A CALL TO ACTION



His Beatitude, Metropolitan Stephan, Primate of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church in the United States of America (Sobornopravna) has called for all Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Churches in the Diaspora to unite, in order to save the principles of "sobornopravnist" on which these churches were founded.

In an interview, Vladyka Stephan stated that "it is vital to have One Holy Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Ukraine, but this should be done without the intervention of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople" based in Istanbul, Turkey.

"The reason that there have been so many problems in America has been due to portions of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church joining Constantinople. This has created much unrest in our churches in the Diaspora and now Constantinople is involved in our Motherland. This will only create many more splits," His Beatitude commented.

It is the opinion of Metropolitan Stephan and many others in the United States that if the mother church in Ukraine, the Kyiv Patriarchate, will at any point be ruled by the Ecumenical Patriarchate, then nothing will have been gained and that what happened in the past here will only be perpetuated.

The Metropolitan continued, "It is time to save our sobornopravna churches and to save our identity as Ukrainians. It is self-evident that we in the United States need not have permission from Ukraine to save our churches. Our parishes in America have been misled by statements from Ukraine, that were made in the past and now have been found to be untrue. We have waited very patiently here in the Diaspora for several years now, hoping that a resolution would be made and unity would have taken place. Now, with all of the intervention of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the possibility of union with Constantinople in Ukraine, it is of no value to any of us here, who wish to continue our sobornopravna church in the Diaspora."

During the past several months, there has been much speculation as to the situation in Ukraine between both the UOC-KP and the UAOC on the one hand and the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople and the Moscow Patriarchate, on the other. This has caused much dismay for faithful Ukrainian Orthodox in America, and perhaps what has upset them the most is the fact of their complete disclusion from the entire scenario. Those who sacrificed much to be supportive of the struggle for a free church in Ukraine have now been referred to as "foreigners" and shut out of the process.

The silence on the part of church leaders in Ukraine or vague comments made through the international press have only caused more displeasure on the part of Ukrainian Orthodox parishioners in the United States. To add further chaos to the whole situation, the administration of the UOC-KP has chosen to only include certain individuals or groups of individuals in knowledge of any new developments in Ukraine and has made statements aimed at damaging the opinion of certain dedicated leaders and adding to the intrigue that already exists. This attempt at character assassination is unfortunately so typical in the church and usually comes from a sense of fear or threat that people who are ambitious worry about. In fact, it is this very type of weak human action that those committing them usually accuse others of. Despicable, really there is no other word for it. From the start, there has also been the highly irregular situation of placing a priest that does not have the episcopal dignity (who is not a bishop), in charge of administering parishes, while an highly respected Archbishop of the UOC-KP, living in North America, was not given Ordinary jurisdiction over all of the churches that belong to the Patriarchate. Now, the God-loving Archbishop may soon even leave the Patriarchate. Who could blame him? There is something gravely wrong with this picture.

It is now up to all of us, who wish to remain as a sobornopravna church to act in our best interest in America, and unite as one sobornopravna church, without the intervention of any hierarchy in Ukraine. We will not seek any blessings nor permission from those who have their own personal interest in mind, to be involved in uniting our Ukrainian churches, for the people rule the churches and it is the voice of each of you that counts. The voice of the people only, can unite and save us as one sobornopravna church here in America. We no longer will wait for false hope. It is long overdue that we now move on and continue as one.
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". . . the people rule the churches and it is the voice of each of you that counts. The voice of the people only, can unite and save us as one sobornopravna church here in America." - Metropolitan Stephan -
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The Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church in the USA has existed for many years. After the death of our first Primate, Metropolitan Hryhorij Ohijchuk, who was one of the original bishops of the UAOC from the 1942 episcopacy, the same group of hierarchs that included the late Patriarch Mystyslav, the leadership of our church continued under Metropolitan Andrei Prazsky, who was elected by the synod of the UAOC to succeed Metropolitan Hryhorij Ohijchuk, while the Metropolitan was still alive, in order to assure the continuation of the sobornopravna jurisdiction. Metropolitan Andrei died prematurely in 1990 and he was succeeded by the very capable Metropolitan Alexis, who continues to this day, to be active in our Metropolia. Metropolitan Stephan, present primate of the jurisdiction has continued to reawaken interest from and service to, the Ukrainian community, so that the church can remain a vital part of the Ukrainian Diaspora for years to come. However, in the years after the death of Metropolitan Hryhorij, other, non-Ukrainian bishops, who did not have a historical connection to Metropolitan Hryhorij, began using the same name as the UAOC, which caused confusion. In addition, some bishops who were consecrated by the late Metropolitan Ohijchuk or Metropolitan Prazsky, later split off on their own and created separate, non-Ukrainian churches.

Since taking on the leadership of the church, Metropolitan Stephan and the new administration have brought back parishes that once belonged to the UAOC. "It has not been an easy task, due to the political side of this matter. Many did not want to see the UAOC Sobornopravna actively exist again in the Diaspora. Now, with more than eighteen parishes, two monasteries and a sound administration, we are growing once again," said Metropolitan Stephan.

The Metropolitan believes that there must be a total sobornopravna church, that supports our Motherland but remains self-governing in America and other countries of the Diaspora. He further stated that, "This is how it once was when His Holiness, the late Patriarch Mystyslav led the church. We must continue at all cost, what His Holiness started and fulfill his labors here, in the Diaspora, for if we do not, then we have lost everything that Patriarch Mystyslav stood for and what he worked to maintain for so many years."

The call to unite now, with the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church Sobornopravna is vital to the future of Ukrainian Orthodox faithful who want to remain self-governing in the Diaspora and who want to keep their identity as completely Ukrainian Orthodox. For decades, the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church has existed outside the borders of Ukraine, without the intervention of other, outside bodies. There is absolutely no reason why we cannot and should not continue this mode of operation today, in the twenty-first century.

"We pray for the continued autocephaly of the church in Ukraine," Metropolitan Stephan said, "but whatever the outcome is, even in the unfortunate event that Ukraine will become subject to the oversight of Constantinople, we cannot relinquish our independence in the Diaspora and must continue with a complete atmosphere of self-governance and an organized ecclesial structure, bringing our Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church proudly into the third millennium."

Unfortunately, our own Ukrainian people have often not been supportive of one another and this has led to a disunited voice on behalf of the independence of our church. In particular, the administrator of the Kyiv Patriarchate in America should have his facts straight before he makes any statements against anyone, for this matter is a very serious one and will be taken to litigation. He should first look at his actions, that many of us are aware of. Those who cast stones upon others should first look very closely at their own deeds and be very cautious as to who they accuse falsely, for the price of such actions is very, very costly.

Metropolitan Stephan concludes by saying, "I would rather die than abandon my people, the sobornopravna church and the 1921 Sobor."


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