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Divisions between Ukraine’s Orthodox

10 April 2015


From Canon Michael Bourdeaux

Sir, - Your report "WCC consults on humanitarian aid for Ukraine" (News, 27 March) fails to make clear the incredibly complicated situation of the "Orthodox Church" in Ukraine.

In fact, it is deeply divided between the Moscow Patriarchate, Kiev Patriarchate, and Autocephalous Orthodox; so the reference to "62 per cent of respondents" as saying that "they trusted the Church" is problematical. Which Church?

The churches under the Moscow Patriarchate may be canonical, as Bishop Christopher Hill says, but they are themselves divided: do they take their instructions from Patriarch Kirill in Moscow or not? Then the uncanonical (that is, "unrecognised" by the Patriarchate of Constantinople) Kiev Patriarchate commands the fierce loyalty of some, but has its own deep-seated problems dating back to its formation at the beginning of the 1990s.

The Autocephalous Orthodox Church is, at present, a tiny minority, but originated in the years of Ukraine's first brief independence after the 1917 Revolution, after which it was suppressed until Ukraine achieved independence.

One wonders what the delegation from the World Council of Churches discovered about the persecution of the Protestant churches in the Russian-occupied areas of Ukraine or about the suppression of the rights of the Crimean Tatars in the Crimea.

This may all sound too complicated for the non-specialist to take on board, but it is critically important for the future of Ukraine - and therefore for European security. There is, however, a chance for anyone interested to learn more. There is a consultation, with many speakers from Ukraine, at Lambeth Palace on Tuesday 28 April from 10 to 5. Although places are limited, there may be still some availability by registering with the following address: alyssa@missioneurasia.org.

Subsequently, there will be a report on the event to be widely circulated.

Michael Bourdeaux

101 Church Way, Iffley, Oxford OX4 4EG

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