The bills are being considered at Philaret Denisenko’s request.
Kiev, December 20, 2018
More than a thousand Orthodox faithful gathered this morning to pray outside the Verkhovna Rada building in Kiev to protest the possible adoption of several anti-Orthodox Church bills, reports the Union of Orthodox Journalists.
Several videos of the event have been posted on the First Cossack Facebook page.
Despite the cold and snow, the numerous faithful came out to protest bills No. 4128, 4511, and 5309, being led in prayer by several clergy of the canonical Church. These bills have been under consideration for a long time, but the legal moves against the canonical Church rapidly increased in the period leading up to and now following Saturday’s “unification council” sponsored by the Patriarchate of Constantinople.
Rada Speaker Andrei Paruby had earlier declared that bill no. 5309, “On Amendments to the Law of Ukraine ‘On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organizations’ as Regards the Names of Religious Organizations (Associations) Which are a Part of the Structure of a Religious Organization (Association), Whose Administrative Center is outside Ukraine—in the State Which, as Recognized by the Law, Committed Military Aggression against Ukraine and/or Temporarily Occupied a Part of the Territory of Ukraine,” would be on the docket today.
Moreover, Paruby explained that the bills are being considered today at the specific request of Philaret Denisenko, the head of the schismatic “Kiev Patriarchate,” which became part of Ukraine’s new nationalist church on Saturday, reports the Union of Orthodox Journalists.
Philaret has also declared that though he is not the primate of the new church, he will continue to rule the church.
“The bill concerns the name of the Church, so it’s called as it should be called in according with its center, regardless of where it’s located,” Paruby said.
In short, the bill aims to legally deprive the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the name “Ukrainian Orthodox Church,” in order to sow confusion and paint it as a foreign agent in the eyes of the people. As Archpriest Nikolai Danilevich, the Deputy Head of the Ukrainian Department for External Church Relations earlier explained, such a legal move is merely a pretext to begin seizing property from the canonical Church.
The Ukrainian state and schismatics insist that the administrative center of the UOC is in Moscow in order to justify its persecution of the Church. However, the documents governing the life of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church leave no ambiguity about the fact that its center is, in fact, in Kiev, as the Ukrainian Church has complete administrative freedom from the Russian Church.
In December of last year, the statutes of the Russian Orthodox Church were updated to more accurately reflect the situation that had already existed since 1990, with the Ukrainian Church being completely administratively independent.
And earlier, in October 2016, when bill No. 5309 was first introduced, Archpriest Alexander Bakhov, the head of the UOC’s legal department, stated: “Yes, the state has recognized an aggressor country. But what does this have to do with the UOC-MP? They think the center of our Church is in Moscow, but it’s not. Our center is in Kiev.”
Of course, the UOC is still categorically against such a provocation. In November, His Eminence Archbishop Clement of Nizhyn and Prilutsk, the head of the UOC’s Information Department explained: “Our Church got its name even before the state of Ukraine, as an independent institution.”
“According to the tomos, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church received all rights to property and all legal aspects related to its activity within the territory of the Ukrainian state. That was in 1991, after the events related to the independence of Ukraine,” Abp. Clement emphasized.
Moreover, the Bishops’ Council of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, held in Kiev on November 13, pronounced its stance against any attempts to change its name:
The Council of Bishops opposes any attempts to change the name of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which is already being declared by top state officials, and other manifestations of discrimination against the faithful of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church at the legislative level. In the event that the relevant draft laws are adopted by the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church will defend its rights by every legal means provided by the “Bases of the Social Conception of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church,” Ukrainian legislation, and the European Convention on Human Rights.
The other bills, Nos. 4128 and 4511, are also aimed against the canonical Ukrainian Church. Bill No. 4128, “Amendments to the Ukrainian law on the freedom of conscience and religious organizations (for the changing of jurisdiction by religious communities),” would make it easier for churches to be seized by schismatics, while bill No. 4511, “On the special status of religious organizations with headquarters located in states recognized by the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine as aggressor states,” proposes that such religious organizations be able to appoint metropolitans and bishops only in agreement with the governing authorities. The same bill also gives the government the right to forbid a confession if its representatives cooperate with religious centers in “aggressor states.”
Despite the continuing persecution from their own government, the Ukrainian faithful continue to hope in God, and have gathered to pray outside the Rada building several times over the past few years, including in October 2016 and May 2017.
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