Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church

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The Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church is the smallest of the "big three" Orthodox Churches in Ukraine (the others being the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate), and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Kievan Patriarchate)). The original UAOC was created in 1921, because of Ukraine's new found independence. With the new nation being created, many ethnic Ukrainian's living in Ukraine felt they needed an Autocephalous Orthodox Church. There have been about 3 different UAOC's in Ukraine.


In wake of the break up of the Russian Empire some national groups sought autonomy or autocephaly from Moscow. In 1921 an All-Ukraine Sobor (Synod) was called in Kiev, the Capital of the newly minted country of Ukraine, and the delegation created the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAOC). Because of the actions of the Sobor, the Sobor delegates had ordained Metropolitan Vasyl (Lypkivsky) as head of the Church. The UAOC was at that point independent of all other churches, and it claimed to haveobtained its autocephalous status a few years later in 1924 when Gregory VII, Patriarch of Constantinople, Ecumenical Patriarch, issued a tomos re-establishing the Kievan Metropolia. The responsibility of establishing a new Synod of Bishops was given to the Metropolitan-Archbishop of Warsaw, Dionisij Waledynskyj.

However, the Ukrainian nation did not last for very long, and eventually the USSR came into being. The Soviet's were openly atheist and Russification was being introduced throughout the USSR. The Soviet government persecuted the UAOC (for being Orthodox, and for being Ukrainian); and the Russian Orthodox Church also prevented the UAOC from establishing their ecclesiastical order for some time. Eventually, the UAOC was erased.

During World War II, the Orthodox and Ukrainian's were not being pursecuted due to the war (Ukraine was a battleground inbetween the German and Soviet Army's). On October 8, 1942 Archbishop Nikanor and Bishop Mstyslav of the UAOC and Metropolitan Oleksiy (Hromadsky) of the Ukrainian Autonomous Orthodox Church entered into an Act of Union at the Pochayiv (Pochaev) Lavra uniting these two church hierarchies. German occupation authorities and pro-Russian hierarchs of the Autonomous Church convinced Metropolitan Oleksiy to withdraw his signature. Metropolitan Oleksiy was executed in Volynia on May 7, 1943 by UPA (Ukrainian Insurgent Army) insurgents.

The Russian Orthodox Church regained its general monopoly after World War II in the Ukrainian SSR. Most of the other churches were forced out as the Soviet government only recognized the Moscow Patriarchate, revived at the time of the Russian Revolution, as the only legitimate church in most of the Soviet Union. Many accused it of being a puppet of the Communist Party. After the suspicious death of Tikhon of Moscow these autocephalic Churches sought to remain independent; something that Moscow tolerated until after World War Two when many Ukrainian Orthodox clergy not affiliated with Moscow fled to Germany or the United States. The UAOC in Ukraine was then liquidated by the Soviets with the assistance of the Moscow Patriarchate. Any UAOC hierarchs or clergy who remained in Ukraine and refused to join the Russian Church were executed or sent to concentration camps. A few years later the same thing happened to the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in Western Ukraine (Galicia) and Transcarpathia.

Re-gaining the state recongnition in the late 1980s, the Church was initially ruled from abroad by Patriarch Mstyslav and then following his death in 1993 re-established itself as an independent church, following the brief union with the UOC-KP.

Geographically the church operates almost exclusively in the western Galcian provinces with minute support elsewhere. The church used to have a lot of parishes abroad in the Ukrainian emigre communities in Canada and in the United States. However, these parishes now form the separate churches (whom are now under the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople), the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA. There is a parish of the church in Canberra, Australia.


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