Rivne, Ukraine, December 6, 2018
The Ukrainian Security Service reported yesterday that it had summoned a number of priests for interrogation towards charges of inciting religious enmity or hatred. In particular, while searching priest’s churches, homes, and belongings, Service agents confiscated 75 copies of the brochure The Ukrainian Orthodox Church: Relations with the State. The Attitude Towards the Conflict in Donbass and to the Church Schism. Questions and Answers.
Since then, His Grace Bishop Pimen of Dubenske, the vicar of the Rivne Diocese revealed that the priests are also being accused of treason and connected the present persecutions to Constantinople’s process of creating a new church in Ukraine.
The Press Secretary for the Rivne Province of the Security Service declined to provide further information after the priest were interrogated at the local Security Service office, but Bp. Pimen noted that they are being accused of inciting religious hatred according to Article 161 of the Ukrainian criminal code and high treason according to Article 111, reports the Ukrainian portal charivne.info.
The hierarch noted that 14 priests were called in for questioning yesterday, though more priests were present at the office.
“We can say that they are charging our priests rather illegally, and it’s quite a stretch. I would like to say that we will support our priests. We will pray for those who are groundlessly accused. We will defend our rightness, including in the legal field,” Vladyka commented.
“In general, this provocation is an insult for us,” he said, adding that the aforementioned brochure contains nothing propagandistic.
“Our priests have served and will serve God and the people of Ukraine… All of us, the bishops and priests of the Rivne Province, are Ukrainians, patriots of our state and they done and will do nothing that divides or hurts Ukraine,” the bishop said, according to Interfax-Religion.
Despite the psychological pressure of the interrogations, Bp. Pimen noted in a briefing after the interrogations that he would still not attend Constantinople’s so-called “unification council” that will create a new church in Ukraine.
Mitred-Archpriest Alexander Egorov, the Secretary of the Rivne Diocese, also commented: “We are accused of treason and incitement to religious hatred. They’re doing this to intimidate us. We associate this with the provision of the tomos [of autocephaly—OC] and the future ‘unification council.’ However, our priests will not go to this unification council, because they are all faithful to the UOC and support Metropolitan Onuphry,” reports the Union of Orthodox Journalists.
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