January 7, 2019


If by chance someone has not been following the events in Ukraine over that last few months, they will be surprised to learn that an extraordinary series of historic events have been taking place. No, we are not talking about Russia's continuing occupation of Crimea or the ongoing war in the eastern provinces waged by Moscow-supported military forces. That is the tragic background to some other extremely hopeful events. The major unconnected jurisdictions of the Orthodox Church in Ukraine has united into one Orthodox Church of Ukraine! This was seemingly advanced in a manner that one finds while reading ancient Church history... a patriarch in collaboration with a benevolent civil ruler, and others, see to a just and joyful resolution of a longstanding church dispute (some would say injustice) that ultimately brings followers of Christ together in the unity for which our Lord so fervently prayed before sacrificing Himself for us His People (John 17:21)

His Holiness Bartholomew, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, through a long process of study and research and exploratory meetings, involving various delegations and many discussions... announced that he would recognize the Orthodox Church in Ukraine as an autocephalous Church. This something quite akin to what Eastern Catholic canon law refers to as sui iuris Church. That is - a self-governing Church that enjoys its own unique "liturgical, theological, spiritual and disciplinary patrimony, culture and circumstances of history [as] a distinct people, by which its own manner of living the faith is manifested" (CCEO 28) while still remaining an integral part of the whole universal Church of Christ.

It is truly a extremely joyous occasion! It may take some time for it all to sink into the minds and hearts of all interested parties. We have become so used to the Church being split into hundreds of factions (and even factions within the factions) that the accomplishment that Ukrainians and all people of goodwill celebrated in Kyiv on their Christmas day - January 7th - may have missed our attention. Yes, millions of Christians that were divided into at least three jurisdictions have united together to be one Church in their country! Oh certainly there are those that will resist and will even try to undermine the God-blessed reunification. However, for most followers of Christ throughout the world it is a happy day it is a day of hope! Because, it is a sign that even in these 'latter days', divisions that seem to preclude any possibility of reconciling alienated "siblings" can be overcome. It is a sign that long-accepted injustices can be righted. It is sign that the Lord's Holy Will.... will be done.

Here is a video of the first united Christmas Divine Liturgy at the historic Cathedral of Holy Sophia at the heart of Ukraine's Capital City Kyiv. It is in Ukrainian, but the enthusiasm and joy comes through in any language.

The Head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, His Beatitude Sviatoslav, congratulates the new Head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Ukraine: His Beatitude Epiphanij

To His Beatitude Epiphanij

Metropolitan of Kyiv and all Ukraine

Your Beatitude!

Glory to Jesus Christ!

Personally and on behalf of the Synod of Bishops of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, I warmly congratulate you on the occasion of the end of the Unity Council, the fruit of which was the election of you to the Primate of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine. First of all, we are grateful to the Lord who has blessed the participants of this, without exaggeration, an important event that will enter the history of independent Ukraine as a great God's gift on the way to the complete unity of the Churches of Volodymyr's Baptism.

We have all witnessed how the Lord, through the power and deeds of the Holy Spirit, in cooperation with your good will, heals the wounds of church divisions and enmity, giving opportunity to reconcile with our brother in Christ. Before the face of the Kyiv Oranta, the patron saint of our long-suffering and God-loving people, you passed the exam of faithfulness to the Christ's commandment of the unity of thought, testifying the desire to "have one heart and one soul" (see Acts 4, 32).

There is a lot of work ahead of you, but I believe that the Lord will "bless the work of His hands," and we will soon see the good fruits of your archpastoral ministry. I pray that the process of uniting Orthodox communities under your pretense would be marked by brotherly love and constant memory about the good of our people.

"How good and pleasant it is when God's people live together in unity!" (Ps. 133, 1). These important words of David's psalmist are for us, the Churches of Volodymyr's baptism, which were born in the font of the Dnieper waters, a task for further common life. We live in one liturgical heritage, from the depths of beauty and God-inspired wisdom we draw spiritual strength. Even today, we are not in full eucharistic communion, but are called to jointly overcome the obstacles that stand on the path to unity. This historic mission and the foundation of the future patriarchy of the united Kyivan Church were laid by even the glorious church men Peter Mohyla and Josyf Veliamyn Rutsky.

At this significant moment, I extend my hand on behalf of our Church to you and all the Orthodox brethren, offering you to begin our path to unity, to the truth. Because the future of the Church, our people and the Ukrainian independent European state depends on how we today will cherish unity and overcome what separates us. God is the one who unites us around us.

Let the newborn Savior, whose Christmas with great hope awaits every Christian soul, generously bless you and give you the strength and inspiration to fulfill His holy will, which is the salvation of all people.

I hope you, being confirmed in faith, supported by hope, active in love, under the care and patronage of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of our Savior, become good instruments in the hands of the Lord and skillfully use the gift that was given to you.

With prayer and assurance of cooperation for God's glory and the good of our Ukrainian people


Father and Head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church

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