Kiev, May 25, 2018
Clergy of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate are being subjected to pressure from Ukrainian authorities to back President Petro Poroshenko’s appeal to the Ecumenical Patriarchate to grant a tomos of autocephaly to a new Ukrainian Church.
The appeal was delivered last month, with the backing of the Ukrainian parliament and the entire hierarchy of Ukraine’s two schismatic Orthodox confessions. It was not backed by a single hierarch of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Christ.
In exchange for signing the appeal, the Ukrainian authorities have offered the clergy “good relations” in the future.
Strana.ua has obtained the appeal form to Constantinople that is being offered to clergy to sign, and a source within the Church has reported that representatives of the local authorities and law enforcement agencies have begun approaching canonical clergymen, pressuring them to support the appeal and draw their flock to that side.
Those who resist, the authorities hint, will not be able to find “sufficient arguments in support of their churches” when nationalist radicals come to seize them. Those who acquiesce will, on the contrary, enjoy “good relations.”
Anti-Russian, Ukrainian nationalist radicals have been attacking Orthodox faithful and seizing churches for years, but announced after the news of Poroshenko’s appeal that they will be stepping up their efforts.
The form being presented to the priests makes no attempt to hide the nationalistic underpinnings of the bid for autocephaly, referring to those who support it as “patriot[s] of our homeland” who seek a strong “foundation [for] and during Christian state.”
The text of the appeal reads:
Recently, clergy and laity have been closely following the events in the Orthodox world related to the resolution of the issue of the granting of a tomos of autocephaly to the Orthodox Church in Ukraine by the Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople.
As a deeply believing Christian and patriot of our homeland, I consider it necessary to support the given initiative for the development of a single Local Orthodox Church, as the foundation of an enduring Christian state.
In the difficult conditions of these nearly wartimes, the unification of Ukrainian Orthodoxy is a vital necessity. We must consolidate and overcome the Church the schism. Let all who wish good to the Orthodox Church in Ukraine endeavor with prayer on their lips to achieve Church unity, guided by the precepts of Church canons.
I am absolutely certain that the unification of the Orthodox Churches in Ukraine into one Local Church and its recognition by the Patriarch of Constantinople together with the primates of the other Orthodox Churches will contribute to the strengthening of interconfessional and interfaith cooperation at all levels. The establishment of one Local Orthodox Church in Ukraine is an important step in strengthening the independence and prosperity of the democratic state.
At the same time, I emphasize that the interference of representatives of radical socio-political organizations in internal Church affairs is in unacceptable.
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