Today marks three years since Ukraine has gained its own independent Church, and it has been just over 30 years since Ukraine de jure won back its independence from the Russian Empire, which at the time was called the Soviet Union.
However, in fact, our state today is forced to continue the fight for its own sovereignty, repelling both Moscow’s territorial encroachments and the Kremlin’s efforts to expand its malign influence on the minds and souls of Ukrainians.
One of Russia’s main allies in Ukraine was and remains a religious organization that is structurally part of the Moscow Patriarchate – the Russian Orthodox Church in Ukraine, or the so-called UOC-MP. And as soon as Russia launched its armed aggression against Ukraine, resulting in the occupation of Crimea and parts of Luhansk and Donetsk regions, being actively supported by the clergy of the Moscow Patriarchate in Ukraine, the question immediately arose: “What are the actual grounds for Ukraine’s spiritual life to be ruled from Moscow?”
However, it would be fair to say that this isn’t the first time this question has been raised.
As Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I rightly remarked: “The topic of Ukrainian autocephaly has not emerged recently. It was founded many decades ago and there have always been efforts of the Ukrainian people to gain their Local Autocephalous Orthodox Church. ”
But despite the will of Ukrainians to have their own Autocephalous Church, Moscow’s efforts to maintain influence over Ukrainian Orthodoxy have only intensified. After the UOC-KP, UAOC, and part of the UOC-MP merged into a single Local Orthodox Church of Ukraine, the Kremlin made considerable efforts to retain control over parishes that had not yet dared to join the OCU.
Immediately after the Unification Council, a wave of transitions of ROC parish to OCU was observed. This greatly frightened the Putin regime, as the prospect of losing Ukraine forever from their sphere of influence became ever acute.
The Kremlin has allocated enormous funds, deployed their smartest agents of influence to Ukraine, and hired crowds of armed thugs, colloquially called “titushkas,” to taunt and deter most priests and bishops with the Moscow Patriarchate from leaving ranks.
Nevertheless, courageous priests and believers of the ROCinU, are not giving up, pursuing their efforts to eventually become part of the OCU and get out of Moscow’s grip in the face of the ROCinU, the organization permeated by Russian intelligence assets.
Let us recall the words of His All-Holiness Bartholomew I, who said he was aware, how many parishes of the ROC in Ukraine were converting for the Autocephalous Church.
“This shows that autocephaly is strengthening, expanding, that people seek to have their own independent Church, that they don’t want to depend on Russia. And political relations between Russia and Ukraine are very tense now. It (the Ukrainian nation – ed.) wants to have its own Local Church and not depend on Moscow. That is why they (parishes of the Russian Orthodox Church – ed.) are gradually joining the Autocephalous Church,” said Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I.
And together with the Autocephalous Ukrainian Church, the Independent State of Ukraine continues to shape up. Step by step, defending its sovereignty, territory, and spiritual independence, Ukraine on the third anniversary of the Unification Council reminds the Russian Empire and declares to the world that it is on the path to democracy and progress, refusing to return to Moscow’s yolk.