointment have evolved over time.

From its beginnings the Ukrainian church was headed by the metropolitan (mytropolyt) of Kyiv, who was initially under the jurisdiction of the Patriarch of Constantinople (see Kyiv metropoly). Most early metropolitans were Greeks appointed and consecrated directly by the patriarch. In reality the early church in Ukraine enjoyed considerable autonomy, and Kyivan Rus’ princes often succeeded in nominating candidates to the office; this was especially true in the cases of the first two native metropolitans, Metropolitan Ilarion and Klym Smoliatych. The rights and authority of a metropolitan in the Ukrainian church were defined in apostolic regulations, canon law, and decrees of the princes of Rus’. The metropolitan was residential bishop of Kyiv eparchy, convened and headed synods of bishops of his metropoly (16 eparchies in Kyiv metropoly before the Tatar invasions), ensured that synodal decisions were adhered to, and oversaw the appointment of bishops to vacant positions. The metropolitan had the patriarchal right to consecrate and distribute the Holy Myron; he could also confirm and ordain bishops, visit eparchies, sit in judgment in bishop's courts, and remove bishops from office. The metropolitan even had authority (which diminished over time) in certain secular affairs; he represented the church before the highest secular authorities and often influenced affairs of state as an adviser to the prince. During the Tatar occupation of Rus’, metropolitans were the official appointees of the khan and would often intercede with him on behalf of the population.

The decline of the Kyivan state and the destruction of Kyiv by the Tatars led to the disintegration of the Kyiv metropoly. During the 14th and 15th centuries Halych metropoly, Lithuanian metropoly, and Moscow metropoly all claimed jurisdiction over Ukrainian territories (see Church hierarchy and History of the Ukrainian church). In the mid-15th century the Moscow metropoly broke its ties with Kyiv before eventually constituting itself as a patriarchate in 1589. After the appointment of Hryhorii II Bolharyn as Kyivan metropolitan in 1470, the metropoly included eight Ukrainian and two Belarusian eparchies. From then until the end of the 15th century the Kyivan metropolitan was chosen by a sobor of Rus’ bishops, often with the participation of lay leaders. In 1498, however, the Kyivan metropolitan Yosyf I Bolharynovych was appointed by the Lithuanian grand duke Alexander Jagiellończyk, and not elected by sobor. This was the first overt manifestation of patronage that placed the church hierarchy in direct dependence on secular authorities. From then the independence of the metropolitan was compromised by Polish kings, Lithuanian dukes, newly formed church brotherhoods, and certain monasteries; the latter two often relied on the support of various patriarchs, who granted them stauropegion (exempt status) to guarantee their independence from local bishops and metropolitans.

At the Church Union of Berestia in 1596, the Kyiv metropoly established the Uniate church. In 1620, however, Yov Boretsky was consecrated Orthodox metropolitan of Kyiv by the Jerusalem patriarch Theophanes III. He had been elected by a sobor, with the participation of the clergy, Cossack starshyna, and the hetman. This practice continued for several years, although Petro Mohyla was elected by Orthodox deputies of the Warsaw Diet in 1632 and confirmed by King Władysław IV Vasa. In all cases the Patriarch of Constantinople ratified these elections.

As Muscovite influence over Ukrainian political and church life grew, Orthodox metropolitans of Kyiv rapidly lost their rights and privileges. In 1686 Kyiv metropoly was placed under the Patriarch of Moscow, and in 1688 the metropolitan was deprived of the title ‘of All Rus’.’ In 1721 the Russian Holy Synod began appointing Kyivan hierarchs, who lost the formal rights of provincial metropolitans and became mere bishops of the Russian church. Although the title of metropolitan was revived in 1743, the authority of the Kyivan metropolitan was limited to his own eparchy.

After the Revolution of 1917, eparchial sobors sought to remove Ukrainian eparchies from under Muscovite administration and revive the old authority of the metropolitan of Kyiv. The Ukrainian government issued a proclamation in 1918 and a statute in 1919 stipulating that the Ukrainian church was autocephalous and headed by the metropolitan of Kyiv, but the Bolshevik consolidation of power in Ukraine prevented the practical implementation of this autocephaly. In 1921 the Moscow patriarch created a Ukrainian exarchate headed by a metropolitan who had no specific rights. At the same time Ukrainian national church circles established a separate Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox church (UAOC). When church leaders, mostly members of the clergy, could not convince any bishops to consecrate a new hierarchy for the UAOC, they used a tradition of the church of Alexandria to elevate Vasyl Lypkivsky to the rank of metropolitan; this ordination was denounced as noncanonical and invalid by the Russian Orthodox church and other churches. Neither the UAOC nor the Living church (another entity established after the revolution) survived the antireligious terror of the 1930s.

After the Second World War the Moscow patriarch again appointed an exarch for Ukraine with the title of ‘Metropolitan of Kyiv and Halych,’ but he has the powers only of a bishop. The Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox church was revived during the Second World War under the spiritual authority of Metropolitan Dionisii Valedinsky of the Polish Autocephalous Orthodox church. The UAOC survived in the West as a church with two metropolitanates (Western Europe and the United States with South America), both of which, until 1993, were headed by Mstyslav Skrypnyk. The various churches that split from the UAOC and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada are also headed by metropolitans. In all of these jurisdictions, church sobors elect the metropolitan. The metropolitan of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of America (ecumenical patriarchate) is appointed by the ecumenical patriarch in Constantinople.

There have been other Orthodox metropolitans with eparchies in Ukrainian territories. In 1873 an autocephalous Bukovyna-Dalmatia metropoly was established, with its see in Chernivtsi. The metropolitans were chosen by the emperor of Austria-Hungary. During the Romanian occupation the metropolitan was placed under the authority of the Patriarch of Romania. The Polish Autocephalous Orthodox church from 1922 had its own metropolitan, who was nominated by the Polish government and confirmed by the ecumenical patriarchate in Constantinople.

After the Church Union of Berestia, Pope Clement VIII's 1596 bull Decet Romanum Pontificem gave Ukrainian Catholic metropolitans of Kyiv the same rights that Kyivan metropolitans had under Constantinople. The candidate for metropolitan would be chosen by direct vote of the assembled bishops and Basilian protoarchimandrites (see Basilian monastic order). Then he would be nominated by the Polish king and confirmed by the pope. Only Ipatii Potii and Antonii Atanasii Seliava were confirmed as metropolitans by the pope without having served as bishops. After Right-Bank Ukraine and Belarus came completely under Russian control following the partitions of Poland, the powers of the Uniate metropolitan were progressively restricted and then formally abolished in 1838. The partitions also led to the 1807 revival of Halych metropoly. The metropolitan's rights, however, were limited by the Austrian authorities. Soon the title became purely honorific. The archeparchy of Winnipeg and metropolitanate of Canada was erected by Pope Pius XII in 1956, and the archeparchy of Philadelphia in 1958. In 1963 the Halych metropolitan was recognized as the major archbishop of Lviv.

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Wasyl Lencyk

[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 3 (1993).]

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