Staunton, January 6 – More than 40 parishes which had been subordinate to the Moscow Patriarchate’s church in Ukraine have chosen to change their affiliation to the autocephalous Orthodox Church of Ukraine, but so far all of those have been in the west or central regions of the country rather than in the historically ethnically Russian regions in the east, Radio Liberty reports.
Four Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate congregations have made the change in affiliation in Lviv, four in Khelmnitsky, three in Chernovitsy, two in Ternopol, and two in Volhynia, all in the west. Twenty in Vinnnitsa oblast have done so as well (radiosvoboda.org/a/news-gromady-perekhodiat-u-pcu-infografika/29691750.html).
In addition, four communities in central Ukraine have made the shift: two in Cherkassk, one in Kyiv, and one in Dneprpetrovsk. But in the eastern portion of Ukraine, RFE/RL reports, “not a single community of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate has declared its desire to shift to the Orthodox Church of Ukraine.
This pattern is not unexpected: parishioners in the western and central portions of Ukraine are more likely to be nationalistically inclined and thus respond to the autocephaly declaration by making a change, while those in the east are less nationalist historically and thus less likely to take the lead in this regard.
In the short term, that may exacerbate ethnic tensions and make the two churches more “nationalist” than would otherwise be the case, something that both the religious and secular authorities will have to watch out for lest the Russian side exploit this division to trigger ethno-religious conflicts as many in Moscow have threatened to do.