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One people, one language, one church... President Petro Poroshenko has made a loud statement – for 26 years of independence, Ukraine is more than ever close to creating its own unified autocephalous local church.
According to him, this is evidenced not only by the position of the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, who, as is known, has been supporting the unification of Ukrainian churches for a number of years - today all the necessary key elements are present.
"The first is the appeal of the church hierarchies... After my meeting with the Patriarch Filaret, all the bishops of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate have put their signatures, witnessed them in their address to the Ecumenical Patriarch about granting a tomos to the new Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAOC). I also met with His Beatitude Metropolitan Makarii, head of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church, and this morning I was informed about the results of the Bishops' the defense of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church with very pleasant news: all without exception the archbishops of the UAOC signed an appeal to the Ecumenical Patriarch and an appeal to the president. For 26 years this is the first document that united all the hierarchies of these churches," Poroshenko stressed during a meeting with the chairmen of the parliamentary factions.
The president himself also intends to appeal to the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I to publish a tomos about the autocephaly of the Orthodox Church in Ukraine and asks the Verkhovna Rada to support him in this matter since he and the parliamentarians are "representatives of the Ukrainian people".
The representatives of the UOC-KP and the UAOC hope that among the episcopate of the UOC-Moscow Patriarchate there are responsible hierarchs who are really worried about the future of Orthodoxy in Ukraine and will support efforts regarding the canonical recognition by the Ecumenical Patriarch of Ukrainian ecclesiastical independence.
Why is the creation of our own single local church extremely important for Ukraine and what does it even mean? We will try to explain.
The local church in Orthodoxy is an independent (autocephalous) church with its organization and structure.
There is a local church; an independent self-governing church in a certain territory. As a rule, the local church is at the same time a national church whose borders of jurisdiction coincide with the borders of the national state.
In total there are about two dozen autocephalous Orthodox churches in the world: Russian, Greek, Romanian, Bulgarian, Georgian, Polish, etc. All of them interact with each other and sometimes make joint decisions. As many churches have the status of unauthorized autocephaly, that is, they actually exist, but they do not have the right to vote in the international canonical arena.
Along with this, the so-called autonomous Orthodox churches are also subordinate to any autocephalous church (for example, the Sinai Church is dependent on Jerusalem), and other de-facto independent churches that arose in the XVII-XXI centuries (for example, the Old Orthodox Pomor Church), but also not recognized by the majority of canonized churches.
In Orthodoxy, there is no single ecclesiastical center, as, for example, the Vatican and the Catholic Church, devoid of national features. His Holiness Patriarch, Archbishop of Constantinople, in contrast to the Pope, bears the title of Ecumenical Patriarch purely nominally and is only the first among equals. This title is a kind of tribute to the respect of other Orthodox patriarchs to the "mother" center of Orthodoxy.
In Ukraine, there are three Orthodox churches that arose during the schisms in the early 1990s: the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate, and (the smallest) the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church.
So, the UAOC considers itself to be the successor of the Ukrainian church, which arose in the 1920s and was destroyed by the Soviet authorities. In 1990, it formally revived, and in 1995 it was joined by three powerful Galician dioceses of the UOC Kyiv Patriarchate (UOC-KP).
In turn, the UOC-KP was formed after 1992, when a significant part of the bishops separated from the Moscow-oriented UOC-MP (Moscow Patriarchate). Then, Filaret was dismissed from the post of head of another powerful Ukrainian Orthodox church, and Vladimir came in his place.
However, the unity of the new formation was not stable - in 1995, Filaret became its leader, after which the Lviv, Ivano-Frankivsk, and Ternopil dioceses split early in protest against this election and moved to the UAOC.
In other words, because of organizational contradictions for 26 years of independence, a single Ukrainian local Orthodox church was not formed in our state, which would be recognized on the international confessional map.
The UOC-MP is, in fact, subordinate to the Russian autocephalous church, the UOC-KP is considered an unauthorized autocephaly, despite the name the UAOC is de facto an independent confessional unit.
It should be noted that the UOC MP considers other Ukrainian churches to be "schismatics", but this definition is contradictory since they all profess faith in one Christ, recognize the Creed, the rules and teachings of the Holy Fathers, and their separation is administrative.
Single Ukrainian local Orthodox Church means the church of the Ukrainian people, whose jurisdiction borders coincide with the state borders.
As a rule, the emergence of an independent state of any Orthodox people almost immediately caused the creation of its local church. That is, the local church is another guarantor of the country's independence. And in the case of Ukraine, it did not happen that way; it remained (at the confessional level) connected with the Russian Federation and now continues to work on the authority and image of Russia in the religious world.
Previously, the indignation was caused by the fact that Ukrainians in their own state cannot turn to God in their native language or buy church literature in the Ukrainian language, which is their inalienable right under the Orthodox church canons and according to universal morality, through the church they were denationalized, assimilated, and brainwashed. Now, when Russia is recognized as an aggressor state, communication with it at the confessional level is absolute nonsense.
Every year, more and more Ukrainians favor a single local church in the country.
The canons of the Orthodox Church do not give a direct definition of the way in which the proclamation of autocephaly could be made, so here the tradition plays the role.
So, the Church that has matured to an independent being has the internal ability to exist independently of other church authorities might become autocephalous. This requires the presence of at least three bishops, two of whom, in the event of the death of one of the hierarchs, might place the successor.
The Church, which has a sufficient number of pastors and parishioners to ensure that its ministry is done normally, might become autocephalous. Another factor for the proclamation of autocephaly is the political independence of the people, among whom the corresponding Church bears its ministry. During the decision on autocephaly, the opinion of the state authorities of the country in question is taken into account.
The determining factor in the proclamation of autocephaly is the common will of the episcopate, clergy, and laity of the corresponding Church, expressed through the resolution of the Local Council.
After the adoption of the conciliar decision on autocephaly, it passes the process of recognition by the Mother Church and other local Orthodox Churches. Let us emphasize the fact that, on the basis of canonical rules and the historical experience of the Church of Christ, autocephaly is not granted, but is recognized by other Local Churches.
Ukraine has a support of the Ecumenical Patriarch, there is a mutual understanding between the Ukrainian Orthodox churches and the intentions of the president. There is only a lack of confidence that all the local churches, in particular, the Russian Orthodox Church, recognize its independence. It is because of the disagreement of the latter that the issue of the "Ukrainian local church" has lasted for decades.