Saturday, March 30, 2019

Kyiv Says 506 Churches have Shifted from Moscow Church; Moscow Says Only 61 Have

Paul Goble

            Staunton, March 29 – Since the Ukrainian Orthodox Church was formed and granted autocephaly by the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople last year, both it and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate agree that a number of churches have shifted their allegiance from the Moscow church to the Ukrainian one.  But they disagree as to how many.

            A month ago, the UOC said that 340 parishes had shifted their allegiance, while the Moscow church said only 36 had (  Now Moscow acknowledges that the number which have shifted has increased to 61; but the UOC says that 506 have done so (

            The Ukrainian figures are almost certainly closer to the mark – too many journalists are checking these reports for them to be off by as much as Moscow claims – and that means that four months into the process, one of every 24 churches formerly subordinate to Moscow in Ukraine is now part of the autocephalous church.

            Given the enormous share of ROC MP churches which is in Ukraine and given Moscow’s desire to muddy the waters so that no one will be certain as to exactly how fast this process is going or at least will always cite the Moscow figures along with the Kyiv ones in the name of “objectivity,” the Russian church has every reason to understate the numbers.

            That will become even more the case when the number shifting from Moscow to Kyiv has reached a tipping point in the regions. When a certain critical number of churches has changed allegiance, others follow at a rapid rate – and that tipping point is now within reach in many but not yet all of Ukraine’s oblasts.

            As a result, it is important to keep track of these developments on the two competing maps, not because the Moscow figures are accurate but because they will be used by the Russian government to try to undercut Ukraine given that Moscow recognizes that most of the Western journalists who cover Ukraine do so from Moscow rather than Kyiv.

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