Hundreds of Orthodox churches in Ukraine reject Moscow Patriarchate for Kyiv, church leader says

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According to OCU leader Metropolitan Epiphanius, about 150 churches in Ukraine have either rejected the Ukrainian Orthodox Church under Moscow and adopted the Kyiv-based Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU) or are in the process of doing so. .

“In recent days, we are witnessing the beginning of a wave of ROC transitions [Russian Orthodox Church] to the OCU,” Archbishop Epiphanius, the head of the Kyiv-based OCU, told a national telethon, Ukrinform reported. “And in almost a few days, we’ve already done over 50 transitions. Now we’re saying about 100 communities have already decided, they’re already in the process of transitioning.”

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“That is, gradually Ukrainians who have been in spiritual illusion until now are beginning to see,” Epiphane added. “Community after community, all over Ukraine, in all regions, not only in the West, but also in the Center, East and South.”

Metropolitan Epiphanius, newly elected head of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, Metropolitan of Kyiv and All Ukraine, leads a service during his enthronement at Saint Sophia Cathedral in Kyiv, Ukraine, Sunday, February 3, 2019.
(Efrem Lukatsky/AP Photo)

Every day, the OCU reports that one or another community has decided to reject the Moscow-based ecclesiastical hierarchy, Epiphanius said. This change is roughly equivalent to changing church denomination – it would be analogous to a conservative congregation rejecting the liberal Episcopal Church to join the Anglican Communion.

“And according to the law, each community has the right to change jurisdiction,” the Metropolitan of Kyiv said. “Therefore, I urge the communities of the Moscow Patriarchate to take appropriate decisions in the future, not to remain silent, but to join the recognized Orthodox Church.”

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The Kyiv-based OCU has split from the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP). While the OCU started in 1995, it was officially recognized at an October 2018 synod in Constantinople. Metropolitan Epiphanius I was elected in December 2018.

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Morning fog surrounds the thousand-year-old cave monastery, also known as Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra, one of the holiest sites for Eastern Orthodox Christians, in Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, November 10, 2018.

Morning fog surrounds the thousand-year-old cave monastery, also known as Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra, one of the holiest sites for Eastern Orthodox Christians, in Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, November 10, 2018.
(AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka, File)

A large majority of Ukraine’s population identifies as Eastern Orthodox Christian, while a significant minority of Ukrainian Catholics worship with a Byzantine liturgy similar to Orthodoxy but are loyal to the pope, surveys show.

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A 2018 survey found that around 67.3% of Ukraine’s population identifies with one or another stream of Orthodox Christianity, with 28.7% being part of the Kyiv-based OCU, 23 .4% simply “Orthodox” and 12.8% UOC-MP. Another 7.7% of the population identify as largely Christian, while Ukrainian Byzantine Rite Catholics make up 9.4%, Protestants 2.2%, Latin Rite Catholics 0.8%, Muslims 2 .5% and Judaism 0.4%. Another 11% said they were non-religious or unaffiliated.

Martha J. Finley