Anonymous expert compilation, analysis, and reporting.
These two reports are worrisome, this is a similar cover story that Russia used to justify the Crimea takeover.
- UAWire – Putin: Russia reserves the right ‘to protect freedom of religion’ in Ukraine
- Putin promises to “do everything” to protect Ukrainian believers – 112.international
Putin is trying all he can to provoke Ukraine. Russia is also still trying to use the ROC as leverage against Ukraine. Now it appears it is creating a “provocation”.
With the new church legislation coming into effect, the OCU is registered, with two legal names, the OCU and UOC-KM. The ROC refuses to register, and this will lead to its loss of legal status as a church, and likely to invalidate all prior leases and contracts. Parishes continue to defect from the ROC to the new OCU.
The Vozhd makes veiled public threats against Ukraine over the church. It is being read as an invasion threat.
The head of Ukraine’s Foreign Intelligence Service, Bozhok, briefs on the infiltration of the ROC by the KGB, and the later division of responsibility between the Russian SVR and FSB, the ROC in Russia now being under the influence of the FSB, and its offspring in former Soviet republics under the SVR.
Head of ROC declares his intent to visit Ukraine. Nezavismaya Gazeta on the paralysis of the ROC. More on the persecution of the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Respective information has been included in the single state register of legal entities, individual entrepreneurs and public associations. According to the register, the OCU is registered as a legal entity under the title “Kyiv Metropolis of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Orthodox Church of Ukraine)” on January 30, 2019. The registered OCU is located at 6 Triokhsviatytelska Street in Kyiv. As reported, Metropolitan of Pereyaslav and Bila Tserkva Epiphanius was elected the primate of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine at a unification council on December 15, 2018. On January 6, he received a tomos (decree) of autocephaly of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine from Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. The enthronement ceremony for the primate of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, Metropolitan of Kyiv and All Ukraine Epiphanius, will be held at St. Sophia Cathedral in Kyiv on February 3.
Archbishop Yevstratiy (Zorya) of Chernihiv and Nizhyn has announced the Kyiv-based Metropolia, an ecclesiastical province, of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Orthodox Church of Ukraine) was registered on January 30, 2019. Read alsoUkraine’s law on change of denomination to new church comes into force on Jan 31 “The Kyiv Metropolia [Mitropolia in Ukrainian] of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (the Orthodox Church of Ukraine) was registered on January 30, 2019,” he wrote on Facebook. As UNIAN reported earlier, the Unification Council of members of the Ukrainian Orthodox churches in Kyiv on December 15 elected Metropolitan 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.
Paul Goble Staunton, January 31 – Yesterday, the Ukrainian justice ministry officially registered the religious organization, “the Kyiv Metropolitanate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (the Orthodox Church of Ukraine), thus making it official that the two terms, Ukrainian Orthodox Church and Orthodox Church of Ukraine, are legally synonymous. That new reality was underscored by a statement of Andrey Yurash, director of the department for religious and nationality affairs of the Ukrainian culture ministry who said that officials and Ukrainians will use the terms interchangeably, an arrangement that has been cleared with the Ecumenical Patriarch (risu.org.ua/ru/index/all_news/orthodox/ocu/74542/). For that to be possible, the former Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate must use a new name, and the Russian culture ministry says it will unilaterally take action to rename that church if it does not change its name on its own to show its links to Russia (unian.net/society/10428987-minkult-izmenit-nazvanie-byvshey-upc-mp-v-sluchae-ee-otkaza-sdelat-eto-samostoyatelno.html).
The law on amendments to certain laws of Ukraine regarding the subordination (denomination) of religious organizations and the procedure of state registration of such organizations with the status of legal entities came into force on January 31, 2019. The document regulates the change in the subordination of religious communities, in particular, the transition to the newly created Orthodox Church of Ukraine.
The law on the hierarchy of the religious organizations №2673-VIII comes into force. According to the law, the state admits that a religious organization has a right to report to any existing religious centers in Ukraine and abroad. Besides, a religious organization has a right to change its subordination through registration of a new edition of the statute or amendments of this statute. General assembly of the religious organization decides whether it changes subordination. The members of the organization can summon a meeting.
29.01.19 13:57 – Poroshenko endorses religious communities conversion law: “No more questions about patriarchy” Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko has endorsed the religious communities conversion law adopted by the Verkhovna Rada on Jan. 17, 2019. View news.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko signed off Law “On Amendments to Certain Laws of Ukraine regarding the subordination of religious organizations and the procedure for state registration of religious organizations with the status of legal entities,” the presidential administration press service reports. The legislation establishes that decisions to change affiliation shall be made at a general meeting of a religious community by at least two-thirds of its composition. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko signed off Law “On Amendments to Certain Laws of Ukraine regarding the subordination of religious organizations and the procedure for state registration of religious organizations with the status of legal entities,” the presidential administration press service reports. The draft law stipulates a decision to change subordination (denomination) and introduce relevant amendments or changes to the statute shall be approved by at least two-thirds of its authorized members of a religious community at a general meeting. After the religious community decides to change its subordination, a moratorium on the alienation of its property is imposed until this procedure is legally completed. The draft law provides that members of the community who disagree with the decision to change its subordination have the right to form a new community and conclude an agreement on the use of religious buildings and property with their owner (user). The final provisions of the draft law stipulate that if a religious organization decides to change its subordination, it should inform the central executive body that implements state policy in the sphere of religion, or regional, Kyiv and Sevastopol city administrations, and the Council of Ministers of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, which in turn shall announce the decision on their official websites. At the same time, the statutes (regulations) of religious organizations shall be amended in compliance with this law within a year from the date of its entry into force. As UNIAN reported earlier, the Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine’s parliament, approved the relevant bill on January 17, 2019.
President Petro Poroshenko has signed the law of Ukraine 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, the press service of the head of state has reported. — Ukrinform.
Primate of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, Metropolitan of Kyiv and All Ukraine Epiphanius met with the newly elected leadership of the Ukrainian World Congress (UWC) to discuss ways of cooperation. — Ukrinform.
More than a hundred parishes of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate have already joined the newly formed Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU). OCU Primate, Metropolitan of Kyiv and All Ukraine Epiphanius told this to reporters before the forum with the participation of President Petro Poroshenko at the International Exhibition Center in Kyiv on Tuesday, an Ukrinform correspondent said. “It’s already more than a hundred, and we hear every day that there are two or three transfers in a certain region. We will finalize legalization in the coming days, that is, a governing body – the Kyiv metropolis – will already be registered. Accordingly, other dioceses will make changes to their statute, and the parishes that are now moving from the Russian Orthodox Church to the single local Orthodox Church of Ukraine will already be joining a new entity,” Metropolitan Epiphanius said. At the same time, he noted that the Russian Orthodox Church is creating certain obstacles to the process of transition of religious communities and the process of recognition of autocephaly by other Orthodox churches. “Of course, there is opposition from the Russian Orthodox Church because their task is to counteract, to make sure that churches do not recognize the autocephaly of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. But we believe that the wisdom of other Orthodox hierarchs will lead to the fact that we will receive recognition from other churches,” Epiphanius said. He said that he is now actively working to ensure that other local churches recognize the autocephalous status of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine. An active dialogue is now underway in this regard, he said. As reported, Metropolitan of Pereyaslav and Bila Tserkva Epiphanius was elected the primate of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine at a unification council on December 15, 2018. On January 6, he received a tomos (decree) of autocephaly of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine from Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. The enthronement ceremony for the primate of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, Metropolitan of Kyiv and All Ukraine Epiphanius, will be held at St. Sophia Cathedral in Kyiv on February 3.
Over the five years of war with Russia, before the new Orthodox Church of Ukraine gained autocephaly, less than a hundred parishes came out of the jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate, said Archbishop Yevstratiy (Zorya) of Chernihiv and Nizhyn. The process of transition of religious communities from the former UOC-MP to the OCU is just beginning.
30.01.19 12:29 – Over 100 UOC-MP parishes converted into OCU, – Epiphanius More than 100 of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Moscow Patriarchy (UOC-MP) parishes have converted into Orthodox Church in Ukraine (OCU). View news.
A priest who previously escaped from the Russian-led forces’ captivity in Donbas has joined the Orthodox Church of Ukraine. He presently holds church services in a basement of a five-storey house.
All nine parishes of the former Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP) in the Sokal district of Lviv region have joined the newly established Orthodox Church of Ukraine. In total, 13 out of 60 parishes of the former UOC-MP in Lviv region have already joined the Orthodox Church of Ukraine. All nine parishes of the former Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP) in the Sokal district of Lviv region have joined the newly established Orthodox Church of Ukraine. Read more on UNIAN: https://www.unian.info/society/10427481-all-parishes-in-one-of-lviv-districts-join-new-orthodox-church-of-ukraine.html
The state should always maintain a dialogue with the church and form a common vision of the future. — Ukrinform.
A delegation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople will pay a visit to Georgia to discuss the Ukrainian church’s autocephaly on Wednesday.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has accused Ukraine’s government of “blatant interference” in the Orthodox Church in Ukraine after a new national institution split from Moscow’s patronage.
Russia does not interfere in church affairs in Ukraine but “reserves the right to protect freedom of religion”, Russian President Vladimir Putin said at an event dedicated to the 10th anniversary of the enthronement of Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia, Interfax reported. Putin said that there is actually a struggle for power, as well as speculations and cheap politics in the context of church affairs. He expressed regret that the Constantinople Patriarchate has been involved in the church standoff”. In addition, Putin said that it is inacceptable for Russia to interfere in church affairs. “We have always respected the independence of church life, especially in the neighboring sovereign state. Nevertheless, we reserve the right to respond and do everything possible to protect human rights, including freedom of religion,” the Russian president said.
Russia reserves the right to “do everything for the protection of human rights”, including the protection of the freedom of religious belief in Ukraine as Radio Liberty reported citing President of Russia Vladimir Putin. At the same time Putin emphasized that the Russian authorities “find any interference in the church affairs absolutely unacceptable”, especially in the neighboring country. Related: Patriarch Filaret and professor of theology criticize new name of Ukrainian church Putin did not explain what he means under “do everything”. Besides, Putin accused Ukrainian authorities of “rude in interference in the church life”, comparing them with “last century infidels”, who “evicted the believers from the temples” and “hunted clergy”.
Olga Lautman on Twitter: “Alarming words from Putin Russian authorities do not interfere in the affairs of the Church, including in Ukraine, but “reserves the right to do everything to protect freedom of religion” Every time Russia does something to protect any kind of freedoms an invasion or war follows… https://t.co/VqIMD0sI0M”
Paul Goble Staunton, January 26 – The Russian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate at the present time is “99 percent controlled” by the special services of the Russian Federation, the FSB at home and the SVR abroad, according to Yegor Bozhok, the head of Ukraine’s Foreign Intelligence Service. The evidence of this control is overwhelming, the Ukrainian intelligence chief says, but unfortunately, many in the West cannot accept it because it is beyond their imagination (ukrinform.ua/rubric-society/2626340-rosijska-pravoslavna-cerkva-na-99-pid-kontrolem-fsb-golova-rozvidki.html). Many will be quick to dismiss Bozhok’s remarks because of the fight in Ukraine between the UOC MP and the OCU, but that would be a mistake. The problem he is pointing to is far deeper than that and one that must be addressed and overcome if Christians in Russia, Ukraine and elsewhere are going to be able to live according to their faith. When Stalin allowed the Orthodox Church to resume functioning during World War II, that step was first and foremost a propaganda gesture toward the West; but to ensure that it did not have negative consequences for his regime, Stalin created a variety of structures to ensure that the ROC MP did not act in any way at odds with the Soviet state. Many in the West did not want to accept that reality, even though they could not point to a single instance in which the ROC MP chose to defend Christian values rather than Soviet positions and even though many victims of the KGB-ization of the church hierarchy documented official control. The KGB recruited all priests with aspirations to higher positions and many even without them. They were given code names and run like agents in a hostile state. And their actions gave rise to hundreds of religious dissidents, a group that unfortunately received far less attention than human rights groups. When the USSR collapsed, many hoped that the situation would change, that the church would be truly independent. But tragically that has not happened. Instead, if anything FSB control of the hierarchy is now greater than it was in Soviet times, although its control at the parish level is almost certainly less. The catacomb church continues because it wants to profess true Christianity, and both the ROC MP and the FSB continue to harass, arrest and imprison those who feel compelled to manifest their Christian faith instead of take orders from a state, all its protestations to the contrary, that is not informed by Christianity but by values antithetical to it. One can only hope that the Ukrainian conclusion, following on the release of KGB files in Latvia showing the organs involvement in the Orthodox church there, will lead to a new focus on this most unfortunate legacy of Stalinism and prompt Christians in the West to ally not with the ROC MP but with those that entity, together with the FSB, is persecuting.
Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Kirill stated he is hoping to visit Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra and meet the parish of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Moscow Patriarchate as TASS reported. “I preserve a hope that I will be able to pray in Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra, meet my faithful people, archbishopric of the Ukrainian church, which heroically defense canonical Orthodoxy,” he said. He also urged the parish of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Moscow Patriarchate to “firmly stay with faith” and “resist the temptation”. “Spiritual, cultural, civilized unity of the Russians and Ukrainians is stronger than temporary political schemes and models, which work to ruin this unity,” he stated.
The recent statement of Patriarch Kirill about coming to Ukraine is of merely political nature. Yuriy Ruban, the Chief of Main Department for the Humanitarian Policy Issues of the presidential administration of Ukraine reported that as Pryamyi news channel reported. ‘Somehow, I believe it’s about Russia affecting the elections in Ukraine. All the tools are involved. The key thing is not about coming to Ukraine; that he could dream of as much as he wants to. He (Patriarch Kirill, – 112 International) speaks of changing the political picture; he speaks of hopes of power change in Ukraine, which may open the door to pro-Kremlin candidates’, Ruban said. Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Kirill stated he hoped to visit Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra and meet the parish of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Moscow Patriarchate as TASS reported. “I preserve a hope that I will be able to pray in Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra, meet my faithful people, archbishopric of the Ukrainian church, which heroically defense canonical Orthodoxy,” he said.
Paul Goble Staunton, January 27 – Ten years ago, when Kirill was elected patriarch, he entered that office as a reformer who would increase the role of the Moscow Patriarchate in Russian society both “quantitatively and qualitatively,” Nezavismaya gazeta says in a lead article. Today, it is clear he has failed and has been reduced to being “a hostage of political circumstances.” Kirill has increased the size of the church bureaucracy, but his involvement in public has backfired or misfired. In the Pussy Riot case, the church became the occasion for a toughing of laws against freedom of expression and has paid a price for that. And in the case of Ukraine, it has lost even more (ng.ru/editorial/2019-01-27/2_7492_red.html). His church has become the victim of a transformation of religious life in Ukraine, the editors says. “As a result, there is now in the Orthodox world a global split, which would have seemed impossible even in the times of the iron curtain between West and East.” And that has a particular irony for Kirill himself. In one of the rare cases where he positioned the ROC MP at odds with the Kremlin, he has lost totally. In 2014, he refused to shift the Crimean bishopric from Ukraine’s canonical territory; but now, “if the UOC MP is forced to rename itself the ROC in Ukraine, the only principled action of Patriarch Kirill will turn out to be meaningless.” “It is possible,” of course, that Kirill is now simply going to be willing to follow “the logical of political events” and allow his patriarchate to become “a national church of Russia.” Indeed, he is acting more and more like that, attending government and military functions ever more often and supporting the Kremlin ever more servilely. Moreover, Kirill and his church are losing ground abroad. He has long been persona non grata in Ukraine. Last year he wasn’t allowed into Moldova, and there is more talk of autocephaly in Belarus. “Ten years ago, it would have been impossible to imagine” such an outcome with a church leader committed to maintaining his canonical territory in Soviet borders. And Kirill, criticized by many in Russia for his ecumenical contacts with Rome, suffered in that regard as well. His meeting with the pope in Havana was reduced from being a rapprochement of the leaders of two branches of Christianity to a political move by the Kremlin to overcome its international isolation, hardly what Kirill would have wanted. “Many consider,” the Moscow paper says, “that the Moscow Patriarch more clearly shows himself as a political actor rather than a spiritual leader.” But in fact, in the political realm, he has played only a supporting role rather than a leading one, making such conclusions more an expression of hope than reality. What Kirill has achieved by his increasingly close ties with the Kremlin is a strengthening of the church’s administrative possibilities and financial well-being. The patriarch and his representatives can be ensured of a hearing on many issues; and the church is wealthier than ever before. But that is hardly what Kirill appeared to want a decade ago. More to the point, Nezavisimaya gazeta says, “the actions of the Moscow patriarch are ever more limited by the possibilities of the state and the political will of the leadership of the country” — hardly the division of powers that the founder of Kirill’s religion anticipated when He talked about rendering to God what is God’s and to Caesar what is Caesar’s.
Paul Goble Staunton, January 27 – When Vladimir Putin said at his press conference last month that he saw no justification for attacks on Jehovah’s Witnesses, many in Russia and the West assumed that the situation there would change, that those who had been incarcerated would be released and that no new charges would be brought or hostility against the Witnesses tolerated. Those who made those assumptions were wrong, and Putin’s words in this case as in so many others have turned out to be PR for himself at home and abroad rather than an indication of what he and his regime actually will do. Jehovah’s Witnesses have not been released, hostility toward them not lessened, and now new charges have been brought against the group. These actions show that either Putin doesn’t want the situation to change whatever he says or doesn’t control the actions of lower-level officials and groups associated with his regime; but regardless which of these is the case – and there is good reason to think both are true – no one of good will should assume that Russia has turned the corner on this issue. At the end of December, that is, after Putin’s remarks, criminal charges of extremism were brought against Sergey Kulakov, a 57-year-old Jehovah’s Witness on Sakhalin Island. His case is now before the courts, and ten days ago, a judge there ordered his residence searched for “evidence” (sova-center.ru/religion/news/extremism/counter-extremism/2019/01/d40554/). The situation of the Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia remains so bad that an increasing number of them are seeking to emigrate, many to Finland and Germany because those are the easiest countries to get to where asylum is likely to be granted, although some say they would like to come to the US or Great Britain if that is possible. Not only are they leaving because of their own fears, Radio Svoboda journalist Svetlana Niberlein says in a report about the Jehovah’s Witness diaspora in Germany; they are departing because sympathetic officials tell them that worse is still ahead and that they should get out while they can (idelreal.org/a/29733570.html). Nibelein spoke with Andrey K, a 38-year-old Jehovah’s Witness who together with his wife and child have received asylum in Germany. They came there, he says, because they could easily get tickets and because they believed that German officials would recognize their claims of reasonable fear of persecution in their homeland. Many Jehovah’s Witnesses have secured visas in Moscow, but Andrey and his family came in transit to Serbia, which does not require Russians to get a visa, and then in the Munich transit hall appealed to the police. It took some months, but they were finally granted asylum, a status more than a thousand Jehovah’s Witnesses now have in Germany. The community is quite active, Andrey continues. “We try to find a common language with people of various cultures. Because as Jehovah’s Witnesses, we seek to speak about the Bible with people of various nationalities. We try to speak with them in English” or when we can, in German “which we also are studying.” Among the people they have spoken to is a family of Chechens, who even began to attend meetings at the local kingdom hall. “I very much regret,” Andrey says, “that this family was later deported to Chechnya.” Not all Jehovah’s Witnesses who apply for asylum in Germany are successful, he says. German law takes an individual approach, and if a particular applicant cannot show that he or she has been subject to discrimination, they are rejected. But more than a thousand have received asylum, and most expect to remain in Germany permanently. The situation in Russia is untenable for Jehovah’s Witnesses. Not only are many in jail and more facing charges, but the police refuse to reign in those groups like Nashi who promote hatred against the Jehovah’s Witnesses even as they refuse to come to the defense of this religious community. Andrey showed Nibelein photographs of Nashi demonstrators wearing t-shorts declaring “I hate the Jehovah’s Witnesses” and “Honk if you’re against the Witnesses.” The police told the Witnesses that they saw nothing wrong with what the Nashi people were doing. And that, even more than the demonstrators, is a reason for continuing concern.