Staunton, Aug. 18 – Forty parishes of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate – often referred to as the Russian church in Ukraine -- have transferred to the autocephalous Ukrainian Orthodox Church since the start of start of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, according to Archpriest Nikolay Danilevich, deputy head of the UOC.
He says that 249 others have done so but in ways that violate church rules and of which 111 reflect a simple seizure of the churches by outside forces, actions that he describes as “anti-state activity” and as threatening Ukraine (spzh.news/ru/news/90174-v-upc-rasskazali-skolyko-obshhin-posle-nachala-vojny-dobrovolyno-ushli-v-pcu).
Danilevich also says that he sees no evidence that the number of those attending UOC churches is significantly higher than the number attending OCU churches, despite frequent claims by the OCU (spzh.news/ru/news/89970-v-pcu-v-10-raz-bolyshe-lyudej-chem-u-nas-posmotrite-na-pochajev--spiker-upc).
The UOC has broken with Moscow over the war; but because of its past and because it has not sought autocephaly or decided to join the OCU, many still view it as the “Russian” church in Ukraine and thus treat the question of the continued operation of its parishes and hierarchy as a threat.
At the same time, the numbers Danilevich cites should be treated with caution. Under UOC MP rules, the shift in allegiance by parishes is a complex process; and consequently, at least some of the transfers he describes as forced or the result of seizures are no more than the actions of committed congregants.
But what is perhaps most significant is that the shift in parishes from one church to the other has become so large that the hierarchy of the UOC MP has felt compelled to address it statistically and not merely anecdotally. The OCU is certain to reply and give its own and likely more reliable statistics in the coming days.