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Russian Church In Ukraine Insists Its Administrative Center Is Kyiv, Not Moscow – OpEd

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The appearance of two draft bills the Ukrainian Verkhovna Rada that would ban the activities of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate has led the Kyiv leadership of that church to make a declaration that Moscow may find far more abhorrent and dangerous than simple resistance to possible Ukrainian demands.

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In response to the proposals, the UOC MP has declared that “the religious center” of that church is not in Moscow but in Kyiv and as such it is fully in correspondence with Ukrainian law, Milena Faustova of NG-Religii reports, something she says that puts that Moscow church “between autocephaly and an outright ban” (ng.ru/ng_religii/2022-04-05/9_10_527_rpc.html).

Such a position may be simply a tactical move, but at the same time, it indicates that the UOC MP is ready to move in the direction of autocephaly itself, effectively declaring itself independent of Moscow without necessarily disbanding itself and uniting its bishoprics and parishes with the current autocephalous Orthodox Church of Ukraine.

If in fact the UOC MP moved in that direction, Ukraine would have two autocephalous churches and, perhaps more important, would serve as a model for Orthodox in other former Soviet republics of the best way to get out from under the dictates of Moscow, one less traumatic for its followers than a transition to the OCU but far more so for the Moscow Patriarchate.

Moscow is already outraged by any such possibility. The Kremlin has denounced the two proposed laws, the Moscow Patriarchate says that any moves in this direction will provoke acts of civil disobedience, potentially indicating yet another front the Kremlin wants to open in Ukraine, and Russian commentators are worried.

Most of the last, like Aleksey Makarkin of the Moscow Center for Political Technologies, don’t think the two draft bills will pass or that there will emerge either two autocephalous churches in Ukraine – that would violate understandings in the Orthodox world – or the absorption of the UOC MP by the OCU.

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But he says the proposals and the support they obviously enjoy in the Ukrainian government means that more parishes of the UOC MP may shift allegiance and that the Ecumenical Patriarch in Constantinople, the man who extended autocephaly to the Ukrainian church, may get more involved.

If that happens, Makarkin continues, that would represent yet another defeat for the Moscow Patriarchate because it would mean that in Ukraine, Constantinople would be in an even better position to weaken Moscow and strengthen its own claims of being more than primus inter pares in the Orthodox world.

But if all this happens, he suggests, Moscow and Patriarch Kirill will have no one to blame but themselves. Had Putin not launched his invasion and had Kirill not so slavishly praised the Kremlin leader’s approach, no one would have been talking about the demise of the Moscow church in Ukraine and with it the death of a major component of the Russian world.

Paul Goble

Paul Goble is a longtime specialist on ethnic and religious questions in Eurasia. Most recently, he was director of research and publications at the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy. Earlier, he served as vice dean for the social sciences and humanities at Audentes University in Tallinn and a senior research associate at the EuroCollege of the University of Tartu in Estonia. He has served in various capacities in the U.S. State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and the International Broadcasting Bureau as well as at the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Mr. Goble maintains the Window on Eurasia blog and can be contacted directly at [email protected] .

One thought on “Russian Church In Ukraine Insists Its Administrative Center Is Kyiv, Not Moscow – OpEd

  • April 15, 2022 at 1:09 pm
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    UOC MP is identical to the Russian Orthodox church. Attempts by the Patriarch of Constantinople to cause a split failed. The relationships with Constantinople have been ended . UOC MP realize that Ukraine has radical fascist that would try to kill them.

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