Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Kyiv Patriarchate

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The Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Kyiv Patriarchate (Ukrainian: Українська Православна Церква Київського Патрiархату, Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyivan Patriarchate, UOC-KP) is one of the three major Orthodox churches in Ukraine, alongside the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate), and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church. The church is currently unrecognized by other canonical Eastern Orthodox churches, including the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate), although in April 2018 an official petition of the Ukrainian Government and the Kyiv Patriarchate with the UAOC was forwarded to the Ecumenical Patriarchate which was accepted to be examined with possible Autocephaly to be granted in the near future.

The UOC-KP's Mother Church is in the St. Volodymyr's Cathedral in Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine. The head of the church is Patriarch Filaret (Denysenko), who was enthroned in 1995. Patriarch Filaret was excommunicated by the Russian Orthodox Church in 1997, but the Synod and Sobor of the UOC-KP did not recognize this action. The KP Patriarchate has the support of over 30 million faithful in Ukraine. (In comparison The Moscow Patriarchate in Ukraine has the support of approximately 5 million faithful in Ukraine). In recent public news polls conducted by the KIIS in Kyiv showed that over 77% of those asked were supporters of The Ukrainian Orthodox Church - Kyivan Patriarchate and only 8% aligned themselves with The Moscow Patriarchate.


On 27 October 1990, in a ceremony at St. Sophia Cathedral in Kyiv, Patriarch Alexei handed to Metropolitan Filaret a tomos granting "independence in self government" (the tomos did not use either of the words "autonomy" or "autocephaly") to Metropolitan Filaret, and enthroned Filaret, heretofore "Metropolitan of Kyiv", as "Metropolitan of Kyiv and All Rus-Ukraine".

Following Ukraine's declaration of independence from the Soviet Union on 24 August 1991, a national Sobor of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church was held from November 1–3. At the sobor, the voting delegates, (who included all UOC bishops, clergy and lay delegates from each diocese; a delegate from each monastery and seminary, and recognized lay brotherhood) unanimously passed a resolution stating that henceforth the UOC would operate as an autocephalous church. A separate resolution, also unanimous, affirmed the church's desire that Metropolitan Filaret be its Primate.

In March–April 1992, the Hierarchical Council of the Russian Orthodox Church met with a single agenda item: to consider the resolution passed by the UOC Sobor four months earlier. Although the issue itself was not discussed, Filaret was asked to resign. On the second day of the meeting, Metropolitan Filaret agreed to submit his resignation to the UOC Synod, and the ROC Synod passed a resolution which stated: "The Council of Bishops took into account the statement of the Most Reverend Filaret, Metropolitan of Kyiv and of All-Ukraine, that for the sake of church peace, at the next Council of Bishops of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, he will submit a request to be relieved from the position of the Primate of the UOC. Understanding of the position of Metropolitan Filaret, the Council of Bishops expressed to him its gratitude for the long period of labour as Archbishop of the See of Kyiv and blessed him to serve as Archbishop at another cathedral of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church."

However, after returning to Kiev, Filaret recanted his resignation. On 14 April, Metropolitan Filaret held a press conference in which he alleged that undue pressure was exerted at the ROC Synod in Moscow, both directly and through threats made by FSB personnel who, he said, were present at the gathering. Filaret stated that he was retracting his resignation on the grounds that his resignation "would not bring peace to the Church, would contradict the will of the believers, and would be uncanonical."

The Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Kyiv Patriarchate originated in 1992 as a result of a schism between the Moscow Patriarchate and its former locum tenens, Metropolitan of Kiev and all Ukraine Filaret, when Filaret chose to convert his former see (of which he was head for more than two decades) into a Ukrainian autocephalous church, initially within the legal framework of the Russian Orthodox Church. The majority of the Ukrainian bishops refused to support him, and forced him to resign his position. Undeterred, Filaret, with support of the President of Ukraine, Leonid Kravchuk, initiated a merger with the canonically-unrecognised Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church. With the support of nationalist groups such as UNA-UNSO, the church fought for control over property. In response, almost all Ukrainian bishops called a sobor in Kharkiv, where they refused to follow Filaret, and ruled to defrock and anathemise him. However the union between the Western Ukrainian and diaspora clergy of the former UAOC and the now defrocked Russian Orthodox clergy who followed Filaret, became very fragile. And after the death of Patriarch Mstyslav in the summer of 1993, the union reached a breaking point causing the UAOC to terminate the union. After a brief leadership of Patriarch Volodomyr (Romaniuk), Filaret assumed the Patriarchal throne in autumn 1995.

Orthodoxy (and Christianity in general) in Ukraine date to the Christianization of Kievan Rus by Vladimir the Great as a Metropolitanate of the Patriarch of Constantinople.The sacking of Kiev itself in December 1240 during the Mongol Invasion led to the ultimate collapse of the Rus' state. For many of its residents, the brutality of Mongol attacks sealed the fate of many choosing to find safe haven in the North East. In 1299, the Kievan Metropolitan See was moved to Vladimir by Metropolitan Maximus, keeping the title of Kiev. As Vladimir-Suzdal, and later the Grand Duchy of Moscow continued to grow unhindered, the Orthodox religious link between them and Kiev remained strong. The fall of Constantinople in 1453, allowed the once daughter church of North East, to become autocephalous, with Kiev remaining part of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. From that moment on, the Churches of Ukraine and Russia went their own separate ways. The latter became central in the growing Russian Tsardom, attaining the status of patriarchate in 1589, whilst the former became subject to repression and Polonization efforts, particularly after the Union of Brest in 1596. Eventually the persecution of Orthodox Ukrainians, led to a massive rebellion under Bohdan Khmelnytsky, and united the Ukrainian Hetmanate with the Russian Tsardom, and in 1686, the Kievan Metropolia came under the Moscow Patriarchate although this act was to this day redeemed un-canonicalby the Ecumenical Patriarchate who remains always the Mother Church of the Ukrainians . Ukrainian clergy, for their Greek training, held key roles in the Russian Orthodox Church until the end of the 18th century. Examples include Epifany Slavinetsky, one of the architects of the Patriarch Nikon's church reforms in the 17th century. Epifany Slavinetsky, locum tenens after Patriarch Adrian's death in 1700 and Metropolitan of Moscow, and his successor Feofan Prokopovich, a reformer of Russian Orthodox Church in early 18th century.

Orthodoxy in Ukraine greatly expanded in the 18th and 19th centuries, particularly as the boundaries of Russian Empire incorporated the Crimean Khanate, Bessarabia and Right-Bank Ukraine. Only the Western province of Galicia remained outside Russian Orthodox Church (though was claimed as canonical territory, as was in the official Kievan Metropolitan title of Kiev and Galich). During the 20th century, Orthodoxy was brutally persecuted by the Soviet authorities in Soviet Ukraine, and, to lesser extent, by the authorities of the Second Polish Republic in Volhynia.

What historians now see as the reason for the current state of affairs was the decision of the head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church Metropolitan of Kiev and all Ukraine Filaret to achieve total autocephaly (independence) of his metropolitan see with or without the approval of the mother church required by Canon Law. Some have suggested that these events followed Filaret's own unsuccessful attempt to be elected as Patriarch of Moscow following the repose of Patriarch Pimen and Ukrainian independence following the dissolution of the Soviet Union in August, 1991. In November 1991, Metropolitan Filaret requested the hierarchy of the Russian Orthodox Church to grant the Ukrainian Orthodox Church autocephalous status. The skeptical hierarchy of the Russian Orthodox Church called for a full Synodical council (Sobor) where this issue would have been discussed at length. Filaret, using his support from the old friendship ties with the then newly elected President of Ukraine (Leonid Kravchuk), convinced him that a new independent government should have its own independent church. Although the UAOC lacked any significant following outside Galicia, Filaret was able to organise a covert communion with the UAOC in case Moscow Patriarchate refused.

At the synod in March–April 1992, however, most of the clergy of the UOC who initially supported Filaret, openly criticised this move, and put most of the other bishops against him. Questions of his unpopular disregard to monastic vows (having a common-law wife) as well as the allegations of improper financial dealings with the church finances made the council vote for Filaret to retire from his position which was confirmed by a sworn oath.

Upon returning to Kyiv, Filaret carried out his reserve option revealing that the retirement oath was made under pressure and that he is not resigning. The Ukrainian president Leonid Kravchuk gave Filaret his support as did the nationalist Paramilitaries, in retaining his rank. In a crisis moment the Hierarchical Council of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, agreed to another synod which met in May 1992. The council was conducted in the eastern city of Kharkiv where the majority of the bishops voted to suspend Filaret from his clerical functioning. Simultaneously they elected a new leader Metropolitan Volodymyr (Viktor Sabodan), native of the Khmelnytskyi Oblast and a former Patriarchal Exarch to Western Europe.

With only three bishops remaining at his support Filaret initiated the unification with the UAOC, and in June 1992 creating a new Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Kyivan Patriarchate (UOC-KP) with 94-year-old Patriarch Mstyslav as a leader. While chosen as his assistant, Filaret was de facto ruling the Church. A few of the Autocephalous bishops and clergy who opposed such situation refused to join the new Church and following the death of Mstyslav a year later. The church was once again ripped apart by a schism and most of the UAOC parishes were regained when the churches re-separated in July 1993.

Since his election as a Patriarch in 1995, Filaret remains very active in both church and state politics. He tried to gather around his Church all groups with a national orientation and all church organizations which did not have canonical recognition.[6] On the other hand, he expressed repentance for his past support of prosecution of Ukrainian national churches, the Autocephalous and the Greek Catholic.

He is leading the drive for his church to become a single Ukrainian national church. His attempts to gain a canonical recognition for his church remain unsuccessful to this day and a rival Ukrainian Orthodox Church canonically linked to the Moscow Patriarchate remains the only body whose canonical standing is universally recognized by the Eastern Orthodox communion.

Patriarchs of Kiev and All Rus’-Ukraine[edit]Patriarch Mstyslav (1992–1993) Patriarch Volodymyr (1993–1995) Patriarch Filaret (1995–present) Important institutions[edit]Holy Synod of UOC-KP The Synod consists of the Patriarch and its six permanent members, the representatives of Galicia, Volyn, Kiev, Southern Ukraine, Eastern Ukraine, and the Russian bordering region of Bilhorod (locally as Belgorod). The Synod also has three temporary members that are represented by Eparchial Archbishops. The permanent members are elected by the Archbishop Assembly to which the Synod is responsible. The three temporary members are called upon the Patriarch and the Synod. Archbishop Assembly (Sobor) The assembly takes place at least once in two years and is initiated by the Patriarch and the Holy Synod. The members of assembly consists of all archbishops as well as the members of the Supreme Church Council. An extraordinary session of the assembly can be called upon by either the Patriarch or the 1/3 of all archbishops of UOC-KP. To selected sessions of the assembly may be invited some guests without any voting rights, however. All the declarations obtain their power upon the signatures of the head of assembly, its presidium, and secretary. The official website contains brief overviews of all the twelve assemblies that took place. The Local Assembly (Pomisny Sobor) The highest institution of the Church administration. All of the Church legislative, executive, and legal powers belong to that assembly. The assembly is much bigger than its Archbishop's counterpart and involves various religious representatives as well as some secular.