Crimean government wants to ban Ukrainian Church


Eastern Europe


Photo EPA, Sergey Dolzhenko

The government of Russia-annexed Crimea plans to ban Ukraine's Orthodox Church under Kyiv Patriarchate. It comes in the same week as the Kyiv parliament discussing a ban on Ukrainian churches under the Moscow Patriarchate.

The head of the Crimean Republic, Sergei Aksyonov, said on Wednesday that he had ordered a "draft federal law to ban the schismatic structure, the so-called Orthodox Church of Ukraine," to be drawn up. This was reported by the Christian Austrian news portal Religion.

According to the Russian press agency Interfax, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church has been transferring more than 200 of the 12,500 parishes under Moscow Patriarchate forcefully toward the Kyiv leadership.

Opponents of Moscow and sympathisers of Kyiv have been persecuted on the peninsula, which is part of Ukraine under international law, since its annexation in 2014. Therefore, the Crimean diocese of the latter had to almost completely stop its work some time ago. The pro-Moscow authorities took churches away from her. So far, however, there has been no initiative for a Russia-wide ban by the parliament in Moscow.

Meanwhile, Oksana Savchuck, a deputy from the far-right Svoboda (Freedom) party, is a group of other parliamentarians, including former education minister Inna Sovsun of the liberal Holos party (VO), are calling for religious organisations to be banned from operating if their centre of power is in a foreign state that has militarily attacked Ukraine or any part of its country has occupied.

However, Mykhailo Podoliak, chief adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, spoke out against a ban on the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP). He said this church took a different stance on the war than the Russian Orthodox Church on Ukrainian television. He asked not to speculate on religious matters "because we might get an internal conflict." Unity is now much more important for Ukraine.

The Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU) was founded in Kyiv in December 2018 with the support of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. A month later, Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople officially recognised them as autocephalous (in their own right). The Russian Orthodox Church regards Ukraine as its homeland and strictly rejects ecclesiastical independence for the neighbouring country to the south.



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