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Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Kyivan Patriarchate

16.11.2011, 14:11
The Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Kyivan Patriarchate (UOC-KP) is one of the branches of the Church of Kyiv. It currently has an irregular canonical status. De facto this status is autocephalous, but it is not recognized by the Ecumenical Orthodox Churches.

The Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Kyivan Patriarchate (UOC-KP) is one of the branches of the Church of Kyiv. It currently has an irregular canonical status. De facto this status is autocephalous, but it is not recognized by the Ecumenical Orthodox Churches.

The Issue of Ukrainian Autocephaly in the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC)

The revival of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church forced the Moscow Patriarchate, and in particular in the Ukrainian Exarchate of the ROC, which was headed by Metropolitan Filaret Denysenko, to look for mechanisms to combat these communities. Metropolitan Filaret took the intransigent position against both the Greek Catholics and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church.

In the exarchate many clerics, mainly from the western regions, thought that the Ukrainian Exarchate would not be able to maintain its position in Ukraine if it didn’t become a full autocephalous church, which would help them stand against the Greek Catholics and the UAOC. Metropolitan Filaret and the Patriarch of Moscow received many letters asking to grant the Kyiv Exarchate autocephaly. In response at the Hierarchical Council, which took place in Moscow on October 9-11, 1989, it was decided to revise the Regulations on exarchates of the ROC. The task of developing the new provision was given to Metropolitan of Smolensk and Kaliningrad Kirill (Gundyayev).

On January 30-31 in Moscow, there was a regular Council of Bishops, during which a new provision for the exarchate was adopted, which gave more internal rights and the right to be called the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. This created the apparent feeling of separateness and independence of the exarchate from Moscow. According to the authors of the provision, it would abate the pro-autocephalous mood in western Ukraine.

After the election at the National Council in 1990 of the new Patriarch of Moscow – Alexy II (Ridiger) the UOC episcopate headed by Metropolitan Filaret (who was also a candidate for the Moscow Patriarchal throne) on July 9, 1990, addressed the Patriarch and Synod with a request to extend autonomy in governance of the UOC. At the same meeting, Metropolitan Filaret was elected head of the UOC.


The issue of the status of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church was discussed at the Hierarchical Council of the ROC on October 25-27 of the same year. The bishops of the ROC gave the UOC “independence and self-governance” and annulled the name “Ukrainian Exarchate.” It also agreed that the head of the UOC would be elected by the council of hierarchs of the ROC, would have the title “Metropolitan of Kyiv and All Ukraine,” and in Ukraine the title of “His Beatitude.” The power to appoint the ruling and vicar bishops, establish and abolish eparchies in the territory of Ukraine, according to the decision of the ROC, was given to the Synod of the UOC, and the head of the UOC would be elected by the bishops of the UOC and blessed by the patriarch of Moscow. The primate of the UOC remained the former Ukrainian exarch – Metropolitan Filaret (Denysenko).

On October 28, 1990, in St. Sophia Cathedral in Kyiv, Patriarch Alexy II solemnly announced the decision of the Hierarchical Council and presented Metropolitan Filaret, head of the UOC, with Tomos in “autonomy and independence” in governance.

After the communist putsch on August 19-21, 1991, in Moscow, organized by the old Soviet functionaries, on August 24 the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine declared the independence of Ukraine, and on December 1 of the same year, 90.32% of Ukrainian citizens voted for the full sovereignty of the Ukrainian state.

Throughout the year following from the Tomos of autonomy and independence of the UOC, an internal conflict looms between the clergy and a part of the episcopate and Metropolitan Filaret (Denysenko). In the press appear slanderous articles about the metropolitan.

However, this did not prevent Metropolitan Filaret from convening a National Council of the UOC on November 1-3, 1991, where participants addressed an appeal to the patriarch of Moscow requesting he grant the UOC autocephaly and raises the church to the rank of a patriarchate. In particular, the council adopted the following proposition: “Address His Holiness Patriarch of Moscow and All Rus Alexy II and the episcopate of the Russian Orthodox Church with a request to give the Ukrainian Orthodox Church full canonical independence, that is, autocephaly.” In his address to the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, Metropolitan Filaret wrote that “the independence of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the independent Ukrainian state is canonically justified and historically inevitable.”

After the council, according to ROC leaders, the patriarchate began to receive letters from different regions of Ukraine with reluctance to support the autocephaly of the UOC and with the request to take them under direct patriarchal control in the event of an independent UOC. Proponents of the autocephaly accused the patriarchate of being responsible for the letters because of the reluctance of the Moscow Patriarchate to grant the UOC autocephaly.

On January 22, a meeting of bishops of the UOC was held in Kyiv, during which an appeal to the Patriarch of Moscow and all the bishops of the ROC was made. In particular, it stated that “certain forces, including from Moscow, sow confusion among the monks, clergy and laity in certain oblasts and thus are working against Orthodoxy in Ukraine. Some Moscow publications launched a slander campaign against the primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, trying to confuse the minds and hearts of uninformed people. In connection with the proclamation of Ukraine's independence, we believe that it is time to grant complete independence to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, to grant autocephaly.”

The need for the autocephaly of the Orthodox Church was also expressed by the chairman of the parliament, Leonid Kravchuk, referring to the independent status of the Ukrainian state.

However, three hierarchs – Onufrii (Berezovsky), Serhii (Hensetskyi) and Alipiy (Pogrebnyak) – withdrew their signatures for the autocephaly of the UOC. On January 23, the Synod of the UOC deprived them of their cathedras. Bishops Alipiy and Serhii became vicars of the Kyiv Metropolitanate, and Bishop Onufrii was transfered to the Ivano-Frankivsk cathedra. The monks of the Kyiv Cave Monastery also refused to sign the appeal for autocephaly.

After these events, Patriarch Alexy appealed to Metropolitan Filaret to refrain from any drastic action, including punishment of bishops and clergy.

From April 1 to 4, 1992, at the Hierarchical Council of the ROC in Moscow, the UOC’s request for autocephaly was discussed. There was a heated debate. Six UOC hierarchs from western Ukrainian eparchies supported the request. However, most bishops of the ROC opposed it (part of them feeling it was untimely), but Metropolitan Filaret was the most criticized.

Summarizing the discussion, Patriarch Alexey spoke against granting autocephaly at this point in history, and urged Metropolitan Filaret to leave the post of head of the UOC.

Metropolitan Filaret agreed to leave his ministry in the UOC and open the way for a new head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

The council also decided to postpone the issue of granting autocephaly to the UOC until the next National Council of the ROC.

Upon his arrival to Kyiv on April 7, 1992, in the Volodymyr Cathedral, Metropolitan Filaret declared his refusal to leave the post of head of the UOC, arguing that the promise he made in Moscow was made under intense pressure and under a barrage of furious criticism. At a press conference on April 14, Metropolitan Filaret also said he would not leave his flock at such a time for they trust him, and referred to the lifetime status of metropolitan according to the Tomos of Patriarch Alexy II. Metropolitan Filaret did not reply to Patriarch Alexy II when asked if he indeed was not going to leave the post of Metropolitan of Kyiv. He did not attend the session of the Synod of the ROC on May 6-7, 1992.

On April 30 in Zhytomyr, bishops of the UOC Agafangel (Savin) (at that time was out of state), Iov (Tyvonyuk), Vasyl (Vasyltsev), Onufrii (Berezovsky), Serhii (Hensetskyi) and Alipiy (Pogrebnyak), as well as clergy and monks from different parts of the UOC, expressed distrust in Metropolitan Filaret (Denysenko) and asked the ROC hierarchy to canonically punishment him. At the meeting in Zhytomyr, it was also proposed that Metropolitan Volodymyr (Sabodan) be elected as head of the Kyivan Metropolitanate.


A session of the Synod of the ROC, which was attended by bishops from Ukraine, we held on May 6-7 in Moscow. The Synod effectively removed Metropolitan Filaret from the leadership of the UOC and at the Synod on May 21 appointed as temporary administrator of the UOC Metropolitan Nikodim (Rusnak) of Kharkiv, who was entrusted to convene a council of hierarchs of the UOC to elect the new head of the Ukrainian Church.

Metropolitan Filaret protested against such actions of the Synod, calling it interference in the internal affairs of the Ukrainian Church. And in response to the decision of the Synod, he convened in Kyiv the “National Conference on the Protection of Canonical Rights of the Orthodox Church.” The conference condemned the resolutions of the Synod of the ROC from May 7 and 21, and also drew attention to the fact that the bishops who opposed the Metropolitan of Kyiv violated the Charter of the UOC. The conference also appealed to the Ecumenical Patriarch. In their address, the participants talked about the appropriateness of granting autocephaly to the UOC, referring to the annulment of the subordination of the Kyiv Metropolitanate to the Moscow Patriarchate in 1686 since Ukraine became an independent state.

On May 27, 1992, in Kharkiv, Metropolitan Nikodim (Rusnak) assembled the Synod of Bishops of the UOC, during which changes to the Statute of the UOC were made and Volodymyr (Sabodan) was elected Metropolitan of Kyiv.

Metropolitan Filaret refused to participate in the Kharkiv assembly, and did not recognize its legitimacy because it was convened without his consent as the head of the UOC. In addition to Metropolitan Filaret, Bishops Yakiv (Panchuk), Andrii (Horak) and Bartholomew (Vashchuk) did not participate in the Kharkiv council. The bishops, however, expressed their acceptance of all the decisions of the UOC episcopate.

On June 7, Metropolitan Filaret and Bishop Yakiv (Panchuk) of Pochayiv ordained a new bishop – Spyridon (Babsky), and on June 8 Varsonofiy (Mazurak).

Creation of the Kyivan Patriarchate

The National Ukrainian Forum on Protection of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which was attended by bishops, clergy, laity of the UOC and UAOC was held on May 22, 1992, in Kyiv. The National Ukrainian Orthodox Council, which united the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church and part of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) in a single structure – the Ukrainian Orthodox Church Kyivan Patriarchate – was held on June 25-26 at the residence of Metropolitan Filaret. Ukraine's President Leonid Kravchuk supported the formation of such a structure.

The Ukrainian Orthodox Church–Moscow Patriarchate was represented by Metropolitan Filaret, Bishop Yakiv (Panchuk), and two new bishops – Spyridon (Babsky) and Varsonofiy (Mazurak). From the side of the UAOC the council was attended by Bishops Antony (Masendych), Volodymyr (Romaniuk), Roman (Balaschuk), Sofronii (Vlasov), Roman (Popenko) and Mykail (Dutkevych).

The council confirmed the election of Metropolitan Mstyslav as Patriarch of Kyiv and All Ukraine.

The new church was registered by the authorities, and so registration of the UAOC was annulled (legally it ceased to exist). However, some of the clergy and faithful of the UAOC were displeased with the formation of a new structure because the Unification Council and the formation of the UOC-KP took place in the absence of Patriarch Mstyslav and without his blessing.

Immediately after the Unification Council bishops of the UAOC –Antony (Fialko) of Khmelnytskyi, Panteleimon (Romanovsky) of Dnipropetrovsk, Mykola (Hroha) of Ivano-Frankivsk, and Polikarp (Palahniuk) – filed a request for transfer to the ROC and were re-ordained. Bishop Polikarp renounced his episcopal dignity.

From July 1 to July, Patriarch Mstyslav visited Ukraine. During a meeting with former bishops of the UAOC, he expressed his dissatisfaction with the Unification Council and the formation of the new structure – the UOC-KP.

In September 1992, Metropolitan Filaret re-ordained bishops of the UAOC: Antony (Masendych), Volodymyr (Romaniuk), Roman (Balaschuk) and Sofronii (Vlasov).

On October 17, 1992, the head of the UAOC dismissed Metropolitan Antony (Masendych) and Bishop Volodymyr (Romaniuk).

On December 12 the patriarch arrived in Ukraine for the last time. On December 23 and 24 in Kyiv there was a meeting with the faithful and the clergy who did not recognize the unification with the part of the UOC-MP headed by Metropolitan Filaret (Denysenko). Archbishop of Lviv, Petro (Petrus), also participated in the meeting. The result of the meeting was an address from Patriarch Mstyslav dated December 24 to the president of Ukraine, prime minister, and prosecutor general of Ukraine in which he insisted on the illegality of the participation of bishops and believers in the Unification Council of June 25-26, 1992, and the violation of the Statute of the UAOC.

In turn, the Hierarchical Council of the UOC-KP (17 bishops) responded with a resolution dated December 15 that none of the actions of Mstyslav (Skrypnyk) has any validity without prior approval of the Synod. Patriarch Mstyslav himself was invited to participate in the council, but he flatly refused.

In response, Patriarch Mstyslav appointed Archbishop Petro (Petrus) as the new administrator of the UAOC Patriarchate and authorized him to convene in January 1993 an extended hierarchical council to further settle the status of the UAOC. The meeting was held on January 22 in Lviv, but, other than Archbishop Petro (Petrus), only Bishop Mykhail (Dutkevych) was present.

In response to the actions of Archbishop Petro (Petrus), the same day the Hierarchical Synod of the UOC-KP deprived of him of his dignity, and of those clerics who tried to reactivate the UAOC.

On June 11, 1993, Patriarch Mstyslav (Skrypnyk) died in Grimsby, Canada.

Since in Ukraine two structures considered him their hierarchs – the UOC-KP and the UAOC, which had lost its registration – the UOC in the United States distanced itself from both jurisdictions. Also, the American bishops refused the request of the restored UAOC to participate in the new ordination for Ukraine.

Shortly after this a meeting of the Hierarchical Council of the UAOC took place, where it was decided to ask the priest Volodymyr (Yarema) to take monarchal vows and accept episcopal ordination. On August 23, 1993, in Sts. Peter and Paul Church in Lviv, Archbishop Petro (Petrus) accepted the ​​vows of Fr. Volodymyr, who took the name of Dymytriy. And on September 5 in Kyiv, Dymytriy (Yarema) was ordained the bishop of Sichevskyi. On September 7, 1993, at the second National Council of the UAOC he was elected Patriarch of Kyiv. The enthronement took place on September 14 in the Church of Our Savior on Berestov.


At the same time, the UOC-KP, which had also thought of Mstyslav (Skrypnyk) as its head, also held elections for a new patriarch of Ukraine. From October 21 to 24 in Kyiv a National Council was held in which Bishop of Chernihiv Volodymyr (Romaniuk) was elected the head of the UOC-KP. The Patriarch of Kyiv and All Rus’-Ukraine was enthroned in St. Sophia Cathedral.  


Metropolitan Filaret, who was also one of the candidates for patriarch, was elected “substitute Patriarch.” Therefore the headship of Patriarch Volodymyr was under permanent conflict between the head of the UOC-KP and Metropolitan Filaret.

During Patriarch Volodymyr’s reign, there was also an attempt to unite with the UAOC, which was headed by Patriarch Dymytriy (Yarema). However, the uniting initiatives were interrupted by the death of Volodymyr (Romaniuk) on July 14, 1995.


The tragic event in life of Ukraine was the funeral of Patriarch Volodymyr, known as “Black Tuesday” or “Sophia Battle.” Faithful of the UOC-KP wanted to bury the body of the patriarch on the territory of the St. Sophia Cathedral, which was the cause of clashes between funeral procession participants and security forces who tried to prevent the burial. In the end, the patriarch was buried in front of the St. Sophia church complex. The conflict at St. Sophia’s Square showed a clear change in attitude toward the UOC-KP by the new government of President of Ukraine Leonid Kuchma.

Patriarch Filaret

Metropolitan Filaret (Denysenko) was elected as Patriarch of Kyiv at the National Council of the UOC-KP, which was held on October 20-21 in St. Volodymyr’s Cathedral. The enthronement of the newly elected patriarch took place October 22.

A day earlier, on October 19, a group of bishops of the UOC-KP – Metropolitan of Ivano-Frankivsk Andrij (Abramchuk), Archbishop of Ternopil Vasylii (Bodnarchuk), Archbishop of Vinnytsia Roman (Balaschuk), and Bishop of Khmelnytskyi Mefodiy (Kudriakov) – dissatisfied with the candidature of Metropolitan Filaret, announced its withdrawal from the Kyivan Patriarchate. Then in the Kyiv Feodosievsky monastery they met with the bishops of the UAOC during which the “Act of Unifying the Churches” was passed. 

Because of the departure of bishops from the western regions of Ukraine, the number of parishes of the UOC-KP decreased to 400 communities.

After the election of Metropolitan Filaret as Patriarch of Kyiv, the leadership of the Moscow Patriarchate, which had previously (in 1992) deprived him of his dignity, dismissed him from the church at the Hierarchical Council on February 20.

After his enthronement, Patriarch Filaret started to actively develop the structure of the UOC-KP. Soon after, almost all the parishes that had defected because of bishops who were dissatisfied with the UAOC returned to the Kyivan Patriarchate. Patriarch Filaret also began to impose contacts with unrecognized Orthodox jurisdictions outside of Ukraine. He took part in the enthronement of the official rival to the Bulgarian Patriarch Maxim, Patriarch Pimen. And also he established contacts with the Macedonian Church which, like the UOC-KP, is not recognized by the Ecumenical Orthodoxy.

In 1996, the UOC-KP canonized Petro Mohyla. And in 1997 the UOC-KP was given the Vydubetsky monastery complex, and began reconstruction of St. Michael’s Golden-Domed Monastery.

In 2000, with the support of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, a dialogue began between the UOC-KP and the UAOC, which culminated with the signing of the Symphoniticon. After a joint meeting in Istanbul on November 8 between the UOC-KP and the UAOC, which together seek recognition of their legitimacy from the Ecumenical Orthodoxy, relations began to improve. The Symphoniticon was to be used as a basis to unite the two structures in one church. However, for internal reasons in the UOC-KP and the UAOC, as well as the activation of the Moscow Patriarchate in blocking the formation of any other recognized structures in Ukraine other than the UOC as part of the ROC, the negotiations had no positive results.

In January 2001, the UOC-KP held a National Council, where delegates pondered over the situation of the church in the modern world and worked on a document, which deals with the stance of the UOC-KP on the issues of secularization, globalization, media, church-state relations, and so on.

The situation of the UOC-KP in Ukraine changed dramatically after Viktor Yushchenko became president of Ukraine in 2004. A supporter of a unified Orthodox Church with an autocephalous status, the new president tried to actively support the Kyivan Patriarchate and to promote its recognition in the Orthodox world.

In 2005 there were several consultations between the UOC-KP and the UAOC on a possible unification. The parties reached certain agreements, but shortly before the Unification Council, the UAOC withdrew from negotiations because of dissatisfaction with the terms of the unification.

In 2008, the National Council of the UOC-KP canonized Prince Yaroslav the Wise, Prince Konstanty Ostrogski, St. Yov Boretsky, and St. Petro Kalnyshevsky.

For the UOC-KP and UAOC, the climax of hope for leaving canonical isolation was the visit to Ukraine in 2008 of Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople.

During the negotiations between the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the UOC-KP, and the UAOC, the head of the Kyivan Patriarchate refused to accept the conditions set forth by the Constantinople delegation, which proposed the unrecognized Ukrainian churches to join the Ecumenical Patriarchate with rights of an autonomous metropolitanate. This process was also blocked by representatives of the Moscow Patriarchate, who tried to prevent the formation in Ukraine of two canonical structures.

In autumn 2009, a dialogue began between the UOC-KP and the UOC-MP. However, after a single meeting, held on October 2, the dialogue never continued.

After President Viktor Yanukovych came to power in 2010, the Kyiv Patriarchate immediately felt some pressure on its structures. Patriarch Filaret immediately announced that the new government intended to destroy the Kyiv Patriarchate at the request of Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, with whom the new president had friendly relations. However, a year later the Kyivan Patriarchate stopped expressing such statements. On the contrary, the relations of the UOC-KP with new government have improved.

In September 2011, regular talks began about the unification between the UAOC and the UOC-KP. The commission on the dialogue between the churches held a meeting on October 27, 2011, in St. Michael's Golden-Domed Monastery, where hierarchs of both churches discussed and agreed on the final text of the document. In 10 paragraphs, the document states the overall vision of the unification process and specific suggestions for overcoming the existing church division.


At present the episcopate of the Kyivan Patriarchate has 40 bishops and 4,371 parishes in Ukraine, united in 29 eparchies. It has Orthodox Theological Academies in Kyiv and Lviv and seminaries in Lutsk and Rivne, a Theological Institute in Ivano-Frankivsk, and a Theology Department of the Philosophy and Theology Faculty of the Chernivtsi National University.

According to the Kyivan Patriarchate, more than 10 million people of adult age belong to the church.