Sunday, December 4, 2022

Kyiv Moves to Ban Moscow Church Operations in Ukraine but Faces an Obstacle of Unknown Size

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Dec. 3 – Since the Orthodox Church of Ukraine acquired autocephaly and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate declared itself administratively separate from Moscow, there have been three Orthodox churches in Ukraine, those two and a third without a name consisting of Orthodox who were part of the UOC MP but remain loyal to Moscow.

            Now, because many Ukrainians do not believe that the UOC MP’s declaration of independence from Moscow and its condemnation of the invasion are real, Kyiv is moving to ban its operations in Ukraine, a step Ukrainian officials hope will lead many of its followers to shift to the autocephalous OCU but may drive some at least into the underground.

            At present, the UOC MP is the largest Orthodox church in Ukraine in terms of the number of bishoprics and congregations, but the UOC may already be larger because its congregations are bigger and because UOC MP congregations have changed affiliation. What is not known yet is how many of the UOC MP members will refuse to make such a change.

            Exactly how that plays out is likely to determine how far Kyiv will go. What has happened so far, a directive by President Volodmyr Zelenskyy to come up with an action plan within two months and raids by Ukrainian security services on UOC MP properties and the seizure of several of them suggests the Ukrainian authorities are committed to an ultimate ban.

            But how far they will go in suppressing a branch of Orthodoxy many of whose followers remain pro-Moscow at a time of a Russian war against Ukraine and who thus represent a real or potential fifth column Moscow could use against Kyiv is likely to depend on how many UOC MP followers go into some kind of catacomb church.

            There, they would be even more subject to Moscow’s influence and thus potentially an even greater danger than they are when they are operating in the open as now. (Concerning what has happened on this issue, see, and

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