Is the “Orthodox Church of Ukraine” mainly a church of Galicia? Witness of the state statistics


It is generally supposed that Galicia is a region with an overwhelming majority of Greek Catholic parishes. And it really is. But the state statistics show that a significant part of the network of “Orthodox Church of Ukraine” is also located in this region. The State Service for Ethnopolitics and Freedom of Conscience recently released new statistics for early 2021. What are the main conclusions to be drawn from them?

Today, the OCU has 2,029 religious communities in Galicia (28% of the total number in Ukraine) and 1,598 clergy (almost 35%, respectively), which distinguishes this region from all the others. Its main competitor – “Ukrainian Orthodox Church” has here only 199 communities and 274 clergy.

It is well known that Galicia became an outpost for development of the autocephalous Orthodox movement in the late 1980s and has been remaining so to this day. In Ternopil region the OCU is 6 times ahead of the UOC in the number of parishes, and in Lviv and Ivano-Frankivsk regions ‒ 12-13 times ahead. In all other regions of the country, the situation is significantly different ‒ the Ukrainian Orthodox Church is there ahead of the OCU ‒ in the number of communities/parishes, and especially in the number of church buildings and clergy.

The second important group in the analysis of the ratio of the UOC and the OCU are the areas in which, although the UOC has a predominance, it is not so significant ‒ 1.5-2.5 times. These are Vinnytsia, Volyn, Rivne and Khmelnytsky regions. It is in these regions that the largest growth of OCU parishes and at the same time a decrease of UOC parishes has taken place in the last three years. Probably, the Orthodox believers of these regions were most exposed to the desire of supporting the “local church of Ukraine”, which the OCU positions itself. And that is why here was the most significant part of the “transitions” of parishes, which took place in most cases in a conflict way.

In all other regions of Ukraine, both before and after granting the Tomos on autocephaly, the UOC significantly outnumbers the OCU: for example, 2-3 times in Zhytomyr and Kirovohrad regions, 3-4 times in Dnipropetrovsk and Poltava regions, and 4-6 times in Chernihiv and Odesa regions.

An important addition to the statistics of religious communities as legal entities is the statistics of church buildings and clergy. It shows that in Ukraine as a whole, the OCU lags far behind in proportion of church buildings and priests to the number of officially existing religious communities. If the average number of the proportion of church buildings to parishes in the OCU is 74%, and the clergy to parishes ‒ 64%, the corresponding figures in the UOC are 91% and 85%.

In ten regions in the OCU, the ratio of the number of church buildings to the number of religious communities/parishes is less than 2/3. These are Vinnytsia, Zakarpattia, Zaporizhia, Luhansk, Odesa, Poltava, Kherson, Khmelnytsky, Chernivtsi and Chernihiv regions. Zakarpattia and Kherson regions have here the lowest indicators ‒ 37% and 39% respectively. This lack of church buildings probably witnesses a significant part of non-existent in reality ‒ “paper” communities.

Such a disparity, especially between Galicia, on the one hand, and the south and east of Ukraine, on the other, suggests differences in the religious identity of Ukrainian citizens that are long-lasting. Therefore, it should push the state bodies of Ukraine to a more balanced and well-thought-out policy in the religious sphere.

You can find a more detailed analysis of the data here. Four tables are attached to it: statistics on changes in the number of religious communities, church buildings and clergy of the UOC and OCU from 2018 to 2021 and a summary table of the situation for 2021. All these materials are in Ukrainian language.