Orthodox Church of Ukraine: united, but divided

  • Orthodox Church of Ukraine
  • 11.Jul ‘20
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Churcher Telegram channel pointed out an important issue that is going to be solved by Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU) in the nearest future, and which is going to decide the future of the whole Orthodox community in Ukraine.

As you know, after Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Kiev Patriarchate (UOC KP); Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAOC), and some of the communities of Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC MP) united, many dioceses around the country did not unite into a single one and remained as parallel institutions. Thus, in Vinnytsia, there exist as many as three diocese administration units that serve OCU: the former UOC MP under the guidance of metropolitan Symeon Shostatksy; the former UOC KP led by metropolitan Mykhayil Bondarchuk, and the former UAOC with metropolitan Romanus Balashchuk.

At the beginning of June, metropolitan Symeon Shostatsky’s health deteriorated dramatically; he was taken to hospital, and many people thought it was time to prepare for the worse. This was then when a problem of administrative kind also came into play: as reported by Churcher, the former clergy of UOC MP were adamant in their reluctance to get under the jurisdictions of either Bondarchuk or Balashchuk. One can understand why: Balashchuk (former UAOC member) is quite a notorious figure; and Bondarchuk is not much better (former UOC KP). According to Churcher, Shostatsky’s clergy demand “a decent eparch who was canonically ordained.” Metropolitan Aleksandr Drabinko decided to seize the opportunity.

Even though Symeon Shostatsky seems to be recovering, the Vinnytsia crisis is symptomatic for the whole OCU system. Despite the unity of hierarchs, both the clergy and the laity who used to belong to different jurisdiction, are deeply suspicious of one another – even in regard to the canonicity of their ordinations.

The Russian Orthodox Church also has some institutions that are parallel to one another. Thus, France has three: the patriarchal exarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church; the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia, and the Archdiocese of Russian Orthodox churches in Western Europe. Yet, this is a huge anomaly, and these divisions are of administrative nature. In Ukraine, though, parallel institutions, despite their formal unity, are pretty much disjointed at the grassroots levels. Metropolitan Symeon said earlier that they were “three eparchs that represent the new Orthodox church in Vinnytsia equally” – yet, as the latest events show, not everyone is ready to accept this equality even within the OCU.

As a result, the OCU will have to somehow deal with this problem in the nearest future – and it is unlikely to be contained to the Vinnytsia region alone. If Epiphanius is unable to create a united system of diocese administration, it is not only separate communities that are going to leave his church as a result of unavoidable administrative conflicts, but whole dioceses as well.

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