Ukrainian Orthodox church

Ukrainian Orthodox church [Українська Православна Церква; Ukrainska Pravoslavna Tserkva]. The general designation for a number of Orthodox churches that include Ukrainian believers, clergymen, and hierarchs. Although all of these churches have a common historical, liturgical, and theological tradition, and some are joined in a spiritual union, they are organized in separate jurisdictions. In addition to the church in Ukraine and the explicitly Ukrainian churches formed by Ukrainian emigrants in the West, some Ukrainians also belong to other Orthodox churches. (For the history of Ukrainian Orthodoxy, see History of the Ukrainian church.)

The annexation of the Ukrainian church by the Russian Orthodox church under the Patriarch of Moscow in the late 17th century was followed by the eradication of Ukrainian church autonomy and the increasing Russification of church life and practices. It was only after the fall of the tsarist regime as a result of the Revolution of 1917 that the brief renaissance of Ukrainian statehood permitted the revival of an independent Ukrainian church. In January 1919 the government of the Ukrainian National Republic declared the autocephaly of the Ukrainian church and its independence from the Moscow patriarch. Efforts to realize this independence in practice culminated in 1921 in the creation of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox church (UAOC). This church, under the leadership of metropolitans Vasyl Lypkivsky (1921–7) and Mykola Boretsky (1927–30), grew to encompass 30 bishops, 1,500 priests, and 1,100 parishes in 1924. But the radical reforms that the UAOC adopted (which stressed the participation of the laity in all aspects of church life), the untraditional rite of ordination that it used to consecrate its hierarchy, and especially its great popularity among the population and the threat it posed to the status of the Patriarchal Russian Orthodox church in Ukraine earned it the enmity of the conservative Russian hierarchy and some of the clergy, who denounced it as noncanonical, illegitimate, and a nationalist creation. The UAOC was also opposed by the Soviet regime, which in the 1920s tried unsuccessfully to undermine it by supporting the competing Living church, the Renovationist church, and the so-called Active Church of Christ. In the late 1920s the Soviet authorities decided to destroy all of these bodies, as well as the Patriarchal Russian Orthodox church. The UAOC was decimated in the Stalinist terror, and all of its hierarchs and many of its priests were killed or died in concentration camps.

The partition of Ukrainian territories in the interwar period found many Ukrainian Orthodox believers living in the Polish state (in Volhynia, Polisia, and the Kholm region). There the Polish Autocephalous Orthodox church, under Metropolitan Dionisii Valedinsky, was granted autocephaly by the patriarch of Constantinople in 1924. Despite strong Russifying and Polonizing pressures, many traditions of Ukrainian Orthodoxy survived, the Ukrainian language was introduced for services and church publications, and Ukrainian lay and church figures (eg, Bishop Polikarp Sikorsky) played a major role in the church.

In Bukovyna the Orthodox church was initially established as a part of Halych metropoly. From the early 15th to the late 18th century a separate metropoly was centered in Suceava, then the capital of Moldavia. When all of Bukovyna came under Habsburg rule a separate eparchy, which became a metropoly in 1873, was established there. For most of its history this jurisdiction was dominated by Romanians, but concessions were made to the large Ukrainian minority (in the interwar period there were 155 Ukrainian parishes and 135 priests in Bukovyna).

In the interwar period Orthodox churches were established by Ukrainian immigrants in North America. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada (UOCC) was formed in 1918 (until 1990 known as the Ukrainian Greek Orthodox Church of Canada). It was under the spiritual authority of Metropolitan G. Shegedi of the Syrian Orthodox church in the United States of America until 1924, when Bishop Ioan Teodorovych of the UAOC arrived in North America and assumed leadership of it and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the USA (UOC-USA), which had been formed in 1920. Administratively these two churches remained totally independent, however, and the UOCC was actually run by the church's consistory in Winnipeg (Teodorovych had settled in Chicago and then Philadelphia). Both of these churches attracted many former Ukrainian Catholics, who opposed the Latinization of their church and rejected the authority of Roman Catholic hierarchs in North America. (For the same reasons, many immigrants from Transcarpathia established the American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic church in 1936, but it does not consider itself a part of Ukrainian Orthodoxy.) The churches especially stressed their Ukrainian character (adopting the Ukrainian language for the liturgy) and conciliar organization. In 1928 many former Ukrainian Catholics in the United States of America established the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of America. This group rejected the authority of Teodorovych and the canonical reforms of the UAOC, and placed itself under the jurisdiction of the patriarch of Constantinople. Many parishes left this church in the late 1940s and 1950s to join the OUC-USA. The church was administered as part of the Greek Orthodox exarchate of North and South America (it also maintained a few parishes in Canada) until it joined the OUC-USA in 1996.

Many Ukrainians in North America also joined other, non-Ukrainian, Orthodox jurisdictions. Before the First World War some 200,000 immigrants from Galicia and Transcarpathia in the United States joined the Russian Orthodox church that was under the patriarch of Moscow and was supported directly by the tsarist government. After the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the subjugation of the church to the Bolshevik regime, this church split. Most parishes were reconstituted in 1924 as the Russian Greek Catholic Orthodox church; it functioned, except for short interludes, as an independent church before being granted autocephaly in 1970 by the patriarch of Moscow and being renamed the Orthodox Church of America. Although many of this church's adherents are of Ukrainian origin, the church has little contact with the other Ukrainian churches, and a conscious attempt was made initially to Russify and recently to Americanize church practices and traditions. The other two jurisdictions to emerge from the pre–First World War Russian Orthodox church (the so-called Patriarchal church, which remained directly under the jurisdiction of the Moscow patriarch, and the Synodal church or Russian Orthodox Church outside Russia, which is under a synod of émigré bishops who do not recognize the patriarch) are much smaller. The Synodal church is predominantly Russian in constituency, though it has attracted some emigrants from eastern Ukraine. The Patriarchal jurisdiction in North America is predominantly composed of former Uniates from Western Ukraine (in the United States) or from Bukovyna (in Canada), but only in western Canada do its members retain links to the Ukrainian community.

During the Second World War the UAOC was revived in German-occupied territories under the spiritual authority of Metropolitan Dionisii Valedinsky of the Polish Autocephalous Orthodox church and the leadership of Polikarp Sikorsky. Several new bishops (including Mstyslav Skrypnyk) were consecrated for the Reichskommissariat Ukraine (the former Soviet Ukrainian territories). At the same time, two Ukrainians, Ivan Ohiienko and Palladii Vydybida-Rudenko, were consecrated as bishops for the Orthodox Ukrainians in the Generalgouvernement. Sikorsky was named metropolitan of the UAOC, and attempts were made to absorb surviving clergy from the UAOC of the 1920s into the church, although its radical reforms were not affirmed. A competing body, the Ukrainian Autonomous Orthodox church, was also organized in German-occupied Ukraine. This church, under Metropolitan Oleksii Hromadsky, recognized the authority of the Moscow patriarch over the Ukrainian church, although it considered this authority suspended as long as the church remained under Soviet control, and was supported by the more conservative and Russified elements of the population. The German authorities encouraged this division to prevent the emergence of a united church in opposition to their rule.

After Soviet rule was consolidated throughout Ukraine at the end of the Second World War, both the UAOC and the Ukrainian Autonomous Orthodox church were destroyed, and most of the UAOC bishops and many priests fled to the West. The Ukrainian exarchate of the Russian Orthodox church (ROC) remained as the only legal church entity in Ukraine, and it was closely controlled by the regime. At the Lviv Sobor of 1946 the Ukrainian Greek Catholic church in Western Ukraine was forced to liquidate itself and join the ROC. The surviving hierarchy of the UAOC fled to Western Europe, where they re-established the church under Metropolitan Polikarp Sikorsky. When they also did not affirm the most radical reforms of the UAOC of the 1920s, an opposition emerged, and in 1947 the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (Conciliar) under the leadership of Bishop Hryhorii Ohiichuk split from the UAOC. Since then the UAOC (Conciliar) has also split and reunited itself several times. Another jurisdiction, the short-lived Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church in Exile, was established under Bishop Palladii Vydybida-Rudenko in New York in 1951. Other bishops and priests of the UAOC also emigrated to North America, where they joined the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada or the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the USA. In 1949 Archbishop Ioan Teodorovych underwent a reconsecration as part of an agreement to unite the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of America and the newly arrived followers of the UAOC with his church. Many parishes of the former and most of the clergy and believers of the latter took part in the unification, thereby creating the largest Ukrainian Orthodox jurisdiction in the United States of America, that was headed from 1970 by Metropolitan Mstyslav Skrypnyk. Skrypnyk was metropolitan of both the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the USA (UOC-USA) and the UAOC (which included parishes in South America, Europe, and Australia), but the two bodies remained administratively independent.

In 1960 the three largest jurisdictions—the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada, UOC-USA, and UAOC—at a joint sobor resolved that outside Ukraine there is a single Ukrainian Orthodox church, which is autocephalous and conciliar and consists of three independent metropolies that create a single spiritual whole. This sobor also took steps to standardize liturgical practices and the training of priests for the churches. The Ukrainian Orthodox church in Australia, which dates only from the late 1940s, is split into two jurisdictions, one under the UAOC and the other under the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada.

After the Second World War the Russian Orthodox church (ROC), in addition to assuming total control over the church in Ukraine, extended its authority over the Orthodox church in Poland. Metropolitan Dionisii Valedinsky was forced to resign his post and was replaced by a bishop from the ROC. At the same time the Moscow patriarch invalidated the 1924 Tomos of the patriarch of Constantinople granting autocephaly to the Polish church, and replaced it with its own grant of autocephaly. The Polish Autocephalous Orthodox church, however, remains a Russian-dominated institution with occasional Polonizing tendencies, despite the fact that the majority of its believers are Ukrainians or Belarusians, and in recent years it has begun to protest this situation. The small Orthodox church in Slovakia has Ukrainian parishes in the Prešov region. The Romanian Orthodox church, which has several parishes in the largely Ukrainian Maramureş region and southern Bukovyna, is independent of Moscow. Since 1990 it has permitted an administration for Ukrainian believers. It also tolerates some practices of Ukrainian Orthodoxy and the limited use of the Ukrainian language in services, but has no Ukrainian hierarchs. In any case, none of the churches in the Ukrainian border states can be seen as national Ukrainian institutions.

The relative liberalization of the Gorbachev regime in the late 1980s permitted the rebirth of Ukrainian Orthodoxy in Ukraine. Several parishes and priests began to leave the official Russian Orthodox church (ROC) and re-form themselves as a revived Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox church. In 1989 Bishop I. Bodnarchuk left the ROC to head a new UAOC hierarchy. The church sobor in June 1990 elected Metropolitan Mstyslav Skrypnyk as patriarch, and he was installed in October 1990. In response to these developments the ROC began granting its Ukrainian exarchate increased independence: it renamed it the Ukrainian Orthodox church and in October 1990 proclaimed that it was formally independent and administratively autonomous. The church was to be returned its right to choose its own metropolitan (although the candidate had to be approved by the Patriarch of Moscow) and hierarchs; the head of the church, however, was the former exarch, Metropolitan Filaret Denysenko. A struggle developed between the two jurisdictions over parishes and other church property in Ukraine. In general the UAOC had greater support in western and central Ukraine, where it is supported as a national church; the other church enjoys its greatest support in the more Russified east and south.

In November 1991 the all-Ukrainian sobor of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, called by Metropolitan Filaret Denysenko, issued a request to the patriarch of Moscow for the autocephaly of the Ukrainian church. The sobor of the ROC held in April 1992 refused that request and decided to replace Metropolitan Filaret with Volodymyr Sabodan. In response to this, at the aa-Ukrainian sobor in June 1992 one part of the Ukrainian Orthodox church, led by Metropolitan Filaret, decided to separate from the ROC and unite with the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox church to form the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Kyiv Patriarchate. However, the UAOC Patriarch Mstyslav Skrypnyk did not accept this union, and today the three Ukrainian Orthodox churches—the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Kyiv Patriarchate, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate, and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox church—exist separately and compete over parishes, church property, and the faithful in Ukraine.

Arkadii Zhukovsky

[This article was updated in 1996.]

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