Ukraine founds its own national Church

In Ukraine a new national Orthodox church that is independent of that in Russia has been founded. At a synod in Kiev, and with President Poroshenko present, the bishops of two different Orthodox denominations voted to unite. The Moscow-oriented Ukrainian Orthodox Church boycotted the unification council. How intertwined are church and politics in the region?

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Wedomosti (RU) /

Poroshenko emulating Putin

Vedomosti fears that those communities and members of the clergy whose allegiance is with Moscow will be subject to repression:

“Achieving autocephaly is important for secular Kiev. Poroshenko explained the political purpose of the Synod: 'This is a church without Putin and without Kyrill, without prayers for the Russian state or the Russian armed forces.' ... This means the political power of Ukraine now has its own church, analogue to Moscow, and Poroshenko has scored points for the presidential election. Consequently whether the new structure is able to firmly establish itself will depend to a large extent on the secular power. This means there is a considerable risk that cloisters, communities and bishops of the pro-Moscow Orthodox Church will come under pressure. The state appears to be ready to take a hard line, but that would be a mistake.”

Strana (UA) /

Exagerated pathos

The Russian-language website Strana is not at all convinced that President Poroshenko can celebrate a definitive victory in the struggle between churches:

“Because his original plan to push through someone close to him as head honcho failed. And the biggest denomination in Ukraine - the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarch - remained on the sidelines. ... Only two of its representatives attended the synod. In other words: the new formation won't be the biggest church in Ukraine. And to all intent and purposes it won't be autocephalous either, since according to the approved statute it will be very much subordinate to the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. But all this didn't stop Poroshenko from dramatically describing the establishment of yet another religious community in Ukraine as a 'historic event'.”

Contributors (RO) /

Neither side is politically independent

Russia expert Armand Gosu criticises the behaviour of the Russian Orthodox Church in an interview with the web portal Contributors:

“In recent weeks we could see how [the Russian Orthodox] Patriarch Kirill was trying to cast himself as the victim - in a message to the pope, the head of the Church in England, the UN and the OSCE. ... In this message the [Ukrainian] state authorities are accused of interfering in church matters and putting bishops and clergy members under pressure. ... But we must not forget that Ukraine is at war with Russia. ... Patriarch Kirill hasn't ever distanced himself from the Kremlin's policy towards Ukraine. This is elementary: you can't support a section of the faithful that kills other faithful members of your church - without being aware of the consequences.”