Vinnitsa, Ukraine, December 27, 2018
The Vinnitsa Diocese of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church has released a statement concerning the pressure and threats from local authorities on its clergy after December 15’s “unification council” and the creation of a new Ukrainian church.
The statement on the diocesan website reads:
Since the beginning of the process of the creation of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU), state authorities have repeatedly made statements that no pressure or coercion would be put on the communities of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) to transfer to the OCU. However, practically the opposite situation is observed today in the Vinnitsa Province. Besides the pressure exerted on the communities from individual heads of local administrations, there are already public insults and direct threats against the clergy and faithful of the UOC.
As an example, the message points to a Facebook post from Andrei Grachov, an official of the Vinnitsa Province state administration, where he “allowed himself offensive statements against the clergy and believers of the UOC, groundless accusations of a criminal offense, and he also made threats.”
“Lovers of the Russian world… this is to you… You probably misunderstood something,” Grachov writes. “So here’s an official declaration. One country—one Church. We have begun! We will punish harshly for Ukraine and for the Faith. There’s no politics here—here there is Ukraine and the Faith. This is not a joke!!!”
Further, the state official clarified that his words are not a threat but a warning: “I’m not threatening—I’m giving a real warning. A threat could come true or not. But a warning means it 100% will be. I advise you to look in the mirror and think: ‘Is this worth it???’”
Grachov further noted that he knows he should not be posting such threats, or rather, warnings, and that he will probably be punished for it. “But I am a man and I have my own thoughts about it,” he writes.
“We hope that the actions of Grachov will receive an appropriate assessment from the leadership, because such radical statements not only violate the ethics of civil servants, but also run counter to the official position of the regional authorities, which has always sought for inter-religious peace and to prevent conflicts on religious grounds,” the diocesan message concludes.
OrthoChristian previously reported that Vinnitsa authorities are being pressured from above to in turn pressure the priests of the canonical Church.
The situation in Vinnitsa is especially tense right now, as Simeon Shostasky, the former Metropolitan of Vinnitsa and Bar, was one of only two hierarchs to break their episcopal oath, abandon the Church of Christ, and join the new schismatic nationalist church in Ukraine. Shostasky took the Holy Transfiguration Cathedral and a handful of clergy with him.
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