News / Europe

    Ukrainian Orthodox Churches Face Own Crisis

    Archbishop Clement of Ukrainian Orthodox Church, center, walks past a pro-Russian armored vehicle, soldiers, Ukrainian military base, Perevalne, March 15, 2014.
    Archbishop Clement of Ukrainian Orthodox Church, center, walks past a pro-Russian armored vehicle, soldiers, Ukrainian military base, Perevalne, March 15, 2014.
    It is a relatively quiet Sunday and adherents of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Kyiv Patriarchate are praying at St. Michael's Golden Domed Cathedral.

    Last month, the grounds of this picturesque monastic complex sheltered a field hospital and morgue for Maidan protesters battling to oust president Viktor Yanukovych.
     
    The clergy of the Kyiv Patriarchate blessed the anti-government protesters and rolled up their cassock sleeves to help build barricades themselves.

    But now, openly critical of Russia's Crimean takeover, Archbishop Yevstraty talks with visitors in the gardens where bird song has replaced the rage and pain of revolution.

    While most of the world saw the dramatic ouster of the Moscow-allied Yanukovych as purely a political event, there was a powerful religious undertone that was setting the stage for a major realignment of Orthodox Christianity throughout the country.

    As the archbishop recalls the street brawls and retort of sniper fire, he says the church defied Yanukovych and barred Special Forces from deploying on church grounds.
     
    The larger Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate is an autonomous church that is a subordinate of the Russian Orthodox Church - positioned itself above the Maidan protests, praying for reconciliation and urging dialogue.

    But some senior figures were openly critical, with one bishop saying Maidan protesters had "evil in their hearts." The Moscow Patriarch himself has adopted also a more neutral position on the conflict between Ukraine and Russia, issuing generic pleas for peace.
     
    The Moscow Patriarchate's Father Georgy Kovalenko says his church is with the people of Ukraine and its focus has been on bringing Ukrainian people together and avoiding the conflicts of the past that gave rise to foundation of the Kyiv Patriarchate.
     
    The strategy appears to be failing. The politics of revolution and the conflict between Russia and Ukraine have widened a religious rupture that first emerged during the collapse of the Soviet Union, when Primate Filaret broke with the Russian Orthodox Church. He argued that an independent Ukraine deserved a national church truly independent of Moscow.
     
    Now some of the Moscow Patriarch's parishes are rebelling and threatening to defect to the rival Kyiv Patriarch.
     
    Archbishop Yevstraty says rebel churches in western Ukraine have dropped from the liturgy a prayer for the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, an ally of Russia's President Vladimir Putin.
     
    Of the two Orthodox Churches in Ukraine, the Moscow Patriarchate has more parishes - 12,000 to the Kyiv Patriarchate's 5,000. But buildings don't translate into followers. Before the Maidan protests, polls suggested the Kyiv Patriarch commanded the loyalty of 30 percent of Ukrainians with 20 percent aligning with the Moscow Patriarch.
     
    Cultural historian Vladyslava Osmak suspects more of Ukraine's faithful now will switch allegiance to the Kyiv Patriarch.
     
    "Because they greatly helped to [the] participants of Maidan campaign, to those people who needed protection and shelter. Priests of this church were always together with people on barricades praying and fighting with them," said Osmak.
     
    And she argues a weakening of the Moscow Patriarchate will further reshape the cultural ties between Ukraine and Russia. That would undermine President Putin's claim that Kyiv is "the mother of Russian cities," a description based on the fact that Russian civilization and Orthodoxy were birthed in Ukraine's capital city.
     
    "Having no Kyiv makes a lot of difficulties to Russian ideology in general. Kyiv is seen as the root of Russian culture," she said.
     
    The city is also at the root of Ukrainian culture and so Kyiv seems destined to remain in dispute for some time.

    You May Like

    Double Wave of Suicide Bombings Puts Lebanon, Refugees on Edge

    Following suicide bombings in Christian town of Al-Qaa, on Lebanon's northeast border with Syria, fears of further bombings have risen

    China Seeks On-Off Switch for Internet

    Public asks whose security is cybersecurity law aiming to protect

    UN Human Rights Chief: Burundi May Explode Into Ethnic Violence

    Burundian government accuses the UN of a campaign of distortion

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Anonymous
    March 25, 2014 11:27 PM
    "'Having no Kyiv makes a lot of difficulties to Russian ideology in general. Kyiv is seen as the root of Russian culture,' she said."

    The root of Ukrainian culture is Uniatism.

    Let the Orthodox of Ukraine be faithful to the Church, and may they not sell their souls for the sake of a nationalism created by their Western occupiers. Raskol and apostasy are not the answer.

    Let their be peace and unity for all of Rus, especially in the region of Ukraine, known until recently as "Malorossiya."
    In Response

    by: Oksana Mikhailivna from: Ukraine
    April 22, 2014 9:49 PM
    I am an Orthodox Christian and I have always considered the story of our national conversion at the command of a medieval monarch the creation of a monarchist. It fits the needs of Russian imperial propaganda. We were received into the Orthodox Church as individuals when touched by the Holy Spirit. This process would have begun in the first century, not the tenth. Russia is for the Russians. Ukraine is for people who seek a democratic ideal.
    In Response

    by: Nick Deychakiwsky from: USA
    March 26, 2014 4:48 AM
    You're dead wrong. Ukrainian nationalism is a product of Ukrainians who are mostly Orthodox but not Russian! If you want to restore Rus, are you willing then to subjugate your Muscovy to Ukraine, whose capital is Kyiv? I think not. Stop living in the past.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roari
    X
    June 28, 2016 10:33 AM
    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video New York Pride March A Celebration of Life, Mourning of Loss

    At this year’s march in New York marking the end of pride week, a record-breaking crowd of LGBT activists and allies marched down Manhattan's Fifth Avenue, in what will be long remembered as a powerful display of solidarity and remembrance for the 49 victims killed two weeks ago in an Orlando gay nightclub.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora