Ukraine’s state service verifies ties between Ukrainian and Russian Orthodox churches

1 February, 07:37 PM
The Great Lavra Bell Tower, January 6, 2023 (Photo:REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko)

The Great Lavra Bell Tower, January 6, 2023 (Photo:REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko)

Ukraine’s State Service for Ethnic Policy and Freedom of Conscience has checked the Statute on the management of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) for a church-canonical connection with the Russian Orthodox Church or ROC, the service said on Jan. 31.

According to the conclusions, the UOC remains a structural unit of the ROC.

The agency conducted its probe under an order of the National Security and Defense Council (NSDC) dated Dec. 1, 2022.

The expert group included five professors, doctors of science, and one candidate of science – experts in the field of religion, church history, freedom of conscience, theology, and state-religious relations.

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“The UOC, relative to the ROC, has a church-canonical connection of part with the whole,” experts said.

“The relations of the UOC with the ROC are not the relations of one independent (autocephalous) church with another independent autocephalous church.”

The conclusions stipulate that the UOC does not have the status of an autonomous church that other churches would recognize. It is also noted that “the activity or inactivity of the highest bodies of the church authorities and management of the UOC” indicates that the church is subordinate to the ROC and does not act independently.

Neither did the expert group find documents that would indicate the transformation of the UOC into an “independent religious organization.”

On May 27, 2022, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church declared its “full independence” from the Moscow church and expressed disagreement with the position of Russian Orthodox Church leader Patriarch Kirill, a henchman of Russian dictator Vladimir Putin.

On Jan. 19, 2023, the Cabinet of Ministers submitted to the Verkhovna Rada a bill banning the activity of religious organizations with centers of management in Russia.

Ukraine’s SBU security service continue to conduct searches at UOC dioceses throughout Ukraine. In many cases, the agents find anti-Ukrainian literature and symbols.

On Dec. 2, the NSDC imposed sanctions against 10 UOC persons, including Metropolitan Pavlo and former Ukrainian MP Vadym Novynskyi.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy signed the document imposing sanctions.

In late 2022, the lease of the UOC for the two largest churches of the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra monastery – the Assumption and Refectory Churches – expired.

From Jan. 1, 2023, the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra Reserve did not extend the contract for the use of both churches to the Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, and therefore the Assumption Cathedral and the Refectory Church were returned to the state.

On Jan. 7, on Eastern Orthodox Christmas Day, Primate of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU), Epiphanius, conducted a first service in the Assumption Cathedral of the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra monastery.

Epiphanius held a second service in the Assumption Cathedral of the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra monastery on Jan. 19.

It was the liturgy marking the occasion of the Baptism of Jesus Christ.

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