Moscow (AsiaNews) - The Synod of the Ukrainian Church, faithful to the Patriarchate of Moscow, has elected its new primate: the bishop of Chernovtsy and Bukovina, Onufry (Berezovsky) is now the Metropolitan of Kiev and All Ukraine, after his stint as interim leader since last February, following the worsening health conditions of Vladimir (Sabodan), who died July 5.
69 year old Onufry is considered a conservative close to the positions of Moscow and against the European integration of Ukraine. He won by 48 votes, beating bishops Antony - also believed close to the Russian Orthodox Church - and Simeon, instead closer to Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.
A monk like his predecessor, Vladimir, Onufry does not agree with the idea of dialogue with the Ukrainian Church-Kiev Patriarchate, the other major Orthodox community in the country, not canonically recognized and led by Patriarch Filaret, who was excommunicated by Moscow.
And the Kiev Patriarchate has taken pains to emphasize in a statement issued shortly after the official announcement of the election: "The choice of this new metropolitan - reads the text- demonstrates that the majority of the bishops of the Moscow Patriarchate are followers of the aggressive 'Russian world' doctrine which was the ideological basis for the Kremlin's aggression against Ukraine, its occupation of the Crimea and its terror in Donbass".
This refers to the idea of a mir russki (Russian world) confederation which has Kievan Rus' as its base, considered the cradle of modern Russia. On this point, the interests of the Kremlin coincide with the aspirations of the Patriarchate of Moscow which wants to assume the role of heir to the Eastern Christian tradition and extend its influence on the immense transnational space, dominated by Russian culture and Orthodox traditions.
According to the Kiev Patriarchate, Onufry's election means an end to all dialogue to overcome the division between the Orthodox communities and form a single local Ukrainian Church, no longer tied to Moscow. This had become a concrete possibility in the wake of the Maidan protests.
There has been widespread reaction in Russia. The Patriarch of Moscow, Kirill, has given his blessing to Onufry, while the secretary for inter-Orthodox relations, Archpriest Igor Yakimchuk, stressed the importance of '"unity" demonstrated by the synod of Ukraine in the choice of its new primate .
The spokesman for the Patriarchate of Moscow, Vladimir Legoyda, expressed the hope that "Onufry's election, which occurred without any external pressure, but only at the behest of the Holy Spirit, will lead to the long-awaited civil peace in Ukraine".
The enthronement of the new Metropolitan of Kiev is scheduled for August 17