William Yoder, Ph.D.
Developments indicate that the «Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Moscow Patriarchate» may well be best-equipped to mediate between the warring powers of Kiev and Moscow. Berlin’s «Neues Deutschland» reported on 21 August that Metropolitan Onuphrius (Berezovsky) had allowed his press spokesman to state: «As Ukrainian citizens we view the situation of Crimea no differently than our government and the entire world community. The Crimea is Ukrainian territory and must be returned to property of the Ukrainian state.» Only a few days before, on 13 August, Onuphrius had been inaugurated as the new «Metropolitan of Kiev and All Ukraine» succeeding the deceased Metropolitan Vladimir. His church, which encompasses roughly half of Ukraine’s Orthodox faithful, remains under the ecclesiastic jurisdiction and umbrella of the Moscow Patriarchate and its Patriarch, Kirill.
As we reported on 21 April, the Moscow Patriarchy has remained remarkably subdued on the issue of Ukraine. Patriarch Kirill was made conspicuous by his absence from Putin’s Moscow speech and festivities on 18 March marking the takeover of Crimea. The churches of this confession in Crimea are still responsible to the metropolitan of Kiev.
Of the three major Orthodox churches in Ukraine, only this one enjoys canonical status and is recognised by the entire world Orthodox community. The much smaller «Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Kiev Patriarchate» (formed in 1992) and the «Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church» (formed in 1921) are both allied with the West. The same is true of the 1596-founded «Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church», which answers to the Vatican and is strong only in western Ukraine. This last church has strong ties to the country’s Baptists.
Smolensk, 2 August 2014