Autonomy Lost and Regained: The Ukrainian Orthodox Metropolia of Kyiv, 1633-2019

Patriarch of Kyiv and All Ukraine

In 1990, Metropolitan Mstyslav of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA had already had a remarkable journey. His beginnings were in the military of the Ukrainian People's Republic, then as a bishop of the 1942 Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church in Ukraine and after the departure of the Autocephalous Hierarchs to the West, ministering to Ukrainian displaced persons in Germany. He became the Ruling Hierarch of the Ukrainian Orthodox church in Canada for two years and then settled in the United States joining Bishop Bohdan of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in America (Ecumenical Patriarchate).  At a unification Council (Sobor) of this jurisdiction with the American Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the US, headed by Archbishop Ioan (Teodorovych), which resulted in the establishment of the UOC of USA in its present form, he was elected at Archbishop and John as Metropolitan. He succeed Metropolitan Ioan as the prime hierarch of the UOC of USA and South America in 1972 and had also succeeded Metropolitan Nikanor the UAOC in the Diaspora, leading the Ukrainian Orthodox faithful in Europe and Australia/New Zealand.

Now 92 years old, he had one more adventure ahead of him.

By 1990, Gorbachev's "glasnost'" and "perestroika" had already resulted in the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Warsaw Pact had begun to fray. Now, rumblings of freedom were beginning to be felt in what was still the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. The "People's Movement of Ukraine for Perestroika", more commonly known by its Ukrainian name "Rukh", had been founded in 1989. In January 1990, they organized a human chain from L'viv to Kyiv celebrating the Unification Act of 1919 that joined the Ukrainian People's Republic and the West Ukrainian People's Republic, something that would have likely resulted in mass arrests only a few years before.

Then, on June 5, 1990, at the First Council of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church in Kyiv, Metropolitan Mstyslav was elected in absentia as the Patriarch of Kyiv and All Ukraine. He was formally enthroned as Patriarch in Kyiv's St. Sophia Cathedral in November 1990. Despite the expectations of many of those who elected him that he would merely be a figurehead, Patriarch Mstyslav traveled to Ukraine numerous times in the last years of life and took an active role in both the religious and political life of his native country.

Patriarch Mstyslav provided a tangible connection between pre-Soviet and post-Soviet Ukrainian history and independence and would provide continued inspiration for further efforts toward the rebirth of the UAOC, its jurisdictional autonomy and ultimately — autocephaly.

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