Publication: Monitor Volume: 1 Issue: 118

Metropolitan Filaret, Ukraine’s most prominent religious leader, was elected on October 20 as patriarch of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. He succeeds Patriarch Volodymyr, whose death in July led to street clashes when state authorities refused to let him be buried in St. Sofia Cathedral. Friday’s vote in the synod was 160 in favor to just 4 opposed, after Filaret’s main rival, Andrii of Galicia, withdraw his name from consideration. (12)

Filaret was head of Ukrainian orthodoxy in Soviet times when the church was subordinate to the Patriarch of Moscow. He severed ties to the Russian parent church during Ukraine’s struggle for national independence. The country’s religious faithful remain divided among Filaret’s Ukrainian Orthodox Church, the Russian Orthodox Church, and the Autocephalous Orthodox Church.

The synod on Friday said that the unification of all three branches is one of the most important tasks facing the church. No one believes it will be easy. The independent Ukrainian branch is not recognized by world orthodoxy as a canonical church, and there is no end to disagreements over the ownership of parishes. Russian Orthodox officials claim they are the largest denomination, with 6,000 parishes, versus 2,000 for the "schismatic" Ukrainian Orthodox Church. (13)

The figures have little meaning without knowing the number of parishioners. Opinion polls in Ukraine have consistently showed that a majority of orthodox believers identify with the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

Police Warn Future Protesters.