A little bit of history
The confrontation between the two largest Orthodox churches in Ukraine: of Moscow and Kyiv Patriarchates has been going on for more than a quarter of a century.
In 1990, the Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow granted the status of self-governing status to the Ukrainian church, but nevertheless it remained a part of the Russian Orthodox Church.
Two years later, at the Bishops' Council, the head of Ukrainian Orthodox Church Metropolite Filaret was deprived of his rank for “blackmail and perjury.” According to some bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church, he urged the Ukrainian metropolites to support the proclamation of independence of the Ukrainian Church in 1991.
Filaret refused to admit his guilt, and a year later, with the support of secular authorities, proclaimed the creation of a separate from Moscow Kyiv Patriarchate. In 1995, he became a patriarch of the Kyivan Church, and two years later he was anathematized by the Russian Orthodox Church.
Kyiv Patriarchate considers Moscow Patriarchate to be “Kremlin Church” and opponents of Ukraine's independence and blames it for the sympathies for separatists. While Moscow Patriarchate do not see the opponents as the church at all calling them renegades who indulge politicians.
There are currently three Orthodox churches in Ukraine, only one of which is canonical - that is, officially recognized by world Orthodoxy.
One is Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Moscow Patriarchate: before 1991, it had the status of an exarchate (patrimony) within the Russian Orthodox Church, and is now a self-governing church with the rights of broad autonomy within the Moscow Patriarchate.
The second is the above-mentioned Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Kyiv Patriarchate created in 1992 and headed by Patriarch Filaret since 1995.
Further, in 1989, the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church has resumed its activity as the heir to the church with the same name liquidated in the 1930s.
There are over 12 thousand communities of the Moscow Patriarchate in Ukraine, and about 5 thousand of Kyiv Patriarchate, according to data of the Ukrainian Culture Ministry for the beginning of 2018. However, according to the Kyiv think tank Razumkov Centre, a little less than half of Orthodox Ukrainians (43%) consider themselves a part of the Kyiv church, and about 20% of believers consider themselves parishioners of the Moscow Patriarchate. Ukrainian sociologists note that five years ago the situation was completely opposite.
The balance changed after the victory of Euromaidan, the annexation of Crimea by Russia and outbreak of crisis in Donbas. Some experts in 2014 stated a “reputation catastrophe” that has hit the Moscow Patriarchate.
On the way to receive Tomos
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko addresses the Verkhovna Rada to create Ukrainian autocephaly on April 12, 2018 and it was supported by the Parliament a few days later. Earlier, Poroshenko wrote a letter to Ecumenical Patriarch with a request to provide autocephaly to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
In 2018, the Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate decided to initiate the procedures necessary to grant Tomos on autocephaly to the Orthodox Church in Ukraine.
Tomos is a decree of the primate of the local Orthodox Church on important issues of the church system. By having a tomos, the church can officially gain autonomy in management or autocephaly.
In other words, Tomos is the main document that proclaims autocephaly.
According to the President of Ukraine, he personally held six-hour talks with Patriarch Bartholomew and announced that the Synod of Ecumenical Patriarchate was ready to grant Tomos on autocephaly in case of a joint appeal of the Ukrainian president, parliament and church bishops.
The answer from Constantinople made even the sceptics believe that this time everything is serious.
A short communique of the Holy Synod of the Constantinople Patriarchate stated: the Ecumenical Patriarchate “as a true Mother Church” for the Ukrainian people, considered the appeal of the Kyiv “church and civil authorities” and “decided to closely coordinate this issue with its sister Orthodox churches.”
Initially, it was expected that the next meeting of the Synod will be held before July 28 on the 1030th anniversary of the Christianisation of Rus-Ukraine.
However, later it became known that the Synod would not make this decision in July as the delegation of the Constantinople Patriarchate has not yet informed the other local Churches about it, which is why it was postponed until the end of August.
On August 31 the Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew informed Patriarch Kirill of Moscow about the implementation of the decision on autocephaly in Ukraine.
Autocephaly: the consequences
At the Bishops’ Council of the Constantinople Church in Istanbul, it was decided that the Patriarchate of Constantinople could provide a church with autocephaly without the consent of the other churches.
After Ukraine receives the Tomos on the United Local Church, the Moscow Patriarchate in case it refuses to join the autocephaly, will be named the Russian Orthodox Church in Ukraine.
This was stated by the Kyivan Patriarch Filaret.
“We will have Tomos. After that, there will be a council of those bishops who appealed to the Ecumenical Patriarch to give Tomos on autocephaly. Those who did not apply for it, will not have such right. The council means that all three churches have united in one single local Ukrainian autocephalous church, and it will choose the primate and there will be one Ukrainian church in Ukraine. Those who do not join this Ukrainian church should be called the Russian Orthodox Church in Ukraine," he said.
On April 24, Poroshenko said that if Bartholomew provided the tomos of autocephaly of Orthodox Church in Ukraine, the head of such church would be elected in Ukraine.
Earlier it was reported that after gaining autocephaly, all the real estate currently occupied by the Moscow Patriarchate in Ukraine will become the property of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. It means that Kyiv Pechersk Lavra and Pochayiv Lavra, now owned by the UOC of the Moscow Patriarchate, will be transferred to the Ukrainian Church.