Kiev, March 22, 2019
Photo: vzcz.church.ua Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko met with the members of the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches yesterday, including His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev and All Ukraine, His Eminence Metropolitan Anthony of Boryspil and Bovary, the chancellor of the UOC, and Archpriest Nikolai Danilevich, the Deputy Chairman of the Department for External Church Relations of the UOC, as reports the departmental website.
Whether intentionally or unintentionally ironic, the President referred to himself as the “guarantor of constitutional rights” and promised to “do everything possible to protect religious freedom in Ukraine.” “Violence can never be a method of solving problems,” said the head of state who actively promotes the nationalist-schismatics who use violence as a method to solve problems.
In his address, Met. Onuphry spoke frankly to the President about the many problems existing under his watch.
“In these blessed days of lent, the Church calls us to repentance, abstinence, prayer, and reconciliation with others. The task of the Church is to take care of the spiritual and moral, to lead people to God, and to preach love, forgiveness and peace. The task of the state is to take care of the material side of human life, to monitor compliance with the laws, and the like,” His Beatitude said.
“However, in these days of Lent, and for a long time prior, events have transpired in the religious sphere of our country that grieve us. I am referring to the seizure of churches, the interference of the authorities in Church affairs, and other offenses,” the metropolitan continued.
When the Holy Synod of Constantinople announced on October 11 that it was moving ahead with its plans to create a new Ukrainian ecclesiastical structure and grant it autocephaly, it also appealed “to all sides involved that they avoid appropriation of churches, monasteries, and other properties as well as every other act of violence and retaliation so that he peace and love of Christ may prevail.”
Poroshenko himself and the primate of the schismatic church “Metropolitan” Epiphany Dumenko have also repeatedly called for the peaceful transfer of churches, though there has been no outcry and no action taken by any of these parties in response to the dozens of parishes that have been forcefully seized from the canonical Church.
His Beatitude referenced numerous instances where canonical parishes have been seized and their communities have been driven out onto the streets, forced to pray outside or in private houses.
“I want to emphasize that it is not we who are seizing churches, it is not our communities that cut the locks on churches, as they sometimes say in the media. It’s people foreign to the Church who come, who didn’t go to church before and don’t go now,” Met. Onuphry explained.
Epiphany Dumenko has tried to claim that churches are not being seized, but that communities sometimes cut off their own locks. He did not offer any explanation for why they might do that.
Met. Onuphry mentioned in particular Archpriest Viktor Zemlyany who, as OrthoChristian reported, is being charged with inciting religious enmity. “All charges are artificial,” the Ukrainian primate affirmed, telling the President that such charges against clergy throughout Ukraine are nothing more than an illegitimate form of pressure on the Church. Such persecution is unacceptable in a democratic society, Met. Onuphry said.
His Beatitude also noted that the schismatic church and the media are lying about the number of churches that have left the canonical Church and gone into schism. While the media talks about 400-500 such parishes, “to our knowledge, only 42 parishes have decided to move to the OCU, and of those, 9 parishes transferred without their priest.” Another 55 parishes have been forcefully seized, with the faithful and clergy often being beaten, and another 137 were transferred by the illegitimate vote of the territorial community against the will of the parish community. In those cases, the canonical priests remain to serve in the churches, though local authorities report that the community has allegedly transferred.
Moreover, everything that is happening now throughout Ukraine negatively affects both the authority of the government and of the President himself. Therefore, His Beatitude entreats the President to instruct local officials to stop the artificial transferring of parishes.
Meanwhile, Philaret Denisenko, the “Honorary Patriarch” of the schismatic church has declared that it’s completely normal that state and local officials would interfere and force parishes to defect into schism.
His Beatitude also reassured the President that the canonical Ukrainian Church stands for Ukraine and for a peaceful Ukraine, but noted that the nation’s present course is not one that leads to peace and unity. “All that I have mentioned above only harms the state. Make it stop. I am sure it is within your power!” Met. Onuphry concluded.
In response, Poroshenko denied any involvement in the forced transfer of churches and offered the Ukrainian primate to hold a separate meeting to discuss such issues. He also instructed his assistant to look into all the cases mentioned in the document submitted by Met. Onuphry.
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