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The Ukrainian Orthodox Church in America was known as the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church - Canonical, until it legally changed its name in order to distance itself from the heresy and public scandal caused by its deposed Patriarch, Moisei Koulik. Its roots, history and Apostolic Succession come primarily from the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church. This article is translated from the original which appeared in Ukrainian, authored by Rev. I. Kutash (Metropolitan Ilarion: Ideology of the Ukrainian Church,Kholm, 1944, pp8-16). The article appeared in  "The Herald/Visnik" Sept-Dec 1971 and is titled : "The Ukrainian Orthodox Church is an Autocephalous Church.”

From 988 to 1686 the Ukrainian Orthodox Church was under the canonical jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Constantinople.  The Constantinople Patriarchate in 1686 renounced its right to the Ukrainian Church. The Ukrainian Church throughout its ancient life (988-1686) was a canonical (canon 28, Fifth Eucumenical Council) jurisdiction of the Constantinople Patriarchate, but the latter officially renounced it in May of 1686 and gave all authority to the Patriarch of Moscow. Although this transference took place by outright simony and government coercion, from 1686 to 1924 the Constantinople Patriarchs, unfortunately, never officially voiced their protest against the unlawful seizure of the Ukrainian Church by Moscow; they always continued their good, sisterly relations with the Moscow Church, and for this reason they lost their canonical right to the Ukrainian Church by Moscow, for the thirty-year term of ecclesiastical prescription previously established by the Canons for the purpose of protest (Canon 17 of the Fourth and the Canon 25 of the sixth Ecumenical Council) had long passed.  (It is true that in 1687 the Constantinople Patriarchate cancelled the decree of 1686 but did not make the appropate official protest to Moscow).

Further, on September 23 1723, the Patriarch of Canstantinople, Jeremias, together with the Patriarch of Antioch by their official Tomas (proclamation), confirmed the so-called synodal system of the Russian Church, of which the Ukrainian Church was a part, as they well knew. By this act, Constantinople openly renounced its rights to the Ukrainian Church for the second time.  After all, Canon 28 itself, of the Fourth Ecumenicial Council, upon which the subordination of the Ukrainian Church to the Patriarchate of Constantinople was based, is doubtful and unclear, and was not a universal rule, not being generally accepted by all the Churches of the time. For this very reason the Church of Moscow in 1589 separated from the Church of Constantinople and became autocephalous, electing its own Patriarch.

The joining of the Ukrainian Church to the Moscow Church was grossly uncanonical. The joining of the Ukrainian Church to the Moscow Church in 1686 was done by the coercion of the secular Moscovite and the Turkish governments and by outright simony, against it clergy of the time protested strongly; for this reason this joining was grossly uncanonical (Apostolic Canon 29 and 30, Canon 2 of the Second, Canon 8 of the Third and Canon 3 of the Seventh Ecumenical Councils) and thus invalid. This act is also called  uncanonical by the official Canonical Tomos of the Patriarch of Constantinople, Gregory VII, dated November 13, 1924, which reads: "It is written in history that the first seperation from the throne of the Kyiv Metropolia and of the Orthodox Metropoloias of Lithuana and Poland, which belonged to it, and the joining of it to the Holy Church of Moscow was done wholly out of keeping with the directions of the canonical rules.”

By this act, the Ecumenical Church of Constantinople in 1924 publicly and officially proclaimed the joining of the Ukrainian Church to the Church of Moscow to be an uncanonical act; similarly, the Ukrainian Church itself never voluntarily proclaimed its forced union with the Church of Moscow to be canonical, but struggled
ceaselessly against this coercion, that is the Russian czarate, ceased to belong to the Church of Moscow (Canon37 of the Sixth Ecumenical Council). Canon 8 of the Third Ecumenical Council clearly states this:  " If anyone has violently taken and subjected (a Diocese), he shall give it up; lest the Canons of the Fathers be transgressed; or the vanities of the wordly honour be brought in under the pretext of sacred office; or we lose, without knowing it, little by little, the liberity which Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Delieverer of men, hath given us by His own Blood.”

Besides this, Patriarch Tikon himself on November 20, 1920, by his official decree gave voluntary approval to autocephalous governing of the Ukrainian Church, recognizing that this was essential for the well-being of the Church and acquiescing to the demands of the whole Ukrainian Nation as well as the Clergy and the Episcopate.  He confirmed this a second time himself by his document Number 145 dated March 24, 1924. Because of this, the Ukrainian Church today is under no canonical dependence to the Church of Moscow.

The Ukrainian Nation through its governments and through Church Councils lawfully expressed its firm will that its Church be autocephalous. According to the Apostolic Canon 34, each nation has the right the right to its own autocephalous Church. Also, according to Canon 17 of the Fourth and Canon 38 of the Sixth Ecumenical Council, and according to the Apophthegm of Photius ("The laws governing eccesiastical matters should be also govern political and administrative changes") each Church must accomodate itself to new state boundries. For this reason, the lawful Government of the Ukrainian Nation Republic, in the name of all Ukrainian Nations which firmly demanded the autocephaly of its church, solemnly proclaimed the autocephaly of the Ukrainian Church as a law of state on January 1, 1919, in Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine. And on October 7 of the same year (the Government) confirmed this by a degree of the Directory, which was its highest authority, and informed the Patriarch of Constantinople - at the time of this fact - through the Minister of Confessions and the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

In 1920 and 1921 the Patriarch of Constantinople also recieved seperate requests to bless the autocephaly of the Ukrainian Church. These requests were covered with thousands of signatures by the citzens and clergy.  Also, Ukrainian Church Councils of the Orthodox Church of all the movements in Ukraine-Councils which were composed of Bishops as well, basing themselves upon Apostolic Canon 34 and upon the approval of Patriarch of Moscow Tikon dated November 20, 1920, and again March 24, 1924 (Number 145) offically proclaimed the Ukrainian Church to be autocephalous on several occasions:

(a) October, 1921, in Kyiv by a Church Council of Clergy and laity, representatives from all Ukraine.
(b) September 5, 1922, the Church Council in Kyiv headed by Exarch of Ukraine, Metropolitan+ Michael Yermakov:
(c) May 21, 1925, a Council of the Ukrainian Church held in Kharkiv, recognized as well by an all-Russian Church in Moscow on October 6, 1925: and
(d) November 25, 1941, a Council of Bishops in the Pochayiv Lavra headed by Archbishop +Oleksiy Hromadsky.

Beside all the above, the constitution of the U.S.S.R. recognized Ukraine as a separate individual state, called the Ukraine Soviet Socialist Republic, and if only for this reason alone, according to the Holy Canons, (Apostolic Canon 34, Canon 17 of the Fourth and the Canon 38 of the Sixth Ecumenical Councils-see above) the Ukrainian Orthodox Church must be autocephalous.  Canonically speaking, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church is already an autocephalous Church.

On the basis of the above, because the Patriarch of Constantinople in 1686 and the Patriarch of Moscow in 1920 and 1924 offically gave up the Ukrainian Church, she, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church according to Apostolic Canon 34 and according to the clear and decisive will of her people, lawfully expressed twice in 1919 by its lawful Government, and according to the canonical resolutions of its Church Councils and Episcopal Councils in 1921, was already legally and canonically an Autocephalous Church.

Our Ukrainian Church, as a member of the Universal Church entitled to full rights, no longer needs canonical dispensation from one Church or another, but simply the blessings of its separate sisters, the Orthodox Churches, that is... establishment of canonical unity with them.  It is because of this that all interference in the internal affairs of the Ukrainian Church on the part of whoever it may be, and the interference, as well, of the Russian Church, which today does
not want to release our Church (in odedience to its secular government), are unjustifiable and profoundly uncanonical, (for they go against Canon 2 of the Second and Canon 8 of the Third Ecumenical Council).

Today's denial to the Ukrainian Church of the autocephaly that is rightfully hers is based solely on the uncanonical coercion of the Russian secular Government.

On the basis of the foregoing, the full title of the Ukrainian Church is:

Footnote:  The Ukrainian Orthodox Church jurisdiction to which this author belonged is now under the Ecumenical Partriarchate.


Metropolitan Nykanor Abramovych was a prominent leader of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Ukraine and western Europe. Born in Mizovo, near Kovel (about 70 miles northwest of Lutsk) in Volhynia, he studied at the Volhynian Theological Seminary, then the Kyiv Theological Academy.

Ordained as a priest in 1910, Abramovych served as a priest in his native region. In 1917-1920, he served as inspector of schools for the Zhytomyr region and Volhynia under the various Ukrainian administrations set up during that period.

In the 1920s and 1930s the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAOC) in Soviet Ukraine was physically liquidated by the Stalinist regime, which had the entire Church hierarchy and most of its clergy shot. In areas that remained under Polish control, such as Volhynia where Abramovych remained, Ukrainian Orthodoxy survived within the Polish-state controlled entity called the Polish Autocephalous Orthodox Church (PAOC), formed in January 1922.

In 1924, the PAOC was officially granted autocephaly by the Patriarch of Constantinople. From that time it was independent of the Moscow Patriarchate and administered its own internal affairs. However, the Church was by no means a peaceful haven. On one hand, Polish authorities sanctioned a wave of destruction of Ukrainian churches in the Kholm region and supported efforts mounted by the Roman Catholic Church to convert believers from Orthodoxy. On the other, Russophile elements within the PAOC pulled believers in the opposite direction, towards Moscow, and did their best to Russify the predominantly Ukrainian and Belarusian laity.

Running counter to both currents, Abramovych played an active role in the Ukrainization of the Orthodox Church in Volhynia. At this stage, Abramovych served as president of the Brotherhood of the Holy Savior, and was active in the Volodymyr Volynskyi Church administration.

From the summer of 1941, the vacuum caused by the German invasion of Ukraine allowed the Orthodox hierarchy to begin efforts to revive the UAOC. A leader in this movement, Abramovych was consecrated in February 1942 as archbishop of Kyiv and Chyhyryn. He and Ihor Huba, who became bishop of Uman, were the first two hierarchs elevated by Metropolitan Polikarp Sikorsky, the fiercely independent and patriotic Orthodox leader. (Mstyslav Skrypnyk, who was to become patriarch of the UAOC and UOC, was made archbishop in May 1942).

In the face of the Soviet advance in 1944, Abramovych fled westward along with most of the UAOC's hierarchy and clergy, eventually settling in Karlsruhe, Germany, in 1946. The following year he was designated Metropolitan Sikorsky's deputy metropolitan and, upon the latter's death in 1953, was elected metropolitan.

Remaining in Europe as most of the UAOC's hierarchy and clergy continued on to North America, Metropolitan Abramovych served as president of the UAOC's Theological Institute from 1948, edited the journal Bohoslovskyi Visnyk, and wrote articles and monographs about the history and traditions of the Ukrainian Orthodox.

Metropolitan Nykanor Abramovych died in Karlsruhe on March 21, 1969.

Sources: "Abramovych, Nykanor," "Polish Autocephalous Orthodox Church," "Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church," Encyclopedia of Ukraine, Vols. 1, 4, 5 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1984, 1993).

The Ukrainian Weekly, July 25, 1999, No. 30, Vol. LXVII



Abramovych, Nykanor [Abramovyč], b 27 July 1883 in Mizovo in the Kovel area, Volhynia, d 21 March 1969 in Karlsruhe, Germany. A prominent figure and metropolitan of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox church. He studied at the Volhynian Theological Seminary and at the Kyiv Theological Academy and, following his ordination in 1910, served as a priest in Volhynia. During the struggle for Ukrainian independence he was inspector of schools for the Zhytomyr region and Volhynia. Under Polish rule between 1920 and 1930 Abramovych was active in the Ukrainianization of the Orthodox church in Volhynia, served as president of the Brotherhood of the Holy Savior, and was active in the Volodymyr church administration. In 1942–3 he was archbishop of Kyiv and Chyhyryn and participated in organizing the restored Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox church. In 1947 he became Vice-metropolitan under METROPOLITAN POLIKARP SIKORSKY, and after the latter's death in 1953 he was made metropolitan. From 1946 he lived in Karlsruhe, Germany. Abramovych was the author of various articles and books, including Dohmatychno-kanonichnyi ustrii Vselens’koï Pravoslavnoï Tserkvy (Dogmatic and Canonical System of the Ecumenical Orthodox Church, 1948), Istoriia Dermans’koho manastyria (History of the Derman Monastery), and Stari tserkovni zvychaï na Volyni (Old Church Customs in Volhynia). He was editor of the journal Bohoslovs’kyi Visnyk and of the texts of Sluzhebnyk (Missal, 1949) and Chasoslov (Horologion, 1950). Abramovych also served as president of the Theological Institute of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox church from 1948.

Dublians’kyi, A. Ternystym shliakhom: Zhyttia Mytropolyta Nykanora AbramovychaLondon 1962.

Sikorsky, Polikarp [Сікорський, Полікарп; Sikors’kyj (secular name: Петро; Petro)], b 20 June 1875 in Zelenky, Kaniv county, Kyiv gubernia, d 22 October 1953 in Aulnay-sous-Bois, near Paris. Metropolitan of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox church (UAOC). A graduate of the Kyiv Theological Academy (1898) and the law faculty of Kyiv University (1910), he was a member of the Hromada of Kyiv and worked as an official of the Orthodox consistory office in Kyiv (1908–18); a section head in the Ministry of Religious Faiths of the Government-in-exile of the Ukrainian National Republic (1918–19); and deputy director of that government's Department of General Affairs in Tarnów, Poland (1919–21). He also served as a member of the All-Ukrainian Orthodox Church Council and the All-Ukrainian Church Sobor in 1917–18. An émigré in the interwar Poland, he became a hieromonk in 1922 and served as superior of Orthodox monasteries in Derman (see Derman Monastery), Myltsi, and Zahaitsi Mali in Volhynia and Vilnius in Lithuania; dean of the Dormition Cathedral in Volodymyr-Volynskyi (1925–7); and superior of the monastery in Zhyrovichy, Belarus (1927–32). In April 1932 he was consecrated Orthodox bishop of Lutsk (see Lutsk eparchy) and vicar of Volhynia eparchy by Metropolitan Dionisii Valedinsky of the Polish Autocephalous Orthodox church, but he was unable to function fully because of Polish administrative sanctions. A member of the Commission for the Translation of the Bible and Liturgical Books (1932–9) of the Ukrainian Scientific Institute in Warsaw, he organized and headed its section in Lutsk from 1937. During the 1939–41 Soviet occupation of Western Ukraine, Sikorsky refused to recognize the authority of the Patriarch of Moscow. In August 1941, during the German occupation, Metropolitan Valedinsky elevated him to the office of archbishop of Lutsk and Kovel, and in December appointed him provisional administrator of the revived UAOC in the Reichskommissariat Ukraine. In February 1942 Sikorsky consecrated the first two bishops of the UAOC on Ukrainian territory (Nykanor Abramovych and Ihor Huba), and in May 1942 the Kyiv sobor of UAOC bishops elected him their head and a metropolitan. In January 1944 he fled from the Soviet reoccupation of Volhynia to Warsaw, and thence, in July, to Germany. From 1945 he headed the UAOC abroad from Gronau, near Hannover; from Heidenau, near Hamburg; and, from April 1950 to his death, from Paris. He is buried at the Père-Lachaise cemetery in Paris.

Vlasovs’kyi, Ivan. Arkhypastyrs’kyi iuvilei Vysokopreosviashchenishoho Mytropolyta Polikarpa, 1932–1952 (London 1952)

[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 4 (1993).]

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