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RUSSIA/ FAKE NEWS CORNER: “Ukraine is a Catholic conspiracy”

RUSSIA/ FAKE NEWS CORNER: “Ukraine is a Catholic conspiracy, the Pope is a monster and a thief,” a Russian Orthodox leader says

Protodeacon Vladimir Vasilik defies ridicule by connecting the war to a plot by Pope Francis to incorporate Ukrainian Orthodox into the Catholic Church.

by Massimo Introvigne

Bitter Winter (11.01.2023) – Protodeacon Vladimir Vasilik is not, as you may believe by reading its prose, a lonely madman. Not only is he a scholar who has published about Church history in respected Western journals, but he is a member of the Russian Orthodox Church’s powerful Synodal Liturgical Commission and a frequent contributor to church journals and magazines.

Vasilik took exception to Pope Francis’s Christmas message, where he invited those gathered in St. Peter’s Square in Rome to look at the “faces of our Ukrainian brothers and sisters who are living this Christmas in the dark, in the cold or away from their homes because of the devastation caused by ten months of war.”

While Pope Francis is usually more than moderate in his comments about the Ukrainian war, Vasilik expressed his anger that the Pope did not mention “the Russian brothers and sisters” who also die in the war. Thus, he took the opportunity to “unmask” the Pope and claim that the events in Ukraine ultimately are the results of a sinister plot by the Vatican.

Not only is the Catholic Church conspiring against Russia and Orthodoxy since the 16th century, Vasilik said, it has now become clear that the Vatican organized “the Maidan of 2014. For even the blind can see that the most ardent activists on the Maidan were Uniate Catholic priests [i.e., priests of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church].” Some of Vasilik’s colleagues—the Protodeacon is also an anti-cult activist—believe the 2014 Maidan had really been organized by Scientology, but it is true that they did write that Catholics also cooperated.

Pope Francis is singled out as the mastermind of particularly sinister plots. He became Pope in 2013, and in 2014 the Maidan Revolution happened, an event that in Russian propaganda made the invasions of 2014 and 2022 unavoidable.

Francis, according to Vasilik, is “the main beneficiary” of what is happening in Ukraine. Why? Because the war situation is giving the Ukrainian government the pretext to suppress the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate and merge it with the branch of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church that is in communion with the Patriarch of Constantinople.

However, Vasilik says, “there are long-term plans for the unification of the Patriarchate of Constantinople and the Roman Catholic Church. The year is already known—2025—the year of the anniversary of the First Ecumenical Council, which Catholic heretics and Greek traitors to Orthodoxy are going to celebrate in such a perverted way. And they decided to choose Ukraine as a testing ground for such an alliance. The idea is simple—the creation of a single national church of Ukraine. First, schismatic groups are driven into the so-called OCU [the Orthodox Church of Ukraine in communion with Constantinople], and then the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate is attached to it, not willingly, but by hook or by crook. And then all this is connected with the Uniates. Thus, a single Ukrainian church of the Eastern rite is being created.”

Pope Francis, Vasilik says, is a monster, “a crocodile who, when he eats his prey, sheds tears incessantly, but eats, nonetheless. In the same way, the Pope of Rome can weep, lament, mourn. However, this will not stop him from eating the Orthodox—his work is such, more precisely, his nature is such. He is not the Pope, not a father, but he is a thief, a real thief. And ‘the thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy’ (John 10:10).”

Protodeacon Vasilik has some hope for the new year, tough. He hopes 2023 will bring peace. But peace, he explains, is “something we can acquire only through war.” Not the “commercial war” some Russian commanders fought in Ukraine—which explains, or so Vasilik believes, why they preferred to abandon Ukrainian cities rather than destroying their valuable infrastructures—but a full-fledged holy war. Either we win, Vasilik proclaims, or “we will disappear, as a country and a people. Or even disappear physically. In this case, we have only one choice: win or die. You cannot fight and trade at the same time. However, for some reason, these elementary truth did not sound convincing to some of our commanders. I wish then to sound the alarm for them, and tell them than in 2023 Russia will be renewed, cleansed of its sins—abortion, corruption, embezzlement, and the presence of atheists and cultists—, and finally of obscenity. Then, finally, Russia will become Holy Russia.”

Massimo Introvigne (born June 14, 1955 in Rome) is an Italian sociologist of religions. He is the founder and managing director of the Center for Studies on New Religions (CESNUR), an international network of scholars who study new religious movements. Introvigne is the author of some 70 books and more than 100 articles in the field of sociology of religion. He was the main author of the Enciclopedia delle religioni in Italia (Encyclopedia of Religions in Italy). He is a member of the editorial board for the Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion and of the executive board of University of California Press’ Nova Religio.  From January 5 to December 31, 2011, he has served as the “Representative on combating racism, xenophobia and discrimination, with a special focus on discrimination against Christians and members of other religions” of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). From 2012 to 2015 he served as chairperson of the Observatory of Religious Liberty, instituted by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in order to monitor problems of religious liberty on a worldwide scale.

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UKRAINE: Orthodox Church/ Moscow Patriarchate and their clerics under fire

The Ukrainian Orthodox Church/ Moscow Patriarchate and their clerics under fire


By Willy Fautré, director of Human Rights Without Frontiers


 HRWF (15.12.2022) – For weeks, searches have been carried out in many parishes of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in communion with Moscow Patriarchate (UOC/ MP) and have brought to light propaganda material in support of Russia’s war on Ukraine.


The Ukrainian authorities are also hunting Orthodox clerics collaborating with the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow and the Russian occupiers in Ukraine.

At the same time, President Vladimir Zelensky gave orders to submit, within two months, to the Verkhovnaya Rada a bill that would prevent any religious organizations “affiliated with the centers of influence in Russia” from operating in the country. Besides, a bill, which would allow seizing property from the canonical Church, has recently been submitted to the Verkhovnaya Rada.


On Wednesday 14 December, Metropolitan Onufryi of the UOC/ MP in Kyiv desperately reiterated the “independence” of his Church from the Moscow Patriarchate, stressing that the updated Statute were sent to the relevant state bodies: the President of Ukraine, the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, the Cabinet of Ministers and directly to the State Service for Ethnopolitics and Freedom of Conscience. This may however not be sufficient to convince the Ukrainian authorities and avoid a ban as the revised status does not specify that the UOC is seceding from Moscow Patriarchate.


A Ukrainian Orthodox priest sentenced to 12 years for high treason exchanged with the Russian Federation in a swap


On 14 December, the Main Intelligence Directorate confirmed that as part of an exchange of prisoners, Ukraine handed over a priest of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church/ Moscow Patriarchate (UOC/ MP) to the Russian side.

Earlier, the Russian media reported that Ukraine transferred the rector of the Lisichansky Cathedral, Archpriest Andrei Pavlenko , to the Russian Federation. The priest had been imprisoned for 8 months. A week ago he was sentenced to 12 years in prison for treason. He was accused of passing information about the Armed Forces of Ukraine to the Russians).

Part of the swap were 64 Ukrainian soldiers and a US citizen, Murekesi Suedi. These were soldiers, sergeants and officers who took part in the defense of the city of Bakhmut.


The Russian Federation claims that the exchange took place “thanks to the efforts of Battalion Wagner.”


The release of the American citizen was confirmed by U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby.


Sources: Strana Today, The Odessa Journal, Dumskaya


SBU exposes a deacon from Zaporozhye, who campaigned for the region to join Russia 


On 10 December, the deacon of one of the churches of the Zaporizhzhya diocese of the UOC-MP, who campaigned for the annexation of the region to the Russian Federation, was exposed by the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU).


According to the press service of the SBU, the cleric publicly approved the holding of an illegal referendum, for which he activated a profile on the banned VKontakte social network and, on his own behalf, reposted calls from pro-Kremlin bloggers in support of a fake plebiscite.


Commenting on Russian publications, he agitated people to come to the polls and vote in favor of the aggressor. He also denied the existence of the Ukrainian people, their language and culture.


In addition, the deacon questioned the state sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine within internationally recognized borders. He took materials from propaganda on the Russian social network, including “Russian Spring”.


During searches at the place of residence of the person involved, law enforcement officers found computer equipment as evidence of crimes. He was informed of suspicion for justifying the aggression of the Russian Federation against Ukraine and deliberate actions aimed at inciting national and religious hatred.


The issue of choosing a measure of restraint is being decided.


Source: Dumskaya



Ongoing searches of UOC/ MP facilities across Ukraine


The Ukrainian Security Service has recently been conducting regular searches at the UOC facilities in various regions of the country. The declared purpose of the measures is “to prevent the use of religious communities as a cell of the ‘Russian world.'”


In November, the priests of the UOC who were detained during the searches could be exchanged for captured Ukrainian soldiers, following the example of Viktor Medvedchuk.

The SBU conducted regular searches in the dioceses of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – now in the Transcarpathian, Chernivtsi, Rivne, Volyn, Nikolaev, Sumy, Lvov, Zhytomyr and Kherson regions.


According to the Union of Orthodox Journalists, the following temples have been inspected and searched:


  • Holy Ascension Cathedral (Uzhhorod);
  • Holy Intercession Сhurch (Uzhhorod);
  • St. John the Theologian Khreshchatyk Monastery (Chernivtsi district);
  • Assumption Monastery (Chernivtsi district);
  • Lipki Assumption Monastery (Lipki village, Rivne region);
  • The Iberian Icon of the Most-Holy Virgin Convent in the “Yusefin” tract (Sarny district);
  • Saints Equal-to-the-Apostles Constantine and Helen Monastery (Kostiantynivka village, Mykolayiv district);
  • Holy Spirit Cathedral (Romny);
  • Archdeacon-Stephen Church (Romny);
  • Holy Trinity Church (Lviv);
  • St. Amphilochios of Pochaiv Church (Mostysk);
  • Church of the Intercession of the Holy Virgin (Boryslav);
  • Cathedral of the Nativity of Christ (Korosten);
  • Holy Transfiguration Cathedral (Ovruch);
  • Ovruch-Korosten Eparchy (Ovruch);
  • St. Basil’s Cathedral (Ovruch);
  • Saint Basil’s Monastery (Ovruch);
  • Church of the Icon of Kazan (Chornobaivka).


As reported in the telegram channel of the SBU, Russian passports, St. George ribbons, symbols of the Opposition Platform for Life and the “manuals” of Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Orthodox Church “on spreading propaganda through believers” were found on the territory of the dioceses.

“During the inspection of church premises in the village of Chernobaevka, Kherson region, SBU officers found forms of passes to the occupation authorities of Russia.

In the diocese in the Lviv region, photos of hidden Russian documents “on ensuring interaction with the military commissariats of Russia” were found.

On the territory of churches in the Transcarpathian region there was a banner of the so-called “Republic of Subcarpathian Rus” with the text of the anthem of the “Podcarpathian Rusyns”.

On the territory of one of the monasteries in the Rivne region, a novice with a Russian passport and contacts in Russia was exposed,” the report says.


The SBU also held “counterintelligence searches” in the Chernivtsi-Bukovin diocese of the UOC. It was reported that “methods from Moscow” and documents indicating the presence of Russian citizenship of the diocese leadership had been found.

This is reported on the SBU website.


It was reported that correspondence between the heads of the diocese with “Moscow curators” has been established and “Pro-Kremlin literature” had been found in a large volume.


The SBU states that photocopies of the certificates of Russians who participated in hostilities against Ukraine were found on the computers of the diocese leadership.

Source and photos: Strana Today


Reaction of the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow

On 12, 13 and 14 December, Interfax Religion in Moscow voiced complaints of the Russian Orthodox Church spokesperson Vladimir Legoyda about the sanctions imposed by the Ukrainian authorities against some prominent figures of the UOC/ MP accused of being pro-Russian.

Among them are seven clergymen, including

  • Metropolitan Antony of Borispol and Brovary, manager of affairs of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church,
  • Metropolitan Panteleimon of Lugansk and Alchevsk,
  • Metropolitan Luka of Zaporozhye and Melitopol,
  • and Metropolitan Melety of Chernovtsy and Bukovina.

The Security Service of Ukraine’s sanctions lists also include

  • Archbishop Paisy of Konstantinovka (vicar of the Gorlovka Diocese),
  • Archimandrite Ioann (Prokopenko) of the Zaporozhye Diocese,
  • and Archimandrite Alexy (Fyodorov) of the Kherson Diocese.

The sanctions against the clergy envisage the blocking of their assets and withdrawal of capital outside of Ukraine, restrictions on trade operations, etc. They are also deprived of Ukrainian state awards and other awards and the right to buy land plots, privatize state property and intellectual property rights.


Metropolitan Onufry of the UOC/ MP desperately reiterates the ‘independence’ of his Church from the Moscow Patriarchate

On 14 December, at the annual meeting of the clergy of the Kyiv Eparchy, His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry reiterated the independence of the UOC, recalling that the Ukrainian Orthodox Church dissociated itself from the Moscow Patriarchate at the last Council, which took place in the monastery in Feofaniya a few months ago.


“The Synod of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church approved changes to the Statute on the management of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. In particular, the provision that the Ukrainian Orthodox Church is a self-governing part of the Russian Orthodox Church was removed from the Statute of the UOC. In this way, it not only enshrined the administrative independence of the UOC, which existed before that, but also the separation from the Moscow Patriarchate. According to the accepted changes, the Primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church is no longer a member of the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church, while the resolutions of the councils of the Russian Orthodox Church are not considered binding for the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

Also, the paragraph on commemoration of the Patriarch of Moscow and All Rus at divine services in the temples of our Church was removed from the Statute. In accordance with the conventional form of commemoration, the Primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church commemorates all Patriarchs of Local Orthodox Churches, the diocesan bishop commemorates the Primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, while parishes and monasteries commemorate the diocesan bishop. Such a tradition exists in other Local Orthodox Churches,” said His Beatitude. Source: Union of Orthodox Journalists. See the full speech here.

The Primate added that copies of the updated Statute were sent to the relevant state bodies: the President of Ukraine, the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, the Cabinet of Ministers and directly to the State Service for Ethnopolitics and Freedom of Conscience.

Photo 1: The SBU conducted searches in the diocese of the UOC. Photo: SBU

Photo 2: Investigated material (SBU)

Photo 3: His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry. Photo: news.church.ua

Further reading about FORB in Ukraine on HRWF website

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RUSSIA: Concerns about the infiltration of FECRIS’ Russian branch in Belgium

Deep concerns about the infiltration of FECRIS’ Russian branch in Belgium

HRWF (07.12.2022) – Human Rights Without Frontiers is deeply concerned by the infiltration for years of pro-Putin and anti-Ukrainian propagandists in Belgian politics, including in the federal parliament of Belgium.

Bitter Winter recently published several investigation papers about FECRIS’ Russian branch: on 23 November, on 4 November and on 17 October. A new one was published on 5 December. It is titled “Novopashin confirms: ‘Russian anti-cultists are still part of FECRIS’ “, by Massimo Introvigne.

HRWF (07.12.2022) – On 19 May 2017, Alexander Korelov, the lawyer of several well-known radical Russian Orthodox propagandists hostile to Jehovah’s Witnesses and other religious minorities in Russia, such as Alexander Dvorkin, was invited by FECRIS (European Federation of Research and Information Centres on Cults and Sects) at the Belgian Parliament to a controversial conference chaired by Belgian MP André Frédéric.


The Belgian politician is the president of AVISO, identified as an anti-cult association in Belgium affiliated to FECRIS. In 2021, he was appointed president of FECRIS after being a member of their board for several years, along with Alexander Dvorkin, former vice-president of FECRIS for several years and known as an extremist Orthodox propagandist. This Belgian personality is very useful for FECRIS as he can give them access to the premises of the Belgian Federal Parliament for their conferences and hereby enjoy a certain aura and apparent but false legitimacy.


On 14 June 2022, André Frédéric hosted another FECRIS conference, as its president, in the premises of the Belgian Federal Parliament. And he published an article in a leading francophone newspaper, Le Soir, referring to their fight for assistance to victims of cults. Victims of any sort of perpetrators always deserve to be helped but in the case of FECRIS, the so-called assistance hides an ideological anti-cult agenda. In reality, FECRIS, its affiliates and other anti-cult groups repeatedly stigmatize and libel a number of belief or religious groups they do not like or they were formerly members of but they have lost quite a number of cases in various courts, an area that HRWF has specifically investigated.


So, how long will the Belgian Federal Parliament go on tolerating conferences stigmatizing minority belief communities?


Alexander Korelov claimed to have evidence that Jehovah’s Witnesses prepare a coup against President Putin, said Bitter Winter in a breaking news published on 17 October. Though, it is worth reminding that Jehovah’s Witnesses are apolitical, conscientious objectors to military service and opposed to violence.


For decades, the Russian branch of FECRIS has sowed hatred towards a number of non-Orthodox communities in the minds of the Russian population.

For decades, the Russian branch of FECRIS has also fed their propaganda inspired by the Kremlin and the Russian Orthodox Church with anti-Ukrainian hate speech.

For decades, FECRIS’ Russian branch has paved the way to Russia’s war on Ukraine with the blessing of Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Orthodox Church whilst FECRIS, based in a secular country (France) known for its laïcité doctrine, claims to recognize the right to freedom of religion.

For many years, FECRIS’ vice-president has been the controversial Russian Orthodox propagandist Alexander Dvorkin, declared persona non grata in Ukraine since 2014 and despite this ban, he is still a member of the board of directors of FECRIS.

For decades, taxpayers in France have, without their knowledge, been misused to finance FECRIS.

It is time for President Macron to listen to Bitter Winter, to the recent protest of 82 Ukrainian scholars on religious issues and other whistleblowers who have repeatedly rung the alarm bell and warned against the infiltration in France and other EU countries of the extremist ideology of Russian radical nationalists.

It is also time for President Macron to put an end to the financing of FECRIS’ hate speech against Ukraine, for Belgian MP André Frédéric to keep at distance from FECRIS and for the Federal Parliament of Belgium to put up an inquiry commission about the activities of FECRIS in Belgium.

Novopashin confirms: ‘Russian anti-cultists are still part of FECRIS’


Bitter Winter (05.12.2022) – There is an important question about the European anti-cult federation FECRIS: its relationship with its Russian affiliate organizations, which have slandered Ukraine since at least 2014 and are now enthusiastic supporters of the Russian invasion. They contribute to Russian propaganda by spreading the fake news that the Ukrainian government is allegedly dominated by “cults.”

FECRIS states that it is against the Russian invasion, but this cannot be good enough if it continues to be represented in Russia by some of the most ferocious anti-Ukrainian agitprop peddlers.

Knowing that it had a Russian problem, FECRIS decided to camouflage its website. The Russian organizations that are part of FECRIS, still listed as such on March 31, 2022, disappeared from the list of its member organizations on its Web site in early April. However, it was unclear whether they had been expelled or FECRIS had just made a cosmetic adjustment of its website.

The names of FECRIS board members are filed with the authorities of France, where the organization is registered and headquartered. We checked periodically and the worst Russian anti-cultist, Alexander Dvorkin, continued to be indicated as a board member. CESNUR, the parent organization of Bitter Winter, wrote to FECRIS asking whether the Russian affiliates were still part of the federation and Dvorkin was still a board member, but never got any answer.

Last month, on November 11, 82 Ukrainian academics, including all the leading scholars of religion in the country, wrote to French President Macron asking him to discontinue the financial support France continues to offer to FECRIS, given the fact that the anti-cult federation maintains its relationship with Russian organizations that give an active and important propaganda support to the invasion of Ukraine.

The Ukrainian academics knew that FECRIS would have answered, as it did, that it also has two Ukrainian affiliate organizations. They explained that one is notoriously pro-Russian and the other has been inactive for years, and at any rate neither went on record condemning the anti-Ukrainian propaganda by the Russian branches of FECRIS.

The letter generated an unexpected development, which in a way solved the problem of whether FECRIS just went through the motions of discontinuing its relationships with its Russian affiliates or expelled them.

The Russian FECRIS affiliates are in turn part of a national anti-cult organization called Russian Association of Centers for Religious and Cultic Studies (РАЦИРС / RATsIRS). Its president is Alexander Dvorkin and its deputy president is Archpriest Alexander Novopashin, a fanatical anti-Ukrainian anti-cultist from Novosibirsk. They are also the representatives of the Moscow “Center for Religious Studies in the Name of Hieromartyr Irenaeus of Lyon,” in itself an affiliate organization of FECRIS. The local Novosibirsk anti-cult organization Information and Consultation Center on Cultism at the Cathedral in the name of the Holy Prince Alexander Nevsky, led by Novopashin, is another Russian affiliate of FECRIS.

Novopashin decided to answer the letter of the Ukrainian scholars to Macron. He had his answer published by 4s-info and then reproduced on his own website. Presumably without knowing most of those who had signed, he gratuitously insulted them by writing that they are “82 Ukrainian cult apologists who call themselves scientists.” Some of those who signed have never written about “cults,” but this is not the most interesting part of Novopashin’s answer.

Novopashin wrote that the Ukrainian “pseudo-scientists” attacked “the European Federation of Centres for Research and Information on Sects and Cults FECRIS, registered in France. Our Information Center at the Cathedral in the name of the Holy Prince Alexander Nevsky is a corresponding member of this organization. But the complaint primarily mentions a well-known Orthodox theologian, my friend, Professor Alexander Leonidovich Dvorkin, and, well, me, your humble servant.

Professor Dvorkin is the President of the Center for Religious Studies in the Name of Hieromartyr Irenaeus of Lyon, representing FECRIS in Russia. And I am the vice president of the Center. The main target of cult apologists and cults, as a leading Russian expert on cults, is Professor Alexander Leonidovich Dvorkin. The letter was sent in the hope that the President of France would influence FECRIS to expel Professor Alexander Dvorkin and myself from the organization.”

As Catholics say of Rome, “Novosibirsk locuta, quaestio soluta”: when Novosibirsk has spoken, the question has been solved. If those Novopashin sees as the villains in the story “hope” that he and Dvorkin would be expelled from FECRIS, it is clear that they have not been expelled yet. In fact, Novopashin confesses that his center in Novosibirsk is still “a corresponding member of the organization,” as it was before the 2022 invasion of Ukraine. Dvorkin’s Center for Religious Studies in the Name of Hieromartyr Irenaeus of Lyon is still “representing FECRIS in Russia.” Nobody has expelled them. Why their names have disappeared from the FECRIS’s website is a question that FECRIS may perhaps answer.

In the meantime, Novopashin clarifies, for the benefit of both the Ukrainian academics and FECRIS, that he and his friends continue to actively “support the special operation in Ukraine.”

Photo: Archpriest Alexander Novopashin. From Telegram.

Further reading about FORB in Russia and Belgium on HRWF website

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UKRAINE: Nationalization of the Pearl of Russian Orthodoxy in Kyiv

Nationalization of the Pearl of Russian Orthodoxy in Kyiv: Controversies

By Willy Fautré, Human Rights Without Frontiers


HRWF (05.12.2022) – The Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra has been officially registered as a monastery within the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU), according to Yevstratii Zoria, a bishop of the OCU and a Holy Synod spokesperson. The OCU was created as a national Church and affiliated with the Patriarchate of Constantinople in 2018, four years after Maidan, under President Petro Poroshenko. The then president of Ukraine was hereby hoping to reduce the influence of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church/ Moscow Patriarchate (UOC/MP) and to win the presidential election against Volodymyr Zelensky. As we know, Zelensky won a landslide victory.


On 24 November, the website of the Parliament of Ukraine published the text of draft law No. 8221 banning the activities of the Russian Orthodox Church represented in Ukraine by the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC).


The bill outlaws the activity of any religious organizations or institutions, which are part or in any way accountable to the Russian Orthodox Church “in canonical, organizational and other issues.”


The bill is said to prevent threats to the national security of Ukraine and “to liberate Ukraine from the Russian Orthodox Church as yet another step towards independent Ukraine.”



Announcement by the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU)

“On December 1, 2022, the charter of the Holy Dormition Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra (men’s monastery) of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Orthodox Church of Ukraine) was registered. Information about this legal entity as part of the Local Church was entered into the Unified State Register (45081205) on 2 December.


In order to restore historical justice and overcome the consequences of the non-canonical subordination of the Ukrainian shrine to the power of the Moscow Patriarchate, the Holy Synod of the OCU at its meeting on May 23, 2022 (Resolution No. 30) decided to create a religious organization within the Local Church – the men’s monastery ‘Holy Dormition of Kyiv Pechersk Lavra.’ At the same time, the Synod instructed His Beatitude Metropolitan Epiphanius to address the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine with a request to provide one of the Lavra’s churches in its upper part for divine services, and certain rooms for monastic activities.


The Metropolitan of Kyiv and All Ukraine is a sacred archimandrite, that is, the canonical and spiritual head of the Kyiv Lavra. Also, by the decision of the Synod, His Beatitude Metropolitan Epiphanius was appointed to head the monastery as a legal entity.”


Press service of the Kyiv Metropolitanate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (OCU)


Reaction of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church/ Moscow Patriarchate (UOC/MP)

“Under the title “On the fake about the Lavra and the OCU”, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church/ Moscow Patriarchate declared on 2 December:

“Due to the appearance of information about the registration of a legal entity ‘The Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra of the OCU’ in the media and assumptions related thereto, it should be explained that this structure has no relation to the real Holy Dormition Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra.

It is registered at another address, and its emergence is not a consequence of the closing down of the true Lavra of the ‘Ukrainian Orthodox Church’, to which its historical premises were returned back in 1988.

By the way, information about a parallel legal entity named ‘The Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra’ under the jurisdiction of the ‘Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate’ existed in the relevant register many years earlier. However, there was never any monastery of the ‘UOC KP’ in place of the Lavra.

We are witnessing the same now – the ‘Orthodox Church of Ukraine’ announced that it had registered a fake religious structure without monks.”

Reaction of the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow

Under the title ‘Russian Orthodox Church dismisses rumors of Kiev Lavra of the Caves takeover by Orthodox Church of Ukraine’, Interfax-Religion in Moscow published the following article on 2 December:


“The Moscow Patriarchate has provided a clarification following reports on Friday evening that the management of Kiev Lavra pf the Caves was being transferred to the non-canonical Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU).

A by-laws has been registered of a ‘parallel’ OCU monastery, a Kiev Lavra of the Caves. The schismatics applied for its registration long ago. Now, in the words of Ivan (Yevstraty) Zorya, an OCU spokesman, they will lay claim to one of upper Lavra churches, which is officially run by the Kiev of the Caves historical cultural reserve, and premises for ‘monastic activity’, Russian Patriarch Kirill’s advisor Archpriest Nikolay Balashov told Interfax.

For now, the registration of the real Lavra is unaffected by the move, he said.

But in the lawless environment that is now obvious in Ukraine, and in the event of recognition of a ‘political expediency’ one may expect quick subsequent decisions, which were discussed at the last meeting of Ukraine’s NSDC [National Security and Defense Council] and approved by a decree of Vladimir Zelensky,’ the archpriest said.He then wondered whom the OCU would populate Ukraine’s main monastery with. ‘There are very few monks in the splinter organization. They might then have to make a museum out of the Lavra, as it was under Khrushchev in 1961,’ the patriarch’s advisor said.”

Photo:The Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra has been officially registered as a monastery within the Orthodox Church of Ukraine.

Further reading about FORB in Ukraine on HRWF website

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RUSSIA – UKRAINE: The end of unity: How the Russian Orthodox Church lost Ukraine

The end of unity: How the Russian Orthodox Church lost Ukraine

Regina Elsner, a researcher at the Centre for East European and International Studies (ZOiS).

ZOiS (03.03.2022) – Since the end of the Soviet Union, dozens of theologians and scholars of religion elaborated on the complicated relationship within the church community of the so-called Holy Rus’. The Moscow Patriarchate defines its territory of spiritual responsibility in the borders of the Soviet Union—except for the old churches of Armenia and Georgia. The core of this spiritual community is Kyiv as the place of baptism of Rus’ in 988 and Moscow as the residency of the head of the church, today Patriarch Kirill. Bitter as it is, the territory of the Soviet Union was always closer to the ecclesiastical understanding of this sacred territory than the Russian Federation and its independent neighbor states, and the Russian Orthodox Church made comprehensive theological, historiographical, and political efforts to design the unity of the people in a new way.

As in other places of the world, national independence has finally caused the establishment of an independent Orthodox Church in Ukraine. However, it was not Moscow as mother-church to release the Ukrainian Orthodoxy in its independence, because that would have questioned the unity of the one tradition. For three decades, the Moscow Patriarchate succeeded in its concept of spiritual unity by underlining its respect for national sovereignty. This was a balancing act, but most Ukrainian Orthodox and global Orthodoxy committed to this concept and refused to acknowledge the self-proclaimed Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyivan Patriarchate in 1992.

The concept started to fail when, simultaneously, the Moscow Patriarchate strengthened its ideology of a common Orthodox civilization united by a conservative set of values and, on the other side, Ukrainian society engaged increasingly in European integration. During the first Maidan, or “Orange Revolution” in 2004, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP) managed to handle the diverging claims from Russia and the West mainly due to the conservative agenda of the ruling elites in Ukraine. The second Maidan in 2014, the “Revolution of Dignity” with its clear pro-European political stance, however, challenged the attitude of unity seriously, as did the annexation of Crimea and the war in Donbas, the violation of the national borders of Ukraine by Russia.

To maintain the reality of unity, the reaction of the Russian Orthodox Church was a slight yet effective shift in its ideology. Since 2014, the ideology of the “Russian World” ceased from official ecclesiastical statements as the church tried to avoid being equated to Russia’s imperial claims on sovereign nations. As a new frame, the defense of persecuted Christians evolved. With this concept, the Moscow Patriarchate not only legitimated Russia’s participation in the war in Syria and paramilitary activities in Africa. It also used the human rights framework to justify these state actions and its involvement in the territory of other Orthodox Churches. Since 2018, the Moscow Patriarchate systematically supplemented its concept of persecuted Christians in Ukraine with a massive campaign concerning violent attacks on property and believers of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.


Granted, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate had to face massive social and media pressure due to its remaining ties with the church of the aggressor state, suffering violent attacks and misleading legal initiatives like the draft law on renaming the church. These are cases of undermining religious freedom. The church vanished in the public discourse in Ukraine, trapped between its spiritual bonds with Moscow and its Ukrainian identity. Unfortunately, the Russian Orthodox Church refused to acknowledge both. While the Ukrainian Metropolitan Onufry became silent on almost all social and political issues in Ukraine to avoid new accusations, the Russian church leadership enforced its spiritual and socio-cultural claims on Ukraine. The discourse about the spiritual unity of Holy Rus’, meaning Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine, increased to counter the engagement of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. It reached the level of negating the Ukrainian identity of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church as a whole. After years of trying to keep the balance, the ROC joined the state propaganda about Ukraine as an inherent part of Russian identity and space of influence.

When the escalation of the full-fledged war in Ukraine was inevitable, the religious world watched the Moscow Patriarchate turn its back to Ukraine. When analyzing the reaction of Patriarch Kirill, the different meanings of words said and not said should be recognized because they will serve as a point of reference in future talks about the role of the church in this war. On the one side, the Patriarch and other speakers for the church (Metropolitan Hilarion, chair of the external office; Vladimir Legojda, head of the information department) demand peace, a dialogue for all conflicting sides, and a prayer for peace. In all statements on Ukraine, they also refer to the unity of the Christians in Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia and to the special responsibility of the Moscow Patriarchate for these regions. Metropolitan Hilarion claimed several days before the invasion that “War is not a method of solving the accumulated political problems.”


This quote now is used as a sign of dissent to the war within the ROC; however, the main focus of Hilarion in this interview is accusing the West of sharpening the “accumulated political problems,” and his commitment against war remains in general terms. The Patriarch did not contradict the words of “persecuted Christians,” which Putin used to justify his war against Ukraine on 21 February 2022. Until 4 March, neither the Patriarch nor any other speaker of the ROC used the word war to describe the situation in Ukraine. When monitoring the news on the website of the Moscow Patriarchate since 21 February, there are more reports about the activities of the ROC in Africa than about the situation in Ukraine, not counting several unconfirmed hints of alleged Ukrainian violence against churches of the UOC-MP, legitimizing armed acts of “defense.” There are no reports or pictures about the massive destruction of Ukrainian cities and cultural sites and no links to the statements by the hierarchy from the UOC-MP.


On the other side, we have to take into account the open support of the Russian military one day before the outbreak of war, when Russian armed forces were already arranged at the border to Ukraine in Russia and Belarus. On 23 February, Patriarch Kirill congratulated the heads of the Russian government on the occasion of the Day of the Defenders of the Fatherland, a Soviet tradition of glorifying veterans and male armed power. In his speech on that day, he said,


We live in peaceful times, but we know that even in peacetime there are threats. Unfortunately, even at the moment, there are threats—everyone is familiar with what is happening on the borders of our Fatherland. Therefore, I think that our military personnel cannot have any doubts that they have chosen a very correct path in their lives. Because by following this path, you are protecting the people even without any military action. The strength of the Armed Forces, the might of the Russian army is already a weapon that protects our people. But in order for these weapons to be taken seriously by those who have bad intentions, the Armed Forces of our country must always be on alert.

Finally, in his sermon on 27 February, after ensuring his awareness of the “difficult circumstances encountered today by the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate,” the Patriarch stated,


It must not be allowed to give the dark and hostile external forces an occasion to laugh at us; we should do everything to preserve peace between our peoples while protecting our common historical Motherland against every outside action that can destroy this unity.

He said this, remarkably, on the fifth day of heavy shelling of Russian arms on the peaceful—Orthodox—civilians in Ukraine. This implies the prolongation of the narrative that the violence is provoked by the West and justified as a defense. It is a scandalous ignorance of the situation of the people in Ukraine, which he claims to defend, a deliberate reversal of perpetrator and victim, and it is in open support of the ideology of the murderous regime. This statement marks a final split between Russian and Ukrainian Orthodoxy, even if this split is not a canonical one. This split, however, is not demanded or intended by the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, whose bishops and priests appealed to Moscow for support in naming the reality. This split is performed by the Moscow Patriarchate itself through the refusal to take pastoral responsibility for its flock. Such a situation is unique in the history of Orthodoxy and will provoke further theological and canonical debates within global Orthodoxy. To be clear, praying for peace is, without doubt, an important instrument of the church to impact conflict dynamics. When at the same time they neglect the very fact of war and its victims and warmongers, these prayers become false and dangerous.

Further reading about FORB in Russia and Ukraine on HRWF website

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