The Ukrainian Church`s fight for independence
Ukraine will celebrate the 27th anniversary of its independence this summer. However, the history of our state is much longer, and its roots reach the times of Kievan Rus`, the Cossacks’ state led by Hetman Bohdan Khmelnytsky in the Middle Ages and the Ukrainian People's Republic at the beginning of the 20th century. Unfortunately, this history was parted in times due to existed external influence that did not want to see Ukraine as a sovereign, independent and democratic state.
The history of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church is also uneasy, complicated and tragic sometimes.
It was a subjected to almost the greatest tortures and repressions of the above-mentioned foreign rivals as the spiritual core of society. The enemies knew very well that the existence of an autocephalous canonical Orthodox Church would become the strong foundation for the growth of the Ukrainian State.
The situation changed dramatically at the beginning of the 21st century. Ukraine is supported by the world. We have come to the irreversible path of building our state, which is based on European values. The question of the creation of an autocephalous Ukrainian Church has acquired a new historical sense and special relevance.
The Revolution of Dignity became the starting point that gave the impulse to democratic reforms in the country. Also it provided the opportunity for Ukraine to integrate into the common European space, in particular, by concluding the Agreement about Association between Ukraine and the EU, establishing a free trade zone and liberalization the visa regime with the EU.
All these achievements could be leveled out by the lack of harmony in the spiritual live of the country, which should be generated by the only Local Orthodox Church in Ukraine. For this purpose the President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko met with the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople in April 2018.
We know about existing external management of the Ukrainian church by Russia that started and continuous intensive military aggression against Ukraine by occupying the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and partly territories of Donetsk and Lugansk regions. This is the second significant factor to intensify the changes in the spiritual life of the country.
Religious organizations of Ukraine unite in their ranks much larger number of people than any political parties, trade unions or other associations. They play an essential role in consolidation of the Ukrainian society and solving its most difficult problems.
The church is a barometer of the level of tension in the society of any country. That fact provided the impulse in initiating the acquisition of local status for the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. Moreover, this initiative appeared in July 1992, when the spiritual leadership of independent Ukraine met with the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
Then, due to the formation of Ukraine as a state, the question about autocephaly was aroused. This decision was unanimously adopted at the Local Council in 1992, which was attended by representatives of all Ukrainian dioceses, monasteries. The decision of the Local Council did not affect the Moscow Patriarchate, who couldn’t let the autocephaly to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
During its existence Russia was the only one state, which had repeatedly taken measures that led to the violation of Orthodox unity, church canons and norms, particularly - the self-manifestation of autocephaly by the Moscow Church in 1448 and the unrecognized by Constantinople and other orthodox churches until 1589, the illegal affiliation of the Kievan Metropolitan to the Moscow Church in 1686, the exclusive provision of autocephaly to the “Orthodox Church in America” by the Moscow Patriarchate in 1970 (exceptionally recognized by churches of the so-called “socialist camp”).
Moscow has blocked any negotiations on the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, so the struggle for autocephaly with the participation of the Ecumenical Patriarch lasts during 25 years.
The myth is circulated by the Russian Orthodox Church about further splitting of the Orthodox Church in Ukraine after giving Tomos due to other churches in Ukraine were not considered to be canonical. But this is not true. Tomos about autocephaly of the Orthodox Church in Ukraine is not given to any denominations, it does not recognize the "canonical" nature of other churches. Tomos just confirms and recognizes autocephaly of the Local Orthodox Church in Ukraine. On the contrary, the provision of Tomos is aimed at eliminating the split in Ukrainian Orthodoxy by putting in an order autocephalous Local Orthodox Church in Ukraine, which includes all confessions, ecclesiastical groups, as well as clergy and laity of the state.
When Ukraine receives Tomos, the Ukrainian Church will be the only one, and the remnant of the Moscow Patriarchate should be called the Russian Orthodox Church in Ukraine. It will have the same rights as Ukrainian Church, because the law for all churches and religions in Ukraine is the same. Consequently, without violating nobody’s rights, Ukrainian society seeks one thing: to have a full-fledged sovereign state and its autocephalous Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
Borys Humeniuk, Ambassador of Ukraine