• James Richardson and Mikhail Zakharov

Ukraine's New Independent Church: What's really changed?


Procession for the United Autocephalous Church (source: Radio Liberty, https://www.svoboda.org/a/29654463.html

On 15 December 2018, the president of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko officially announced the creation of an Independent Ukrainian Orthodox Church. This new autocephalous (independent) patriarchate, whose spiritual home is Kyiv’s Saint’s Sophia Cathedral, was widely regarded as a victory for Ukraine in its battle for independence from Russia - the Ukrainian Orthodox Church had been a part of the Moscow patriarchate for the previous three and a half centuries. Yet, we argue that the decision taken by Patriarch Bartholomew, the spiritual leader of the Orthodox world, to grant the Ukrainian Independent Church its own tomos (a decree granted by The Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, who is considered to be the foremost leader and international representative of the Orthodox Church) has had little impact on Ukrainian identity politics and its struggle for independence from Moscow.

Many commentators feverously rejoiced because the Ukrainian Orthodox Church no longer bears allegiance to Moscow, some having claimed that it was the “last missing piece” in Ukraine’s battle for independence.[if !supportFootnotes][1][endif] This symbolic aspect of this moment should not be understated. Considering the some 13,000 deaths in the gruelling war in eastern Ukraine, the story of a Ukrainian Church at last free of “Russian tentacles” does carry important emotional symbolism for Ukrainians.[if !supp