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

Ebola Death Toll Nears 5,000 as Virus Advances

West Africa bears heaviest burden; Mali toddler’s death raises new fears More

Jordan’s Battle With Islamic State Militants Carries Domestic Risks

Despite Western concerns that IS militants are preparing a Jordanian offensive, analysts call the kingdom's solid intel a strong deterrent More

Asian-Americans Assume Office in Record Numbers

Steadily deepening engagement in local politics pays off for politicians like Chinese-American Judy Chu More

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.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Comanche Chief Quanah Parker’s Century-Old House Falling Apart

One of the most fascinating people in U.S. history was Quanah Parker, the last chief of the American Indian tribe, the Comanche. He was the son of a Comanche warrior and a white woman who had been captured by the Indians. Parker was a fierce warrior until 1875 when he led his people to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and took on a new, peaceful life. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Cache, Oklahoma, Quanah’s image remains strong among his people, but part of his heritage is in danger of disappearing.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid