On the Situation in the Ukrainian Orthodox Church
Statement adopted on a meeting of the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church on February 26, 2019 (Journal No. 2).
The Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church views the drastic worsening of the situation of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church with profound alarm.
The granting by the Constantinople Patriarchate of a “tomos of autocephaly” to the so-called “Orthodox Church in Ukraine,” artificially created by the merging of two schismatic organizations, has exacerbated the division among Orthodox Christians of Ukraine, and substantially aggravates inter-confessional relations.
The overt meddling by the government of Ukraine in the internal life of the Church is troubling, along with the efforts by politicians to exploit the Church in their own political interests. Fundamental human rights and freedoms which are also guaranteed by the Constitution of Ukraine are being violated.
The Supreme Rada of Ukraine has passed and enforced discriminatory laws, the aim of which are to deprive the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of her name and to legalize the seizure of her churches and monasteries. Believers of the canonical Church suffer a blow in other rights: their clergy are deprived of the opportunity to fully minister to military and security officers and prisoners.
It is becoming more apparent that the aim of ruling state representatives is to liquidate the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. Local authorities and security services were instructed to maximally transfer communities of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church into schism.
Threats are being made to take away the biggest monasteries and historic holy sites—the Kiev Lavra of the Caves and Pochaev Lavra—from the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
In most cases the confiscation of churches from religious communities goes against their decision to remain in the canonical Church. The decisions of religious communities are superseded voting by a general meeting of citizens who are by no means members of the parish of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. The minutes of such meetings are immediately confirmed by local government organs, after which the church is closed with the aid of paramilitary formations.
This lawlessness has led to spurts of violence towards clergymen and faithful of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. Despite assurances by the leaders of Ukraine and the Constantinople Patriarchate of the peaceful character of this so-called “unification of Ukrainian Orthodoxy,” dozens of churches have been confiscated through break-ins, by militant formations, with frequent cases of brutalization of clergymen and believers of the canonical Church who strive to protect their holy sites. Dozens of communities of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church have been forced to gather for prayer in private homes or on the streets.
In this difficult situation, we call upon all the faithful flock of the Russian Orthodox Church to redouble their prayers for our suffering brethren in Ukraine, that they be granted courage and Christian patience in their standing for Holy Orthodoxy.
We appeal to the government of Ukraine to cease the persecution of its own citizenry who refuse to join the schism.
We ask the fraternal Local Orthodox Churches to prayerfully support the persecuted Ukrainian Orthodox Church headed by Metropolitan Onouphry of Kiev and All Ukraine.
We call upon the global community to pay heed to the scandalous violation of human rights and properly condemn the harsh intervention of the Ukrainian government in matters of the Church.