Ukrainians call on UN to protect Orthodox Church

10-01-2023

Eastern Europe

Lennart Nijenhuis, CNE.news

A Ukrainian serviceman takes a selfie before going into the Christmas service in the world-famous Lavra in Kyiv. Until recently, this complex was used by the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. But since this year, the church is in use by the new Orthodox Church of Ukraine. Photo AFP, Genya Savilov

The Ukrainian NGO Public Rights has called on the United Nations for the rights of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC), which belongs to the Moscow Patriarchate.

The call has mainly to do with “enforced disappearances” of UOC clergy but also broader with the violations of the rights of believers. The Union of Orthodox Journalists has reported this.

The UOC is in a difficult position at the moment in Ukraine since it is under suspicion of influence from Russia. Although the church has cut as many canonical connections with the Moscow Patriarchate as possible, Ukrainian President Zelensky still has the plan to limit the legal space of the church.

During searches of UOC buildings in the past few weeks, many pro-Kremlin materials were allegedly found, as RISU reports. The church itself states that many materials had been brought in by the security services and are just fake.

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Epiphanius is taking the Christmas liturgy in the world-famous Lavra in Kyiv. Photo Pomisna.info

The head of the ‘competing’ church, Metropolitan Epiphanius Dumenko of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU), thinks it won’t be possible to get enough support in the Parliament to ban the UOC. Apart from that, it would be impossible to ban the church in one stroke since it consists of numerous legal entities.

The OCU is a new Orthodox Church in Ukraine, founded in 2019 with the help of President Poroshenko. The main difference is that it is not connected with the Moscow Patriarchate but with Constantinople. Another difference is that Ukrainian is the primary language and not Russian.

World Heritage

Last weekend was the first time Orthodox Christmas was celebrated in the Ukrainian language in the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra. This is a complex of a monastery and churches from the 11th century in Kyiv with World Heritage status. From Ukraine’s independence in 1991 until last year, this complex was leased to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which used it as a headquarters. But the lease was stopped in December, and the building was given to the OCU. The Parliament still has to decide for the longer future about this in February, the Orthodox Journalists report.

During the worship in the Lavra complex, Metropolitan Epiphanius said that it was the “duty” of all monks to join the OCU and leave the UOC. Leaving the UOC would mean “liberating the shrine from the captivity of the Russian world”, he said in connection with the classic building. “Start a new page in the life of the Lavra as a truly monastic monastery dedicated to serving the one church of Christ.”

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Metropolitan Onufry is taking the Christmas liturgy in St. Floriva Convent in Kyiv. Photo News.church.ua

Metropolitan Onufry of the UOC celebrated the liturgy in the St. Floriva Convent of Kyiv, as his church’s information department reported.

One church for Ukraine

The state government of Ukraine has set the goal that in the future, there will be just one Orthodox Church in Ukraine. At the moment, there are several. Apart from the UOC and the OCU, there are some smaller groups that campaign for an independent Patriarchate for Kyiv. But Viktor Yelensky, the head of the State Ethnopolitics, calls it an “anomaly” that several churches exist. “There is a huge demand from society for the unity of Ukrainian Orthodoxy”, he said.

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