In the ongoing issue of the unity of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, the (autonomous) Ukrainian Orthodox Church under the Moscow Patriarchate is asserting its role as an independent actor, write two Russian Orthodox theologians, Priest-Monk Savva (Tutunov) and V.V. Burega, in an article translated into German in the monthly G2W (January).
Orthodoxy in Ukraine is currently divided into three competing jurisdictions, only one of which is recognized by all other Orthodox churches, i.e. the autonomous Ukrainian Church headed by Metropolitan Vladimir of Kiev, in communion with Moscow. It is also the most important of the three main Orthodox groups currently active in Ukraine. The Ukrainian Presidency would like to have a united Ukrainian Church as a way to strengthen the Ukrainian nation.
Ukrainian politicians had set their hopes on Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, who might give support to the “schismatic” bodies as part of the rivalry with Moscow over the leadership of world Orthodoxy. Moreover, the article’s authors remark, even traditionally proRussian churches such as Serbia’s and Bulgaria’s have attempted in recent times to keep a neutral stance in tensions between Moscow and other Orthodox churches. To some extent, this might indicate a weakening of the influence of the Russian Church in Orthodox countries outside of the former Soviet Union.
However, the Ecumenical Patriarch refused to enter into negotiations with “schismatics.” At the same time, when he visited Kiev in July, he stated his intent to contribute to any possible solution, thus prompting Moscow to become more active at the inter-Orthodox level.
An interesting development then took place at the pan-Orthodox assembly that gathered in Istanbul in October, when Metropolitan Vladimir of Kiev raised the Ukrainian issue as a question set to all Orthodox churches—thus refuting possible claims that Constantinople was in charge of solving it—and stated that his church had the potential to bring unity to Ukrainian Orthodoxy— thus asserting the role of the Moscow-linked Ukrainian Church as an independent actor.
RW might add here that observers would do well to pay attention to the role of Ukrainian bishops (which now make up about a third of the Russian epicopate, following the creation of a number of new dioceses) during the election of a new patriarch of Moscow in late January. This might also indicate some trends in the new assertiveness of the Ukrainian Church.
(G2W, Postfach 9329, 8036 Zurich, Switzerland, www.g2w.eu)