Tag Archives: Renovationism

Church Schisms in Ukraine and Russia: Patriarch Kirill as Comparative Historian

by Maureen Perrie | ελληνικά | Русский

“Renovationist” leader Alexander Vvedensky

On January 8, 2023, the Sunday after Christmas Day, Patriarch Kirill preached a sermon in the ancient Uspenskii (Dormition) Cathedral in the Moscow Kremlin. The Patriarch presented a very upbeat view of the current state of the Russian Orthodox Church, which—he said—had not only revived but flourished in the post-Soviet period. He contrasted this with the situation in Ukraine, where the same “madness (besnovanie)” now prevailed as had existed in Russia in the early years after the 1917 revolution, when the Renovationist Church, “artificially created by the Godless authorities,” had seized the church buildings of the true Russian Orthodox Church. In present-day Ukraine, Kirill claimed, a schism (raskol) had arisen that was very reminiscent of the Renovationist schism in post-revolutionary Russia. The two situations were almost identical: in both cases, the power of the state lay behind the schisms; and in both cases the aim was to weaken and destroy the Orthodox Church and to alienate God’s people from it. But just as the Renovationist schism in Russia had vanished without trace, so would the latter-day schismatics in Ukraine, because they were implementing “an evil, diabolical will, destroying Orthodoxy in the Kievan land.” And just as the Soviet leaders who had attacked the Church had perished, so would the present-day authorities in Ukraine.

Why did the Patriarch cite the Renovationist schism as a parallel to the current divisions in Ukrainian Orthodoxy? The term “Renovationist” was applied to the group of modernizing reformers within the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) who created a “synodal” church after 1922 which was favored by the Soviet authorities to the detriment of the patriarchal Church. Kirill does not explicitly identify the Ukrainian schismatics whom he compares to the Renovationists, but he clearly has in mind the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU), which was granted autocephaly by the Constantinople Patriarchate in January 2019. The rival Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC), which had maintained its links with the Moscow Patriarchate, declared its independence from the ROC in May 2022, but this is not recognized by Moscow, and the reality of its autonomy is questioned by some Ukrainian authorities.

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