What Rights Does the Ukrainian Orthodox Church Really Have?

On November 26, we published the article “’Can’t you see that you’re being deceived!’ The Ukrainian Church of Moscow Patriarchate has MORE freedoms than certain other Autocephalous Churches” by Fr. Nicholai Danilevich, the Deputy Head of the Department for External Church Relations of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, in which he demonstrates that the canonical, autonomous Ukrainian Orthodox Church is more free than certain autocephalous Local Churches.

Additionally, in connection with the numerous speculations about the independence of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church from the Russian, the Diocese of Gorlovka and Slavyansk of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church has published the documents that fix its status and freedoms, which we present here:

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Resolution of the Bishops’ Council of the Russian Orthodox Church, October 25-27, 1990, On the Ukrainian Orthodox Church

On October 25-27, 1990, at the extraordinary session of the Bishops’ Council of the Russian Orthodox Church, a decision was made in regard to the appeal of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church on the granting to it of independence and autonomy in administration.

Having carefully studied and thoroughly discussed the request of the Synod and episcopate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, the Bishops’ Council resolves:

1. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church is granted independence and autonomy in its administration.

2. In this regard, the name “Ukrainian Exarchate” is abolished.

3. The primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church is chosen by the Ukrainian episcopate and is blessed by His Holiness the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia.1

4. The primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church bears the title “Metropolitan of Kiev and All Ukraine.”

5. The Metropolitan of Kiev and All Ukraine adopts the title “His Beatitude” within the borders of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.2

6. The Metropolitan of Kiev and All Ukraine has the right to wear two Panagias and to bear the cross during the Divine services.3

7. The Synod of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church elects and appoints its ruling and vicar bishops and establishes and abolishes dioceses within the territory of Ukraine.

8. The Metropolitan of Kiev and All Ukraine, as the primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, is a permanent member of the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church.

9. The present resolution of the Bishops’ Council of the Russian Orthodox Church is subject to approval by the Local Council of the Russian Orthodox Church with the introduction of the corresponding changes to the statutes on the administration of the Russian Orthodox Church.

In 2000, the Jubilee Bishops’ Council of the Russian Orthodox Church adopted new statutes for the Russian Orthodox Church that reflect the special status of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. Point 17 of the 8th chapter of the statutes reads:

The Ukrainian Orthodox Church is self-governing with the rights of broad autonomy. In its life and activities, it is ruled by the tomos of the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia of 1990 and the statutes of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which are approved by its primate and approved by the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia.

The Local Council of the Russian Orthodox Church of 2009 ratified all the decisions of the Bishops’ Councils made from 1990 to 2008, including those cited above.

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Gramota of Alexei II, by the grace of God Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, to Metropolitan Philaret of Kiev and All Ukraine

On Sunday, October 28, 1990, during the Divine Liturgy at the Cathedral of St. Sophia in Kiev, Patriarch Alexei II of Moscow and All Russia presented a gramota to Metropolitan Philaret of Kiev and All Ukraine, reading:

We, the humble Alexei II, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia by the grace of God, together with all the Right Reverend bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate, gathered at the Bishops’ Council on October 25-27, 1990 at Danilovsky Monastery in the God-saved city of Moscow, guided by the desire to have blessed peace, God-ordained love for Christ, and fraternal unity in the common work in God’s field with the entire plenitude of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, taking into account the desire and petition to it of the Right Reverend archpastors gathered on July 9 of this year, 1990, in the God-saved city of Kiev for the discussion and resolution of their Church life on the principles of independence and autonomy, we bless through our present gramota by the power of the All-Holy and Life-Giving Spirit for the Ukrainian Orthodox Church to be henceforth independent and autonomous in its administration, and to you, unanimously elected on July 9, 1990 by the episcopate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church—its primate, we hope that the Ukrainian Orthodox Church will be governed in accordance with the Divine and sacred canons and the customs inherited from the holy fathers of the Catholic Orthodox Church and the resolutions of this Bishops’ Council. With one heart and one mouth, we pray to the Supreme Shepherd the Lord to send down from Heaven His help and blessing to the holy Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

May the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, united through our Russian Orthodox Church with the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, change nothing concerning the dogmas of faith and the sacred canons without the conciliar decision of the entire Orthodox Catholic fullness.

May the Creative, Almighty, and Life-Giving Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit ever strengthen the holy Ukrainian Orthodox Church, and crown it with glory and honor and bless its existence for the salvation of its pious fullness.

Signed in the city of Moscow October 27, 1990
ALEXEI, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia

***

At the Bishops’ Council of the Russian Orthodox Church of November 29-December 2, 2017, in order to avoid speculation aimed at undermining the authority of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the eyes of millions of Ukrainians, amendments were introduced into the statues of the Russian Orthodox Church. The provisions relating to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church were allocated a separate chapter and the statues of the Russian Orthodox Church were brought into accordance with the decision of the Bishops’ Council of the Russian Orthodox Church on October 25-27, 1990, and with the de facto state of affairs. The new chapter reads:

Chapter Ten of the Statutes of the Russian Orthodox Church, concerning the Ukrainian Orthodox Church:

1. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church is self-governing with the rights of broad autonomy.

2. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church was granted independence and autonomy in its administration in accordance with the resolution of the Bishops’ Council of the Russian Orthodox Church of October 25-27, 1990, “On the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.”

3. In its life and activity, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church is guided by the 1990 resolution of the Bishops’ Council of the Russian Orthodox Church “On the Ukrainian Orthodox Church,” the gramota of the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia of 1990 and the statutes of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which are approved by its primate and by the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia.

4. The bodies of Church authority and administration of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church are its Council and Synod, headed by its primate bearing the title “His Beatitude the Metropolitan of Kiev and All Ukraine.” The center of administration of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church is located in the city of Kiev.

5. The primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church is chosen by the Ukrainian episcopate and is blessed by His Holiness the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia.4

6. The name of the primate is commemorated in all churches of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church after the name of the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia.

7. The bishops of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church are elected by its Synod.

8. The decision to establish or abolish dioceses belonging to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and on the determining of their territorial boundaries is taken by its Synod with subsequent approval by the Bishops’ Council.

9. The bishops of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church are members of the Local and Bishops’ Council and participate in its work in accordance with sections II and III of the current statues and in the sessions of the Holy Synod.

10. The decisions of the Local and Bishops’ Councils are obligatory for the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

11. The decisions of the Holy Synod are effective in the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, taking into account the peculiarities determined by the independent nature of its administration.

12. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church has its own supreme ecclesiastical court authority. In this regard, the court of the Bishops’ Council is the ecclesiastical court of the highest instance for the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

Within the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, such canonical reprisals as a lifetime ban from serving, deposition from sacred orders, and excommunication from the Church are imposed by the diocesan hierarch with subsequent approval by the Metropolitan of Kiev and All Ukraine and the Synod of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

13. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church receives holy Chrism from the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia.

Translated by Jesse Dominick

The Diocese of Gorlovka and Slavyansk

11/29/2018

1 As Fr. Nicholai notes in the article mentioned above, the Patriarch automatically blesses whomever the Ukrainian bishops choose.—Trans.

2 “His Beatitude” is a term reserved for Church primates, including Patriarchs, Metropolitans, and Archbishops. Metropolitans and Archbishops who are not primates are known as “His Eminence.”—Trans.

3 This is a right usually afforded to the primate of a Church.—Trans.

4 See note 1.

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