Anonymous expert compilation, analysis, and reporting.
Ukraine’s parliament passes legislation regulating transfers of parishes between churches. Yelenskiy, an MP and scholar of religion, states the legislation complies with an ECHR ruling. Pres Poroshenko argues to counter Russian propaganda. Formal elevation of the new OCU head to happen in February. MP Herashchenko offers govt support to new church.
The Russian propaganda campaign around the ROC vs. OCU gathers intensity, with Muscovy actively arguing parallel campaign, while their ROC proxies in Ukraine declare themselves victims. Mostly this appears scripted for Russian audiences in Russia.
Update on Russia’s not entirely successful campaign to co-opt the GOC in Tbilisi. In Syria, Assad complains about the Lebanese OC attempting to separate from the Antioch OC, and makes comparisons to Ukraine and Russia.
The Ukrainian parliament has adopted a bill setting the procedure for changing the affiliation of religious communities in the country.
17.01.19 13:41 – Verkhovna Rada defines conversion mechanism for religious communities Verkhovna Rada has adopted the draft law No. 4128-d defining the conversion mechanism for religious communities. View news.
The Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine’s parliament, has adopted the law introducing amendments to certain laws of Ukraine regarding the subordination of religious organizations and the procedure for state registration of religious organizations with legal status. — Ukrinform.
Ukrainian lawmaker and religious scholar Volodymyr Yelenskiy has said the bill on the transition of the parishes of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP) to the newly created Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU) fully complies with European legislation, including a relevant decision by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). Read alsoForeign state should not interfere in church’s affairs – Poroshenko “There are references in this bill to the statutes of religious communities. For example, it says ‘religious associations are free to determine at their own discretion the manner in which new members are admitted and existing members are excluded.’ This is a direct-effect provision from the ECHR’s decision on the case of Svyato-Mykhaylivska Parafiya v. Ukraine,” he told journalists on the sidelines of the parliament, Pryamiy TV Channel reported. According to him, there is a law in Ukraine that provides that every religious community can be subordinated to any spiritual center – both in Ukraine and abroad, and freely change denomination. “But there is no procedure how to change it. The new bill proposes a model procedure since the state cannot interfere in the internal affairs of religious communities and respects their autonomy,” he said. “This bill [on the change of denomination] fully complies with the letter and spirit of the ECHR decision on the case of Svyato-Mykhaylivska Parafiya v. Ukraine,” he added.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has stressed the importance of the independence of the newly created Orthodox Church of Ukraine, saying there should not be any interference in its affairs. “The state should not interfere in the activities of the church. Especially when it is a foreign state. The Ukrainian church cannot be guided by Moscow – when Russia attacked us, seized Crimea, committed aggression against our state in the east and kills Ukrainians. And now, through various elements of the hybrid war, including the church, it tries to undermine Ukraine’s stability from the inside,” Poroshenko said while visiting the newly built Boryspil Academy, the president’s press service has reported. Read more on UNIAN: https://www.unian.info/politics/10410804-foreign-state-should-not-interfere-in-church-s-affairs-poroshenko.html
Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko calls on Ukrainians to “ignore Moscow’s instructions” and not to seek for the absence of autocephaly in Tomos. As reported by Censor.NET citing Interfax-Ukraine, this was declared by the president in Lutsk on Tuesday. “In Volyn alone, eight parishes expressed the willingness to join our church,” Poroshenko said He reminded that, as a president, he guarantees protecting those who turn to the new church and those who stay with the Moscow Patriarchy. “As a president, I guarantee that the choice of those who decide to stay with the church which maintains unity with the Russian church will be protected. But I also ensure protection to every parish that decides to join the new church,” the president said. Poroshenko encouraged Ukrainians to “ignore Moscow’s instructions” and not to seek for the absence of autocephaly in Tomos. “Some people out there are not happy with our receiving Tomos, some people do not like our eucharistic prayers… Someone seeks for the absence of autocephaly in Tomos. They will not find it. And don’t listen to any instructions from Moscow. They will definitely lead you into trouble,” he said. Source: https://censor.net.ua/en/n3106500
President Petro Poroshenko is taking part in a prayer service at St. Michael’s Cathedral in Zhytomyr on the occasion of receiving the tomos of autocephaly and the creation of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine. — Ukrinform.
The enthronement of the newly elected head of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, Metropolitan of Kyiv and All Ukraine Epiphanius will be held in early February. “The enthronement will take place at the beginning of February. The date will be announced officially,” Metropolitan Epiphanius said in an interview with the Priamyi Ukrainian TV channel. He added that the first meeting of the Holy Synod would be held after the enthronement. As reported, the unification council of the local Orthodox Church of Ukraine took place at the Saint Sophia Cathedral in Kyiv on December 15. The clergy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church established the unified local Orthodox Church of Ukraine, approved its charters and elected the primate – Metropolitan of Kyiv and All Ukraine Epiphanius. On January 5, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew signed the Tomos of Autocephaly of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine and handed it over to Metropolitan Epiphanius on January 6. The enthronement is a solemn ceremony of elevation of the newly elected primate of the church to the throne.
First Vice Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine Iryna Gerashchenko and Metropolitan of Kyiv and All Ukraine Epiphanius discussed the issues of strengthening of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine. “I spoke with Metropolitan Epiphanius about the strengthening of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine. We sincerely thanked Patriarch Filaret for his extraordinary contribution to the creation of a single autocephalous Ukrainian church,” she wrote on Facebook. As reported, the unification council of the local Orthodox Church of Ukraine took place at the Saint Sophia Cathedral in Kyiv on December 15, 2018. The clergy elected Metropolitan Epiphanius as the primate of the new Orthodox Church of Ukraine. On January 5, 2019, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew signed the tomos of autocephaly of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine. On January 6, the ceremony to hand over a tomos of autocephaly to the united Orthodox Church of Ukraine took place at the Patriarchal Church of St. George in Istanbul. Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew gave the document to Metropolitan of Kyiv and All Ukraine Epiphanius.
Ukraine Orthodox Church of Moscow Patriarchy is neither going to leave Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra nor take church treasures to Russia. As reported by Censor.NET citing Liga, the UOC MP archimandrite Polycarp announced this at a briefing today. “We are not going to leave our sanctuary, neither for Russia nor for any other place. We are Ukrainians, we live on our land, pray for our people and our country for the Lord to bless it,” he said. The archimandrite stressed they will not take lavra treasures anywhere. “We are not going to steal the relics and carry Lavra’s large bell tower across the Dnipro river,” said Polycarp ironically. January 14, one of the buildings in the territory of Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra caught fire. As reported earlier, Ukraine’s Minister of Culture Yevhen Nyshchuk said several valuable icons had disappeared from Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra. Source: https://censor.net.ua/en/n3106541
So-called “church laws” Nos. 5309, 4128 and 4511 are related and aimed at liquidating Ukraine’s Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) by means of the seizure of its property, the UOC-MP’s lead lawyer and Archbishop Oleksandr Bakhov has alleged. “Bills No. 5309 (already in force), No. 4128 and No. 4511 are interrelated. They are part of the same package and are aimed at eliminating the activity of the UOC-MP through raider seizure through its renaming (No. 5309), seizing its property (No. 4128) and interventions in governing bodies (No. 4511),” Balakhov said on Wednesday. The lawyer said the bills, if adopted, would make the transitions of church communities legal, and the state will be able to manipulate and “indicate to the religious community who its members are.” The UOC-MP said on January 15 Verkhovna Rada Speaker Andriy Parubiy, said gave instructions to finalize draft law No. 4128 on the procedure for changing the religious affiliation of a religious community and that parliament could consider the bill during its next session.
Russia has been ranked among the world’s 50 countries in which Christians face the most prosecution for the first time in seven years. Open Doors, a group that tracks the persecution of Christians around the world, said 245 million Christians face mistreatment this year — 30 million more than last year.
«This issue has absolutely no relation to religious life, it’s just dangerous and irresponsible politicking,» Putin said
Russian president Putin believes the creation of Orthodox Church in Ukraine (OCU) legitimizes schismatic communities with the followers of Ukraine’s Orthodox Church of Moscow Patriarchate being harrassed. This was announced in an interview for Serbian media published at the Kremlin web page, Censor.NET reports. Putin insists OCU is a “purely political secular project meant to divide Russian and Ukrainian people not only on national, but also religious basis.” “It is not a coincidence that Kyiv declared ‘the final aqcuisition of independence from Moscow,’” the president added. In Putin’s view, Orthodox Church in Ukraine “is completely subordinated to Istanbul.” On the contrary, UOC MP is “fully independent in its actions, preserving solely canonical ties to Russian Orthodox Church,” he said. Putin stressed that UOC MP priests and worshipers are being harassed and persecuted in Ukraine. The church itself “is being deprived of its legitimate title,” the Russian president believes. He also said that Russia “has no intention to interfere in church processes, especially in the territory of a neighboring sovereign state.” Source: https://censor.net.ua/en/n3106658
The creation of new Orthodox Church of Ukraine is merely and ‘exclusively political, secular project’, Russian president Vladimir Putin said in his interview with Politika, the Serbian newspaper. ‘The new church structure is a merely political and secular project. Its main goal is to drive the wedge between the nations of Ukraine and Russia, based not only on the national but also on religious differences. There is no coincidence in Kyiv’s statement about the ‘final gaining of independence from Moscow’, he said. ‘I repeat: there’s no religious life in it, as we’re facing dangerous and irresponsible political games. There’s no independence of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, too. It is actually under full control of Istanbul’, Putin added. The Russian leader claimed that the clergy and believers of the Russian Orthodox Church in Ukraine are ‘prosecuted, have their shrines and monasteries taken away from them, while the church faces the attempts to be deprived of its legal name’. ‘It is obvious that Ukraine’s leadership can’t help but understand that the attempts to forcefully bring believers to someone else’s shrine may have serious consequences… Of course, Russia has no intentions to interfere with the religious processes, let alone these taking place in the neighboring sovereign state’, Putin concluded. Earlier it was reported that the members of the Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate signed the Tomos on providing autocephaly for the newly created Orthodox Church of Ukraine. Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew passed the Tomos of autocephaly and bishops’ crosier to the Head of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine Epifaniy. The event happened during the festive service in St. George’s Cathedral in Istanbul. Besides, President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko guarantees the state’s respect for the religious choice of every citizen of the country.
The main political theme in Georgia in recent days has been the position of the Georgian Orthodox Church (GOC) regarding the recognition of the autocephaly of the Ukrainian Church. On December 27, the Georgian Patriarchate declared that the Holy Synod—the main decision-making body of the GOC—had met to discuss the situation in Ukraine and the broader Orthodox World following the decision of the Patriarch of Constantinople to grant autocephaly to Kyiv. According to the GOC Patiarchate, however, the Georgian Holy Synod decided not to voice an official position on the issue (Civil.ge, January 8, 2019). The official representative of the Patriarchate in Tbilisi said that discussions regarding Ukrainian autocephaly would continue during subsequent meetings of the Holy Synod. Reportedly, at the December 27 gathering, two letters were read out: the first from the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, asking the other Orthodox Churches to support his decision to grant a tomos (decree) of autocephaly to the Ukrainian Church, and the second from Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, calling on Georgia’s Patriarch Ilia II to condemn the “non-canonical” decision by Constantinople (Civil.ge, January 8, 2019). “It is sad that the Russian Church stopped communicating with Constantinople. The Ecumenical Patriarchate began the procedure for granting autocephaly to Ukraine. This deepened the crisis. But Church history knows many crises that God managed to overcome,” Patriarch Ilia declared (Civil.ge, January 8, 2019). Many in Tbilisi and Kyiv had hoped that the Georgian Orthodox Church would be the first to announce support for Ukraine’s autocephaly. Last autumn, while visiting Washington, DC, the head of the independent Ukrainian Orthodox Church–Kyiv Patriarchate said that he expects support from the “Georgian Brothers.” While speaking at an event hosted by the Atlantic Council, Patriarch Filaret noted, “Georgia and Ukraine have both suffered from Russian aggression. So Georgia must support us. We are Orthodox, and we are obliged to pray together” (YouTube, September 19, 2018).
DAMASCUS, January 17. /TASS/. Syrian President Bashar Assad has said at a meeting with Russia’s delegation that attempts are being made to divide the Church of Antioch in Syria and Lebanon in a manner similar to the church schism in Ukraine, member of Russia’s State Duma (lower house of parliament) Dmitry Sablin, who leads the delegation and who is a co-chairman of the working group on the implementation of the agreement between the United Russia party and the Arab Socialist Renaissance (Ba’ath) Party, told reporters on Thursday following meeting with the Syrian leader. “Attempts to divide believers are one of the most serious challenges not only for you, but also for us,” the lawmaker quoted Assad as saying. “Today we see attempts to divide the church on our soil as well, that is, an attempt to divide the Church of Antioch in Syria and Lebanon.” The president noted in particular that granting independence to the Lebanese Metropolitanate was being discussed and warned that “the continuation of that process could follow.” The head of state pointed to the need “to hinder this division on all international platforms,” Sablin went on to say. “Otherwise, we will have hundreds of Orthodox Churches and only one Vatican,” he quoted Assad as saying. “When we see artificial attempts to divide the people, to divide the church, the way it is done in Ukraine, it is essential to meet and get first-hand information,” the Syrian president stressed, adding that “today’s battle is not only for Syria but for the whole world.”
Russia has failed in its yet another attempt to question the completion of the process to grant the Orthodox Church of Ukraine full canonical independence, Ukrainian media report. Some Russian resources began spreading fake news that the tomos of autocephaly of the OCU had not been signed by all members of the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Information Resistance OSINT group wrote on its website, referring to the “Dukhovniy Front” [“Spiritual Front”] Facebook community. As it often happens, a new batch of disinformation coming from Ukraine’s northern neighbor can easily be debunked through simple fact-checking. “It turned out that Russian propagandists compared the list of Tomos’s signatories with … the list of the Synod members of a previous convocation,” writes the publication. Read alsoTomos for Ukraine Church signed by all members of Constantinople Synod “The new composition of the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate was elected in August 2018 and it is valid until March 2019,” explains the article, adding that the list of members of the Holy Synod is available on the Patriarchate’s website, so anyone is able to compare it with the signatures of the tomos of OCU autocephaly (in English). As UNIAN reported earlier, the obtaining of autocephaly by the new Orthodox Church of Ukraine will spark resistance of anti-Ukrainian forces, which will only intensify their efforts aimed against the new Church, according to Archbishop of Chernihiv and Nizhyn Yevstratiy Zorya. The opposing forces “have not stopped, they are not asleep, they understand the significance of what has happened and what will happen,” said the Archbishop. According to Poland’s Gazeta Wyborcza, for Ukrainian believers, having their own independent church “is a very important step against the background of the war in Donbas and the Crimea occupation.” “Ukrainians will now gradually shift to their own church, abandoning that which the Kremlin controls. It will be a long, but inevitable, process despite Moscow’s resistance. However, the creation of the OCU is also of historical significance,” the report says. “After all, Ukraine has ceased to be what Moscow called its ‘canonical territory’,” wrote Gazeta Wyborcza.