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. At a sobor being held this week in Kyiv, the church in Ukraine has sought the assistance of Greek Patriarch Bartholomew in establishing recognition and unity for Ukraine's Orthodox churches.

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 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 some point be ruled by the Ecumenical Patriarchate, then nothing will have been gained and that what happened in the past here will only be repeated, but in a more subtle way.

The Metropolitan continued, "It is time to save our sobornopravna churches and to save our identity as Ukrainians. It is feared that if Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew does in some way recognize the Kyiv Patriarchate, that His Holiness, Patriarch Filaret will be removed."

"History will tell you that it is not an easy task to grant Ukraine a Patriarch. There are many extenuating factors and ecclesiastical politics which must be taken into consideration. The first step would most likely be to create a metropolitanate, self-governing to a point, but dependent upon Constantinople for matters of importance and those which involve relations with other churches worldwide. If this is done, then we will loose what we now have in His Holiness, Patriarch Filaret, which would be a very unfair act, considering that His Holiness has laid all of the ground work for a national Ukrainian Orthodox Church."

The Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church in the USA has existed for many years. After the death of Metropolitan Hryhorij Ohijchuk, the church began to loose parishes due to administrative problems and other, non-Ukrainian bishops, who did not have a historical connection to Metropolitan Hryhorij, using the same name as the UAOC. Many bishops were consecrated by the late Metropolitan Ohijchuk who later split off on their own and created separate, non-Ukrainian churches.

Since becoming Metropolitan of the church in 1996, 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.

Metropolitan Stephan believes that there must be a total sobornopravna church, that supports our Motherland and the Patriarch of Ukraine 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 ruled 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 Orthodox Church has existed outside the borders of Ukraine, without the intervention of other, outside bodies. Now that freedom has come to Ukraine itself, it is important to struggle for this same autocephaly for the Mother Church, which has bestowed the gift of more than a millennium of Ukrainian Christianity to its descendents, an autocephaly it once had, when Grand Prince Volodymyr the Great called his nation to embrace the Eastern Christian faith.

"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."

Ukrainian Version of Article.

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