Kiev, December 10, 2018
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has reached out to His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev and All Ukraine, the primate of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church, to ask for his help in securing the release of 24 Ukrainian sailors who have been detained by Russian authorities since the Kerch Strait incident on November 25.
“Yesterday and the day before, I spoke with the primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate His Beatitude Onuphry. I turned to him with a request to immediately contact Moscow to return [our sailors]. I will not waste any chance to return our soldiers. We will pray and hope that this will happen as soon as possible,” Poroshenko said, as reports the President’s official website.
The President’s appeal comes just one month after he declared that Met. Onuphry and the other representatives of the canonical Ukrainian Church have no business in Ukraine and should leave for Russia. Met. Onuphry is even included in a government-backed database that compiles personal information on those deemed “enemies of Ukraine.”
The hierarchs and clergy of the Ukrainian Church are routinely maligned as being Russian agents, disloyal to Ukraine, though Poroshenko doesn’t hesitate to rely on their loyalty and patriotism when the situation demands it.
As His Eminence Archbishop Clement (Vecherya), the Chairman of the Synodal Information and Education Department of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, explained to TASS, the Church is always involved in interceding on behalf of Ukrainian soldiers.
“As a matter of fact, the Church is constantly taking part in the process of returning our soldiers who are on the territory not controlled by Ukraine and in Russia. His Beatitude has repeatedly addressed Pat. Kirill with such requests and negotiations are taking place on the Church line, so that it would be possible to return all citizens of Ukraine to our territory in a humanitarian fashion,” Abp. Clement explained.
“All the prisoners that have been released over the past few years—all this was with the support of Met. Onuphry and the direct participation of the Church,” he added.
Thus, in January, Poroshenko personally thanked Met. Onuphry and the entire Ukrainian Orthodox Church for its role in the prisoner exchange that began last December and saw 304 prisoners being released by Kiev and 74 by Donetsk and Lugansk, and for the rendering of humanitarian aid.
His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia also played a leading role in the negotiations that led to the exchange.
As a pastor for his flock, Met. Onuphry has never been afraid to intercede on behalf of the faithful under his care. In March of 2014, he personally appealed to President Putin to do all he could to prevent bloodshed in Ukraine, and he also wrote to Pat. Kirill at that time.
OrthoChristian previously reported that His Eminence Metropolitan Agafangel of Odessa and Izmail appealed to Pat. Kirill to intercede on the sailors’ behalf, and His Eminence Metropolitan Anatoly of Sarny and Polesia wrote to Russian President Vladimir Putin to the same end.
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