Staunton, Mar. 12 – Whatever happens on the battlefield, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate is finished in Ukraine, with a majority of its current followers saying they favor breaking ties with Moscow and a group of UOC MP priests urging their leadership to convene a council to formally break ties with the Moscow Patriarchate.
Sixty-three percent of Ukrainians overall favor an end to links between the UOC MP and Moscow, and even among parishioners of that church, a majority of its believers back doing so, according to a new poll by the Rating Group, with only ten percent saying they oppose that step (ratinggroup.ua/files/ratinggroup/reg_files/rg_ua_1200_ua_10032022____press.pdf and rus.lb.ua/society/2022/03/10/508923_bolee_polovini_prihozhan_upts.html).
Those results in turn have encouraged a large group of priests of the UOC MP to appeal to its head, Metropolitan Onufriy, to convene a council and withdraw from the Moscow Patriarchate. The priests said this was the only possible answer to Moscow Patriarch Kirill’s support of Putin’s war in Ukraine (rus.lb.ua/society/2022/03/02/507647_svyashchenniki_upts_mp_prizvali_onufriya.html).
If the leadership of the UOC MP takes that step and there is every reason to expect it do unless Moscow succeeds in occupying the country and holding the Russian church there its captive, the Moscow Patriarchate’s presence in Ukraine will collapse and its standing in world Orthodoxy will as well.
At present, the UOC MP has more parishes than the Ukrainian Orthodox Church which has been autocephalous since 2019, but with the withdrawal of the UOC MP from Moscow, that will likely change overnight, with those priests and hierarchs who have remained within Moscow’s orbit up to now shifting allegiance of the UOC.
That will make the UOC the dominant denomination in Ukraine and second only to the Russian Federation in terms of the number of parishes. Nearly half of all ROC MP parishes are now in Ukraine, and about half of its hierarchs as well. That will humiliate Moscow Patriarch Kirill personally and wreck his plans to make Moscow the center of world Orthodoxy.
It will also go a long way to discredit the entire Putin notion of a Russian world, a category he has consistently defined in linguistic and religious terms. With the end of a Moscow Patriarchate church in Ukraine, Russia will not have a significant religious presence abroad anywhere except in Belarus; and it may not be able to hold that if Ukraine leaves.
On Belarus and pressure for autocephaly in that country despite Lukashenka’s alliance with Putin, see windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2021/08/moscow-increasingly-worried-about.html and windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2021/06/orthodoxy-in-belarus-moving-toward.html.
On the possibility that such moves could trigger a loss of Moscow’s control over Orthodox churches elsewhere in the former Soviet space and even within the Russian Federation, see windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2020/10/another-nail-in-coffin-of-moscow.html and windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2022/03/orthodox-christian-tatars-need-their.html).
And on the impact of what is taking place in Ukraine beyond the borders of the former Soviet space on Moscow’s relations with other Orthodox churches and with the inter-religious ecumenical movement, see jamestown.org/program/moscow-losing-church-war-in-ukraine-and-more-broadly/.