Date: 21 October 2019
Another Success of Ukrainian Orthodox Church: Autocephaly Recognised by Church of Greece
The Council of Bishops of the Greek Orthodox Church has officially recognised the autocephaly of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which was established at the end of 2018. The decision is of great importance for the Ukrainian Orthodox Church because the Church of Greece is one of the largest Eastern Orthodox Churches in the world. While being a notable success of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, the decision is a complete failure of the Russian Orthodox Church which may later prompt other Eastern Orthodox communities around the world to recognise the autonomy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
The Ukrainian Orthodox Church was established during a meeting of the unification council of the Orthodox churches of Ukraine held on December 15, 2018, in Kyiv. Representatives of the Russia-controlled Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate did not participate in the talks held by the council. The council members elected Epiphanius I as the head of the newly-established Orthodox Church of Ukraine. On January 6, 2019, His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew I granted a tomos of autocephaly, a document proclaiming the independence of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, to Metropolitan Epiphanius I of Kyiv and All Ukraine. The latest decision of the Greek Orthodox hierarchy is a serious blow to the Russian Orthodox Church, which does not want to recognise the autocephaly of Ukrainian Orthodoxy. The Russian religious leadership were on the verge of hysteria upon learning of the Greek move. The decision of the Greeks met with the approval of one of the bishops of the Georgian Orthodox Church, Melchizedek. In a post published on Facebook, he expressed the hope that the Georgian Orthodox Church will be next to recognise the autocephaly of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
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Six months after announcing the autocephaly of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, over five hundred parishes in Ukraine have renounced their allegiance to their respective local structures of the Russian Orthodox Church and pledged themselves to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. This means that the Moscow Patriarchate has lost nearly five per cent of its communities in Ukraine. Although it is not much, the number is still worth taking into account, especially due to very harsh opposition from pro-Russian hierarchs – there have been militia raids aimed at disrupting voting procedures on parish allegiance. What is perhaps most important is the fact that the geographical distribution of parishes switching their allegiance to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church is still not fixed. At first, the change could be observed mainly in the western part of the country, now, however, more and more cases are starting to be noted in the centre and south of Ukraine.
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