Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church: Wikis


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The Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAOC) is one of the three major Orthodox Churches in Ukraine. The others include the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Kyiv Patriarchate (UOC-KP) and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP). The UAOC in its contemporary form, has its origins in the Sobor of 1921 in Kyiv, shortly after Ukraine's newly found independence.

With the creation of a new nation, many Ukrainians felt the need for an indigenous autocephalous Orthodox Church free of Russian influence. There have been three different "resurrections" of the UAOC in Ukraine, each time following a period of political, cultural and religious persecution.



Legend records that the Apostle Andrew, in a mission from Byzantium, sailed across the Black Sea and reached the mouth of the Dnieper River. Traversing the river, he eventually reached the area of what is today Kyiv. According to tradition, the Apostle planted a cross and blessed the hills of the region, predicting that one day, a great city would arise there. The UAOC Cathedral of St. Andrew the First Called is situated near the location which is ascribed to this visit of St. Andrew.

The Kyivan Metropolia was a product of the baptism of the Kyivan-Rus in the time of Grand Prince Volodymyr the Great (988 CE). Missionaries were sent from Constantinople to instruct the people in the Byzantine-Orthodox faith. Monastic life flourished, including in the famous Kyiv Monastery of the Caves, through the efforts of St. Anthony of Kiev, known as the father of Russian monasticism. The Metropolia of Kyiv eventually grew into autocephalous status, until it was united with her once daughter Church Moscow Patriarchate in 1686, when Ukraine was annexed by the Russian State.

In the wake of the breakup of the Russian Empire some national groups sought autonomy or autocephaly from Moscow. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church was restored under the Ukrainian National Republic in 1917 and survived in Soviet Ukraine until the early 1930s.

In 1921 an All-Ukrainian Sobor (Synod) was called in Kyiv, the capital of the newly-independent Ukraine, and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church was declared independent from the Moscow Patriarchate (MP). The Sobor delegates chose Metropolitan Vasyl Lypkivskyj as head of the church. The 1921 Sobor has become known as the "first resurrection" of the UAOC.

Metropolitans Vasyl Lypkivsky and Mykola Boretsky were eminent UAOC preachers. From the 1930s sermons in Soviet Ukraine were delivered mostly in Russian (except in the Western Ukrainian regions annexed in 1944). Until 1944 the Orthodox theological seminaries in Western Ukraine taught homiletics; sermons were published in periodicals and separately in books such as Archbishop Oleksiy Hromadsky.

A few years later in 1924, Gregory VII, Archbishop of Constantinople and 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, Dionisiy Valedynsky.

Ukrainian independence was short-lived in this period, and eventually the USSR came into being. The Soviets introduced an atheistic regime and employed Russification as a means of domination over other nationalities in the newly-formed USSR. The Soviet government persecuted the UAOC (for being Orthodox, and for being Ukrainian); while the Russian Orthodox Church was officially promoted in cooperation with the government. This prevented the UAOC from developing its ecclesiastical order for some time.

During World War II, when Ukraine was a battleground between the German and Soviet Armies, Orthodox Ukrainians enjoyed somewhat increased freedom under German occupation. In May 1942, with the blessing of Metropolitan Dionisiy, more than a dozen bishops were consecrated in St. Andrew Cathedral, Kyiv, in fulfillment of the 1924 tomos of the Ecumenical Patriarch. 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 Abrymovych and Bishop Mstyslav Skrypnyk 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. Pro-Russian hierarchs of the Autonomous Church convinced Metropolitan Oleksiy to withdraw his signature. Metropolitan Oleksiy was allegedly executed in Volhynia on May 7, 1943 by members of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA).

The Church of St. Andrew in Kyiv, the patriarchal cathedral of the UAOC

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 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 in 1925 some churches had 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, in Galicia and Transcarpathia.

Contemporary Situation

The church regained state recognition in 1990, which is known as the "third resurrection" of the UAOC. Initially it was governed from abroad by Patriarch Mstyslav (Skrypnyk). Subsequent to his death in 1993, he was succeeded by Patriarchs Volodymyr (Romanyuk). Patriarch Volodymyr would, during his time as patriarch, separate from the UAOC to found the UOC-KP, together with Metropolitan (now Patriarch) Filaret (Denysenko). Those not willing to follow this change continued the UAOC with a new Patriarch, Dymytry (Yarema).

On October 16, 2000, the Church Sobor elected Metropolitan Mefodiy (Kudryakov) of Ternopil to lead the church. As father and head of the UAOC worldwide, he is Metropolitan of Kyiv and all Ukraine. Since his elevation, he has worked towards a more global visibility for the church, including a pastoral visit to the United States in 2006 and travels to Western Europe. He has fostered continued positive relations with the Ukrainian government and other religious communities. The UAOC is not officially recognized by other, traditional Churches.

Metropolitan Mefodiy

In 2005, Metropolitan Mefodiy pursued a legal suit which successfully restored the patriarchal chancery offices and the Church of Saint Demetrius of Thessaloniki to the UAOC. Located adjacent to the famous St. Michael's Golden-Domed Monastery, the premises had been in the use of a schismatic group.

Under the personal supervision of Metropolitan Mefodiy, the Ternopil Orthodox Theological Academy of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church was renovated and its course of studies completely updated to conform to contemporary academic standards. On October 18, 2008, the first diplomas of the newly-accredited theological school were awarded to qualified graduates in a ceremony in the Cathedral of the Nativity of Christ in Ternopil. Presiding at the commencement ceremony, at the invitation of Metropolitan Mefodiy, was the UAOC Metropolitan of New York and America, Mykhayil (Javchak).

The Patriarchal Cathedral of the UAOC is the historic Church of St. Andrew the First-Called in Kyiv. It was built between 1747-1754 and was designed by the famous architect Bartolomeo Rastrelli. Although used for regular liturgical services of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church, the edifice had previously been a part of the historical park "Sofia-Kyiv." The Ukrainian government returned the church to the legal possession of the UAOC on May 21, 2008.

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, both of which are eparchies of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople and not in communion with the UAOC.

The UAOC, however, has maintained an ecclesiastical structure outside of Ukraine. There are eparchies in North and South America, Western Europe and elsewhere. Metropolitan Mykhayil of New York heads the UAOC in the Americas. Significant growth of the UAOC has taken place in recent times in Latin America, where the Eparchy is based in Manizales, Colombia. There are also parishes of the church in Canberra, Australia, Palermo, Italy, Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic and elsewhere.

See also




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