Thousands of Ukrainians from up and down the country have gathered outside Kyiv’s St. Sophia Cathedral, where the Unification Council is underway. At this historic meeting, representatives from Ukraine’s three Orthodox churches – the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) Kyiv Patriarchate, UOC-Moscow Patriarchate and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Church – will elect a head for the new local Orthodox Church and decide on the church’s statute.
64 bishops from Ukraine’s three Orthodox Churches were reported to have been taking part: 42 from the UOC-KP, 12 from the Autocephalous Church and 10 from the UOC-MP. Each bishop will be accompanied by a priest and clergy member, therefore the total number of delegates was estimated at 192.
However, director of the Religious Information Service of Ukraine Taras Antoshevskyy later told Hromadske that only two bishops from the UOC-MP had turned up.
Also in attendance as honored guests are Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and Chairman of the parliament Andriy Parubiy.
Ukrainian President @poroshenko has arrived at St. Sophia Cathedral, #Kyiv, where the Unification Council is taking place today and a head of the new local Ukrainian Orthodox Church will be elected pic.twitter.com/JbiC8z5ph9— Hromadske Int. (@Hromadske) December 15, 2018
The Kyiv police have tightened security measures in the Ukrainian capital for the event. 4,000 law enforcement personnel from the National Police, National Guard and emergency response teams have been deployed.
Although the event has remained peaceful, Kyiv police chief Andriy Kryshchenko stated on Ukrainian TV channel Pryamiy that two armed men had been arrested.
According to the #Kyiv Police, in light of the Unification Council, security has been tightened in the city, with around 4000 law enforcement personnel from the National Police, National Guard and emergency response teams. The situation has so far remained peaceful. pic.twitter.com/UaQDcfMSmc— Hromadske Int. (@Hromadske) December 15, 2018
Closed voting for the head of the head of the church will take place in two rounds. The three candidates with the highest number of votes from the first round will go on to the second round, and the head will be chosen from those three candidates.
The Unification Council is being conducted in English as representative from the Ecumenical Patriarchate Metropolitan Emmanuel of France is chairing the meeting.
The newly-appointed head of the church will receive the title of Metropolitan, not Patriarch, as stated in the draft statute devised by the Ecumenical Patriarchate, Ukrayinska Pravda reported. It also outlines that 12 bishops will form the Synod of the Church, half of whom will rotate after six months. The Synod term will last one year.
According to the Ecumenical Patriarchate's draft statute for the new local Ukrainian Orthodox Church, the church's Synod will consist of 12 bishops. Every 6 months, half the Synod will be rotated. The term of the Synod will be 1 year, @ukrpravda_news report pic.twitter.com/2N0GN3GLxX— Hromadske Int. (@Hromadske) December 15, 2018
89-year-old Patriarch Filaret of the UOC-KP will most likely not be running for top position in the new church, religious scholar and former employee of the Kyiv Patriarchate’s press service Andriy Kovalyov told Hromadske.
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, the spiritual leader of the entire Orthodox world, is set to grant Ukraine its Tomos, a document formalizing the creation of an Autocephalous Church, on January 6, 2019, which coincides with Orthodox Christmas eve.
/By Sofia Fedeczko