SEVASTOPOL, October 23. /TASS/. The granting of autocephalous status to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kiev Patriarchate will not affect Crimean residents, as there are almost no places of worship belonging to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the region, Sergii Khaliuta, head of the Saint Vladimir’s Cathedral in Chersonesus, which commemorates the presumed place on St. Vladimir’s baptism, informed TASS.
Up until 2014, when Crimea began to form part of Russia, this territory was considered part of Ukraine, with about fifteen places of worship belonging to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kiev Patriarchate. After 2014, many of them closed or were reabsorbed by the Russian Orthodox Church. The canonical eparchy of Sevastopol and Crimea exists within the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, which includes about 500 churches.
"These actions are extracanonical, and they are not caused by a church decision, but a political one. <…> There are almost no schismatic churches on the territory of Crimea, so all this will not affect Crimean residents, as they belong to the Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate," Khaliuta told TASS.
However, he added that Crimean believers are still concerned about Ukrainian churchgoers and expressed hope that they will be able to overcome this discord through joint efforts and prayers.
Earlier, the Holy and Sacred Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople announced the decision to lift the anathema against leaders of two extracanonical churches in Ukraine - Filaret of the Kiev Patriarchate and Makariy of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church, a representative of the patriarchate informed on the outcomes of the Holy Synod, which took place on October 9-11. The Ecumenical Patriarchate also announced that it is starting the process of granting autocephalous status to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
In response to this, the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church has made a decision to break off all relations with Constantinople
Currently, Ukraine has one canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which is a self-governing church constituent of the Moscow Patriarchate. There are also two religious organizations not recognized by the Orthodox Christian world - the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kiev Patriarchate and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church.
The Ukrainian authorities have tried to create a local Orthodox church independent of the Moscow Patriarchate on numerous occasions since 1991.