KIEV, December 14. /TASS/. The Bishops Council of the non-canonical Kiev Patriarchate voted at its Thursday meeting for Metropolitan Epiphanius (Dumenko) of Pereyaslav-Khmelnytsky and Belaya Tserkov as the candidate for the post of primate of the new Ukrainian Church due to be created at the "unification council" in Kiev on Saturday, the online edition of Ukrainskaya Pravda reported on Friday citing its own sources in the patriarchate.
According to the news outlet, he was backed by nearly 30 bishops, while 12 other bishops supported Metropolitan Mikhail of Lutsk. It also noted that the vote did not mean that another candidate would not be considered at Saturday’s "unification" council.
Metropolitan Epiphanius of Pereyaslav-Khmelnytsky and Belaya Tserkov is part of head of Kiev Patriarchate Filaret’s circle. The Greek orthodoxia.info news website was the first to report on December 10 that Epiphanius, rather than Filaret, could become the new Ukrainian church’s primate. It noted that Filaret refused to claim to that position, instead promoting the candidacy of Epiphanius, one of his close associates.
Church crisis in Ukraine
Kiev has attempted to create a Local Orthodox Church in Ukraine independent of the Moscow Patriarchate since 1991. In April 2018, Poroshenko wrote a personal letter to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople asking for autocephaly for the Ukrainian church.
The Holy and Sacred Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople decided at its meeting held on October 9-11 to proceed with granting autocephaly to the Ukrainian Church. It revoked the 1686 decision on transferring the Kiev Metropolitanate under the jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate and announced plans to bring it back under the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. It also reinstated the heads of two non-canonical churches in Ukraine, Filaret of the Kiev Patriarchate and Makariy of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Church, to their hierarchical and priestly ranks.
On October 15, the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church said in response to that move that full communion with the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople was no longer possible. The canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church made a similar decision.
On December 5, Poroshenko announced that the so-called unification council to create the Ukrainian autocephalous church would take place on December 15. He said that Patriarch Bartholomew had sent letters to bishops of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kiev Patriarchate, the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church and the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church "inviting them to take part in that historic event." However, bishops from the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC), taking a cue from Metropolitan Onufry of Kiev and All Ukraine, upon receiving these invitations promptly returned them to their sender.
On December 7, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church’s Holy Synod said that Constantinople had no canonical right to convene any church meetings in Ukraine, while the planned ‘"unification" council would be considered illegal, since it would be attended by schismatics.