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Essay on the New Ukrainian Law on Religion

22. Juni 2017

Anatoliy Babynskyi
A Blog of the Orthodox Christian Studies Center of Fordham University

The problem of conversions between religious communities has existed in Ukraine  since the late 1980s and early 1990s,  when the country was struggling for independence and its religious map was being formed. The rise from the underground of the Ukrainian Greco-Catholic Church (UGCC) raised questions about the restitution of property lost as a result of the forced liquidation of the Church in 1946, when almost all Church property had been transferred to the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC). The resurgence of the underground Greco-Catholics coincided with the revival of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAOC). This meant that conflicts over property arose not only among Greco-Catholics and Orthodox, but also within the Orthodox Church between the Ukrainian Exarchate of the ROC, which was renamed the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) in 1990, and the UAOC. In 1992, part of the UOC—including Metropolitan Filaret Denisenko—merged with part of the UAOC, which resulted in a third Ukrainian Orthodox denomination: the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Kyivan Patriarchate (UOC-KP), which, like the UAOC, is not recognized by the rest of the Orthodox world. The emergence of another Orthodox jurisdiction led to a new wave of parish conversions.

The interfaith limits of Ukrainian Christianity coalesced mainly in the second half of the 1990s. While the clearly-existing identity boundaries between Greco-Catholics, Roman Catholics, and Orthodox mean that conversions occur mainly at the individual level, confessional boundaries are weaker between the three Orthodox jurisdictions. Parish transitions between the UOC-KP and UAOC are quite frequent. Boundaries of identity between the UOC-KP and the UOC (Moscow Patriarchate) are clearer, but even here transitions have occurred in the last decade. Nevertheless, they never gained widespread traction.

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