The process of creation of a new local church independent of Moscow is almost at the finish line. Tomorrow the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church will be created. It will become the 15th autocephalous church in the world.
Unification Assembly: when and where
In early December, the President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko announced that the Unification Assembly of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church would be held on December 15 in Kyiv.
It is to be summoned in one of the oldest temples, which has been the centre of Ukraine’s Orthodox religious life for centuries – Saint Sophia, or Sophia Cathedral.
The event starts at 10 am and will last for a day.
Who is participating
Gallic Metropolitan Emmanuel, the member of the Holy Synod, the representative of the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew will lead the Unification Assembly.
Exarchs of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Ukraine Archbishop Daniel and Bishop Hilarion of Edmonton.
Apart from them, the representatives of all three branches of split Ukrainian Orthodoxy are expected at the Unification Assembly:
- Over 40 hierarchs from the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Kyiv Patriarchate,
- 14 representatives of Ukrainians Autocephalous Orthodox Church,
- The representatives of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Moscow Patriarchate, who are willing to come.
Important: Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew sent a personal invitation to the Unification Assembly to all the metropolitans, archbishops and bishops of the mentioned churches.
In total, around 150 bishops received them, 90 of whom are the representatives of Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Moscow Patriarchate.
Yet, the exact number of the participants remains unknown.
The thing is that the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Moscow Patriarchate was against the creation of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church. It does not recognize the decisions of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
Therefore, the representatives of this church do not take part in the Unification Assembly officially. Yet, some of the bishops might visit it.
Besides, every invited bishop is allowed to take one priest and one monk or layman.
In addition, the President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko might be present at the event as an observer.
Unification Assembly: What's the agenda
The Unification Assembly of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church is a meeting of clergy and laity of all Ukrainian churches, initiated by the Ecumenical Patriarch.
Its main task is the formal creation of the unified Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church on the basis of Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Kyiv Patriarchate, current Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church and, possibly, a part of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Moscow Patriarchate.
To do this, it is necessary to jointly approve the statute of the new church, select its primate and declare the creation.
Such is the agenda of the Unification Assembly.
In fact, on December 15, all the supporters of independence of Ukrainian church from Russian Orthodox Church will unite into a single spiritual structure - the future Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church.
What the Ukrainian church statute will be
Who will take the lead of the new autocephalous church
As off today, no one can say the name of the future head of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church.
This is due to the procedure of the election of the head, offered by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew – when every Ukrainian hierarch irrespective of his church together with two of his companions from the monks or laypeople will have a vote.
Everyone will be able to nominate their candidate, and then vote for him in the first voting.
Three candidates shall go forward to a second round of voting.
Then – secret voting. Only hierarchs vote.
Thus the result may be extremely surprising.
Earlier, Kyiv Patriarch Filaret was the main candidate for the office, however Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew insisted that Filaret and Metropolitan Makariy, the head of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church, do not apply.
In his interview to RFE/RL, Makariy said he is going to follow Bartholomew’s recommendations and can’t say whom he will vote for, because there’s no single candidate form the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church. And Filaret intends to speak out at the assembly.
NB: earlier, the assembly of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church Kyiv Patriarchate supported the Pereyaslav and Bila Tserkva Metropolitan Epiphany as a single candidate for the head of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church. This doesn’t mean that Ukrainian Orthodox Church Kyiv Patriarchate won’t nominate the other candidate.
What's the danger during Unification Assembly
As it was mentioned, Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Moscow Patriarchate, which obeys to the Russia Orthodox Church officially opposes the creation of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church.
The Security Service of Ukraine is concerned that the provocations from the supporters of the Moscow Patriarchate are possible in Kyiv and other regions of the country during the Unification assembly. Particularly, the sacred processions, during which “the violent clashes with the law enforces with the creation of the attractive image for the Russian mass media will be provoked.”
On the eve, the security service noted that it has already spotted the preparation for the protests against delivering of Tomos for Ukraine and creation of Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church at the territory of Kyiv Pechersk Lavra.
Due to this, the SBU urged the representatives of any socio-political associations to refuse from the holding of the protests during the Unification assembly in Ukraine.
It is noteworthy that the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Moscow Patriarchate denies any hints at the organization of the provocations and states that the law enforcement bodies put pressure on it.
What's after the Assembly
When the creation of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church will be proclaimed, its charter will be approved and its Primate will be elected at the Unification assembly; only the provision of the Tomos, religious order on the real independence (autocephaly) of this church will remain to be undertaken.
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew should provide it to elected Primate of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church in Constantinople.
It is already declared that this event will happen on January 6, 2019, after the joint divine service of the Ecumenical Patriarch and elected Primate of the new church.
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew should provide the document personally.