The Institute of Ecumenical Studies UCU presented its Analytical Study

2020-06-22 12:00

The text of the Analytical Report “Post-Tomos Ukraine: Historical Background, Ecumenical Opportunities and Challenges” in Ukrainian (The text is now being translated into English)

Due to the granting of autocephaly to the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, significant changes have taken place in the confessional field in Ukraine, which bring with them potential challenges and perspectives that open up in the sphere of inter-church affairs. Hence, the need to analyze the new situation emerged, especially through the prism of ecumenical relations.

The Report consists of three parts. The first analyzes the confessional background of Ukraine before and after Tomos in the light of sociological data; the relations between the Ukrainian denominations in the new circumstances are further presented, and an attempt is made to answer the question of how the confessional changes in Ukraine would affect the international level; the third part is devoted to the perspectives opened by the new confessional situation.

The moderator of the online presentation was Dmytro Gorevoy, a religious scholar and project manager at the Institute of Religion and Society UCU. The report was presented by IES’ researchers Taras Kurylets and Fr. Dr. Roman Fihas. The discussion was continued by Andriy Smirnov, Associate Professor of National University “Ostroh Academy”, Fr. Dr. Ihor Shaban, Head of the UGCC’ Commission on Interconfessional and Interreligious Relations, and Fr. Georgy Kovalenko, Rector of the Open Orthodox University of St. Sophia the Wisdom. Specialists and those interested in the religious situation in Ukraine joined the discussion.

During the presentation, Taras Kurylets emphasized the main conclusions of the study: most likely there will be no radical changes in the confessional field of Ukraine in the near future, so we need to get used to the fact that Ukraine will have two large canonical Orthodox Churches with different jurisdictions. The Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU) and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Moscow Patriarchate (UOC) will be forced to find a certain modus vivendi in Ukraine. This circumstance can become a source of interconfessional conflicts and enmity. However, if the good will of the two Ukrainian Churches is not lacking, then in time this situation could become, on the contrary, a source of understanding, reconciliation and cooperation.

As a result of the vicissitudes associated with receiving the Tomos, almost half of those who declared themselves Orthodox are a group of “mere Orthodox”, i.e. those who declare themselves Orthodox by religion, but without a clear confessional affiliation. The existence of such a group indicates a field for the future work of the Churches: we need to think how to involve this group into the church life.

Secularization in Ukraine is progressing, especially among young people, as recent statistics show, and we need to be prepared for the Church's influence in society to diminish. Ukrainian Churches must actively participate in solving urgent social problems, establish chaplaincy among students, and catechesis. Otherwise, they will face the inevitable marginalization.

In the relations between OCU and the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church (UGCC), after a period of mutual declarations of cooperation, there was a certain pause, which is connected first of all with the intensive process of internal development of the church structures of OCU. However, from ecumenical point of view, this is a promising field, and the mentioned Churches should not lose this chance, especially in the sphere of common service to society - in the “dialogue of charity”.

Since, the processes in the international inter-church environment depend to some extent from political processes, the recognition of OCU by both the world Orthodoxy and the world Christian community will depend on the establishment of the state of Ukraine in the international arena.

Fr. Roman Fihas noted that the value of the document lies in the analysis of multi-vector religious processes, that have taken place and continue to happen in the context of granting the Tomos of Autocephaly to OCU, from the ecumenical perspective of developing relations between Churches. The authors of the text tried not only to analyze the problems, that arise in the context of the religious landscape’s reformatting, but also to highlight the perspectives and new opportunities that open up for Ukrainian Christians.

In conclusion, Fr. Fihas added that we have an interesting religious situation in Ukraine, where none of the denominations can claim an absolute majority, thus dictating their will to other denominations. Diversity is a kind of gift that denominations have yet to learn to use, because it forces them to be more flexible and to be open for dialogue. Today, Ukrainian Christians have unique opportunities, that they did not have a decade earlier. If the Churches manage to draw the right conclusions, to move from rivalry to the creation of common projects and tasks, Ukraine could become a laboratory of ecumenism, where new opportunities will arise for the much-desired Christian unity.

The information partner of this event was the Religious Information Service of Ukraine (RISU).

You can watch the video of the event (In Ukrainian) here...