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ReligionRecently the tradition religion of Ukraine — Christianity — has been yielding its positions to nontraditional ones such as Protestantism, Islam and Judaism. However the majority religious people in Ukraine (76%) are still members of the Orthodox Church. Some of them belong to Moscow patriarchate, others — to Kievan patriarchate or to Ukrainian Autocephalous Church. Catholic Church of the Eastern rite is also quite popular (Uniats, up to 14% of all religious people), as well as Protestantism, Islam and Judaism.

In southern-eastern regions (the territories of the left bank of the river Dnipro and the Crimea) the most widespread religion is Orthodoxy. Here strong positions are held by the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Moscow Patriarchate. In central regions (Kyiv, Cherkassy, Khmelnitsky, Vinnitsa, Kirovograd and Dnepropetrovsk oblasts) positions of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Moscow Patriarchate are quite strong but a general situation is more complicated.
There are a great number of parishes of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Kievan Patriarchate and Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church which are gaining an increasing support from the population. In central regions of Ukraine Roman Catholic Church is also quire popular.

In the western parts of Ukraine (Lvov, Ternopol, Ivano-Frankovsk, Volyn, Rovno, Zakarpatksa and Chernovtsy oblasts) there is the most complicated and contentious situation in religious field. In Galicia there are more Greek Catholics, in Volyn, Zakarpatska and Chernovtsy oblasts Orthodoxy plays a major role.

There is a strong confrontation between different confessions. The dominant positions are occupied by the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Moscow Patriarchate. Its Protohierarch is Vladimir (Sabodan), the metropolitan of Kyiv and all Ukraine. Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Moscow Patriarchate has its own Holy Synod which is independent from Moscow and elects its bishops; its own budget; a status of a legal person; a right to represent Ukraine in all Orthodox events of all-church meaning. This church numbers more than 9 000 parishes. According to the latest sociological data 69% members of the Orthodox Church in Ukraine belong to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Moscow Patriarchate. In western Ukraine where there are strong national tendencies Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Moscow Patriarchate has been increasingly losing its influence.

The second influential Orthodox confession in Ukraine is the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Kievan Patriarchate led by patriarch Filaret (Denisenko). This church incorporates about 3000 parishes. Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Kievan Patriarchate is closely connected to the western Ukrainian diaspora and has parishes in the USA and in Canada.

The third Orthodox Church is Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church. It numbers about 1000 parishes. This church was founded in 1920s and in Soviet times its administrative centre was located in Canada.

Greek-Catholic church is an actual representation of the Pope in Ukraine. It is led by archbishop Lyubomir Guzar who was elected during an elective synod on January 24-25, 2001 in Lvov. Before it Guzar was an apostolic administrator of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church. The previous head of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church, cardinal Miroslav-Ivan Lyubachivsky, died on December 14, 2000. The Pope approved the synod’s choice and in a couple of days appointed Guzar a cardinal. This church numbers 3301 parishes and is particularly influential in western Ukraine.

Along with Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church there is also Roman Catholic Church in Ukraine. 80% of its parishes are located in western Ukraine. It is led by Marian Yavorsky, the archbishop of Lvov. He was appointed cardinal together with Lyubomir Guzar (it is the first time in Ukraine when there are two living and working cardinals at the same time).

At the same an idea to create a united local church is being developed. It is supposed to unite
Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Moscow Patriarchate, Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Kievan Patriarchate and Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church. State religious committee of Ukraine is already developing a program of creation of such a united local church. In 2000 an anniversary local council dedicated to the 2000-anniversary of the birth of Christ was held in Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Kievan Patriarchate. The main subject of the council was an expected grant of autocephaly to Ukrainian Orthodoxy by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople. The council approved an appeal to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in which they expressed gratitude for his efforts in creations of a united local church in Ukraine and for his recognition of annexation of Kyiv metropolitanate to Moscow patriarchate in 1686 as illegitimate. The council also invited him to visit Ukraine in May 2001. Also in June 2000 Ukraine was visited by Pope John Paul II. It was a remarkable event in a life of all religious people in Ukraine.
Dmytro Chernenko

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