Autocephaly is Coming to the Town: Ukraine Church Officially Receives Independence
6 January, 2019

Christmas is not the only reason for Ukrainian Orthodox believers to be festive this season as Kyiv prepares to welcome the Tomos of Autocephaly – the document that officially grants independence to the newly-formed, independent Ukrainian Orthodox Church – in Ukraine.

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople signs the Tomos of Autocephaly, which grants independence to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, at his residence in Istanbul, Turkey on January 5. Photo credit: EPA-EFE / ERDEM SAHIN

An official ceremony was in place between 8:15 am and 10:40 a.m. on January 6 Kyiv time at the St. George's Cathedral in Istanbul, Turkey, the official residence of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople. Precisely at 10:11 a.m., Bartholomew had passed the Tomos on to Ukraine's Epiphanius who was elected the head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church during the Synod on December 15.

READ MORE: Unification Council Elects Head of Independent Ukrainian Orthodox Church

"Just now, a big historic event has happened... The Ukrainian Orthodox Church has finally received Tomos from the Ecumenical Patriarch, from its mother church," the President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko said straight after the ceremony. "Today's event will be forever remembered in the history of Ukraine on a par with the Christianization [of the Kyivan Rus in 988] and the declaration of Ukraine's independence [in 1991]."

On January 7, the day when most Ukrainian Orthodox believers celebrate Christmas, the document, which was signed by Bartholomew on January 5, is expected to be delivered to the St. Sophia Cathedral in Kyiv where it will be made available for public viewings every day. 

READ MORE: How President Poroshenko Secured Church Independence for Ukraine

The Tomos of Autocephaly document is the last step in the procedure of granting church independence to Ukraine. It was created by the renowned painter and calligrapher Hieromonk Lucas of Xenophontos. Originally written in Greek, it stipulates Ukrainian Church's rights and responsibilities.

Tomos of Autocephaly (pictured) was received by the Ukrainian side on January 6. On January 7, it will be delivered to the St. Sophia Cathedral in Kyiv, Ukraine where it will be open to the public. Photo: Twitter / Petro Poroshenko

According to the Ukrainian translation of its contents that was made public by Ukraine's Ambassador to Turkey Andrii Sybiha on January 5, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church now has to recognize Ecumenical Patriarchate as its mother church, take part in all the important pan-Orthodox councils and refer to Constantinople for help in making important church decisions. 

It also bears two Ukrainian names who now officially hold the right to look after the document, the President of Ukraine and the head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

"Thus, it was settled and decided and in joy delivered to you from the Esteemed Center of Orthodoxy, the approved Patriarchal and Synodal Tomos, written and signed in the code of the Great Christ of Constantinople Church and handed over in the form of its exact and identical copy to His Beatitude, the Head of the Holy Church Epiphanius and and His Excellency, the president of the country, Mr. Petro Poroshenko, for eternal evidence and constant reference," the document reads. 

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople (L) and the new Head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Metropolitan Epiphanius (C) exchange congratulations on the newly-granted autocephaly, as the President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko (R) looks at the camera. Photo credit: Presidential Administration

/By Maria Romanenko