Ukrainian Security Service interrogating Rivne priests again

Rivne, Ukraine, February 7, 2019

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Several priests in the Rivne Diocese of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church have again received subpoenas with a requirement to appear at the local offices of the Ukrainian Security Service for questioning as witnesses in criminal proceedings, reports the site of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

Priests from several villages received the summons on February 4, calling them to appear tomorrow, February 8.

The Security Service is Ukraine’s successor to the KGB and counterintelligence and anti-terrorism agency. About 20 priests from the same diocese were suddenly summoned to interrogations in early December as well. The Security Service announced at that time that in its searches through the churches, homes, and belongings of the priests it had found “an organized network of distribution of materials inciting religious discord.”

The relevant materials are dedicated to the unity of the Church and the sin of schism, the Service reported. Among the materials seized were 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, which was also seized from the residence of His Eminence Metropolitan Pavel of Vyshgorod and Chernobyl, the abbot of the Kiev Caves Lavra.

The questions at that time had to do with treason and the incitement of national, racial, or religious enmity and hatred, and His Grace Bishop Pimen of Dubenske, vicar of the Rivne Diocese, also stated that the priests were being accused of treason.

Commenting on the present situation, Bp. Pimen said this new round of summoning is probably the same as in December—to put pressure on clergy who are remaining faithful to the canonical Ukrainian Church.

As Bp. Pimen noted, the Security Service did not provide clear information about the reasons for the interrogations, so “until these interrogations take place, we don’t know exactly what they’re for, but most likely the diocesan clergy, like before, will be interrogated within the framework of the same criminal proceedings.”

He added that it’s clear that the purpose is to incriminate priests.

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