Exclusive Commentary to The Orthodox World
By Protopresbyter Andriy Dudchenko

I used to be a priest of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) for more than 20 years, and now I am a priest of the Orthodox Church in Ukraine. It is a newborn Church with a thousand years of history. In June, at the XXIII Orientale Lumen conference in Washington, D.C., I was asked to give a balanced presentation on the current ecclesial situation and how the overlapping jurisdictions are affecting the clergy and people in Ukraine. As a presbyter of one part of the divided flock, I can hardly avoid some personal and sometimes painful issues, but I will try to be fair. Here below is the brief summary of my paper.
Since 1992 we have lived with the situation of three Orthodox Church jurisdictions in Ukraine co-existing with each other on the same territory but not together. One of them, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church ruled by Metropolitan Volodymyr Sabodan, to which I used to belong to, was a self-governed part of the Russian Church, slightly moving towards its Ukrainian identity. It included a wide range of faithful, from a minor group of Russian nationalists, on the one hand, to the pro-Ukrainian party, on the other. The other two were pro-Ukrainian oriented with certain amount of nationalists, but not the majority.
Metropolitan Volodymyr, who departed in peace five years ago, July 5, 2014, was not himself a revolutionary. He preferred an organic way of evolution. In his Memorial museum, located in our Holy Transfiguration Cathedral in Kyiv, you may read an article he wrote in 1993, a year after his coming to Kyiv, and published in the official church newspaper. The conflict with the Kyivan Patriarchate was very “hot” then, but the Metropolitan still argued that our Church didn’t cease to move toward full independence. But, he added, this process, in any case, should not be artificially accelerated. Autocephaly, Metropolitan Volodymyr stressed, should be grounded on a strict canonical base.
The way toward canonical autocephaly was very long indeed. During Metropolitan Volodymyr’s tenure, he allowed those who were in the church administration and in the synodal institutions to have a gentle but consistent policy of development of Ukrainian identity. Metropolitan Volodymyr once said in an interview, that the autocephalous status “should cap all our efforts” towards the Church unity.
Metropolitan Volodymyr gave us one important lesson: the Eucharistic communion with the local Orthodox Churches is the matter of high importance. Autocephaly is only a means, unity and communion are the goal.
Things radically changed with his repose in 2014. Metropolitan Onufry Berezovsky, who was elected his successor to the see of Kyiv, started to conducta different policy. Metropolitan Onufry took over the Church just after the Maidan protests (the ‘Revolution of Dignity’), the annexation of Crimea, the Russian invasion of the Donbas, and the awful period of the war in the East of Ukraine, which has not stopped yet. He stressed the necessity of silence and prayer — definitely necessary Christian virtues, but society including the faithful looked to the Church authorities for words of truth and not ambiguity. “Our flock is on both sides of the conflict,” — he used to say, but his rhetoric leads to simple questions: why are members of your flock killing their fellow Christians? Why were no canonical sanctions or restrictions imposed upon those clergymen of the Moscow Patriarchate who gave shelter to the hitmen and blessed the invaders, who allowed the use of church buildings for storing up weapons and ammunition, who helped with specifying the targets for multiple rocket launchers? We still have no answers.
Since Easter of 2018 until December we lived with the hope of resolving the problem of the schism and obtaining autocephaly.  October 11, 2018, was a crucial point for the Church in Ukraine. On this day, at the Holy and Sacred Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Kyivan Metropolis of the Church of Constantinople was restored and the appeals of the heads of Kyivan Patriarchate and UAOC were accepted. The act of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople (dated 1686) granting permission for the Patriarch of Moscow to appoint the Metropolitan of Kyiv was considered temporary.  Terms of the agreement had been violated by Moscow. Now, Constantinople declared, in effect  that Moscow’s lease on the Kyiv department “expired”. Patriarch Filaret, the head of the Kyivan Patriarchate, was restored into communion with the Mother Church as a former Metropolitan of Kyiv,  and the former leader of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Church Metropolitan Makarios was restored as a former Metropolitan of Lviv.
The reaction from Moscow followed immediately. Moscow broke Eucharistic communion with the Ecumenical Patriarchate. This is a semi-schism because it runs only from the side of Moscow and not vice-versa.
It should be noted that there was the only current primate of the divided church jurisdictions to whom the Patriarch of Constantinople reserved the prerogative to be elected as primate of the new Autocephalous Church of Ukraine on its first and foundational Council. It was neither former Patriarch Filaret nor former Metropolitan Makarios; they were asked to sign a formal refusal to be nominated to the post of Kyiv Metropolitan.  The prerogative was given to Metropolitan Onufry of the Moscow Patriarchate. But what did Metropolitan Onufry do with his prerogative? He simply returned the letter to His All-Holiness unopened.
On December 15, 2018, a Unification Council was held at the Hagia Sophia Cathedral of Kyiv. The former Kyivan Patriarchate, the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church, and two bishops of the Moscow Patriarchate merged to create the new local Orthodox Church in Ukraine. On January 6, 2019, His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew granted the Tomos of Autocephaly to Metropolitan Epiphany — the first primate of this new autocephalous Church of Ukraine, the 15th sister Church in the Diptych.
Now, after the unification Council, there are two primates who bear the title ‘Metropolitan of Kyiv” – Epiphany Dumenko of the Orthodox Church in Ukraine and Onufry Berezovsky of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Moscow Patriarchate, who are not in communion with each other.
According to an interactive map  maintained made by the Religious Information Service of Ukraine, there are 520 parishes and two cathedrals of the former Moscow Patriarchate, who have joined the united Autocephalous Church[1]. One of them is the Holy Transfiguration Cathedral in Kyiv where I am a priest. It represents roughly 5% of the total number of Moscow Patriarchate parishes in Ukraine. Official representatives of  the Moscow Patriarchate say only about 40 of these parishes voluntarily joined OCU. Most of them were forced to change jurisdiction, they argue.
As journalist Denis Targonsky pointed out[2], in the vast majority of cases, in the transitions of communities to the Church of Ukraine it is ordinary people who play a decisive role. The Moscow Patriarchate’s authorities did not pay much attention to the fact that the ordinary people are also the part of Church and have the right to vote. Now the church leaders are forced to pay special attention to this fact.
A parish priest in the Ukrainian church Moscow Patriarchate is facing a difficult choice. He finds himself  between the hierarchy and the people. He has no list of the parish members. Typically, all the village is considered to be a religious community. The priest baptizes, does weddings and funerals for everyone who might ask him.
In most villages, the church buildings are built by village communities. They believe, therefore, that they have the right to decide to which jurisdiction their church should belong to. While in the Western Ukraine almost the whole population attends church services every Sunday, in other regions most peasants go to the church only for the main feasts.
If the priest joins the majority of the village, that is, those visiting church rarely, then he risks being left without a certain number of constant parishioners who might consider him a “traitor” and “Judas.” If he supports the minority, that is, constant parishioners, he may be rejected by the village community and left without a significant amount of material support from people.
The minority of regular parishioners often cannot reconcile with the majority and therefore numerous internal conflicts arise. Often those who are in the minority are supported by the clergy and parishioners of other villages or by some “pilgrims” who claim to “stand up for the faith.” As a result, conflicts are increasing and often police become involved.
In order to keep a priest in the Moscow Patriarchate, considerable money is offered to him. I know about both lump sum payments and the constant support of those priests who remain with the minority of their community in the Moscow Patriarchate. The amount of such funds often exceeds what the priest could possibly have from his parish before. Most rural priests can barely make ends meet, and such a proposal is a serious test for them. That is why in some dioceses of the OCU there are many parishes that joined this jurisdiction from the Moscow Patriarchate without priests.
Now we are blamed by our fellow brothers and sisters from Moscow Patriarchate as deprived of any grace from God. They continue to deal with us just as they used to deal with the former Kyivan Patriarchate, accepting no Mysteries, and even no Baptism, in our Church. This evidently contradicts the 1st rule of St. Basil who discerns the heresy, the schism, and the ‘parasynagogue’, but accepts the baptism of the last two. But Moscow is trying to be more canonical than St. Basil! One of the bishops of the Moscow Patriarchate in Ukraine, Metropolitan Luke Kovalenko of Zaporizhzhya, proclaimed that there is no God in the Phanar any more. “If someone would be baptized in the Church of Constantinople after the October 11 [2018], I will consider him as not be baptized’” – he added[3].
The rise of national autocephalies on the wreckage of the Ottoman Empire became a “time bomb” under the catholic foundation of the church. Now, almost every autocephalous church has been largely infiltrated by the nationalism of its “titular nation”, Greek in the churches of the Greek tradition, Russian in the Russian Orthodox Church, etc. Therefore, in particular, it was so difficult for many Ukrainians to remain in the Church of the Moscow Patriarchate. And the matter here lies not only in the policy pursued by the Moscow Patriarchate in its relation to the Ukrainian Church but in the very essence of the church politics within the Ukrainian Moscow Patriarchate church. According to the principles on which the local autocephalies are built, the Church of Ukraine had had every reason to be autocephalous. However, the Moscow Patriarchate has another logic that looks more like a Roman one: to be a supra-national church, which unites in itself various local church identities. But, in reality, Moscow Patriarchate allows any national identity except Ukrainian.
In reality, again and again, this is clearly demonstrated by the confessing of the Russian identity of the neighbouring state of Russia on the territory of independent Ukraine. It’s no secret that in the most of the parishes of Moscow Patriarchate in Ukraine and in some media, popular among believers of this Church in the rural regions, as well as in the literature which is spread in its parishes, the Russian identity is being cultivated and supported pretty openly, and the Ukrainian identity is either simply ignored or declared alien and illegal.
Sure, not all of the  Ukrainian Moscow Patriarchate churches are pro-Russian oriented. After more than 500 of its parishes joined the Autocephalous Church there is still a certain number of clergy and faithful supporting the idea of canonical autocephaly. Why have they not joined yet? Many reasons. Some of them avoided joining the church in which Filaret was still being referred to as a patriarch. Some are waiting for recognition of the autocephaly by other sister Churches. Some have their personal reasons including family tensions.
Now new wine is being put into the new wineskin. The new generation of not only clergy but also of lay theologians is arising, and is setting a new agenda for those responsible for making decisions. The Tomos given by His All-Holiness is like a passport for the Church of Ukraine to be an equal part of the Orthodox world. But the passport doesn’t make its owner adult automatically. It is given to an adult with the perspective for the future growth in responsibility. Here we are. We need not to avoid uncomfortable questions, but to deal with them in mutual love and with great responsibility. 

[3]              Interview to the BBC: https://www.bbc.com/russian/features-45899214