Zaporozhye, Ukraine, June 28, 2018
A story spread throughout Ukrainian and Western media in January when a man attacked Fr. Evgeny of the Zaporozhye Diocese of the Ukrainian Church who had declined to serve the funeral for his young son because the family members are parishioners of the schismatic “Kiev Patriarchate” (KP). As Archpriest Nikolai Danilevich, the Deputy Chairman of the Department for External Church Relations (DECR), explained, as the KP is schismatic and isolated from the Orthodox Church of Christ, the child was unbaptized in the eyes of the Orthodox Church, and thus, of course, the priest could not serve the child’s funeral.
Shockingly, criminal proceedings were opened against Fr. Evgeny. According to prosecutors, the proceedings are based on the idea that “representatives of the Diocese of Zaporozhye of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate allow a selective approach to the implementation of religious rites, preferring those persons who underwent Baptism in the UOC-MP, thereby offending the religious sentiments of citizens in connection with their religious convictions.”
The DECR of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church has now reported that the members of the AUCCRO adopted a statement “On the inadmissibility of the violation of the principle of the autonomy of religious organizations and interference in the practice of worship of religious organizations.” The Holy Synod of the Ukrainian Church had also made a statement in March, demanding a cessation of the criminal proceedings, given that the priest was abiding by Orthodox Church canons, in no way violating Ukrainian law in the given case.
In particular, the AUCCRO declared the inadmissibility of the application of Article 161 of the Criminal Code against the priest, as it contradicts the nation’s constitution, according to which, “the state does not interfere in the activities of a religious organization carried out within the framework of the law.”
The AUCCRO members believe that the issue of religious rites and ceremonies performed or not performed should be regulated by the internal order of each denomination and organization, not by the Ukrainian Criminal Code.
“In the case of the violation of internal order and rules by religious figures, they are responsible under the doctrine of the relevant religious organization,” the statement reads. “The criminal prosecution of religious leaders of any confession in Ukraine under such circumstances is a violation of the principle of the autonomy of religious organizations and an unlawful interference in the internal practices of confessions and religious organizations, in particular as concerns serving religious sacraments, rites, and religious acts.”
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