Orthodox Church of Ukraine

The Orthodox Church of Ukraine (Ukrainian: Православна церква України, romanizedPravoslavna tserkva Ukrayiny)[12][13] (OCU), or Ukrainian Orthodox Church, is a partially recognized[14] autocephalous Eastern Orthodox church whose canonical territory is Ukraine.[15]

Orthodox Church of Ukraine
Православна церква України
80-391-9007 Kyiv DSC 5895.jpg
ClassificationEastern Orthodox Church
ScriptureSeptuagint, New Testament
TheologyEastern Orthodox theology
PrimateHis Beatitude Epiphanius I, Metropolitan of Kiev and all Ukraine
Bishops62 (as of December 2019[1])
Clergy4,500 in total (as of December 2019[1])
Parishesover 7,000[1][2]
Monasteries/convents77 (both male and female)[1]
LanguageUkrainian, Church Slavonic[3]
LiturgyByzantine Rite
HeadquartersSt. Michael's Golden-Domed Monastery, Kiev[a][5][6]
FounderUnification council of the Orthodox churches of Ukraine
Origin15 December 2018
Independence5 January 2019 (autocephaly officially granted by a tomos)[7][8][9]
RecognitionAutocephaly recognized by:
Ecumenical Patriarchate (January 2019)
Patriarchate of Alexandria (November 2019)
Church of Greece (October 2019)
Merger ofUkrainian Orthodox Church – Kiev Patriarchate (part of which left the OCU on 20 June 2019),
Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church,
Metropolitans Symeon Shostatsky and Oleksandr (Drabynko) [uk] of the UOC-MP
SeparationsParts of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Kiev Patriarchate on 20 June 2019 (see Conflict between Filaret and Epiphanius)
Members43.9% of the Ukrainian Orthodox population (January 2019, study by SOCIS)[10]
Other name(s)Ukrainian Orthodox Church
Most Holy Church of Ukraine
Official websitewww.pomisna.info[11]
  1. ^ The headquarters are in the Saint Sophia's Cathedral of Kiev, but since it is a historical monument of Ukraine, masses there are very rare. Accordingly, St. Michael's Golden-Domed Monastery is used as the headquarters of the Metropolitan of Kiev and all Ukraine[4]

The Church was instituted at the Unification Council in Kiev on 15 December 2018 and the new ecclesiastical body was granted the tomos of autocephaly (decree of ecclesial independence) by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople in Istanbul on 5 January 2019. The Unification Council voted to unite the two existing Ukrainian Orthodox jurisdictions: the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Kiev Patriarchate (UOC-KP) and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAOC) as well as a part of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (a branch of the Moscow-based Russian Orthodox Church, which claims jurisdiction over Ukraine). The Unification Council elected Epiphanius Dumenko – previously the Metropolitan of Pereiaslav-Khmelnytskyi and Bila Tserkva (UOC-KP) – as its primate, the Metropolitan of Kiev and all Ukraine.

According to the Statute of the OCU adopted at the Unification Council, "Orthodox Christians of Ukrainian provenance in the Orthodox diaspora" should henceforth be subject to the jurisdiction of the diocesan bishops of the Ecumenical Patriarchate (Article 4 of the Statute).[16][17] This provision is also enshrined in the OCU's tomos of autocephaly.[18][19][20] In March 2019 Metropolitan Epiphanius said that the transfer of parishes of the dissolved Kiev Patriarchate to the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate had already begun.[21] The creation and subsequent recognition of the OCU by other autocephalous Orthodox Churches have met staunch opposition and attempts at subversion on the part of the Russian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) as well as the government of Russia.[22]


The official name of the united Ukrainian church is the "Orthodox Church of Ukraine" ("Ukrainian Orthodox Church" is allowed as well) and the name of its primate is "His Beatitude (name), Metropolitan of Kiev and all Ukraine".[23][24][25] The Tomos of autocephaly of the OCU refers to the OCU as the "Most Holy Church of Ukraine".[20]

On 30 January 2019, the OCU was legally registered under the name "Kievan Metropolitanate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Orthodox Church of Ukraine)" (Ukrainian: Київська Митрополія Української Православної Церкви (Православної Церкви України)).[26] The head of the Ukrainian Department of Religious Affairs of the Ministry of Culture, Andriy Yurash, clarified: "These two terms [the UOC and the OCU] will be used as synonymous and this is expressly agreed with the Phanar. Therefore, the use of the terms, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, is affixed precisely to the administrative unit that is called the Kievan Metropolitanate".[27]


The Unification Council (2018)Edit

Following months of negotiations and preparations, on 15 December 2018, all the bishops of the UOC-KP and the UAOC as well as two metropolitans of the UOC-MP convened in Kiev's Saint Sophia Cathedral, presided over by the Metropolitan of the Ecumenical throne, Emmanuel (Adamakis) [fr], to merge into the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, elect their primate and adopt the statute of the newly independent Church of Ukraine.[16][17]

Metropolitan Epiphanius and Ukrainian President Poroshenko, right after the unification council
Epiphanius, first Metropolitan of Kiev and all Ukraine of the OCU

Metropolitan Epiphanius of the UOC-KP, who had been chosen on 13 December by the UOC-KP as its only candidate, and was believed to have been Filaret Denysenko's right arm[28] and protégé,[29] was elected Metropolitan of Kiev and all Ukraine by the unification council by the second round of voting.[30][31]

Epiphanius later made clear that no important decision would be taken by his Church until he had received the church's formal ecclesiastical decree (or "Tomos").[32][33]

The Ecumenical Patriarch congratulated and blessed the newly elected Metropolitan on the day of his election and said the newly elected primate was invited to come to Istanbul to concelebrate the Divine Liturgy with the Ecumenical Patriarch and receive the Orthodox Church of Ukraine's tomos on 6 January 2019.[34][35][36]

Shortly after the Council, Metropolitan Epiphanius said that the OCU had about 7 thousand parishes.[2]

Advertisements to promote a united Ukrainian Orthodox Church had been made months prior to the Unification Council.[37] Petro Poroshenko declared "not a dime" from the Ukrainian State had been paid for them, that he paid those advertisements with his own money.[38] Poroshenko refused to state how much had been spent.[39]

Following the Council, Filaret Denysenko, who had been the primate and Patriarch of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Kiev Patriarchate (1995–2018), became the "honorary patriarch" of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, serving in the St Volodymyr's Cathedral.[40][41][42][43]

Granting of the Tomos of autocephalyEdit

Patriarch Bartholomew signing the tomos. Epiphanius I of Ukraine (wearing a white klobuk) stands behind him.
Patriarch Bartholomew (left) handing the tomos to Metropolitan Epiphanius (right)

On 5 January 2019, Patriarch Bartholomew and Metropolitan Epiphanius celebrated a Divine Liturgy in St. George's Cathedral in Istanbul. The Tomos was signed thereafter, also in St. George's Cathedral. The Tomos "had come into force from the moment of its signing."[44][45] The signing of the tomos officially established the autocephalous Orthodox Church of Ukraine.[46]

After the Tomos was signed, Patriarch Batholomew delivered a speech addressing Metropolitan Epiphanius.[47] President Poroshenko[48] and Metropolitan Epiphanius also delivered speeches, Epiphanius addressing Poroshenko by saying this: "Your name, Mr President, will remain forever in the history of the Ukrainian people and the church next to the names of our princes Volodymyr the Great, Yaroslav the Wise, Kostiantyn Ostrozky and Hetman Ivan Mazepa".[49]

On 6 January 2019, after a Divine Liturgy concelebrated by Metropolitan Epiphanius and Patriarch Bartholomew, the latter read out the Tomos of the OCU and then handed it to Metropolitan Epiphanius.[45][50] President Poroshenko was present during the signing and handing over of the Tomos.[51][52][53]

On 7 January 2019, Metropolitan Epiphanius celebrated the Divine Liturgy in Saint Sophia's Cathedral, where the Tomos of autocephaly was exposed during the liturgy. The Tomos was then put on display in the refectory church of Saint Sophia's Cathedral in perpetuity, and exposed for the public and tourists to view daily.[54][54][55][56]

On 8 January 2019, the Tomos was brought back to Istanbul so that all the members of the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate could sign the Tomos.[57] The representative of the press service of the OCU, priest Ivan Sydor, said the Tomos was valid after the signature of the Ecumenical Patriarch, "but according to the procedure, there must also be the signatures of those bishops who take part in the synod of the Constantinople Patriarchate."[58] Former press secretary of the UOC-KP, Eustratius (Zorya) (uk), declared the Ecumenical Patriarch recognised the OCU by signing the tomos of autocephaly and by concelebrating the liturgy with Epiphanius I while considering Epiphanius as primate of the OCU.[57][59] The Tomos was signed by all members of the synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate on 9 January 2019.[58][60][61][62] The tomos, signed by all members of the synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, was brought back to Ukraine on the morning of 10 January 2019.[63][64][65][66]

The Tomos was manufactured on a parchment by the renowned painter and calligrapher of Mount Athos, hieromonk Lucas from the Xenophontos monastery.[67]

President Poroshenko, accompanied by Metroplitan Epiphanius, visited several regions of Ukraine to present the Tomos.[68][69]

The Ukrainian Minister of education said that in 2019 the tomos of autocephaly would be included in the history manuals of the 11th grade students.[70]

Enthronement of the Primate and first meeting of the SynodEdit

It was planned that Epiphanius would be enthroned on 3 February 2019, which is also the date of his 40th birthday.[71][72][73] Thereafter, the first synod of the OCU was to take place.[74][75] The monasteries of Mount Athos refused to send a delegation for the enthronement ceremony "not because the Fathers do not recognise its legitimacy or canonicity, but because they have chosen to stick with what has become official practice and accept invitations only to the enthronement of their ecclesiastical head, the Ecumenical Patriarch."[76] Two abbots of Mount Athos were planned to come at the enthronement but were to be part of the delegation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.[77] On 1 February, once in Kiev, Archimandrite Ephrem, one of the two Athonite abbots, was hospitalised for a heart attack.[78] On 2 February, Archimandrite Ephrem was visited by Metropolitan Epiphanius.[79][80]

As planned, Epiphanius was enthroned in St. Sophia's Cathedral on 3 February 2019.[81] Filaret was not present due to health conditions, so he sent his written congratulations to the primate Epiphanius, Filaret's congratulations were written by him and read at the end of the liturgy.[82][83] Archimandrite Ephrem, who had been hospitalised on 1 February 2019,[78] was not present at the ceremony of enthronement,[84][85] but a hieromonk of Ephrem's monastery was present during the ceremony of enthronement. A monk from a skete of the Koutloumousiou Monastery was also present during the ceremony of enthronement.[86]

The first meeting of the Holy Synod of the OCU was held on 5 February 2019.[87][88][89]

Initial public statements by the PrimateEdit

In an interview published on 13 February 2019, Epiphanius said what were the main task the OCU had to fulfill:[90]

First, to preserve the unity that was proclaimed in the unifying Council. Secondly, pay special attention to formation, which is our future. The third commitment is with the young, which we must know how to attract them [sic] to the Church. Without spiritual formation, in general without development of formation we will not be able to do anything

On 16 February 2019, the primate of the OCU, Epiphanius, said the OCU would implement reforms "normally and gradually" He gave the example of switching to the Orthodox new calendar.[citation needed] Before that, on 16 December 2018, he had also talked about switching to the Orthodox new calendar.[91]

In an interview published on 1 March 2019, Epiphanius told the BBC:[92][93]

We must move away from those Russian imperial traditions that have been imposed on us for a long time. When we visit the churches of the Greek tradition, we see that all those traditions existed in the Ukrainian Church even during the time of Peter Mogila [...] But everything will be done gradually, so as not to cause resistance from the conservative part of the faithful who do not perceive reforms as such. We are not talking about changing the foundations of faith, dogmatics. We are talking about good reforms. We must engage in enlightenment, explain to people that we must become better, so that love would prevail among us.

In the same interview, when asked if he would allow LGBT to take communion, Epiphanius declared: "We have a clear position [...] this is a sin that we have to [...] speak openly about [...]. This is a way of life that is incompatible with Christian views. Therefore, this is the position of the Orthodox Church, the position of the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches, and in this matter we are unshakable. Because we are based on the foundations of the Scriptures, which clearly states that this is a sin. [...] people must repent of their sins, correct their mistakes. And if a person repents, if the person recognises it, then of course the person can participate in the sacraments."[93]

UOC-MP parishes' switchover to the OCUEdit

Transfiguration of Christ Cathedral in Kiev, a seat of Metropolitan Alexander
Transfiguration of Christ Cathedral in Vinnytsia, a seat of Metropolitan Simeon

Following the formation of the OCU, communities (parishes) of the UOC-MP began to switch over to the jurisdiction of the OCU (list [uk]).

On 16 December 2018, the cathedral of Metropolitan Symeon joined the OCU.[94][95] Simeon was one of the bishops of the UOC-MP who had taken part in the unification council.

On 17 December 2018, the statement of the Synodal Department of the military clergy of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine was quoted by mass media as saying that the Federal Security Service of Russia, along with members of the Moscow Patriarchate, had created mobile groups to prevent communities in Ukraine from switching from the UOC-MP to the OCU, such groups being present in each diocese of the UOC-MP and composed of a lawyer and several brawny men.[96][97]

On 19 December 2018, the cathedral of Metropolitan Oleksandr (Drabynko) [uk], one of the two UOC-MP bishops who had taken part in the unification council, joined the OCU.[98][99]

On 17 March 2019, TSN reported that more than 500 parishes had switched over to the OCU.[100] Later in March, the primate of the UOC-MP contested the statistics and acknowledged 42 cases of legitimate defections only while attributing scores of others to illicit activity.[101] On 30 March, the UOC-MP acknowledged the transfer of 61 parishes, while the OCU claimed 506 had been transferred.[102][103]

Conflict with FilaretEdit

A conflict erupted between Filaret Denysenko and Epiphanius in the spring of 2019 over the model of governance, the management of the diaspora, the name, and the statute of the OCU.

Around 20 milion of Ukrainians live in a foreign country and most of them are Orthodox. U.S.A. and Canada host the more numerous communities.[104] According to Filaret′s statement in May 2019, the agreement reached at the Unification Council was as follow: "The primate is responsible for the external representation of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC), and the patriarch is responsible for the internal church life in Ukraine, but in cooperation with the primate. The primate shall do nothing in the church without the consent of the patriarch. The patriarch chairs the meetings of the Holy Synod and the UOC meetings for the sake of preserving unity, its growth, and affirmation." Filaret said that agreement had not been fulfilled.[105][106]

On 20 June 2019, a group of clergy which, apart from Filaret himself, comprised only two bishops, both being from Russia, convened in St. Volodomyr Cathedral in Kiev and adopted a document that purported to cancel the decisions of the 15 December 2018 unification council; the document stated that the UOC-KP continued to exist and had a state registration, while Filaret remained its head.[107][108]

On 14 December 2019, Metropolitan Epiphanius informed the Council of Bishops, which was held in Kiev on the occasion of the anniversary of the creation of the OCU and was not attended by Filaret,[109] that the legal procedure of liquidation (terminarion) of the UAOC as well as the UOC-KP as legal entities had been completed the day before.[1][110] Among other things, the Council of Bishops made a decision to "urge the Honorable Patriarch Filaret and his followers to seek reconciliation and end self-isolation".[111] Over the 15 percent of the Ukrainians would like to have the Patriarch Filaret ad the Primate of the national and the Diaspora Churches, despite his age and their historical names.[104]

Church administrationEdit

According to the OCU's Statute, the highest governing body of the OCU is the Local Council, which should be regularly convened by the Metropolitan of Kiev and the permanent Synod at least once in five years. The Local Council may elect the Metropolitan of Kiev and amend the Statute acting on proposals submitted by the Council of Bishops.[16]

The permanent Synod of the OCU is to be composed of twelve rotating members and chaired by the Metropolitan of Kiev. For the duration of the transitional period, three permanent members of the Synod have been appointed: the former Primates of the UOC-KP (Filaret) and the UAOC (Makariy), and the former UOC-MP Metropolitan Symeon (Shostatsky).[16]

Dioceses of the OCUEdit

As of late March 2019, the following diocesan administrations had been registered within the OCU′s jurisdiction:[112]

  1. Vinnytsia-Tulchyn diocese of the UOC (OCU)
  2. Vinnytsia-Bar diocese of the UOC (OCU)
  3. Vinnytsia-Bratslav diocese of the UOC (OCU)
  4. Volodymyr-Volynski diocese of the UOC (OCU)
  5. Dnipropetrovsk diocese of the UOC (OCU)
  6. Donetsk diocese of the UOC (OCU)
  7. Zhytomyr-Ovruch diocese of the UOC (OCU)
  8. Zakarpattia diocese of the UOC (OCU)
  9. Zaporizhia diocese of the UOC (OCU)
  10. Mykolaiv diocese of the UOC (OCU)
  11. Odesa diocese of the UOC (OCU)
  12. Rivne diocese of the UOC (OCU)
  13. Rivne-Volyn diocese of the UOC (OCU)
  14. Kharkiv diocese of the UOC (OCU)
  15. Cherkasy diocese of the UOC (OCU)
  16. Chernihiv diocese of the UOC (OCU)

According to the information presented by Metropolitan Epiphanius of Kiev and All Ukraine in December 2019, the total number of the dioceses in the OCU stood at 44.[1]

Reactions from domestic and international state officialsEdit


During various official speeches, Poroshenko stressed the importance of Ukraine receiving its tomos of autocephaly which Ukraine "deserved",[113] is the equivalent of "a charter of [Ukraine's] spiritual independence",[114] was comparable to a referendum on Ukraine's independence[115] and would be "another pillar of Ukrainian independence".[116] On the 27th anniversary of the referendum on independence of Ukraine, Poroshenko declared the tomos of autocephaly was the equivalent of Ukraine saying "'Away from Moscow!' – 'Europe now!'"[115]

On 15 December 2018, Poroshenko made a speech after Epiphanius' election, in which he said the autocephalous church would be "without Putin, without Kirill", but "with God and with Ukraine".[28][117][118] He added autocephaly was "part of our state pro-European and pro-Ukrainian strategy".[117]

On 6 January, after the OCU had received its tomos, President Poroshenko declared: "His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew already has a special place in the history of Ukraine. With all that he did, due to his wisdom and leadership, his devotion to Ukraine and Orthodoxy, I would say that His All-Holiness will be considered a co-founder of a new Ukraine. This is a very special and historic mission".[119]

On 7 January 2019, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said that Ukraine, with the creation of the autocephalous Orthodox Church of Ukraine, has finally severed ties with Russia. He added: "The creation of the autocephalous Orthodox Church of Ukraine is the pledge of our independence. This is the foundation of our spiritual freedom. We've severed the last ties that connected us with Moscow and its fantasies about Ukraine as the canonical territory of the Russian Orthodox Church. This is not and won't be anymore." He made this declaration at the Christmas liturgy in St. Sophia Cathedral in Kiev where the tomos of autocephaly of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine was shown to the public.[120]


On 12 October 2018, the press service of the president of Russia made it known that the issue of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) in Ukraine was the subject of deliberations at the situational meeting Russia′s president had with the permanent members of the Security Council of Russia[121] The president′s spokesman Dmitry Peskov commented that the Kremlin supported the ROC′s position and was ready to defend "the Orthodox faithful in Ukraine".[122][123]

On 17 December 2018, it was reported that the Federal Security Service of Russia, along with members of the Moscow Patriarchate, allegedly had created mobile groups to prevent communities in Ukraine from switching from the UOC-MP to the OCU. Those groups are present in each diocese of the UOC-MP and are composed of a lawyer and several men.[96][97]

On 20 December, Russia′s president Vladimir Putin condemned the creation of the OCU.[124][125] In an interview for Serbia′s two major dailies published on 16 January 2019 on the official website of the president of Russia, Putin said the creation of the OCU and its official establishment via the Tomos was an attempt "to legalize the schismatic communities that exist[ed] in Ukraine under the jurisdiction of Istanbul, which is a gross violation of Orthodox canons".[126][127]

On 6 November 2019, following the talks with his Greek counterpart Nikos Dendias, shortly after the Moscow Patriarchate severed communion with the Church of Greece in retaliation to the latter′s recognition of the OCU, Russia′s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov told a press conference that he believed that the OCU′s recognition was predicated on the efforts of the U.S. government and personally secretary of state Mike Pompeo.[128][129]


On 8 January 2019, Canada's Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland congratulated the OCU for receiving its tomos of autocephaly.[130]

United States of AmericaEdit

On 15 December, the U.S. embassy in Kiev congratulated, via Twitter, Ukraine for having elected the primate of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine.[131] On 17 December, the U.S. Department of State officially congratulated Metropolitan Epiphanius on his election.[132]

On 10 January 2019, the U.S. State Department headed by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo released a statement:[133]

The January 6th announcement of autocephaly for an independent Orthodox Church of Ukraine marks a historic achievement as Ukraine seeks to chart its own future. On this momentous occasion, the United States reiterates its unwavering support for a sovereign, independent Ukraine. The United States maintains its strong support for religious freedom, including the freedom for members of religious groups to govern their religion according to their beliefs, without external interference. We welcome remarks by Metropolitan Epiphaniy that the Orthodox Church of Ukraine is open to all Orthodox believers and encourage government and Church officials to promote tolerance and respect for the freedom of members of all religious affiliations to worship as they choose.


Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was quoted by Dmitry Sablin, member of a delegation of the Russian parliament, as saying: "Attempts to divide believers are one of the most serious challenges not only for you, but also for us. Today we see attempts to divide the church on our soil as well, that is, an attempt to divide the Church of Antioch in Syria and Lebanon." Assad noted in particular that granting independence to the Lebanese Metropolitanate was being discussed and said that "the continuation of that process could follow."[134][135]

Reactions from Eastern Orthodox churchesEdit


Ecumenical PatriarchateEdit

On 24 December 2018,[136][137] the Ecumenical Patriarchate sent a letter to the primates of the autocephalous Eastern Orthodox churches to ask them to recognise the OCU.[138][139]

On Sunday 16 December 2018, the next day after the election of Epiphanius as primate of the OCU, the Ecumenical Patriarch commemorated him during a Divine Liturgy, along with the other primates of the other Orthodox churches.[140] On 8 January 2019, the Ecumenical Patriarch sent a letter to all the hierarchs of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to ask them to commemorate Epiphanius in the diptych.[141][142] On 23 January 2019, the OCU appeared on one of the official websites of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, under the category "autocephalous churches".[143][144]

Patriarchate of AlexandriaEdit

In June 2019, Patriarch Theodore II of Alexandria told Greece′s newspaper Ethnos that the Ecumenical Patriarch had the right to grant autocephaly but talks between the two patriarchates involved were in order for reconciliation of the faithful in Ukraine.[145]

On 12 September 2019, in the village of Ossa near Thessaloniki, a liturgy was concelebrated by the hierarchs of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, the Church of Greece (the Metropolis of Langadas) as well as Bishop Volodymyr Shlapak of the Church of Ukraine and the hierarch of the Bishop of Mozambique Chrysostom Karangunis of the Patriarchate of Alexandria.[146] The concelebration was interpreted by the OCU as de facto recognition of the OCU on the part of the Church of Alexandria.[147][148][149]

On 8 November 2019, the Patriarchate of Alexandria, ranked second in the diptych of the Eastern Orthodox Churches of the world, officially announced it had recognized the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, and Patriarch Theodore II commemorated the Metropolitan of Kiev Epiphanius during the liturgy in the Archangels Cathedral in Cairo.[150][151][152][153][154] Thereafter, the Patriarch of Alexandria sent a reply letter to Epiphanius; this move confirmed the full communion between the two churches.[155]

Church of GreeceEdit

On 8 January 2019, the Permanent Synod of the Church of Greece decided that the issue of recognition of the OCU would be dealt with by the Synod of the Hierarchy of the Church of Greece.[136][156][157]

In early March 2019, the Permanent Synod discussed the Ukrainian issue and assigned it to two synodical committees for examination and appropriate recommendations.[158] The Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Ieronymos II told the media that the Synod of the Hierarchy would discuss Ukraine at its session to be held on 19–20 March 2019.[159][160] However, the issue of the OCU was not discussed.[161]

On 10 June, Archbishop Ieronymos II of Athens attended Great Vespers with Metropolitan Epiphanius.[162] On 14 July, Metropolitan Ignatius of Demetrias and Volos visited the Ecumenical Patriarch. He declared that Patriarch Bartholomew had the right to grant Autocephaly to Ukraine, and that the Volos Theological Academy accepts students from OCU academies.[163]

On 28 July, at the 1,031st-anniversary celebration of the Baptism of Rus-Ukraine, Metropolitan Ioannis of Langada represented the Church of Greece and concelebrated with Metropolitan Epiphany.[164][165] Earlier, Archbishop Germanos of Chernivtsi concelebrated with Greek and Constantinopolitan hierarchs in Thessaloniki.[166]

On 28 August, Greek media sources reported that the Church of Greece supported the autocephaly of the OCU.[167] On 28 August 2019, the Standing Holy Synod of the Church of Greece stated that the Ecumenical Patriarch had the right to grant autocephaly, and that the primate of the Church of Greece had the "privilege ... to further deal with the question of recognition of the Church of Ukraine".[168][169] While the Holy Synod had not formally recognized the OCU's autocephaly, Epiphanius argued that the OCU had an honorary recognition.[170]

On 7 October 2019,[171][172][173] "a day before the start of the proceedings of the Synod of the Hierarchy of the Church of Greece, [the Archbishop of Athens] informed in a letter the Body of Hierarchs that he would add another extraordinary meeting this coming Saturday regarding exclusively the Ukrainian issue."[173][174] This meeting was scheduled for 12 October 2019.[171][172][173]

On 12 October 2019, the Synod of Hierarchs of the Church of Greece, with 7 bishops stating their objections, acknowledged that "the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople has the right to grant autocephalies" and empowered Archbishop Ieronymos II to act on the issue of the OCU′s autocephaly accordingly.[175][176][177][178] During the debate preceding the recognition, more than 35 Metropolitans of the Church of Greece said they had been pressured by the ROC but did not yield to it.[179][180] Epiphanius thanked the Church of Greece as well as its primate for this decision.[181][182]

According to news media reports, it had been tentatively expected that the formal act of recognition of the OCU would take place on 19 October "in Thessaloniki where Archbishop Ieronymos and Metropolitan Epiphanius w[ould] possibly concelebrate the Divine Liturgy."[176][183] On 19 October, the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Archbishop Ieronymos II of Athens jointly celebrated a liturgy in the Church of the Acheiropoietos in Thessaloniki, Greece, at which Metropolitan Epiphanius′ name was commemorated by the Patriarch. The fact was interpreted by the Greek news outlets as a definitive acknowledgement (recognition) of Epiphanius by the Church of Greece.[184][185][186][187][188] At the end of his speech after the liturgy, Patriarch Bartholomew thanked Archbishop Ieronymos for having identified with the canonical decisions of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and having inscribed the name of Metropolitan Epiphanius of Kiev and All Ukraine in the Diptychs.[189][190][191] A spokesman of the Moscow Patriarchate contested the interpretation of the concelebration as recognition of the OCU by the Church of Greece pointing up the fact that Epiphanius' name was not said directly by the Archbishop.[192]

On 21 October 2019, Archbishop Ieronymos II, the Primate of the Church of Greece, sent a peaceful letter to Metropolitan Epiphanius, the Primate of the OCU.[193] The Archbishop′s letter meant that the Church of Greece had officially communicated to the OCU that the Church of Greece had recognized it.[193][194][195] On Sunday 10 November 2019, Archbishop Ieronymos II commemorated Epiphanius during a liturgy, thus confirming the recognition of the OCU.[196][197]

On 10 December 2019, the former Minister of Defence in the Alexis Tsipras government, Panos Kammenos, admitted that he had put pressure to bear on Archbishop Ieronymos II by telling him, when in office, that Russia would withdraw what he called "guarantees" to Greece to preclude occupation by Turkey of Greek islands such as Kastellorizo, Lemnos and others in the Eastern Aegean in the event that the Church of Greece recognised the Church of Ukraine before the Patriarchates of Jerusalem and Alexandria did so.[198][199] The following day, apparently in response to Kammenos′ allegations that the recognition of the UOC by the Church of Greece had resulted from pressure on the part of "some American circles", the Standing Holy Synod of the Church of Greece stated in an official communiqué that the decision to recognise the autocephaly of the Church of Ukraine proclaimed by the Ecumenical Patriarchate had been made freely and without coercion and was "entirely within the canonical and ecclesiastical tradition and ha[d] nothing to do with nationalism and other ‘from above’ interventions as ha[d] been propagated by some".[200][201][202]

Church of AntiochEdit

The primate of the Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch answered to the 24 December 2018 letter of the Ecumenical Patriarch by asking the Ecumenical Patriarch to postpone the grant of autocephaly to the Orthodox Church of Ukraine.[137]

Russian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate)Edit

On 15 December, after the election of Epiphanius at the unification council, archpriest Nikolay Balashov, deputy head of the Moscow Patriarchate Department for External Church Relations, told Interfax that this election "means nothing" for the Russian Orthodox Church.[203] Following the Unification Council, the Patriarch of Moscow sent letters to the Primates of all the autocephalous Orthodox Churches (but not to the Ecumenical Patriarchate nor to the OCU), urging them not to recognise the OCU insisting that those who had joined the OCU remained "schismatics".[204] On 30 December 2018, the synod of the ROC declared the unification council of the OCU "uncanonical" and appealed to the primates and synods of the other local Orthodox churches not to recognise the OCU.[205]

In February 2019, the Patriarchate of the Georgian Orthodox Church issued a statement that rejected what they saw as pressure and threats on the part of the ROC on the Ukrainian issue.[206] Later in 2019, a number of bishops of the Church of Greece as well as of other autocephalous churches stated that they had been subjected to a campaign of intimidation and blackmail on the part of the Moscow Patriarchate with a view to preventing them from recognizing the Ukrainian autocephaly.[179][207][208][209] This followed a Moscow-orchestrated defamation campaign personally against the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.[210]

Having unilaterally severed Eucharistic communion with the See of Constantinople on 15 October 2018, weeks before the formal granting of autocephaly to the OCU, the Moscow Patriarchate following the subsequent recognitions of the OCU on the part of the Church of Greece (October 2019) and the Patriarchate of Alexandria (November 2019) severed eucharistic communion with the primate of the Church of Greece and announced it would stop commemorating the Patriarche of Alexandria.[211][212] Severance of communion with Patriarch Theodore II of Alexandria and the like-minded bishops of his Patriarchate was confirmed by the decision of the Holy Synod of the ROC of 26 December 2019, which also decreed that the representation of the Patriarch of Moscow in Cairo be turned into a parish and the "Russian" parishes in Africa be transferred under direct jurisdiction of the Patriarch of Moscow as stauropegia.[213][214] On 27 December 2019, the Divine Liturgy was celebrated by the ROC representative in the church of Demetrius of Thessaloniki in the Zeitoun district of Cairo, Egypt, for the last time, as the church was being handed back to the Patriarchate of Alexandria.[215]

Serbian Orthodox ChurchEdit

On 13 March 2019, a document titled "The Position of the Serbian Orthodox Church on the church crisis in Ukraine" was posted on behalf of the office of the Holy Synod of the Serbian Orthodox Church[216] reiterating the previously voiced intention not to recognise the legitimacy of the OCU′s hierarchy that had been communicated in November 2018 by Bishop Irinej Bulović of Bačka, the spokesman of the SOC, in the name of the Council ("Assembly") of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church.[217] Among other things, the 13 March 2019 document, which pointedly referred to Kiev as ″the mother of all Russian cities″ , recommended that the Serbian clergy refrain from any communion with those who were in communion with "Mr Epiphanius Dumenko and his followers".[216] The identical document in Russian had been published by the Moscow Patriarchate′s official web site around two weeks prior.[218][219]

In May 2019, the Council of Bishops re-affirmed the Church′s stance on Ukraine stating in the publication posted by Irinej Bulović: "[T]he Assembly’s present position remains: our Church does not recognize the newly established false-church structure in Ukraine, led by the citizens of Denysenko and Dumenko, and is only and exclusively in liturgical and canonical communion with the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church, led by His Beatitude Metropolitan Onufry, and with all the other canonical Orthodox Churches".[220]

Romanian Orthodox ChurchEdit

On 21 February 2019, the Holy Synod of the Romanian Orthodox Church discussed the Ukrainian question[221] and declared in a communiqué:[222]

Regarding this tense ecclesiastical situation in Ukraine, the Holy Synod of the Romanian Orthodox Church reiterates its stance expressed during its previous working sessions of 24 May and 25 October 2018. It was then recommended that, through dialogue, the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Moscow Patriarchate identify a solution to this ecclesiastical dispute by preserving the unity of faith, by respecting the administrative and pastoral freedom of the clergy and faithful in this country (including the right to autocephaly), and by restoring Eucharistic communion. In the event of an unsuccessful bilateral dialogue, it is necessary to convene a Synaxis of all Primates of Orthodox Churches to solve the existing problem.

The Romanian Orthodox Church also stated in the same communiqué: that once the schism in Ukraine will have been healed, once the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Moscow Patriarchate will have settled down their dispute over Ukraine, once the Romanian Orthodox Church will have "written assurances from Ukrainian ecclesiastical and state authorities that the ethnic and linguistic identity of [the 127 Romanian Orthodox parishes in Ukraine currently administered by the UOC-MP] will be respected, and that these Romanian Orthodox will have the possibility to organise themselves within a Romanian Orthodox Vicariate and to be able to cultivate spiritual relations with the Romanian Patriarchate", and once the Ecumenical Patriarchate will have clarified "the problem of the non-canonical hierarchs and priests in the West, who belonged to the former 'Kiev Patriarchate'", then "the Holy Synod will express its official position on the situation of Orthodoxy in Ukraine."[223]

In March 2019, Epiphanius declared that he was in favor of creating a Romanian vicariate and that they "will discuss everything".[224]

Church of CyprusEdit

In his public statements made in early January 2019, the primate of the Church of Cyprus, Archbishop Chrysostomos II, stressed the importance of avoiding division in the Orthodox Church; he acknowledged that any national state was entitled to have an autocephalous church and that it was up to the Ukrainian people; he also said he would not commemorate the name of the primate of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine in the diptych.[225][226] Later in January 2019, Archbishop Chrysostomos was reported to have said that he regarded the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople as the Mother Church and that he enjoyed good relations with the Phanar, which he was determined to preserve any difficulties notwithstanding; he also welcomed the desire of Metropolitan Epiphanius to have concelebration and said he would one day concelebrate with Metropolitan Epiphanius in Cyprus.[227][228][229]

On 7 February 2019, the Holy Synod of the Church of Cyprus decided that it would hold an extraordinary session on 18 February 2019 to make the definitive decision concerning the Ukrainian question.[230] On 18 February, the Church of Cyprus announced she did not doubt the goals of granting autocephaly in Ukraine was to heal the schism in Ukraine; the Church of Cyprus also stated that if the schism in Ukraine was not overcome within a certain timeframe, the Church of Cyprus "expect[ed] that the Ecumenical Patriarch, making use of his regulatory role given to him by his position as First in Orthodoxy, w[ould] convene either a Pan-Orthodox Council or a Synaxis of the Primates to act upon the matter." In the same communiqué, the Church of Cyprus said she was offering herself as a mediator on the issue.[231][232][233][234] The Church of Cyprus did not state it had recognised the OCU.[235]

In an interview published by the Cyprus newspaper Politis in mid‐December 2019, Archbishop Chrysostomos II criticised the three bishops of his Church, namely Athanasios Nikolaou of Limassol, Nikiphoros Kykkotis of Kykkos, and Isaias Kykkotis of Tamassos, for having derogated from the decision he said had been made by the Synod of the Church of Cyprus that committed her to neutrality on the issue of Ukraine, by making public statements in support of Moscow.[236][237][238] The Archbishop also condemned the moves undertaken by Patriarch Kirill of Moscow such as not commemorating the Ecumenical Patriarch, the Archbishop of Athens, and the Patriarch of Alexandria as well as Kirill′s aspiration motivated by egoism to illegitimately achieve primacy in Orthodoxy as leading to schism.[236][237][238]

On 7 January 2020, the Divine Liturgy in St George Patriarchal Cathedral in Istanbul presided over by the Ecumenical Patriarchate Bartholomew was concelebrated, among others, by Metropolitan Makariy Maletych (the OCU) and Metropolitan Chrysostomos Constantinos Kykkotis of Kyrenia (the Church of Cyprus).[239]

Polish Orthodox ChurchEdit

On 2 April 2019, the Assembly of bishops of the POC released a communiqué. In it, it declared it reiterated its stance taken 9 May and 15 November 2018. The communiqué says the POC is in favor of granting autocephaly to Ukraine, and that autocephaly should be given "according to the dogmatic and canonical norms of the whole Church, and not of a group of schismatics. Those who left the Church and have been deprived of their priestly ordination, cannot represent a healthy ecclesial body. It is an uncanonical act, violating the Eucharistic and inter-Orthodox unity." [240] [241]

Reactions from religious bodies outside of Eastern OrthodoxyEdit

Catholic ChurchEdit

The head of the Conference of Roman Catholic Bishops of Ukraine congratulated Epiphanius on his election in the name of the Roman Catholic bishops of Ukraine.[242]

Major Archbishop Shevchuk of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC) congratulated the Orthodox Ukrainians on the formation of the OCU and said it was a "historic moment for Christians in Ukraine".[243][244] On 18 December 2018, Shevchuck sent a letter of congratulation, in the name of both the UGCC and in his own name, to Metropolitan Epiphanius and said the election of Epiphanius was "God's gift on the way to the complete unity of the churches of Volodymyr's Baptism".[245][246][247]

In an interview published at the end of December 2019, Major Archbishop Shevchuk said the there was "no process of unification of the UGCC with the OCU".[248]


Concerning the formation of the OCU, the Seventh-day Adventist Church "takes a positive stance towards all the movements and activities that have served the unification of people, the search for ways of peaceful coexistence and understanding".[249]


Rabbi Oleksandr, head of the Religious Association of Progressive Judaism Communities of Ukraine,[250] congratulated Orthodox Ukrainians for the receiving of the tomos of autocephaly.[251]


Said Ismagilov, Mufti of the Religious Administration of Muslims of Ukraine sent a congratulatory message to Epiphanius after the latter's election.[252] On 6 January 2019, Said congratulated the Eastern Orthodox Christians for the receiving of the tomos by Ukraine.[253]

See alsoEdit


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