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On May 27, 2022, during the Council of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (UPC MP), which considered the issue of its existence in the conditions of military aggression of the Russian Federation against Ukraine, a resolution was adopted, the signatories of which “expressed disagreement” with the position of the head of the Russian Orthodox Church (RPC) Patriarch Kirill, who is called the “Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia”, and also adopted declarative additions and changes to the statute on the management of the UPC MP, which should certify its “complete autonomy and independence.”
Among other things, the resolution of the Council of the UPC MP stated that recently “a new pastoral challenge has arisen especially sharply”, which consisted of the fact that during the three months of the war, more than 6 million citizens of Ukraine were forced to leave abroad – mainly residents of the Southern, Eastern and Central regions of the country, a large part of which are believers of the UPC MP. It was stated that the Kyiv Metropolitanate receives appeals from various countries with requests to open Ukrainian Orthodox parishes. Therefore, the participants of the council expressed their deep conviction that the UPC MP “cannot leave its faithful without spiritual care” and should be with them “in their trials” and organize church communities in the diaspora, as well as “further develop the mission abroad among Orthodox Ukrainians for the preservation of their faith, culture, language and Orthodox identity.” It was a bit strange to hear such statements from representatives of the church, which during its three decades of existence in independent Ukraine has more than once strongly opposed the Ukrainian language and manifestations of Ukrainian identity, trying with all its might to keep its congregation in the field of Russian “spiritual clutches.”
The signal was received – the UPC MP, which is “independent in theory” from Moscow, began “independent” activities to establish foreign relations. Thus, on June 3, 2022, the rector of the Kyiv Theological Academy and Seminary, Bishop Sylvester (Stoychev) of Belgorod, with the blessing of the head of the UPC MP, Metropolitan Onufriy (Berezovsky), met with the delegation of the bishops’ conference of Germany, which was headed by the bishop of
the Augsburg Diocese of the Roman Catholic Church in Germany, Bertram Mayer. This meeting was also attended by the Deputy Head of the Department of External Church Relations of the UPC MP, Archpriest Mykola Danylevich and Serhiy Bortnyk, a translator from the same department.
During the meeting, the general situation in Ukraine and related “new pastoral challenges” for the UOC MP were discussed, outlined during the council on May 27, 2022. It should be noted that on the same day the delegation of the Bishops’ Conference of Germany also had a meeting with the Patriarch of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU) Metropolitan Epiphanius of Kyiv and All Ukraine.
Presently, Archpriest Mykola Danylevich, deputy head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, cited the number of Ukrainian citizens who had left the country at 7 million, and reported the forecasts of unnamed European officials that about 2.5–3 million of them will remain abroad. Therefore, the UPC MP decided to take care of their believers, who until recently could visit the churches of the ROC or the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia or (ROCOR) outside of Ukraine – and now, in view of the full-scale war of the Russian Federation against their country, it is obvious that they will not do this and will remain thus without care of the “single canonical church”. Currently, the UPC MP primarily involves its priests who are in different countries and works with them on the organization of foreign parishes – at the initiative of these priests or at the request of the faithful themselves, who unite in initiative groups of 20-30 people and apply to Metropolitan Onufriy with a request to open an Orthodox community in a city abroad and to send a priest. The only problem arises in the ban on men leaving Ukraine.
Since the beginning of the full-scale invasion of the Russian Federation into Ukraine, about 10 foreign communities of the UPC MP have been organized; approximately the same number were still in the process of organization. Among other things, Archpriest Mykola Danylevych added that the UOC MP has a principle of establishing its parishes only in those countries where there are no autocephalous Orthodox churches – in particular, in Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Spain, Portugal, France, etc. (in total, about 19 countries), and also not independently establishing their communities in Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Serbia, Romania, Albania and Greece, which are the canonical territories of local Orthodox churches (in Ukraine, the UOC MP considers itself to be the only such church). Some of the mentioned churches, according to Archpriest Danylevich, have already applied to the UPC MP with requests to send priests to their jurisdiction to take care of Ukrainian believers, or to allow the priests already present in the place to transfer to the local jurisdiction. He also noted that the question of a place for religious services has to be resolved elsewhere with the Catholic and Protestant communities that provide their church premises for use. At the same time, Danylevich added that priests of the UOC MP abroad should search for potential parishioners themselves. “Our communities are kind of like “spiritual embassies” abroad, it is also good work for Ukraine, for our people,” he said.
On June 12, 2022, with the blessing of Metropolitan Onufriy and at the request of local believers, the parish
of the UPC MP was opened in Denmark in honor of the Intercession of the Theotokos; Yevhen Martyniuk, a clergyman of the Kyiv diocese, was appointed its abbot.
On June 24, 2022, with the blessing of Metropolitan Onufriy and with the approval and blessing of Patriarch Porfirije of Serbian Orthodox Church, whose canonical jurisdiction Croatia belongs to, Andrii Ivanenko, a cleric of the Kyiv Diocese of the UPC MP, was sent to Croatia to take care of refugees from Ukraine. The place of regular service of the priest was determined to be the Chapel of Saint Sava of Serbia in the Serbian Orthodox Grammar School at 122 Sveti Duh Street in Zagreb; he also visited other cities throughout Croatia (Pakrac, Lipik, Daruvar, Visnica, etc.).
On June 26, 2022, with the blessing of Metropolitan Onufriy, the deputy head of the Department of external church relations of the UPC MP, Archpriest Mykola Danylevich visited the community of the UPC in Leipzig (Germany), created by citizens of Ukraine who were forced to leave Ukraine as a result of the Russian-Ukrainian war in the spring of 2022. The abbot of the community is Maksym Boichura. Regular services are held at: Ruckmardofter Strasse 13. This location cannot be found by an online search; however, judging by the available photos of the interior of the premises, the services take place in the premises of the Protestant church.
On July 10, 2022, the first religious service of the UPC MP religious community took place in Brussels (Belgium), where at that time there were more than 25 thousand refugees from Ukraine. Archpriest Dimitrii Popescu, a clergyman of the Kyiv diocese of the UPC MP, was appointed abbot of the community. The places of worship are the churches of the RCC at the addresses: Rue Baron Guillaume van Hamme 33, 1180, Uccle and Avenue Norbert Gilles 67, 1070, Anderlecht.
On July 10-11, 2022, Archpriest Mykolai Danylevich, with the blessing of Metropolitan Onufriy, visited refugees from Ukraine in the cities of Cork and Yol in Ireland, conducting a liturgy in the first city in the “temple room.”
It is sometimes reported there that the Russian Federation, with the help of religious communities under its influence, tries to influence personnel appointments in the Archdiocese of America, which is under the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. In particular, there was talk of a “storm of reactions,” to the archdiocese’s decision to appoint Archimandrite Oleksandr Belya, who was dismissed from the ROCOR in February 2020, to the position of vicar of the Slavic Orthodox Vicariate; earlier, the Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate appointed him to the post of bishop of Nicopolis.
At the same time, OCU is trying to increase its presence abroad. Thus, on July 5, its primate, Metropolitan Epiphanius of Kyiv and All Ukraine, spoke at a conference on freedom of religion in London. The next day, he visited the residence of the Metropolitanate of Thyateira of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, meeting with Archbishop Nikitas of Thyateira and Great Britain, who announced that the process of establishing additional Ukrainian Orthodox parishes throughout the United Kingdom had begun in the archdiocese. In particular, priest of the archdiocese Fr. Myroslav Pushkaruk traveled throughout the United Kingdom, offering spiritual, pastoral, and material support to Orthodox Ukrainians. The archdiocese emphasized that each Ukrainian Orthodox parish will preserve its identity, customs, language, calendar and traditions, while being part of the culturally diverse family of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the local archdiocese. On July 6, Metropolitan Epiphanius visited the Ukrainian Orthodox Ascension Cathedral in London, blessing the work of the parish volunteer center.
On July 13, the deputy head of the Department of External Church Relations of the OCU, Archbishop Evstratiy of Chernihiv and Nizhyn (Zorya), commented on the report that representatives of the OCU could allegedly meet in Germany with representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church at the assembly of the World Council of Churches. According to him, they learned about the intentions of the assembly organizers to invite representatives of the OCU and Russian Orthodox Church to a meeting in the Ukrainian church from media publications; until that time, no one had informed the OCU of such intentions.