Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church

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Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church

The Church of St. Andrew in Kyiv was the main cathedral of the UAOC
PrimateMetropolitan Macarius (last primate)
HeadquartersKyiv, Ukraine
Founder1st All-Ukrainian Orthodox Church Assembly
Origin1921 (first), 1942 (second), 1989 (third)
RecognitionFull communion with the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople restored in October, 2018
Polish Orthodox Church (1942–1946)
SeparationsUAOC in diaspora
UAOC in exile
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 (UAPTs)) was one of the three major Eastern Orthodox churches in Ukraine. The Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church began in 1917 during the dissolution of the Russian Empire as part of the Ukrainian independence movement and in order to restore the Ukrainian Orthodox Church that existed in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1620–1685 and was annexed by the Moscow Patriarchate without approval of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.

It was re-established for the third time on 22 October 1989, right before the fall of the Soviet Union. The UAOC, in its contemporary form, has its origins in the synod 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 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.

Reestablishment in late 1980s[edit]

Revival of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church took place in late 1988.[5] On 15 February 1989 in Kyiv was established the Initiative Committee in revival of the UOAC which was based on Ukrainian Cultural club and consisted of priest Bohdan Mykhailechko (Yelgava), priest Myron Sas-Zhurakivskyi (Kolomyia), Larysa Lokhvytska, Antoliy Bytchenko, Mykola Budnyk, Serhiy Naboka, Yevhen Sverstyuk.[5] An appeal was approved, which called for the formation of regional committees for the revival of the UAOC and to begin commemorating the Ecumenical Patriarch Demetrios I at divine services.[5] The Initiative Committee headed by Bohdan Mykhailechko published an appeal to the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union and Supreme Soviet of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic (predecessor of Verkhovna Rada) and the international Christian community. Recalling the long-term captivity and lack of rights of the Ukrainian Church under the rule of Moscow, the five founders of the committee expressed and substantiated the demand for the restoration of full autocephaly. On Easter 1989, the Kyiv-based Ukrainian Orthodox community held a festive service in a private home. This was the first Ukrainian-language worship service in the capital of Ukraine since 1943. But in early June, the Kyiv city authorities refused to register the UAOC parish of Saint Nicholas of the Embankment in Podil,[5] saying "there has never been and is no such Church as the UAOC, and therefore a non-existent Church cannot be registered." This is a translation of the verbatim repetition of the thesis expressed by the Exarch of Ukraine, Metropolitan Philaret (Denysenko).

On February 27, 1989, a group of Lviv priests of the Russian Orthodox Church appealed to Metropolitan Philaret (Denysenko) with a statement about the need to obtain autocephaly for the Ukrainian Exarchate.[5] Archpriest Volodymyr Yarema, parson of the Peter and Paul Parish in Lviv, signed the statement on behalf of like-minded people.[5] No response was received. The reaction to the letter was the consideration of the case of Volodymyr Yarema in the diocesan administration. However, strict sanctions against the authors of the letter were not applied due to the difficult situation in the diocese, where it became obvious that the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church would soon come out of the underground.

The Russian Orthodox Church Lviv Metropolitan Nicodemus (Rusnak) (1921-2011), previously expelled from Argentina for espionage for the Soviet Union,[5] was ready to support efforts to obtain autocephaly on the condition that local Greek Catholics, who had begun to emerge from the underground, join the newly forming Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church.[5] He sent Archpriest Volodymyr Yarema and priest Ivan Pashula for negotiations with Volodymyr Sterniuk, head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in catacombs.[5] However, Bishop Sterniuk refused to join the Church (UAOC), which will not recognize the jurisdiction of the Roman bishop.[5]

On 19 August 1989, at the Holy Liturgy in the Peter and Paul Cathedral in Lviv, which was first held in Ukrainian, Archpriest Volodymyr Yarema read the appeal of the Initiative Committee for the revival of the UAOC, which proposed:[5]

  1. To create regional committees for the revival of the UAOC for their subsequent merger into the All-Ukrainian Orthodox Council.
  2. In your parishes, gather parish meetings, by the decision of which declare your refusal to obey the Russian Orthodox Church.
  3. Inform the regional committees about your unshakable loyalty to your native UAPC.
  4. Commemorate His Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Demetrios I at all divine services.

Priest Bohdan Mykhailechko, head of the Initiative Committee, took part in the service and addressed the faithful with a statement of support for the initiative of the church of St. apostles Peter and Paul in Lviv. He emphasized: "Moscow did not have and cannot have any jurisdiction over our Church."[5] Telegrams were sent to Ecumenical Patriarch Demetrios I, Metropolitan of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA Mstyslav (Skrypnyk), Metropolitan of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada Wasyly (Fedak) with a message about the change of jurisdiction.[5] The collection of signatures for the application in the name of the Commissioner for Religious Confessions at the Lviv Regional Executive Committee, Yuliyan Reshetyl, was completed.[5]

On October 22, 1989, the freelance bishop of the Russian Orthodox Church, Ioan Bodnarchuk, arrived in Lviv at the invitation of the clergy to lead the communities that had transferred to the UAOC. He conducted the Divine Service, after which he ordained a deacon, a graduate of the Lviv Polygraphic Institute, Yuri Boyko, who was elected to the first democratic city council of Lviv. Thus, he entered the canonical management of the UAOC communities. Priests of the Lviv Region, led by Bishop Ioan, held the first diocesan council.

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.

In November of 1991, the Ukrainian Autocephalous Ukrainian Church had 14 eparchies, 11 bishops (episcopes) and 1,600 parishes.[5]

On October 16, 2000, the Church Sobor in Ukraine elected Metropolitan Methodius (Kudriakov) of Ternopil to lead the church.

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.[6]

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.[7][2][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.[2][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."[2][9]

It was later clarified that Filaret was considered by the Ecumenical Patriarchate only as "the former metropolitan of Kyiv",[10][11][12] and Makariy as "the former Archbishop of Lviv"[11][12] 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][13] The Ecumenical Patriarchate declared that it recognized the sacraments performed by the UOC-KP and the UAOC as valid.[14][15]

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

On 15 December 2018, the hierarchs of the UAOC and the UOC-KP decided to dissolve them both. 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.[16]

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."[17][18]

On 14 August 2019, the UAOC legally ceased to exist because it merged with the OCU.[19][20]

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'".[21]



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 forced into emigration, 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 Polish 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 forced to emigration for a second time due to persecutions by the Soviet regime and remained structured only in the Ukrainian diaspora.

  • Polikarp (Sikorsky), Archbishop of Lutsk and Volhynia, temporary administrator (1941–1944)
  • Dionizy (Waledyński), Metropolitan of Warsaw and all Poland (1923–1960), proclaimed (not enthroned) Patriarch of all Ukraine (1944–1960)

In diaspora (Europe), 1945–1990[edit]

  • Polikarp (Sikorsky), former Metropolitan of Lutsk and Volhynia, Primate of UAOC in diaspora (1945–1953)
  • Nikanor (Abramovych), former Archbishop of Kyiv and Chyhyryn, Primate of UAOC in diaspora (1953–1969)
  • Mstyslav (Skrypnyk), Metropolitan of New York and all the USA, former Bishop of Pereyaslav, Primate of UAOC in diaspora (1969–1993)


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

  • Metropolitan Ioan (Vasyl Bodnarchuk), Metropolitan of Lviv and Galicia, former Bishop of Zhytomyr and Ovruch, Primate of UAOC (1989–1991)
  • Patriarch Mstyslav (Stepan Skrypnyk), Patriarch of Kyiv and all Rus-Ukraine (1991–1993)
  • Patriarch Dymytriy (Volodymyr Yarema), Patriarch of Kyiv and all Rus-Ukraine (1993–2000)
  • Metropolitan Mefodiy (Valeriy Kudriakov), Metropolitan of Kyiv and All Ukraine (2000–2015)
  • Metropolitan Makariy (Mykola 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]

Local councils[edit]

  • 5-6 June 1990 (Kyiv) – 7 bishops, over 200 priests, around 700 delegates.[22]
    • Confirmed revival of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church
    • Election of Metropolitan Mstyslav a Patriarch of Kyiv and All Ukraine (in absentia, due to the Soviet authorities)
    • Adopted a statute
  • 25-26 June 1992 (Kyiv) – 10 bishops
    • Unification with the Ukrainian Orthodox Church
    • Formation of the united church, Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Kyiv Patriarchate
    • Confirmed election of Patriach Mstyslav of Kyiv as the primate of the church
  • 7 September 1993 (Kyiv)
    • Revival of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church
    • Election of new primate
  • 14-15 September 2000 (Kyiv)
    • Election of new primate


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Metropolitan Epifaniy (Dumenko) becomes Primate of One Local Orthodox Church of Ukraine".
  2. ^ a b c d Chief Secretariat of the Holy and Sacred Synod (11 October 2018). "Announcement". The Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. Archived from the original on 16 November 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. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o From the history of UAOC.
  6. ^ "Андріївська церква в Києві". Archived from the original on 2014-07-15. Retrieved 2014-08-07.
  7. ^ Polityuk, Pavel; Dikmen, Yesim (11 October 2018). "Ukraine wins approval for historic split from Russian church". Reuters. Retrieved 16 October 2018.
  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. ^ "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.
  10. ^ "Phanar considers Filaret an ordinary bishop without an episcopal see". 14 October 2018. Retrieved 2018-10-29.
  11. ^ a b "ΑΠΟΚΛΕΙΣΤΙΚΟ | Βαρθολομαίος σε Ονούφριο: Δεν μπορείτε να έχετε πλέον τον τίτλο Κιέβου". ROMFEA (in Greek). 7 December 2018. Retrieved 2018-12-08.
  12. ^ a b "Phanar – to His Beatitude: You will remain Metropolitan till the Council". 7 December 2018. Retrieved 2018-12-17.
  13. ^ Cazabonne, Emma (6 November 2018). "BBC interview with Archbishop Job of Telmessos on the Ukrainian question". Retrieved 2018-11-07.
  14. ^ "Exarch: Constantinople recognizes all clergy of KP and UAOC as canonical". 16 October 2018. Retrieved 2018-12-18.
  15. ^ "Constantinople recognized all clergy of KP and UAOC as canonical—Patriarchal Exarch". OrthoChristian.Com. 16 October 2018. Retrieved 2018-12-22.
  16. ^ "Киевский патриархат и УАПЦ самораспустились перед Собором". РБК-Украина (in Russian). 15 December 2018. Retrieved 2018-12-16.
  17. ^ "Makary Maletich: We won't dissolve the UAOC until Philaret dissolves the KP". OrthoChristian.Com. 23 May 2019. Retrieved 2019-05-25.
  18. ^ "Если такое безобразие продолжится, мы можем потерять Томос - митрополит Макарий". Апостроф (in Russian). 23 May 2019. Retrieved 2019-06-13.
  19. ^ "Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church ceases to exist". 14 August 2019. Retrieved 2019-08-16.
  20. ^ "Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church ceases to exist | KyivPost - Ukraine's Global Voice". KyivPost. 2019-08-14. Retrieved 2019-08-16.
  21. ^ "Митрополит Епіфаній оголосив про юридичне припинення існування УПЦ КП та УАПЦ". 14 December 2019. Retrieved 2019-12-14.
  22. ^ Украинская Автокефальная Православная Церковь. 20 June 2011

External links[edit]