|Independence October 1921|
Headquarters Kiev, Ukraine
|Primate Metropolitan Macarius|
|Founder 1st All-Ukrainian Orthodox Church Assembly|
Recognition Unrecognized by other canonical Orthodox churches
The Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (Ukrainian: Українська автокефальна православна церква, Ukrayinska avtokefalna pravoslavna tserkva, UAPC) is one of the three major Orthodox Churches in Ukraine. It was reestablished for the third time in 1990, right before the fall of the Soviet Union. The UAPC in its contemporary form, has its origins in the Sobor of 1921 in Kiev, shortly after Ukraine's newly found independence. Close to ten percent of the Christian population claim to be members of the UAPC.
The other Orthodox Churches in Ukraine now are: the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Kiev Patriarchate (UPC-KP), and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate). Only the last of these three enjoys recognition by the Orthodox Christian community world-wide.
With the creation of a new state, many Ukrainians felt the need for an indigenous autocephalous Orthodox Church free of Russian influence. Although there have been three different "resurrections" of the UAOC in Ukraine, each following a period of political, cultural and religious persecution, all UAOC bishops in the last two have had a direct line of succession to the first one.
The Kievan Metropolia was a product of the baptism of the Kievan Rus in the time of Grand Prince Vladimir the Great (988 AD). Missionaries were sent from Constantinople to instruct the people in the Byzantine-Orthodox faith. Monastic life flourished, including in the famous Kiev Monastery of the Caves, through the efforts of St. Anthony of Kiev, known as the father of Russian monasticism.
The sacking of Kiev itself in December 1240 during the Mongol Invasion led to the ultimate collapse of the Rus' state. For many of its residents, the brutality of Mongol attacks sealed the fate of many choosing to find safe haven in the North East. In 1299, the Kievan Metropolitan Chair was moved to Vladimir by Metropolitan Maximus, keeping the titile of Kiev. As Vladimir-Suzdal, and later the Grand Duchy of Moscow continued to grow unhindered, the Orthodox religious link between them and Kiev remained strong. The fall of Constantinople in 1453, allowed the once daughter church of North East, to become autocephalous, with Kiev remaining part of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. From that moment on, the Churches of Ukraine and Russia went their own separate ways. The latter became central in the growing Russian Tsardom, attaining patriarchate in 1589, whilst the former became subject to repression and Polonization efforts, particularly after the Union of Brest in 1596. Eventually the persecution of Orthodox Ukrainians led to a massive rebellion under Bohdan Khmelnytsky, and united the Ukrainian Hetmanate with the Russian Tsardom, and in 1686, the Kievan Metropolia came under the Moscow Patriarchate. Ukrainian clergy, for their Greek training, held key roles in the Russian Orthodox Church until the end of the 18th century.
In the wake of the breakup of the Russian Empire some national groups sought autonomy or autocephaly from Moscow. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church was proclaimed under the Ukrainian National Republic in 1917 and survived in Soviet Ukraine until the early 1930s.
In 1921 an All-Ukrainian Sobor (Synod) was called in Kiev, the capital of the newly independent Ukraine, and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church was declared independent from the Moscow Patriarchate (MP). The Sobor delegates chose Metropolitan Vasyl Lypkivsky as head of the church. The 1921 Sobor has become known as the "first resurrection" of the UAOC.
Metropolitans Vasyl Lypkivsky and Mykola Boretsky were eminent UAOC preachers. From the 1930s sermons in Soviet Ukraine were delivered mostly in Russian (except in the Western Ukrainian regions annexed in 1944). Until 1944 the Orthodox theological seminaries in Western Ukraine taught homiletics; sermons were published in periodicals and separately in books such as Archbishop Aleksy Gromadsky.
A few years later in 1924, Gregory VII, Archbishop of Constantinople and Ecumenical Patriarch, issued a tomos establishing the Kievan Metropolia as an autocephalous entity. The responsibility of establishing a new Synod of Bishops was given to the Metropolitan-Archbishop of Warsaw, Dionisiy Valedynsky.
Ukrainian independence was short-lived in this period, and eventually the USSR came into being. The Soviets introduced an atheistic regime, though initially the church was allowed to function, as a tool against their more adverse Russian Orthodox Church, though from 1930s the UAOC too was persecuted, and eventually disbanded in Soviet Ukraine.
During World War II, when Ukraine was a battleground between the German and Soviet Armies, Orthodox Ukrainians enjoyed somewhat increased freedom under German occupation. In May 1942, with the blessing of Metropolitan Dionisiy, more than a dozen bishops were consecrated in St. Andrew Cathedral, Kiev, in fulfillment of the 1924 tomos of the Ecumenical Patriarch. Finally, it seemed that ecclesiastical order could be established for the UAOC. This time is referred to as the "second resurrection" of the church. However, history would make it a short-lived reality.
On October 8, 1942 Archbishop Nikanor Abrymovych and Bishop Mstyslav Skrypnyk of the UAOC and Metropolitan Oleksiy Hromadsky of the Ukrainian Autonomous Orthodox Church entered into an Act of Union at the Pochayiv Lavra uniting these two church hierarchies. Pro-Russian hierarchs of the Autonomous Church convinced Metropolitan Oleksiy to withdraw his signature. Metropolitan Oleksiy was allegedly executed in Volhynia on May 7, 1943 by members of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA).
The Russian Orthodox Church regained its general monopoly after World War II in the Ukrainian SSR. Most of the other churches were liquidated, as the Soviet government only recognized the Moscow Patriarchate (MP). The MP was revived at the time as the only legitimate church in most of the Soviet Union. Many accused it of being a puppet of the Communist Party. Any UAOC hierarchs or clergy who remained in Ukraine and refused to join the Russian Church were executed or sent to concentration camps. A few years later the same thing happened to the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in Western Ukraine, in Galicia and Transcarpathia. Several UAOC bishops and priests were able to escape to the West.
The church regained state recognition in 1990, which is known as the "third resurrection" of the UAOC. Initially it was governed from abroad by Patriarch Mstyslav (Skrypnyk). Subsequent to his death in 1993, he was succeeded by Patriarch Volodomyr (Romaniuk). Patriarch Volodymyr would, during his time as patriarch, separate from the UAOC to found the UOC-KP, together with Metropolitan (now Patriarch) Filaret (Denysenko). Those not willing to follow this change continued the UAOC with a new Patriarch, Dymytry (Yarema).
Meanwhile, in the Diaspora, some bishops of the UAOC in the USA, decided in 1996, to place themselves and their parishes under the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, thereby relinquishing the autocephaly of the Ukrainian Church and forming instead, an eparchy of the Ecumenical Throne.
In 1996, Metropolitan Stephan (Petrovich), committed to preserving the autocephalous nature of the Church and who had been active in assisting in its revitalization following the Soviet period in both the West and Ukraine, received formal authorization from Senior Hierarchs of the UAOC in Ukraine to maintain autocephaly in the West, especially in the United States. While in Ukraine Stephan (Petrovich) was formally authorized to lead the UAOC as a self-governing entity in North & South America. Metropolitan Stephan retired in June 2004. After his sick leave he attempted to regain his position but without success. Metropolitan Stephen's successor is Metropolitan Mykhayil (Javchak-Champion). Stephen Petrovich's claim to now be the most senior UAOC in the Americas is without foundation and he is now retired.
On October 16, 2000, the Church Sobor in Ukraine elected Metropolitan Mefodiy (Kudryakov) of Ternopil to lead the church. As father and head of the UAOC worldwide, he was Metropolitan of Kyiv and all Rus-Ukraine. After his elevation, he worked towards a more global visibility for the church, including a pastoral visit to the United States in 2006 where he was the guest of Metropolitan Mykhayil and the Metropolia of the Diaspora. He also travelled to Western Europe. He fostered continued positive relations with the Ukrainian government and other religious communities. Metropolitan Mefodiy died in 2015. The choice of Metropolitan Makariy as his successor is contested by those loyal to the memory of Metropolitan Mefodiy, whose open approach toward those outside Ukraine is not shared by Makariy.
The UAOC, with over 3 million members, is not officially recognized by other Churches due to pressures from the Russian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate. It has, however, been invited and does participate in Orthodox synods and conferences. The Ecumenical Patriarch has maintained direct dialogue with the Church but remains very sensitive to the Moscow Patriarchate's opposition to any independent Churches in Ukraine.
Under the personal supervision of Metropolitan Mefodiy, the Ternopil Orthodox Theological Academy of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church was renovated and its course of studies completely updated to conform to contemporary academic standards. On October 18, 2008, the first diplomas of the newly accredited theological school were awarded to qualified graduates in a ceremony in the Cathedral of the Nativity of Christ in Ternopil. Presiding at the commencement ceremony, at the invitation of Metropolitan Mefodiy, was the UAOC Metropolitan of New York and America, Mykhayil (Javchak).
The Patriarchal Cathedral of the UAOC is the historic Church of St. Andrew the First-Called in Kiev. It was built between 1747–1754 and was designed by the famous architect Bartolomeo Rastrelli. Although used for regular liturgical services of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church, the edifice had previously been a part of the historical park "Sofia-Kiev." The Ukrainian government returned the church to the legal possession of the UAOC on May 21, 2008.
Geographically the church currently has a stronger presence in Western Ukrainian provinces with a smaller representation elsewhere. Previous to 1995, there were more parishes abroad in the Ukrainian diaspora communities of Canada and the United States. However, many of these parishes now form the separate churches, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA, both of which are eparchies of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople and not in communion with the UAOC, though they are on friendly terms.