An acute struggle for money and influence is deepening crisis between leadership of the newly-created ‘independent’ Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU) and one of the OCU founding entities, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Kiev Patriarchate).
On June 24, the synod of the UCO adpoted a decision to deprive Filaret, of the right to govern the Kiev diocese, and, accordingly, to control local temples and monasteries. On June 23, suspended two priests [Archimandrite Andriy (Marutsak) and hieromonk Illia (Ihor Zelensky)] over their support to Kiev Patriarchate in the ongoing standoff.
On June 20, Kiev Patriarchate held own synod declaring its de-facto withdrawal from the OCU and declaring that Kiev Patriarchate continues to exist holding all its property and led by Patriarch Filaret. Filaret and his supporters also denounced the newly-created OCU as “Greek” and too dependent on the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. This move de-facto put an end to the OCU as a united entiy. The OCU was created from Kiev Patriarchate and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church in late 2018 and then received the tomos of autocephaly from Constantinople in early 2019.
Ukrainian media revealed that the conflict between the current OCU leadership and Kiev Patriarchate lay in mostly financial field. According to Vesti Ukraine, prior to the creation of the OCU, then President Petro Poroshenko and Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew I reached a secret document. Poroshenko promised the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople’s stauropegic monastery in Kiev control over a number of buildings and churches in Ukraine. The control over these properties was a bribe over Constantinople’s decision granting the tomos of autocephaly on the OCU. Kiev Patriarchate got control of many of these churches thanks to the assistance from the government in the 1990s.
Vesti added that as a result of the conflict for power between the OCU head Epiphanius and Filaret, the OCU appeared to be unable to fulfill its financial obligations (around $28m per month)to Constantinople. Filaret and his supporters still control most of financial flows within the structure. Therefore, Kiev Patriarchate withdrawal from the OCU is also a major financial blow to the newly created organization.
This situation creates additional tensions between the competing non-canonical groups in Ukraine and complicates relations between the OCU and its foreign patrons. In the upcoming months, the crisis will likely escalate even further because most of the sides involved in the OCU project see it as a tool of expanding own financial and political power. They are not ready to make any consequences in the developing conflict.
A brief look at the string of events that led to the creation of the non-canonical Orthodox Church of Ukraine with help from Constantinople: