Comfortably elected as head of Ukraine with 73% of the votes on April 21, 2019, Colodymyr Zelensky embodies the rupture with his predecessor, Petro Prorchenko. Humorist, cabaret comedian, television broadcaster, Volodymyr Zelensky has on numerous occasions made fun of the outgoing president’s efforts to create a national Ukranian Orthodox Church, to the detriment of the Church attached to the Patriarchate of Moscow.
During the presidential campaign, the future winner of the elections mocked in particular the tomos (decree) of autocephaly (independence) obtained from Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople. In his broadcasts, he systematically replaced the word “tomos” with “thermos” (Thermos bottle), which provoked the mirth of the spectators.
As early as April 22, the Russian Orthodox Patriarch Cyril of Moscow expressed “the hope of seeing the end of the persecutions against the canonical Church” attached to Moscow. If the new president is not a declared Russophile, he is not in any case the official enemy that was his predecessor.
Metropolitan Onuphre, head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP), also did not fail to congratulate the new president on his election. He assured him of his unconditional support for “strengthening the spiritual and moral values of Ukrainian society.” He said he was “convinced that Zelensky will guarantee the State's non-interference in the affairs of the churches.” as well as “freedom of religion for the faithful of all confessions.”
Born into a Jewish family, Zelensky has many affinities with Russian culture. As a child, he lived in Mongolia where his father had been assigned as computer scientist by the Soviet authorities. Returning to the Ukraine, he graduated from college and studied law before becoming a comedian. With the troupe he founded, he spent five years in Moscow touring extensively in the Russian Federation. In Ukraine since 2006, he has become a television star, amassing a solid personal fortune.
Without giving concrete details about his intentions and his political program, he gained the confidence of the population especially by promising to fight against the corruption that plagues the country and by denouncing the authoritarian drift of President Poroshenko.
On the side of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kiev Patriarchate, Zelensky's election did not provoke an official reaction. The Greek Catholic Church also has not reacted. All these divergences and oppositions between the Autocephalous Orthodox Churches clearly show that the ecumenical dialogue with Orthodoxy, promoted by Vatican II, is more than difficult. Indeed, there is not one Orthodoxy but several rival orthodoxies, just as there is not one Protestantism but many different Protestantisms with great differences among them.