07/05/2014, 00.00
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Moscow Patriarchate: Metropolitan Vladimir, primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church has died

by Nina Achmatova
He was the leader of the Ukrainian Orthodox church, obedient to Moscow since 1992. Ill with cancer he was replaced in February by Metropolitan Onufry, who now faces the great challenge posed to the Church by the Maidan protests. The risks of a split from the Moscow Patriarchate.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - The Metropolitan of Kiev and All Ukraine Vladimir (Sabodan), Primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, obedient to the Patriarchate of Moscow, has died at age 78 after a prolonged illness. The news of his death today July 5th was published by the Moscow Patriarchate on its website.

Suffering from cancer, Vladimir was in a hospital in the Ukrainian capital. His health had deteriorated in January, while protests were underway in Maidan square in Kiev. The following month, the Metropolitan of Chernivtsi, Bukovina, Onufry, was appointed as locum tenens, who has had to face the great challenges posed to the Church by popular protest, which led to the change of power in Ukraine and the subsequent conflict between the army and pro-Russian separatists, in the east of the country.

As the crisis rages in the background, within the Ukrainian Orthodox Church itself - loyal to Moscow -  pressure is mounting to declare its complete independence from the Patriarchate of Moscow, under fire for having remained silent over the Kremlin's aggressive line. The Metropolitan Onufri, often recalled the importance of respecting the territorial integrity of Ukraine, against the demands of the separatists and appealed more than once to the Patriarch of Moscow, Kirill, to favor a peaceful solution of the crisis. Some bishops have even termed the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, a bandit and a number of parishes have abandoned the use of commemorating the Patriarch of Moscow in their liturgies.

Thus far Kirill has remained cautious, forced to maintain a balance between his support for the Kremlin and the need not to alienate the community of the faithful and the clergy in Ukraine. Losing the jurisdiction of the Ukrainian Church would mean Moscow giving up about half of all its parishes, not to mention 60% of the clergy, including many bishops who work in Russia itself, but who are natives of this former sister republic.

Who was Vladimir Sabodan

Born November 23, 1935 in Ukraine to a peasant family in 1954 Victor Sabodan entered the Theological Seminary of Odessa; in 1962, on graduating from the Theological Academy in Odessa, he was ordained deacon and then priest and monk with the name Vladimir. In 1966, he was appointed deputy head of the Russian Ecclesiastical Mission in Jerusalem and shortly afterwards consecrated Bishop of Zvenigorod. In 1973 he was appointed rector of the Theological School of Moscow and elevated to the rank of archbishop, until 1982 when it became the Metropolitan of Rostov and Novocherkassk. Two years later, he was appointed Exarch of Eastern Europe, and in 1987 he was appointed chancellor of the Moscow Patriarchate and permanent member of the Holy Synod. In 1990 he was among the three candidates for the patriarchal throne and voting results saw him in second place, after Alexy II. On 27 May 1992 he was elected Metropolitan of Kiev and All Ukraine, Primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, the only canonically recognized Orthodox churches of the former Soviet republic.

He was known as a preacher, theologian and writer. In 1997-98 a six volume edition of his writings was published. From 2006 he was a member of the National Union of Journalists of Ukraine. In 2011 he was awarded the title "Hero of Ukraine" for his contribution to the "rebirth of Orthodoxy in Ukraine" and was awarded the order of St. Alexis


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