New Orthodox Church in Ukraine supports a ban on its mother church

09-02-2023

Eastern Europe

Lennart Nijenhuis, CNE.news

Three men that just 'built' a new Orthodox church in Ukraine. In 2019, the then-Ukrainian President Poroshenko (left) succeeded in his wish to get an Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU) independent from Russia. Patriarch Bartholomew (centre) of Constantinople would be the father of this church, instead of Patriarch Kirill from Moscow. Metropolitan Epifany (right) would be the spiritual leader. This new Orthodox church now asks for a ban on the old body, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC), that on paper is connected to Moscow. Photo EPA, Erdem Sahin

The (newly formed) Orthodox Church in Ukraine (OCU) supports a ban on the traditional Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) from the Moscow Patriarchate.

The Holy Synod of the OCU calls on the Ukrainian state authorities to continue "protecting national security in the religious sphere". As things stand now, that would mean a ban on the UOC, since that church has a connection with the "aggressor country – the Russian Federation". This is reported by the Religious Information Service of Ukraine.

According to the church, such restrictions do not conflict with the freedom of religion and belief. The problem is that the "pseudo-religious motivation" threatens Ukraine's security. The Russian World-ideology means that Ukraine is not seen as an independent country.

The Holy Synod claims that the UOC is part of the Russian Orthodox Church, the church that "spreads slander about Ukraine".

Army

The UOC itself claims that it is entirely independent of the ROC and that the connection with the Moscow Patriarchate is only canonical. From the beginning of the war, the UOC supported Ukraine's national independence and actively supported the Ukrainian army. There are regular examples of that on the church's website.

However, an expert group of the Ukrainian state reported last week that the UOC still functions as "a structural subdivision of the Russian Orthodox Church" and "remains subordinate" to the Moscow Patriarchate. It is not a fully autonomous (so-called autocephalous) church. For that reason, the expert group thinks that the UOC still is under the influence of Moscow, as the Institute for Religion and Policy reports.

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The Primate of the UOC, Metropolitan Onufry (centre, in blue) for a commemoration at the shore of the Dnjepr in Kyiv, in 2016. Photo EPA, Sergey Dolzhenko

Zelensky

As Forum18 wrote in an overview article about the Ukrainian situation, President Zelensky originally was very much against restricting the Ukrainian church. In the election campaign in 2019 against President Poroshenko, Zelensky refused to take a position against the Russian church or the Russian language. Also, after the invasion last year, he said that limiting the church would divide the nation. But after some incidents that revealed that not everybody in the UOC was as patriotic as expected, he changed his mind. His government tabled some bills that will have the effect that the Russia-connected church will be put under restrictions.

Chain

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