Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Draft Tomos Gives Ukrainian Church Less Autonomy than It Hopes to Obtain

Paul Goble

            Staunton, December 5 – Ukrainian media have obtained a copy of a draft tomos that the Universal Patriarchate has prepared for delivery to a meeting of Ukrainian Orthodox Church now scheduled to take place on December 15. Because it was not officially released, it is likely that the document is still undergoing editing and may be significantly changed.

            Moreover, as few have pointed out, autocephaly is a process rather than a single action; and anything Constantinople grants is in fact the beginning of that process rather than the end of the game. Nonetheless, many in Ukraine and Russia are suggesting that at this point, Kyiv is getting less than it hoped for and that it will now be very much under Constantinople.

The Apostrophe news agency provides a list of the provisions of the document (  They include:
·         The head of the newly unified and self-standing Ukrainian Orthodox Church will be a metropolitan rather than a patriarch, a relatively lower status than most autocephalous Orthodox church heads have.

  • ·         The church will be governed by a synod consisting of 12 metropolitans who will rotate every 12 months rather than a more permanent holy synod.  And the church’s order will follow the book of order of the Greek churches.

  • ·         The Constantinople Patriarch will be “the informal head of the Orthodox Church in Ukraine” and the ultimate authority to whom religious there can appeal to resolve conflicts.

  • ·         The Ukrainian diaspora congregations and dioceses will be directly under Constantinople rather than in the autocephalous church in Kyiv, something that is in marked contrast to the powers of other autocephalous Orthodox churches.

  • ·         And the Ukrainian Orthodox Church will appeal to Constantinople on questions regarding the naming of new saints.

           Not surprisingly, Russian Orthodox commentators like Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin are treating this document as the final version – it isn’t – and as the last word about Ukrainian autocephaly – it isn’t that either. And they are saying that it represents a major defeat for Kyiv (

            To be sure, this draft is not everything the Ukrainian church would like or even expected. But it does give that church what it wants most: it establishes the principle that Ukraine must have its own national church and that that church must on no account be subordinate to the imperial diktat of Moscow. 

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