Mstyslav (Skrypnyk) of Kiev

From OrthodoxWiki
Jump to: navigation, search

Patriarch Mstyslav, secular name Stepan Ivanovych Skrypnyk (b. 10 April 1898 - d. 11 June 1993), was a prominent Ukrainian Orthodox Church hierarch (including being the first Hierarch of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada, being one of the Metropolitan's of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the USA, and becoming the first Patriarch of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church.

Early Life

Born in Poltava (Russian Empire, now Ukraine) Stepan Skrypnyk was the nephew of Symon Petlura a prominent Ukrainian military and political figure. Skrypnyk attended the Poltava First Classical Gymnazium and was dreaming of the military career through his youth. During the Great War years he studied at the Officers' school in Orenburg located in the Russian Ural mountains.

Following the 1917 Russian Revolution Skrypnyk became a diplomatic courier for the army of the first Ukrainian state in the modern history, the Ukrainian People's Republic. He then served as first sergeant for special missions for Petlura, his famous uncle.

In the early 1920's he was interned by Poland to an internment camp in Kalisz. Later, he briefly settled in Volhynia but had to leave under the pressure of the Polish authorities. He then moved to Galicia and became an activist for the Ukrainian movement in Poland which controlled the enthnically Ukrainian territories of Galicia and Volhynia between the world wars. Following his attendance of the Warsaw School of Political Sciences he was elected in 1930 to the Polish Sejm from the Ukrainian population of Volhynia. Serving in Sejm until 1939 Skrypnyk attained the reputation of the defender of the Ukrainian minority rights in Poland, especially of the Orthodox Faith in the predominantly Orthodox Volhynia against the assimilationist policies of Polish authorities.

In the beginning of the Second World War, the Ukrainian life in some Nazi-occupied territories of Poland initially experienced a significant degree of revival[1] as the Nazi policies played with pitting the ethnical groups with historically complicated relationship against each other, giving an upper hand to Poles or Ukrainians in different regions as the Nazis saw fit.


When the Ukrainian Committee and the Temporary Church Council was formed in Cholm (Chelm), Skrypnyk was elected a council deputy head (1940). In April 1942 Skrypnyk, by then a widower, entered the priesthood. He took monastic vows in the following month and soon after was ordained (May 14) as the bishop Mstyslav of Pereiaslav by the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAOC). The ordainment took place in the famous Church of St Andrew in Kiev.

In August, 1942, the German occupational authorities banned Mstyslav from Kiev General-Governorate. As Mstyslav disobeyed the order, he was arrested in Rivne. On Gestapo accusations he spent half a year imprisoned in Chernihiv and Pryluky. He was freed in Spring 1943 but was ordered not to leave Kiev and banned from conducting the religious services.

In 1944 he moved to Warsaw and later to Germany where he was the head of the Ukrainian Orthodox eparchies in Hessen and Wurtemberg. In 1947 he left for Canada where he was elected the first hierarch of the Ukrainian Greek Orthodox Church (now known as the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada) as an archbishop of Winnipeg. In 1949 he resigned as bishop.

The Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA

In 1949 he also became the metropolitan of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the USA. At the 1949 Council in New York he succeeded in bringing about unification with the eparchy of Bishop Ioan Teodorovych, who became Metropolitan of the UOC of USA. Bishop Mstyslav became his deputy and the head of the consistory. In the US, Bishop Mstyslav began extensive church activity with the Ukrainian Orthodox Center, a publishing house, library and seminary being built in South Bound Brook, New Jersey. In 1969 his authority was extended over the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Churches of Europe and Australia. During his meetings with Ecumenical Patriarch in 1963 and 1971 he brought up the issue of the canonical recognition of the Ukrainian Diaspora churches (UAOC was banned in the USSR, and hence in Soviet Ukraine at that time).


In 1990 he returned to Ukraine where at his age of 92 he was elected the first Patriarch of Kiev and all Ukraine of the UAOC following its controversial and short-lived union with the recently proclaimed Ukrainian Orthodox Church - Kiev Patriarchy. He was enthroned as Patriach Mstyslav on November 6, 1990.

As the status of the new church as well as the overall situation with the Orthodox faith in Ukraine became a subject of the wide controversy, following the 1991 attainment of the Ukrainian independence (and continued to this day, see History of Christianity in Ukraine), the newly elected ailing patriarch was unable to alleviate any of the problems. He soon died (June 11, 1993) while back in Canada at the age of 95 and was buried in the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the USA center in Bound Brook, New Jersey.

He was succeeded in UAOC by Patriarch Dymytriy (Yarema) while the Church matters and unity remain largely in disarray. The issue of repatriating Mstyslav's relics to Ukraine are occasionally raised but no firm plans are set in motion to this day.