While the standoff around the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra, a major UOC MP monastery in the Ukrainian capital that defies eviction orders, is mainly civil, the situation in Ukraine’s regions is growing tenser, with churches migrating from the UOC MP to the OCU amid a rising wave of public annoyance at the Moscow-backed church and, sometimes, questionable circumstances.
The OCU, having received a Tomos of autocephaly (independence in churchspeak) from Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in 2018, numbered 7097 parishes in 2020, while the UOC MP comprised considerably more parishes, 12410. The proportions reflect a time when the UOC MP enjoyed priority treatment from the Ukrainian state as the only “canonical” church, i.e., recognized by world Orthodoxy.
This changed in 2018: the OCU also became a “canonical” church, and the process of parish migration began. Since 2018, 1253 parishes were registered to have left the UOC MP for the OCU, as the popularity of the Moscow-backed church plummeted amid Russia’s war against Ukraine. This process has accelerated in the last several days amid growing administrative pressure on the UOC MP and draft laws to ban the church. Here are some recent examples that illustrate the tenseness of the situation.