Date: 25 February 2019
The Fall of the Moscow Orthodox Church’s Influence in Ukraine
The atmosphere among the Ukrainian Orthodox believers shows that the process of joining the new canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church by parishes loyal to Moscow is just gaining pace. Despite provocations of pro-Russian activists and Putin’s threats, more and more Ukrainians declare loyalty to the new National Orthodox Church. In the long term, this may mean a fall of the last important tool of Moscow’s influence on Ukraine.
According to the survey conducted in January jointly by Socis centre, Kiev International Institute of Sociology and Razumkov Centre, most of the Ukrainian Orthodox believers identify with the new Ukrainian Orthodox Church, not with the structures loyal to the Moscow Patriarchate. Almost 71 percent of Ukrainians declare that they are Orthodox believers. 44 percent consider themselves as members of the autocephalous Ukrainian Orthodox Church, and only 15 percent as members of the Orthodox Church under the Moscow Patriarchate. Such atmosphere among the Orthodox believers means that the process of shifting of the parishes which until recently belonged to the structures of the Moscow Orthodox Church is not finished yet, and may even accelerate. Despite efforts of the pro-Russian activists who move from one parish to another and threaten the believers, almost 200 parishes joined the National Orthodox Church by the end of January. Earlier, only the Ukrainian Orthodox Church under the Moscow Patriarchate was regarded as canonical Orthodox Church in Ukraine. At the beginning of this year, it had over 11.9 thousand officially registered parishes. Two other Orthodox Churches, not recognised as canonical, of the Kiev Patriarchate and derived from emigration the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church, which joined the new canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church, had jointly over 5.5 thousand parishes.
The speech of the Archbishop of Chernihiv and Nezhinsk, Yevstraty, who said that Moscow wanted to keep control over the Ukrainian Orthodox Church as it was the only way to regain control over whole Ukraine, was of great importance for the Orthodox believers in Ukraine. As long as Moscow controls the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, it can call itself “the third Rome”; but without Ukraine, it will remain only “the second Golden Horde”. Metropolitan Epiphanius, the primate of the new Orthodox Church of Ukraine said that “the Russian Orthodox Church is the last Putin’s bridgehead in Ukraine”, and the establishment of the autocephalous Ukrainian Orthodox Church damaged the imperial goals of the Kremlin. Epiphanius calls all Orthodox believers in Ukraine to unite within the UOC, because, according to him, this will lead to the end of the war in Donbas and to the return of the Crimea to Ukraine. The president responded to the Russian accusation that the autocephalous Ukrainian Orthodox Church is to be one of the pillars of the Ukrainian state. Petro Poroshenko reminded that that Church was and would be independent of the state – which is guaranteed in the Constitution.
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