Ukranian Autocephalous Orthodox Church in Ukraine
The Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAOC) is one of the branches of the Church of Kyiv. It currently has an irregular canonical status. De facto this status is autocephalous, but it is not recognized by the Ecumenical Orthodox Churches.
Revival of UAOC in Ukraine
The new stage of history of the UAOC began on February 15, 1989, when, with the support of pro-Ukrainian forces in Kyiv, an initiative committee for the restoration of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church in Ukraine began was founded in Kyiv. Its main purpose was to revive the UAOC and register citizens of the church. After Fr. Volodymyr Yarema (after Patriarch Dimitrios(Yarema), priest of the Lviv Sts. Peter and Paul Church, together with his parish, left the jurisdiction of the Russian Orthodox Church on August 19, 1989, the autocephalous movement began to gain wide momentum. In UAOC parishes it was adopted to commemorate the then Ecumenical Patriarch Demetrios during Liturgies.
Immediately a search began for bishops for the restored church. On October 22, 1989, at the Council of Priests and Laity in Lviv, the revival of the UAOC was proclaimed. Bishop of the Moscow Patriarchate (MP) Ioann (Bodnarchuk) (who on November 14, 1989, was banned from ministry by the MP Synod) headed the revived of the church.
At the beginning of 1990 about 200 Galician parishes transferred to the UAOC. Because of the growing number of communities, the leadership of the church to ordained new bishops. Since the bishops of the UAOC in emigration at that time were not able to participate, the new UAOC bishop Vasyl (Bondarchuk) was ordained by Ioann (Bodnarchuk), Bishop of Volyn and Rivne of the ROC Varlaam (Ilyushenko), who acted secretly from the Synod of the ROC, and Bishop of Yasnopole of the True Orthodox (Catacomb) Church Vikentiy (Chekalin). As it turned out later, the latter was an impostor. Therefore, all of his ordinations were repeated in 1991 with the participation of foreign bishop of UAOC, Antoniy (Scherba).
In spring 1990 five more episcopal ordinations took place: Andrii Abramchuk, Danylo Kovalchuk, Mykola Hroha, Roman Balaschuk, and Volodymymr Romaniuk.
The Ukrainian Orthodox Council with the participation of 700 delegates from across Ukraine, including 7 bishops and more than 200 priests, was held in Kyiv on June 5-6, 1990. The council approved the renewal of the UAOC and chose Mstyslav (Skrypnyk) as Patriarch of Kyiv and Ukraine. The Statute of the Church was also adopted. Metropolitan Mstyslav was absent from the Council, and he did not accept his election as patriarch right away. Metropolitan Ioann (Bodnarchuk) was locum tenens of the patriarchal throne in Kyiv at that time.
On October 2, 1990, the authorities of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic formally registered the UAOC.
The democratization of political life in Ukraine made it possible for Metropolitan of the UAOC Mstyslav (Skrypnyk) to visit Ukraine in the autumn of 1990. And on November 18, 1990, in the St. Sophia Cathedral in Kyiv, he was enthroned as Patriarch of Kyiv and All Ukraine.
In Ukraine, Patriarch Mstyslav with Bishop of Washington Antoniy (Shcherba) ordained Antoniy (Fialko) as bishop of Khmelnytsky and Panteleymon (Romanovskyi) as bishop of Dnipropetrovsk.
After his brief stay in Ukraine, Patriarch Mstyslav returned to the United States. He appointed Bishop Antony (Masendych) as his substitute administrator of the Patriarchate in Kyiv. Bishop Antony was then later elevated to Metropolitan of Pereyaslavl and Sicheslavskyi.
Because the UAOC head resided outside the country, as well as a number of internal tensions and conflicts in the Ukrainian part of the UAOC in 1990-1991, a confrontation inside the different groups and bishops emerged. This made it impossible for the church to clearly formalize its structure and regulate church life.
In parallel with these developments in the Ukrainian Exarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church, which at that time was called the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, centrifugal processes took place from the Moscow church center. Kyiv Metropolitan Filaret (Denysenko) led this movement. With the support of the leadership of Ukraine, Metropolitan Filaret started a dialogue with Metropolitan Antony (Masendych) about the possibility of merging into one church.
The National Ukrainian Forum on Protection of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which was attended by bishops, clergy, laity of the UOC and UAOC was held on May 22, 1992, in Kyiv. And on June 25-26, 1992, at the residence of Metropolitan Filaret, a Ukrainian Orthodox Council was held, which united the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church and part of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) in one structure – the Ukrainian Orthodox Church–Kyivan Patriarchate.
The Ukrainian Orthodox Church–Moscow Patriarchate was represented by Metropolitan Filaret, Bishop Yakiv (Panchuk), and two new bishops – Spyrydon (Babskyi) and Varsonofiy (Mazurak). From the side of the UAOC the council was attended by Bishops Antony (Masendych), Volodymyr (Romaniuk), Roman (Balaschuk), Sofronii (Vlasov), Roman (Popenko) and Mykail (Dutkevych).
The council chose Metropolitan Mstyslav as Patriarch of Kyiv and All Ukraine.
The new church was registered by the authorities, and so registration of the UAOC was annulled (legally it ceased to exist). However, some of the clergy and faithful of the UAOC were displeased with the formation of a new structure because the Unification Council and the formation of the UOC-KP took place in the absence of Patriarch Mstyslav and without his blessing.
Immediately after the Unification Council bishops of the UAOC –Antony (Fialko) of Khmelnytskyi, Panteleimon (Romanovsky) of Dnipropetrovsk, Mykola (Hroha) of Ivano-Frankivsk, and Polikarp (Palahniuk) – filed a request for transfer to the ROC and were re-ordained. Bishop Polikarp renounced his episcopal dignity.
From July 1 to July, Patriarch Mstyslav visited Ukraine. During a meeting with former bishops of the UAOC he expressed his dissatisfaction with the Unification Council and the formation of the new structure – the UOC-KP.
On October 17, 1992, the head of the UAOC dismissed Metropolitan Antony (Masendych) and Bishop Volodymyr (Romaniuk).
On December 12 the patriarch arrived in Ukraine for the last time. On December 23 and 24 in Kyiv there was a meeting with the faithful and the clergy who did not recognize the unification with the part of the UOC-MP headed by Metropolitan Filaret (Denysenko). Archbishop of Lviv, Petro (Petrus), also participated in the meeting. The result of the meeting was an address from Patriarch Mstyslav dated December 24 to the president of Ukraine, prime minister, and prosecutor general of Ukraine in which he insisted on the illegality of the participation of bishops and believers in the Unification Council of June 25-26, 1992, and the violation of the Statute of the UAOC.
In turn, the Hierarchical Council of the UOC-KP (17 bishops) responded with a resolution dated December 15 that none of the actions of Mstyslav (Skrypnyk) has any validity without prior approval of the Synod. Patriarch Mstyslav himself was invited to participate in the council, but he flatly refused.
In response, Patriarch Mstyslav appointed Archbishop Petro (Petrus) as the new administrator of the UAOC Patriarchate and authorized him to convene in January 1993 an extended hierarchical council to further settle the status of the UAOC. The meeting was held on January 22 in Lviv, but, other than Archbishop Petro (Petrus), only Bishop Mykhail (Dutkevych) was present.
In response to the actions of Archbishop Petro (Petrus), the same day the Hierarchical Synod of the UOC-KP deprived of him of his dignity, and of those clerics who tried to reactivate the UAOC.
On June 11, 1993, Patriarch Mstyslav (Skrypnyk) died in Grimsby, Canada.
Since in Ukraine two structures considered him their hierarchs – the UOC-KP and the UAOC, which had lost its registration – the UOC in the United States distanced itself from both jurisdictions. Also, the American bishops refused the request of the restored UAOC to participate in the new ordination for Ukraine.
Given this the extraordinary Patriarchal Council of June 11, 1993, decided on the ordination of two new hierarchs: Bishop of Rivne Feoktysta (Peresad) (June 30) and of Kharkiv and Poltava Ihor (Isichenko) (July 12).
Shortly after this a meeting of the Hierarchical Council of the UAOC took place, where it was decided to ask the priest Volodymyr (Yarema) to take monarchal vows and accept episcopal ordination. On August 23, 1993, in Sts. Peter and Paul Church in Lviv, Archbishop Petro (Petrus) accepted the vows of Fr. Volodymyr, who took the name of Dymytriy. And on September 5 in Kyiv, Dymytriy (Yarema) was ordained the bishop of Sichevskyi. On September 7, 1993, at the second National Council of the UAOC he was elected Patriarch of Kyiv. The enthronement took place on September 14 in the Church of Our Savior on Berestov.
At the same time, the UOC-KP, which had also thought of Mstyslav (Skrypnyk) as its head, also held elections for a new patriarch of Ukraine. From October 21 to 24 in Kyiv a National Council was held in which Bishop of Chernihiv Volodymyr (Romaniuk) was elected the head of the UOC-KP.
From the beginning of his time on the patriarchal throne, Dymytriy (Yarema) considered it his mission to overcome the division between the three branches of Ukrainian Orthodoxy and was ready to use his powers to unite and elect a joint head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
During 1993-1996 in the UAOC there was a confrontation between the newly elected Patriarch Dymytriy and the administrator of the Patriarchate Archbishop Petro (Petrus). The main reason of the conflict was Bishop Petro’s attempt to gain the power in the Patriarchate that he had received from Patriarch of Mstyslav.
The result of this was the registration in 1995 of two statutes of the UAOC, one of which was given by Patriarch Dymytriy and the other by Petro (Petrus). Both statutes were registered by state authorities of Ukraine. This put an end to the illegal situation of the church, but it was registered as a new religious movement, not as a successor of the UAOC from 1990, as was sought by Patriarch Dymytriy.
In 1995 the UAOC in the United States came under the omophorion of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to settle its canonical status. Earlier, in 1990, this was done by the UOC in Canada. On March 12, 1995, all 12 bishops were formally received into the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
In June 1995, Patriarch of the UOC-KP Volodymyr turned to the head of UAOC with a proposal to begin the unification process between the churches. As a result of reaching an agreement to merge the two jurisdictions, the parties agreed to renounce patriarchal rights and to hold elections of a new head.
This initiative, however, was not implemented due to the sudden death of head of the UOC-KP on July 14, 1995.
The death of Patriarch Volodymyr stirred up Kyivan Patriarchate clergy who were dissatisfied with the candidacy of Metropolitan Filaret (Denysenko) for the patriarchal throne of the UOC-KP.
A session of western eparchies of the UOC-KP was held on September 10, 1995, in Rohatyn. At the session an appeal was sent to the locum tenens of the Patriarchal throne Metropolitan Filaret to withdraw his candidature for the new patriarch. At the session it was also decided to begin the process of unification of the branches of the Ukrainian Church. The appeal was also signed by 17 priests of the UAOC.
The election of new head of the UOC-KP was held on October 20, 1995, at the National Council in Kyiv. The new patriarch became Metropolitan Filaret (Denysenko).
A day earlier, on October 19, a group of bishops of the UOC-KP – Metropolitan of Ivano-Frankivsk Andrij (Abramchuk), Archbishop of Ternopil Vasylii (Bodnarchuk), Archbishop of Vinnytsia Roman (Balaschuk) and Bishop of Khmelnytskyi Mefodiy (Kudriakov) – announced its withdrawal from the Kyivan Patriarchate. Then in the Kyiv Feodosievsky monastery they met with the bishops of the UAOC during which the “Act of Unifying the Churches” was passed.
In this regard, and in the hope of uniting the UAOC and the UOC-KP, the head of Autocephalous Church Bishop Dymytriy (Yarema) stated that he would use his authority to elect a new head of the Church.
Eastern Ukrainian clergy led by Bishop Ihor (Isichenko) opposed this unification. At a meeting, which took place in Odesa on November 8, “Act of Unifying the Churches” was called declarative and one that requires discussion at the National Council, which was proposed to be held in fall or summer 1996.
On November 14, 1995, Bishops Andrii (Abramchuk), Mefodiy (Kudriakov), and Petro (Petrus), without the approval of the patriarch, met with Metropolitan Volodymyr (Sabodan) of the UOC-MP. As a result they formed a joint commission of the two churches to overcome the schism. However, representatives of the UAOC set as one of the conditions of the union the autocephaly of the Ukrainian Church – this condition was not accepted by the hierarchy of the UOC-MP. Also during the talks an idea was brought up about the possibility of establishing an autonomous Galician Metropolitanate based on the UAOC, but as part of the UOC-MP.
The same day an extended Hierarchical Council of the UAOC was held in the Church of Mykola Naberezhny. The council was attended by new and old hierarchs, and it was decided to hold on June 5, 1996, a National Council of the UAOC to discuss relations with the UOC-MP, among other topics.
However, on November 23, 1995, in Lviv, Patriarch Dymytriy announced the impossibility of such a dialogue.
On August 6, 1996, a council was held in Kyiv, which was organized by the former bishops of the UOC-KP and is UAOC hierarchs who supported the union. At the council the unified structure was given a new name – UAOC-KP.
Patriarch Dymytriy did not recognize the validity of this council, and in September 1996, because of continued confrontation with Bishop Petro (Petrus), the head of the UAOC dismissed him from the UAOC episcopate.
However, the confrontation worsened even more as a result of the October 18, 1996, Council of UAOC-KP led by Bishop Mykhail (Dutkevych), who banned Bishop Ihor (Isichenko) from ministry, and in contrast to Patriarch Dymytriy (Yarema) chose Metropolitan of Ternopil and Volyn Vasilii (Bondarchuk) locum tenens of the patriarchal throne.
Patriarch Demetrius condemned such actions of the bishops, and on October 20, 1996, appointed Bishop Ihor of Kharkiv and Poltava as administrator of the UAOC Patriarchate.
As a result, bishops of the newly created UAOC-KP on October 26 banned the ministries of Dymytriy (Yarema), Ihor (Isichenko), and Mefodiy (Kudriakov), who moved to the side of the patriarch. Metropolitan Vasilii (Bondarchuk) was elected as the new head of the UAOC-KP.
But soon a conflict arose among the bishops of the UAOC-KP and as a consequence Petro (Petrus) and Vasilii (Bodnarchuk) defected to the UOC-KP, and the other bishops, led by Andrii (Abramchuk), returned under the leadership of Patriarch Dymytriy (Yarema).
In the next years life in the UAOC was stable. On May 28-29, 1997, the Third National Council was held. It approved the new wording of the Statute, which was approved by the State Committee of Ukraine on Religion on August 26, 1997. The new Statute secured for the restored UAOC succession of the UAOC from 1990.
On June 27, 1997, the Patriarchal Council regulated the eparchy structure. The territories of 11 eparchies were determined.
The leadership of the church held a series of negotiations with the bishops of the UOC abroad and representatives of the Romanian Church to overcome the isolation of the UAOC from world Orthodoxy.
On February 25, 2000, Patriarch Dymytriy (Yarema) passed away at 85.
The death of the head of the church caused for some confusion in the UAOC. Patriarch Dymytriy left behind a will, stating that the UAOC must come under the omophorion of the Metropolitan of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the USA Constantine (Bahan).
After the death of Patriarch Dymytriy, Metropolitan Mefodiy (Kudriakov) was elected patriarch. And negotiations between the UAOC and the UOC in the USA resumed. The All-Ukrainian Brotherhood of St. Andrew played an active role in this process.
At the National Council of the UAOC on September 14-15, 2000, it was decided to elect Metropolitan Constantine as its head. However, the metropolitan did not accept the election because of canonical reasons. Then he was pronounced the “spiritual head” of the UAOC. Metropolitan Mefodiy of Ternopil and Podilsk was elected primate of the church in Ukraine, with the title of metropolitan was elected, and Archbishop Ihor (Isichenko) managing administrator of the patriarchate of the UAOC. According to members of the council, Metropolitan Constantine, who was an unfavorable, uncontrolled diaspora bishop, was under pressure from the administration of President of Ukraine.
In 2003 following a decision of the Hierarchical Council of the UAOC power was concentrated in the hands of Metropolitan Mefodiy, who was given the title “Metropolitan of Kyiv and All Ukraine.” Archbishop Ihor (Isichenko) accused Metropolitan Mefodiy and bishops who supported him in unauthorized emergence from the guardianship of Metropolitan Constantine and broke unity with them. The bishop responded similarly and broke communion with Archbishop Ihor.
This marked the beginning of the existence of two separate branches of the UAOC: Kharkiv and Poltava Eparchy of the UAOC, led by Archbishop Ihor (Isichenko), which considers its head to be Metropolitan Constantine (Bahan) (despite the fact that Metropolitan Constantine, as a bishop of the other autocephalous church (of Constantinople) cannot in any way lead a separate autocephalous church) and the UAOC under the omophorion of Metropolitan Mefodiy (Kudriakov). The Lviv eparchy of the UAOC for some time had a status of self-governance and did not commemorate Metropolitan Mefodiy but the Ecumenical Patriarch. Brotherhoods, in particular the Stauropegion Lviv Brotherhood, actively opposed and oppose Metropolitan Mefodiy.
In 2005 there were several consultations between the UOC-KP and the UAOC (Mefodiy (Kudriakov) on a possible unification. The parties reached certain agreements, but shortly before the Unification Council, the UAOC withdrew from negotiations because of dissatisfaction with the terms of the association.
On December 27, 2005, the UAOC sounded an initiative to restore the activity of the Theological Commission of the UOC-MP and the UAOC. The Kyivan Metropolitanate of the Moscow Patriarchate reacted positively to this appeal. The dialogue continues, albeit unsuccessfully.
Also in 2005 the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church of North and South America, led by Metropolitan Mykhayil (Javchak-Champion) went under the omophorion of Metropolitan Mefodiy (Kudriakov) with rights of autonomy. On the website of this jurisdiction Metropolitan Mefodiy is named as the head of the UAOC worldwide.
In 2006, there was an attempt to create representation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Ukraine on the basis of the Lviv Stauropegion Dormition Brotherhood. The brotherhood argued that the status of stauropegion (i.e., its direct subordination to the Patriarch of Constantinople), granted in 1589, was never canonically cancelled.
Archbishop Ihor of Kharkiv and Poltava does not participate in any dialogues and maintains the position that any unification process in Ukrainian Orthodoxy should take place with the participation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. In April 2007 the Kharkiv and Poltava Eparchy of the UAOC re-registered its statute (as KPE UAOC (updated)) to not be dependent on the UAOC led by Metropolitan Mefodiy (Kudriakov). Some parishes of the UAOC that geographically should belong to other eparchies of the UAOC joined the KPE UAOC. The brotherhoods maintain relations with Archbishop Ihor. He also leads active ecumenical and scientific activities.
Today, the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church has 11 eparchies, run by 12 bishops. The church has an exarchate in western Europe, headed by Bishop Peter Brook de Tral. Legally the Kharkiv and Poltava Eparchy of the UAOC exists separately.
As of January 1, 2011, the UAOC has 1,190 religious communities, 9 monasteries, 7 missions, 699 priests, 7 schools, 301 Sunday schools, and 7 periodicals.