Ukraine, July 19, 2019
According to data from the interactive map showing parish transitions from the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Chruch to the schismatic “Orthodox Church of Ukraine” (OCU), no parishes have joined the schismatic structure in the past 2.5 months.
Ukrainian media published the data this month, showing that the last transition occurred on May 8, when the parish in the village of Novomikhailovka in the Donetsk Province (the only parish in the entire province) went into schism, reports RIA-Novosti.
It was also reported that the OCU has acquired 520 churches since its establishment, or 4% of the total number of Orthodox parishes in Ukraine, though the vast majority of these have been by violent seizure or illegal re-registration.
Conversely, Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople continues to assert that the majority of Ukrainians support the schismatic “autocephalous” church.
The cessation of transitions is due to the recent governmental change in Ukraine, the canonical Church believes.
“Joining the newly-created church happened under powerful political pressure—all the forces of the state administrative apparatus and the special services of Ukraine were involved because the promotion of the beneficial value of the tomos in society was a key point in the election program of Petro Poroshenko,” explained Archpriest Nikolai Balashov, the Deputy Head of the Department for External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate.
However, this strategy did not work for Poroshenko, Fr. Nikolai noted, and therefore, “as soon as the elections passed, all the dynamics instantly fizzle out.”
Moreover, he added, a “timid process of return” has even begun. For example, the priest and community of the Holy Dormition Church in the village of Morozovka have returned to the canonical Church after being pressured into joining the schismatic OCU.
At the same time, Fr. Nikolai acknowledged that attempts to seize churches and to illegally re-register them continue. 19 communities were recently forcibly re-registered in Volyn against the wishes of the priests and communities.
“Thus, there is some residual, fading activity in this Province, but really the only motivation for such a transition is pressure from the authorities. As soon as it, if not stopped, then in any case weakened, then the whole process withered,” Fr. Nikolai said.
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