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.
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