Kiev, January 31, 2019
The new Ukrainian schismatic structure, the so-called “Orthodox Church of Ukraine,” was officially entered into the state registry yesterday with the same name under which the canonical Church is legally registered.
The legally-registered name of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church is the “Kiev Metropolia of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church,” while the schismatic church is now registered as the “Kiev Metropolia of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Orthodox Church of Ukraine),” reports the Ukrainian Institute for Religious Freedom.
The founder of the legal entity is listed as the “Local unification council of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, which took place in Kiev on December 15, 2018,” and the head of the church as Epiphany Dumenko, “the Metropolitan of Kiev and All Ukraine”—the title and position rightfully held by His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry of the canonical Church.
The speaker of the canonical Church Archpriest Nikolai Danilevich commented: “You don’t have to be a lawyer to understand that this is lawlessness. Legal names cannot be duplicated. How could state organs register another Kiev Metropolia of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church if one already exists? Raiders!”
The Ukrainian Parliament passed bill No. 5309, “On Amendments to the Law of Ukraine ‘On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organizations’ as Regards the Names of Religious Organizations (Associations) Which are a Part of the Structure of a Religious Organization (Association), Whose Administrative Center is outside Ukraine—in the State Which, as Recognized by the Law, Committed Military Aggression against Ukraine and/or Temporarily Occupied a Part of the Territory of Ukraine,” on December 20, and it was signed into law by President Petro Poroshenko on December 22.
In short, the law attempts to force the Church to rename itself the “Russian Orthodox Church in Ukraine,” with Russia being legally considered an aggressor state by Ukraine. The passing of bill No. 5309 is widely considered merely a pretext for lawfully protecting the seizure of property from the canonical Ukrainian Church, and indeed, “Patriarch” Philaret Denisenko has explained how the Ukrainian states new church laws will facilitate the taking of the Kiev Caves and Pochaev Lavras.
The bill allows for any structure up to 4 months to legally change its name, though the Ukrainian state has already taken the canonical Church’s name, just over a month since the passing of the bill.
Moreover, the bill cannot legally achieve that which it aims at, given that there is no legal connection between the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and the Moscow Patriarchate. Fr. Nikolai earlier explained the state’s error:
The legal center of the UOC is in Kiev. Canonical connections, the commemoration of the President—these are canonical things are nothing for the state. How we baptize or don’t baptize, who we have a prayerful connection with, and who not—this does not concern the state. We don’t live in Byzantine Empire times, where the Church canons had the force of state law… What the Verkhovna Rada is doing is a mixture of Church and canonical questions with legal questions.
Ukrainian Deputy Ivan Vinnik recently explained that if the canonical Church does not agree to change its name, it will lose its non-profit status and have to pay taxes.
For an in-depth analysis of the situation, see the article, “Ukrainian Laws Against the UOC: Goals and Consequences.”
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