Source: Christian Network Europe
During an inter-church discussion, representatives of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church concluded that it would be best to re-unite both denominations. Therefore, they recommend renewed cooperation.
“It is crucial to preserve the spiritual unity of the Ukrainian people, the origins of which go back to the ancient Kyiv Orthodox tradition”, the clergy write in a statement, as reported by Risu.ua. They drafted the document during a so-called inter-church dialogue that took place in the St Sophia Church in Kyiv, as reported by Orthodox Times.
To achieve unity, the clergy propose to strive to unify all “Orthodox Ukrainians in a single conciliar and local (autocephalous) Ukrainian Orthodox Church” that is recognised by the entire Christian Orthodox world.
To prepare a basis for the dialogue necessary to unify the churches, the representatives want to “reboot the relationship and change the information policy” of both churches.
The cooperation should start with cultural and educational projects, in serving together during events and burials of Ukrainian soldiers, Risu.ua writes. Furthermore, the churches should recognise each other’s administration of the sacraments so that members of one denomination can participate, for example, in the Eucharist of the other denomination.
Also, a working group with bishops and theologians from both churches will be created, the representatives write in the statement. This group should work on a step-by-step plan to achieve the unity of both churches. In addition, the church leaderships should take a clearer position on inter-Orthodox dialogue, the statement reads.
The unification attempt of the two Orthodox Churches in Ukraine means that Putin’s attempt to gather control over all orthodox believers in Ukraine has failed, the Dutch daily Nederlands Dagblad writes in an analysis. After Ukraine’s independence in 1991, the Orthodox Church in Ukraine split as one branch desired independence. In 2019, the Patriarchate of Constantinople officially recognised the independence of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine.
With the invasion of Ukraine, Putin hoped to unify the whole Ukrainian Orthodoxy under Moscow’s control again, the Nederlands Dagblad writes. Now, that strategy seems to have failed, as the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, which stayed loyal to the Moscow Patriarchate, declared its independence right after the invasion as well. The inter-church dialogue seems to show that this denomination is moving closer and closer to the Orthodox Church of Ukraine and, thus, further away from the Moscow Patriarchate and Patriarch Kirill.
At the same time, the tensions around the Ukrainian Orthodox Church have not disappeared completely, Union of Orthodox Journalists writes. Recently, the Department for External Church Relations of the UOC complained that accusations of treason and attempts to ban the denomination threaten Ukraine’s unity.
Metropolitan Anthony from the UOC says that the members of his church will use all legal means to defend their religious freedom. That is reported by the Union of Orthodox Journalists. During a meeting with representatives of the legal departments of the denominations, he advised believers to fall back on the Ukrainian law that guarantees believers the right to freedom of religion. “Only through joint efforts of clergy and laity can we be heard by the authorities”, he pointed out.
A recent poll shows that the Ukrainian Orthodox Church loses more and more members, Risu.ua writes. In February 2022, the share of supporters of the UOC was still 15 percent. In January 2023, this number decreased to 4 percent.
Despite the hardships, the UOC keeps supporting the Ukrainian army. It donates clothes, heaters, medicine and food to the soldiers serving in the Donbas, the Union of Orthodox Journalists writes. Priests visited the regions as part of the “Mission of Mercy” project. There they offered humanitarian aid to residents.