Ukraine, June 19, 2019
The parishioners of the Holy Dormition Church of the village of Vaslovovtsi in the Chernivtsi Province gathered with their rector in late May to record a video appeal to President Vladimir Zelensky to help them get their church back.
Since then, a number of other parishes that have lost their church buildings to the schismatic activists have published their own video appeals to their new president, also pleading for their religious rights and property to be protected.
On June 12, the faithful of the Church of the Nativity of the Theotokos in the village of Stenka in the Ternopil Province recorded an appeal to Pres. Zelensky with their rector Fr. Vasily Moisyuk, asking him to guarantee the rule of law and the protection of their fundamental right to freedom of religion, reports the Information-Education Department of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
Pressure against the canonical faithful in Stenka has been going on for many years. Right Sector terrorists and the local Uniate priest have spread propaganda against the parish to incite conflicts, and on January 31 this year, the territorial community, including people of another faith, voted to move to the parish into the schismatic “Orthodox Church of Ukraine” (OCU).
“Dear President Vladimir Alexandrovich of Ukraine, the religious community of the Church of the Nativity of the Theotokos of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church appeals to you today for special help,” Fr. Vasily says in the video. “The local bodies of village governance and the regional and provincial councils, united with the representatives of the OCU and other confessions living in the village, in particular the Greek Catholic community, have deprived us of the opportunity to go and pray in our church.”
Fr. Vasily also stresses that he and his parish are patriots of Ukraine and hope for peace and tranquility in Ukraine, and that the law would be observed. “We want to live in a state governed by the rule of law, and the law should be enforced not only in relation to us, but also for all citizens of Ukraine, as well as all religious organizations,” the rector added.
The faithful of the St. Nicholas Church in the village of Zhidychin in the Volyn Province also recently recorded a video appeal to Pres. Zelensky, in which Fr. Roman Geleta recalls that their church was violently seized by OCU activists, and now the church they built with their own hands is also in danger of being seized.
The rector acts for his flock to be protected and calls on the president, as the guarantor of the constitution, to allow the community to live by the law, “First, according to the law of the state, and secondly, according to the Law of God,” which did not exist under the former president Petro Poroshenko.
The appeal ends with a call for the president to stop inter-confessional hostility and to protect the constitutional rights of believers.
On January 16, the rector and faithful of the Church of St. Elijah in the village of Klepachev in the Volyn Province recorded their own video appeal to Pres. Zelensky.
Despite the decision of the parish community to remain faithful to Christ in His Church, the church was re-registered to the OCU and seized by schismatic activists on March 9. Now the canonical faithful are forced to pray in an adapted house, Archpriest Vladimir Tikhonyuk explains in the video.
“We … appeal to you with a request to defend our legal rights, because we are citizens of our country—we are Orthodox Christians who have undergone illegal decisions and actions against our community, our church,” Fr. Vladimir explains.
“We want, peace, harmony, and love,” the rector concludes.
The appeal begins in the video below at 14:50:
On June 9, Archpriest Leonid Delikatny and the community of the Holy Archangel Michael in the village of Zadubrokvka in the Chernivtsi Province recorded a video appeal, asking the president “Why every Liturgy in our church for more than 100 days in a row has been accompanied by fighting?” and emphasizing that he and his parishioners “voted for peace in Ukraine.”
As with the other videos, Fr. Leonid asks Pres. Zelensky to ensure the rule of law and the protection of constitutional rights, noting that the faithful have been forced to keep an around-the-clock watch over their church for the past 120 days.
All the St. Michael community wants to do is “go quietly to the church of God,” the faithful say.
Lastly, the Holy Protection community from the village of Buderazh in the Rivne Province also recorded an appeal to Pres. Zelensky. As rector Archpriest Vyacheslav Grishuk explained to the Union of Orthodox Journalists, the church was forcefully re-registered to the schismatic OCU and the canonical community is being forced to transfer its church and property to the OCU within three days, despite the fact that the parish community voted on February 9 to remain faithful to the canonical Church and its primate His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev and All Ukraine.
Meanwhile, on February 17, the territorial community voted to force the church into the schismatic community. On May 11, OCU activists broke into the territory of the church and caused a fight that had to be broken up by the police.
“It was not a meeting of the religious community, but territorial. They violated article 8 of the Ukrainian law on the transfer of church communities and violated article 35 of the constitution of Ukraine. This is a crime,” Fr. Vyacheslav explained.
On behalf of the entire religious community, Fr. Vyacheslav urged Pres. Zelensky to protect their rights.
Explaining the ultimatum placed before the community, the priest states: “And now, having such an opportunity, we appeal to our newly-elected president, Mr. Zelensky, with a request to protect our rights, the rights of the faithful of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, and to not allow such violations. There is the law and it must be executed for everyone, beginning with the president and ending with the common man.”
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