Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church

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Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church
Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church.png

Kyiv, St Andrew church (2).jpg
The Church of St. Andrew in Kyiv was the patriarchal cathedral of the UAOC prior to being given to the Ecumenical Patriarchate by the Ukrainian parliament with the agreement of the UAOC
PrimateMetropolitan Macarius (last primate)
HeadquartersKyiv, Ukraine
Founder1st All-Ukrainian Orthodox Church Assembly
Origin1921 (first), 1942 (second), 1990 (third)
RecognitionFull communion with the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople restored in October, 2018 but was not canonically recognized by any church (Ecumenical Patriarchate included)
Merged intoOrthodox Church of Ukraine
Defunct1936 (first), 1944 (second), December 15, 2018 (third)
Members3 million

The Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAOC; Ukrainian: Українська автокефальна православна церква (УАПЦ), romanizedUkrayinska avtokefalna pravoslavna tserkva (UAPC)) was one of the three major Eastern Orthodox churches in Ukraine. It was reestablished for the third time in 1990, right before the fall of the Soviet Union. The UAOC, in its contemporary form, has its origins in the Sobor of 1921 in Kyiv, shortly after Ukraine's newly found independence. On 15 December 2018, at the Unification Council, the UAOC and the UOC-KP, along with metropolitans from the UOC-MP, unified into the Orthodox Church of Ukraine. Metropolitan Epiphany (former bishop of the UOC-KP) was elected as the new Metropolitan of Kyiv and All Ukraine.[1]

During the UAOC and the UOC-KP's existence, only the UOC-MP enjoyed recognition by the Orthodox Christian community worldwide, until 11 October 2018, when the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople lifted the excommunication which afflicted the UAOC and the UOC-KP.[2] It was later clarified on 2 November that the Ecumenical Patriarchate recognized neither the UAOC nor the UOC-KP as legitimate and that their respective leaders were not recognized as primates of their churches.[3][4]


The Kyivan Metropolis was the fruit of the baptism of the Kyivan 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 Kyiv Monastery of the Caves, through the efforts of St. Anthony of Kiev, known as the father of Russian monasticism.

The sacking of Kyiv 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 Kyivan metropolitan chair was moved to Vladimir by Metropolitan Maximus, keeping the title of Kyiv. As Vladimir-Suzdal, and later the Grand Duchy of Moscow continued to grow unhindered, the Orthodox religious link between them and Kyiv remained strong. The fall of Constantinople in 1453, allowed the once daughter church of North East, to become autocephalous, with Kyiv 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 Kyivan 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 Kyiv, 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.

Ukrainian independence was short-lived in this period, and in 1922 the USSR came into being. The Soviets introduced an atheistic regime, though initially the church was allowed to function, as a tool against the more adverse Russian Orthodox Church, 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, Kyiv, 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, it was short-lived.

On 8 October 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 7 May 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.

Contemporary situation[edit]

The church regained state recognition in 1991, 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. The Patriarch would, during his time as patriarch, separate from the UAOC to found the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Kyiv Patriarchate (UOC-KP), together with Metropolitan (now Patriarch) Filaret Denysenko. Those not willing to accept this change continued the UAOC with a new primate, Patriarch Dymytriy Yarema.

Meanwhile, in the Diaspora, some bishops of the UAOC in the US 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 and South America. Metropolitan Stephan retired in June 2004 due to illness. Later 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; he is now retired.

On October 16, 2000, the Church Sobor in Ukraine elected Metropolitan Mefodiy (Kudriakov) 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. 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 Kyiv. It was built between 1747 and 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-Kyiv." The Ukrainian government returned the church to the legal possession of the UAOC on 21 May 2008.[5]

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 separate churches: the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA, both eparchies of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.

11 October 2018 decision of the Ecumenical Patriarchate[edit]

On 11 October 2018, after a regular synod, the Patriarchate of Constantinople renewed an earlier decision to move towards granting autocephaly to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.[6][7][8] The synod also withdrew Constantinople's 332-years-old qualified acceptance of the Russian Orthodox Church's canonical jurisdiction over the Ukrainian Church contained in a letter of 1686.[7][8] The synod also lifted the excommunication of Patriarch Filaret of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Kyiv Patriarchate (UOC-KP) and Metropolitan Makariy of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAOC), and both bishops were "canonically reinstated to their hierarchical or priestly rank, and their faithful [...] restored to communion with the Church."[9][10][11]

It was later clarified that Filaret was considered by the Ecumenical Patriarchate only as "the former metropolitan of Kyiv",[12][13][14] and Makariy as "the former Archbishop of Lviv"[13][14] and, on 2 November 2018, that the Ecumenical Patriarchate did not recognize neither the UAOC nor the UOC-KP as legitimate and that their respective leaders were not recognized as primates of their churches.[3][15] The Ecumenical Patriarchate declared that it recognized the sacraments performed by the UOC-KP and the UAOC as valid.[16][17]

Dissolution and merger with the UOC–KP into the OCU[edit]

On 15 December 2018, the hierarchs of the UAOC decided to dissolve the UAOC, and the hierarchs of the UOC-KP decided to dissolve the UOC-KP. This was done because on the same day the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Kyiv Patriarchate, and some members of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) were going to merge to form the Orthodox Church of Ukraine after a unification council.[18]

Makariy declared in an interview published on 23 May 2019 that neither the UAOC nor the UOC-KP had been dissolved: "Some government officials spoke incorrectly when they publicly declared that the Kyiv Patriarchate was liquidated." He explained that Philaret submitted only copies of documents, not the originals necessary in order to liquidate the UOC-KP. Macarius added: "When I was asked to hand over the documents for liquidation, I replied that until I see the originals from the other side, I will not turn in mine."[19][20]

On 14 August 2019, the UAOC legally ceased to exist because its legal entity merged with the legal entity of the OCU.[21][22]

On 14 December 2019, after the meeting of the enlarged Bishops' Council, held on December 14 in Kyiv on the occasion of the anniversary of the creation of the OCU, Epiphanius declared that the procedure of liquidation of the UAOC as well as the UOC-KP had been completed the day before. He added: "Such structures no longer exist. In confirmation of that, in the State Register there is marked 'activity DISCONTINUED'".[23]



In 1921, with the establishment of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church, the Metropolitan of Kyiv and All Ukraine was considered the primate of the church. This system continued until 1936 when, due to Soviet pressure, the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church was liquidated, with some of its members emigrating to the United States. The primates from 1921 to 1936 were:

  • Vasyl Lypkivsky, Metropolitan of Kyiv and All Ukraine (1921–1927)
  • Mykola Boretsky, Metropolitan of Kyiv and All Ukraine (1927–1930)
  • Ivan Pavlovsky, Metropolitan of Kyiv and All Ukraine (1930–1936)


In 1942, UAOC was re-established with help of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church during occupation of Ukraine by Nazi Germany. This period lasted till the return of the Red Army in 1944, after that the UAOC was again liquidated for a second time and remained structured only in the Ukrainian diaspora.

1990–15 December 2018[edit]

In 1990 the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church was reinstated in Ukraine, and the former Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada metropolitan, Mstyslav, was enthroned as a patriarch. Since 2000, the church primate has been the Metropolitan of Kyiv and All Ukraine.

  • Patriarch Mstyslav (Stepan Ivanovych Skrypnyk), Patriarch of Kyiv and all Rus-Ukraine (1991–1993)
  • Patriarch Dymytriy (Dmytro Yarema), Patriarch of Kyiv and all Rus-Ukraine (1993–2000)
  • Metropolitan Mefodiy (Mefodiy (Methodius) Kudriakov), Metropolitan of Kyiv and All Ukraine (2000–2015)
  • Metropolitan Makariy (Makariy Maletych), Metropolitan of Kyiv and All Ukraine (2015–2018)

Metropolitan Epiphany of Kyiv and All Ukraine was elected primate of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine on 15 December 2018.[1]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Metropolitan Epifaniy (Dumenko) becomes Primate of One Local Orthodox Church of Ukraine".
  2. ^ "Announcement of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople". Retrieved 12 October 2018.
  3. ^ a b "Константинополь: "Надеемся, Москва обратится к разуму". Подробности беседы". BBC News Русская служба. 2018-11-02. Retrieved 2018-11-03.
  4. ^ Cazabonne, Emma (6 November 2018). "BBC interview with Archbishop Job of Telmessos on the Ukrainian question". Retrieved 2018-11-07.
  5. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-07-15. Retrieved 2014-08-07.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  6. ^ Polityuk, Pavel; Dikmen, Yesim (11 October 2018). "Ukraine wins approval for historic split from Russian church". Reuters. Retrieved 16 October 2018.
  7. ^ a b "Announcement (11/10/2018). - Announcements - The Ecumenical Patriarchate". Ecumenical Patriarchate. 11 October 2018. Retrieved 12 October 2018. The Holy Synod discussed in particular and at length the ecclesiastical matter of Ukraine, in the presence of His Excellency Archbishop Daniel of Pamphilon and His Grace Bishop Hilarion of Edmonton, Patriarchal Exarchs to Ukraine, and following extensive deliberations decreed:
    1) To renew the decision already made that the Ecumenical Patriarchate proceed to the granting of Autocephaly to the Church of Ukraine. [...]
    4) To revoke the legal binding of the Synodal Letter of the year 1686 [...]
  8. ^ a b Tomos ante portas: a short guide to Ukrainian church independence. Euromaidan Press. 14 October 2018. Retrieved 16 October 2018. the Synod ... of the Ecumenical Patriarchate ... gave further confirmation that Ukraine is on the path to receiving church independence from Moscow. ... Although President Poroshenko triumphantly announced that in result of the meeting Ukraine had received the long-awaited Tomos, or decree of church independence – a claim circulated in Ukraine with great enthusiasm, this is not true. ... Constantinople’s decision will benefit other jurisdictions in Ukraine – the UOC KP and UAOC, which will have to effectively dismantle their own administrative structures and set up a new Church, which will receive the Tomos of autocephaly. ... Right now it’s unclear which part of the UOC MP will join the new Church. 10 out of 90 UOC MP bishops signed the appeal for autocephaly to the Ecumenical Patriarch – only 11%. But separate priests could join even if their bishops don’t, says Zuiev.
  9. ^ "Announcement (11/10/2018). - Announcements - The Ecumenical Patriarchate". 11 October 2018. Retrieved 2018-10-30.
  10. ^ "Announcement (11/10/2018). - Announcements - The Ecumenical Patriarchate". Retrieved 2018-10-27. 3) To accept and review the petitions of appeal of Filaret Denisenko, Makariy Maletych and their followers, who found themselves in schism not for dogmatic reasons, in accordance with the canonical prerogatives of the Patriarch of Constantinople to receive such petitions by hierarchs and other clergy from all of the Autocephalous Churches. Thus, the above-mentioned have been canonically reinstated to their hierarchical or priestly rank, and their faithful have been restored to communion with the Church.
  11. ^ "Constantinople recognizes Kyiv Patriarch Filaret as church bishop". KyivPost. 11 October 2018. Retrieved 17 October 2018. The Kyiv Patriarchate and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church are planning to merge with pro-independence bishops of the Moscow Patriarchate into an independent (autocephalous) Ukrainian church, which is expected to get a tomos — a Synod decree recognizing the independence of the Ukrainian church from the Constantinople church. “This decision gives us the opportunity to unite with bishops of the Moscow Patriarchate who are willing (to join),” Filaret said on Oct. 11.
  12. ^ "Phanar considers Filaret an ordinary bishop without an episcopal see". 14 October 2018. Retrieved 2018-10-29.
  13. ^ a b "ΑΠΟΚΛΕΙΣΤΙΚΟ | Βαρθολομαίος σε Ονούφριο: Δεν μπορείτε να έχετε πλέον τον τίτλο Κιέβου". ROMFEA (in Greek). 7 December 2018. Retrieved 2018-12-08.
  14. ^ a b "Phanar – to His Beatitude: You will remain Metropolitan till the Council". 7 December 2018. Retrieved 2018-12-17.
  15. ^ Cazabonne, Emma (6 November 2018). "BBC interview with Archbishop Job of Telmessos on the Ukrainian question". Retrieved 2018-11-07.
  16. ^ "Exarch: Constantinople recognizes all clergy of KP and UAOC as canonical". 16 October 2018. Retrieved 2018-12-18.
  17. ^ "Constantinople recognized all clergy of KP and UAOC as canonical—Patriarchal Exarch". OrthoChristian.Com. 16 October 2018. Retrieved 2018-12-22.
  18. ^ "Киевский патриархат и УАПЦ самораспустились перед Собором". РБК-Украина (in Russian). 15 December 2018. Retrieved 2018-12-16.
  19. ^ "Makary Maletich: We won't dissolve the UAOC until Philaret dissolves the KP". OrthoChristian.Com. 23 May 2019. Retrieved 2019-05-25.
  20. ^ "Если такое безобразие продолжится, мы можем потерять Томос - митрополит Макарий". Апостроф (in Russian). 23 May 2019. Retrieved 2019-06-13.
  21. ^ "Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church ceases to exist". 14 August 2019. Retrieved 2019-08-16.
  22. ^ "Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church ceases to exist | KyivPost - Ukraine's Global Voice". KyivPost. 2019-08-14. Retrieved 2019-08-16.
  23. ^ "Митрополит Епіфаній оголосив про юридичне припинення існування УПЦ КП та УАПЦ". 14 December 2019. Retrieved 2019-12-14.