Kiev, January 24, 2019
In a recent interview with the Ukrainian outlet TSN, Philaret Denisenko, the head of the schismatic “Kiev Patriarchate” and the de facto head of the schismatic structure created by Constantinople on December 15 [though he recently declared that the new structure is, in fact, an expanded “Kiev Patriarchate”—O.C.], spoke about how Ukraine can use its newly-passed laws to take the Kiev Caves and Pochaev Lavras.
On December 20, the Ukrainian Parliament passed 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,” which, in short, is aimed at forcing the Ukrainian Orthodox Church to change its name to the Russian Orthodox Church.
However, the Ukrainian Church has no legal connection to the Russian Orthodox Church and none of its registered documents connect it to Moscow in any way. The administrative center of the Ukrainian Church is in Kiev, not in Moscow.
The bill was signed by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on December 22 and came into force on December 26. On January 17, the Rada also adopted bill No. 4128 that will work with No. 5309 to confiscate Church properties.
Philaret explained: “The Rada adopted a mechanism for how a community can transfer to the ‘new church.’ They have to, using this law, gather the brethren. They have to reregister into the Russian Orthodox Church, and they won’t want to, and then they won’t have the right of a legal entity. And not having the right of a legal entity, they will lose much, in particular the Lavras.”
Philaret’s statement confirms the fears expressed by His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia in late December: “And it is quite obvious that there is an ultimatum: If the Church does not change its name, its registration will be removed, but if the Church changes its name, then the strongest pressure begins, primarily on the people, on the public. Undoubtedly, the forceful seizure of churches will begin.”
Philaret also added his oft-repeated assertion that the Lavras are Ukrainian holy sites and “should belong to the Ukrainian Church, not to the Russian one.”
Kiev authorities have claimed that they have no intention of breaking the leases that allow the Ukrainian Church to use the Kiev Caves and Pochaev Lavras for 50 years, though the wheels are already in motion for both holy sites to be taken away, and the abbot of the Kiev Caves Lavra recently stated on television that Kiev is aiming at taking the monastery away, though the brethren have no intention of leaving their home.
State sources recently reported that Poroshenko secretly ordered that the leases for the Ukrainian Church to use the Kiev Caves and Pochaev Lavras be terminated. The Pochaev Lavra brotherhood’s registration to use the buildings has already been canceled, though the monks still live there for the time being.
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