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Russia Loses the War of the Churches (65)

Anonymous expert compilation, analysis, and reporting.

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While the leadership of the new OCU brief the public on the planned events of the 6th January, when Ukraine gets its 330 years overdue Christmas gift from the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the exodus from the Ukrainian branch office of the ROC to the OCU continues.

Much more interesting is the media focus on the long-neglected topic of Russia’s internal religious affairs, most involving repression of all denominations other than the ROC. The Russian propaganda campaign has attracted the attention of Western mass media and religion writers, who are now exploring the tragedy the regime has been creating in Russia, trying to force non-ROC Christians into the ROC. If this sounds medieval, it is, and parallels the Tehran regime’s forced conversions to Shia Islam post-1979, and more recently, Taliban efforts to convert Shia and Sufis to Sunni Islam. A joke circulated in Russian media some years ago was that many organized Orthodox activists in Russia were being labeled  “Orthodox Taliban” for their violent conduct.

Temple of the Holy Martyr Paraskeva from Skybyn village, Cherkasy region, became the first local Orthodox community to join the united local Orthodox Church –

The religious community of the Temple of the Holy Martyr Paraskeva from Skybyn village, Cherkasy region, became the first local Orthodox community to join the united local Orthodox Church. A local outlet reported that this is the first documented fact of transition from the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC MP) to the united local Orthodox Church of Ukraine. There are some 2,000 residents in Skybyn village; most of them belong to the congregation of the Temple of the Holy Martyr Paraskeva. ‘The community made the decision of transition, without waiting for the official ceremony of granting Tomos to Ukraine, which is slated for January 6 in Constantinople… Everybody who was present on the church gathering upheld the option to leave UOC MP’, the article says. For the time being, the services will be performed in the Old Slavic language; next year, they will be conducted in Ukrainian as well, which is the demand of the churchgoers. Another three villages in the same district are preparing documents to be transferred, the medium reported.

Metropolitan Epifaniy: May new year give us hope for victorious end of war | UNIAN

Head of the nearly created Orthodox Church of Ukraine, Metropolitan Epifaniy believes that the year 2019 will bring Ukrainians hope for a victorious end of the war in the east of the country. Head of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine hopes that the annexed Crimea be returned to Ukraine. Head of the nearly created Orthodox Church of Ukraine, Metropolitan Epifaniy believes that the year 2019 will bring Ukrainians hope for a victorious end of the war in the east of the country. Read alsoLeader of Ukraine’s new church shares details of agenda of his visit to Istanbul for tomos “May the new year of the goodness of God give us hope for a victorious end of the war in the east of Ukraine and the return of the annexed Crimea, which means the advance of peace in our long-suffering Homeland. May the Lord protect us all! Happy New Year, dear Ukrainians!” he wrote on Twitter on January 1, 2019.

Leader of Ukraine’s new church shares details of agenda of his visit to Istanbul for tomos | UNIAN

Head of the nearly created Orthodox Church of Ukraine Epifaniy has shared details of the agenda of his visit to Istanbul for getting a tomos, a document of autocephaly from the Ecumenical Patriarchate to the Orthodox Church of Ukraine. The tomos will be handed over to Epifaniy on January 6. Head of the nearly created Orthodox Church of Ukraine Epifaniy has shared details of the agenda of his visit to Istanbul for getting a tomos, a document of autocephaly from the Ecumenical Patriarchate to the Orthodox Church of Ukraine. “The tomos transfer procedure will begin on January 5,” he told TV Channel Pryamiy. “We will be for the first time praying at St. George’s Cathedral at the Phanar as head of the independent local Orthodox church together with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I to thank God.” Read alsoPatriarch Filaret says Ukraine would have never got tomos if he had run for head of new church It will be followed by an official ceremony where the tomos will be signed by the Ecumenical Patriarch on the Phanar on January 5. “And on January 6, the two primates for the first time will hold an individual service – Patriarch Bartholomew I as the first patriarch among equals and the patriarch of the already free, independent, local Orthodox church,” he said. “After the solemn service, after the solemn liturgy, the tomos about the autocephaly of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church will be handed over [to the new church’s head],” Epifaniy said. As UNIAN reported earlier, the Unification Council of members of the Ukrainian Orthodox churches in Kyiv on December 15 elected Metropolitan bishop of Pereyaslavsky and Bila Tserkva from the then Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate Epifaniy (also known as Epiphanius I) as head of the new local Orthodox church in Ukraine. On January 6 in Istanbul, he, as Primate of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine and Metropolitan of Kyiv and All Ukraine, is to receive the tomos of autocephaly from Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.

President on granting the Tomos of autocephaly to the UOC: We are on the eve of the birth of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Church — Official website of the President of Ukraine

We will remember these days forever. We are about to get the Tomos. We stand on the threshold of great joy. We stand on the threshold of not only Christmas holidays, but also the birth of the Ukrainian autocephalous church, “We will remember these days forever. We are about to get the Tomos. We stand on the threshold of great joy. We stand on the threshold of not only Christmas holidays, but also the birth of the Ukrainian autocephalous church,” President Petro Poroshenko addressed the believers who convened for a divine service at the Holy Assumption Temple in Myrne, Odesa region. The President recalled that on December 15, the Unity Council had approved the decision to establish the Orthodox Church of Ukraine and elected its Primate. Petro Poroshenko stressed that Ukraine had waited and prayed for that for a thousand years. “I want to thank His Holiness Filaret. For the sacrifice, which His Holiness demonstrated all the time … we simply have no such examples in the history of Ukraine,” Petro Poroshenko said. The Head of State also emphasized that His Holiness put the issue of church creation much higher than personal destiny. “Without this, the church would not have been created,” he said. The Head of State also thanked His Beatitude Metropolitan Macarius, His Eminence Simeon, all the hierarchs who made a wise decision. The President especially emphasized that the new Ukrainian church comes with love to everyone, and the one who made the decision to stay in the church, which maintains communication and leadership of Russia, it is their choice. “No one forbids you to go to the church and start the divine service praying for Russia, if this is your choice,” he said. At the same time, he stressed that on December 15, the process of creating a united church had not been completed, on the contrary, it had just begun. “And now the church needs even greater prayer, more efforts, even more goodness and even more love,” the President said. “May the Lord hear our prayer, may God help us,” Petro Poroshenko said and thanked everyone who has come today to the Holy Assumption Temple. The President noted that today’s prayer was held on the eve of the great Christian holiday – Christmas “This year’s holiday will be very special and the evening of January 6, 2019 will forever enter the history of our state. Just as it happened on December,” the Head of State emphasized. In turn, His Holiness Filaret noted that Ukraine has been struggling for the church’s independence for thousands of years. He thanked Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew for the important decision and noted the efforts of the President. “Many Presidents, his predecessors, also dreamed and did everything possible for the Ukrainian church to be recognized. But they failed. And Petro Oleksiyovych, due to his wisdom, experience and will, succeeded. And we are grateful to him and Patriarch Bartholomew for the fact that they have taken such a step,” His Holiness Filaret emphasized. His Holiness Filaret also called for the unity of Ukrainians.

Epiphanius: OCU may come to celebrate Christmas on Dec. 25 when society ready | KyivPost

The Orthodox Church of Ukraine is not yet ready for a calendar reform because there has been no demand for it in society, Metropolitan Epiphanius, head of the independent local Orthodox Church of Ukraine, has said. “Now, starting to build our unified local Orthodox Church, we must avoid issues that can divide us. At present, the calendar issue is also capable of dividing the Ukrainian Church,” he said in an interview with Priamy TV channel on December 29 when asked about the transition to celebrating Christmas on December 25, in accordance with the Gregorian calendar. Metropolitan Epiphanius said this issue is rather thorny because not all the Ukrainians can accept the calendar reform in full. “We believe that in the future, the Church will be able to respond to this demand of Ukrainian society; however, this is a matter of time—when most of Ukrainians will wish to celebrate Christmas according to the Gregorian calendar,” he said.

Taras Kuzio on Twitter: “Why is there so much fake news in the Western media about the poor ROC in Ukraine “suffering” from raids and takeovers and nothing (!) about the total destruction of ALL non-ROC Churches in Russian proxy DNR-LNR and Russian-occupied Crimea? Info at:”


Andrew Higgins | As Ukraine and Russia Battle Over Orthodoxy, Schism Looms [Clash in East Fractures a Branch of Christianity] – The New York Times

Both claim the mantle of the Orthodox religion, but at heart the dispute is a modern struggle over money, property, political power and identity.

Patriarch Kirill urges Patriarch Bartholomew not to provide Ukraine with Tomos on autocephaly –

The Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill called upon the Most Holy Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew to abandon the intention to provide a tomos about the autocephaly of the Orthodox Church in Ukraine. He wrote about this in a letter published by the press service of the Russian Orthodox Church. “I spoke with you alone and with a few witnesses about the plans of the Church of Constantinople to legalize a split in Ukraine. Now, when these plans are largely implemented, perhaps I’ll appeal to you in front of the whole Orthodox Church for the last time. … Now step back from communicating with the schismatics, refuse to participate in the political gamble of their legalization. And then the true Orthodox Church of Ukraine, headed by the most blissful Metropolitan of Kyiv and All Ukraine, Onufry will bless you, and history will preserve the memory of you among those holy hierarchs of the Constantinople throne who, in the most difficult political conditions, managed not to drop the dignity of the church and preserve its unity, ”wrote Patriarch Kirill. According to him, “it is not too late to stop.” “If you act in accordance with the intentions set forth in your letter, you will forever lose the opportunity to serve the unity of the holy churches of God, cease to be the first in the Orthodox world numbering hundreds of millions of believers, and the suffering you cause to Orthodox Ukrainians will follow you to a terrible judgment of God and it will testify against you in front of him “, said Kirill to Bartholomew. We recall, on October 11, the Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate supported the extension of the provision of autocephaly to Ukraine, and also officially approved that the mother church of Ukraine is Constantinople. Also, the Synod removed the anathema from the head of the UOC-KP Filaret and the head of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church Makariy.

Window on Eurasia — New Series: Top Ten Religious Events in Russia Highlight Moscow’s Increasing Isolation and Repression

Paul Goble Staunton, January 2 – The Credo religious affairs portal has compiled a list of the 50 most important developments in the religious sector over the last 12 months. Below are the top ten, which like the other 40, highlight the growing isolation of Russia’s religious authorities from the rest of the world and the increasing repression of the Russian state against believers ( 1. The process of offering autocephaly to the Orthodox Church of Ukraine. 2. Criminal cases against the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the confiscation of their property. 3. The break in relations between the ROC MP and the Universal Patriarch in Constantinople. 4. The wholesale replacement of top officials in the ROC MP. 5. Dramatic growth in the number of government fines for “illegal missionary activity.” 6. The transfer of parishes from the Moscow Patriarchate’s church in Ukraine to the Orthodox Church of Ukraine. 7. The installation of Russian security services veteran as head of the ROC MP’s Sofrino enterprises. 8. The conviction of a ROC MP priest for pedophilia and his sentence to the camps. 9. The new Ukrainian law requiring that the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarch change its name. 10. The appointment of Tikhon (Shevkunov) as metropolitan of Pskov, getting Putin’s favorite priest out of Moscow but not reducing his influence as the Russian president later visited him.

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Window on Eurasia — New Series: Jehovah’s Witnesses Most Persecuted Religious Denomination in Russia in 2018

Paul Goble Staunton, December 29 – Moscow increased its repression of various religious groups at odds with the four traditional faiths of Russia, but the most persecuted in Russia in 2018 by far have been the Jehovah’s Witnesses, against whom at least 62 criminal cases have been opened and 49 of the faithful confined in preliminary detention centers or under house arrest. One striking characteristic of the Russian campaign against the Jehovah’s Witnesses is that all these cases have been initiated outside of Moscow and St. Petersburg, as if the authorities wanted to test their repressive mechanism there beyond the prying eyes of opposition media and Western diplomats, Anton Chivchalov says ( The Credo portal religious affairs expert says that all these actions have their roots in the 2017 Supreme Court decision labelling the Jehovah’s Witnesses an extremist organization and liquidating all 396 religious communities affiliated with the Witnesses in Russia. But the actions of local police, prosecutors and courts have little to do with legal niceties. They treat being a Jehovah’s Witness as a crime in and of itself, a violation of the Russian Constitution and international law, and something that has drawn protests from human rights groups inside Russia and international legal organizations which have pointed out that the Russian approach makes all of the Witnesses in Russia potential victims. The Russian authorities deny that is true even though case after case showed that it is, that Jehovah’s Witnesses are being convicted of crimes not for any “terrorist” activity but simply for being members of that denomination. Russian law enforcement personnel know that is what their bosses want, Chivchalov says; and the government has never said otherwise. The hypocrisy and duplicity of the Russian authorities in response to these charges has “confused even themselves” as was demonstrated when Vladimir Putin himself “unexpectedly declared that he did not understand why the Jehovah’s Witnesses were being pursued. [They] are also Christians; for what they are being persecuted, I also do not understand very well.” Those who try to defend what Russian courts are doing say that the Russian authorities are only defending themselves against those who are banned in Europe, won’t serve in the army, and won’t take their children to hospitals. “All three of these asserts are untrue.” But few in the Russian establishment care. “Truth,” the Credo journalist says, “isn’t much in demand, but lies are spreading like a forest fire.” One can only hope and pray that the situation will get better in 2019.

Window on Eurasia — New Series: Moscow Patriarchate’s Building Boom has Sparked NIMBY Resistance Across Russia

Paul Goble Staunton, December 29 – To show its power and spread its influence, the Moscow Patriarchate is seeking to build ever more churches – 85 in the city of Moscow alone over the last eight years ( – sparking the inevitable “Not in My Back Yard” (NIMBY) resistance from Russians who don’t want to lose parkland or deal with traffic. In a report at a Tambov meeting on Wednesday, Kseniya Sergazina, an instructor at the Russian State Humanities University and a specialist with the SOVA Center, discussed the conflicts that have arisen over the construction of churches in parks as well as fights over handing over other buildings to the church or illegal actions by religious groups about property. During 2018, she says, there were significant conflicts between church officials and activists, on the one hand, and residents and environmental activists, on the other, over plans to erect churches in what had been city parks that people enjoyed and had come to rely on ( Among the most serious were fights of this kind in Rostov-na-Donu, Chuvashia, Tomsk, Chita, Syktyvkar, Sevastopol, Chelyabinsk, Blagoveshchensk, Pervouralsk, Kurgan, Moscow and St. Petersburg. The largest and longest lasting controversy was in Yekaterinburg where residents fought plans by the church to build a massive cathedral on the city’s waterfront. Most of these conflicts would have been less intense and might have been resolved had the church been willing to compromise, Sergazina says, because “in the overwhelming majority of cases, local residents spoke out not against the construction of churches as such but in defense of parks and squares from such buildings.” (The Orthodox Church was not the only target of such NIMBY protests. Residents in Severouralsk, Perm and Kazan opposed planned construction of mosques in public parks. “but such conflicts,” she says, “were significantly fewer than those about the building of Orthodox churches.”) Sergazina also notes the continuing controversies about buildings the church seeks to have returned to it. The most notable of these concerns the church’s aspirations to take ownership of St. Isaac’s in St. Petersburg. But there were similar fights in Vladimir, Moscow and over monastery lands in a variety of places. Again, other faiths experienced similar problems in2018. The Roman Catholics failed in their bid to reclaim a church build in 1911 in Krasnoyarsk and another in Smolensk. There were also significant controversies about government seizures of churches as in the case of the Jehovah’s Witnesses and church construction that the government or residents deemed illegal. In general, Sergazina says, the government sided with the population against Protestants, Catholics and Muslims but with the Russian Orthodox Church against the population’s expressed wishes. The ROC MP has benefited from this alliance in the short term, the SOVA analyst says; but it may suffer over the longer haul. “The ‘Church of the Majority’ by entering into a coalition with the state and not with civil society risks suffering large losses to its reputation and losing the credit of trust which it received in the 1990s,” Sergazina says. That could send its standing and its membership plummeting and lead some of the faithful to shift to other denominations.