Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church
The Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church is one of the three major Orthodox Churches in Ukraine. The others include the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Kyiv Patriarchate. The UAOC has its origins in the Sobor of 1921 in Kyiv, shortly after Ukraine's new found independence. With the new nation being created, many ethnic Ukrainians living in Ukraine felt the need for an indigenous Autocephalous Orthodox Church. There have been three different "resurrections" of the UAOC in Ukraine, each following a period of political persecution.
In wake of the break up of the Russian Empire some national groups sought autonomy or autocephaly from Moscow. In 1921 an All-Ukrainian Sobor (Synod) was called in Kyiv, the capital of the newly-independent Ukraine, and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAOC) was declared independent from the Moscow Patriarchate (MP). The Sobor delegates chose Metropolitan Vasyl (Lypkivsky) as head of the church. A few years later in 1924, Gregory VII, Patriarch of Constantinople, Ecumenical Patriarch, issued a tomos re-establishing the Kyivan Metropolia as an autocephalous entity. The responsibility of establishing a new Synod of Bishops was given to the Metropolitan-Archbishop of Warsaw, Dionisij Valedynskyj.
Ukrainian independence was short lived in this period, and eventually the USSR came into being. The Soviets were openly atheist and Russification was being introduced throughout the USSR. The Soviet government persecuted the UAOC (for being Orthodox, and for being Ukrainian); and the Russian Orthodox Church also prevented the UAOC from establishing their ecclesiastical order for some time.
During World War II, Orthodox Ukrainians enjoyed somewhat increased freedom under German occupation. (Ukraine was a battleground between the German and Soviet Armies). In May of 1942, with the blessing of Metropolitan Dionsiy, more than a dozen bishops were consecrated in St. Andrew Cathedral, Kyiv, in fulfillment of the 1924 tomos of the EP. Finally, it seemed that ecclesiastical order could be established for the UAOC. This time is referred to as the "second resurrection" of the church. However, history would make it a short lived reality.
On October 8, 1942 Archbishop Nikanor and Bishop Mstyslav of the UAOC and Metropolitan Oleksiy (Hromadsky) of the Ukrainian Autonomous Orthodox Church entered into an Act of Union at the Pochayiv (Pochaev) Lavra uniting these two church hierarchies. German occupation authorities and pro-Russian hierarchs of the Autonomous Church convinced Metropolitan Oleksiy to withdraw his signature. Metropolitan Oleksiy was executed in Volynia on May 7, 1943 by UPA (Ukrainian Insurgent Army) insurgents.
The Russian Orthodox Church regained its general monopoly after World War II in the Ukrainian SSR. Most of the other churches were liquidated, as the Soviet government only recognized the Moscow Patriarchate (MP). The MP was revived at the time of the Russian Revolution, as the only legitimate church in most of the Soviet Union. Many accused it of being a puppet of the Communist Party. After the suspicious death of Patriarch Tikhon of Moscow some churches sought to remain independent of Moscow; something that was tolerated until after World War II. In the post-war years, many Ukrainian Orthodox clergy not affiliated with Moscow fled to Germany or the United States. The UAOC in Ukraine was then liquidated by the Soviets with the assistance of the Moscow Patriarchate. Any UAOC hierarchs or clergy who remained in Ukraine and refused to join the Russian Church were executed or sent to concentration camps. A few years later the same thing happened to the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in Western Ukraine (Galicia) and Transcarpathia.
Re-gaining the state recognition in the late 1980s, the Church was initially governed from abroad by Patriarch Mstyslav (Skrypnyk) of Kiev. Subsequent to his death, he was succeeded by Patriarchs Volodymyr (Romanyuk) and Dymytry (Yarema). Patriarch Volodymyr would, during his time as patriarch, separate from the UAOC to found the UOC-KP, together with Metropolitan (now Patriarch) Filaret (Denysenko).
In 2003, the Church Sobor elected Metropolitan MEFODIY (Kudriakov) of Ternopil to lead the church. As Father & Head of the UAOC worldwide, he is Metropolitan of Kyiv & all Ukraine. Since his elevation, he has worked towards a more global visibility for the church, including a pastoral visit the United States in 2006. He has fostered continued positive relations with the Ukrainian government and other religious communities. The Patriarchal Cathedral of the UAOC is the historic church of St. Andrew the First-Called in Kyiv.
Geographically the church currently has a stronger presence in Western Ukrainian provinces with a smaller representation elsewhere. Previous to 1995, there were more parishes abroad in the Ukrainian diaspora communities of Canada and the United States. However, many of these parishes now form the separate churches, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA, (which are eparchies of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople).
The UAOC however, has maintained an ecclesiastical structure outside of Ukraine. There are eparchies in North & South America, Western Europe and elsewhere. Metropolitan Mykhayil (Javchak) heads the UAOC in the Americas and other locations. Significant growth has taken place in recent times in Latin America. There is also a parish of the church in Canberra, Australia.
His Beatitude MEFODIY continues to provide for the spiritual enrichment of the UAOC throughout the world. In Ukraine he has given special emphasis to the improvement of seminary life and the education of candidates for the ministry. He is also committed to the ongoing dialog for the unification of the Ukrainian Orthodox churches.