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Expert examination: UOC maintains ecclesiastical, canonical ties with Russian Orthodox Church, remains its structural unit

The amendments to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church's statute adopted in May 2022 did not lead to the severance of ties with the Russian Church.

Expert examination: UOC maintains ecclesiastical, canonical ties with Russian Orthodox Church, remains its structural unit
Photo: Facebook/UOC Information Centre

The religious expertise concluded that the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) continues to maintain ecclesiastical and canonical ties with the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC).

Adopted after the outbreak of a full-scale war, the new version of the UOC's statute on governance and the resolution of the Council did not lead to a break between the UOC and the Russian Orthodox Church, according to the conclusion of the study published on the website of the State Service for Ethnic Policy and Freedom of Conscience.

"The status of the UOC as a structural unit of the Russian Orthodox Church, which enjoys certain rights of independence but does not form an autocephalous Church, remains unchanged," the conclusions say.

The experts also concluded that "the UOC in relation to the ROC has an ecclesiastical canonical connection of the part with the whole. The relations of the UOC with the ROC are not the relations of one independent (autocephalous) church with another independent autocephalous church. The UOC also does not have the status of an autonomous church that would be recognized by other churches, and, therefore, from the point of view of ecclesiology and canon law, it is a structural unit of the ROC that has separate rights of an independent entity without its own canonical subjectivity."

"The current activity or inactivity of the highest church authorities and governing bodies of the UOC indicates that the UOC continues to be in a relationship of subordination to the ROC. It does not act as an independent (autocephalous) church and does not proclaim its own independence (autocephaly). The members of the Expert Group did not find any documents or actions that would indicate the transformation of the UOC into a religious organization independent of the ROC," the experts noted.

In May 2022, the UOC at a council condemned the war in Ukraine, declared "full autonomy and independence", and expressed disagreement with the position of Russian Patriarch Kirill. However, the text of the amended statute has not been publicly released.

During Russia's full-scale attack on Ukraine, SBU investigators repeatedly found pro-Russian propaganda materials justifying the war in the hands of UOC clergy. Some church leaders were also found to own Russian passports.

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