Kiev, February 25, 2021
On Monday, February 22, a congress of representatives of parish churches seized by the schismatics throughout Ukraine was held in the Church of Sts. Anthony and Theodosius of the Kiev Caves Lavra, with the blessing of His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev and All Ukraine.
The congress was initiated by the parishioners themselves and headed by His Eminence Metropolitan Anthony of Boryspil and Brovary, the Chancellor of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, reports the Church’s Information-Education Department.
It was attended by 338 clergymen and faithful from fourteen provinces of Ukraine that have been most affected by the violence of the nationalist schismatics of the “Orthodox Church of Ukraine” created by Patriarch Bartholomew and ex-President Petro Poroshenko and the schismatic groups that existed before it.
The congress began with a moleben for the beginning of every good work and in support of the persecuted faithful, after which the blessing of Met. Onuphry was conveyed by Met. Anthony. “The Church is not a wall and a roof, but faith and life. Don't get away from it, because there is nothing stronger than the Church. Your hope is the Church, your shelter is the Church,” the Ukrainian primate said, quoting St. John Chrysostom.
Then Met. Anthony and Archpriest Alexander Bakhov, the Chairman of the Church’s Legal Department, addressed the clergy and faithful with words of support and about the Church’s ongoing work to protect the rights of the faithful. Fr. Backhov noted that to date, there are about 500 cases of violent seizure or illegal re-registration of parishes. About 400 lawsuits have been filed thus far, and about 250 criminal proceedings have been opened.
Recall that “Metropolitan” Epiphany Dumenko of the schismatic OCU earlier lamented the canonical Church actually uses legal means to protect its illegally-seized property and that the faithful build new churches to replace those stolen from them.
Then, representatives from various seized churches shared their stories. First, a representative from the Archangel Michael Church in the village of Zadubrovka in Bukovina noted that although their church has been under attack for 6 years, not a single parish member has joined the schismatics.
Others talked about building new churches to replace those that were seized, and about how the people’s faith has only gone deeper through the persecution.
After the representatives spoke, the congress participants adopted appeals to the President, Prime Minister, and Parliamentary Speaker. They also recorded a video message to President Zelensky and other government officials, imploring them to protect their rights as Ukrainian citizens.
The appeal to the President begins (and the appeals to the Prime Minister and Parliament are essentially the same):
We, members of the congress of representatives of the parishes of seized temples of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (hereinafter–UOC), appeal to you, as the guarantor of the observance of the constitution, rights, and freedoms of man and citizen, to protect the greatest asset of our life, as well as the health and safety of us and our family members.
We appeal to you on behalf of those believers of our Church who were seriously injured during the seizure of churches: their heads were broken, their arms were broken, and they were beaten. We also appeal to you on behalf of many clergymen who are constantly unreasonably summoned for questioning by law enforcement agencies and humiliated in every possible way.
We appeal to you on behalf of the family of the priest of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Leonid Delikatny, whose health was hopelessly undermined by continuous threats, blackmail, and psychological pressure related to attempts to forcibly transfer the religious community he heads to another confession.
We appeal to you on behalf of Kristina Velushchak, a girl from the Chernivtsi Province who was not allowed to attend her own school graduation, because she goes to the “wrong Church,” as well as other parishioners of the UOC who suffer from restrictions in civil rights through their faith.
We also appeal to you on behalf of the large families of priests of the UOC who are being driven out of their homes by church raiders, making young children homeless.
We appeal to you on behalf of ordinary people from all over Ukraine, whose churches where their grandfathers and great-grandfathers went have been forcibly or fraudulently taken away, or against which attempts are being made (through illegal re-registration of parish charters in provincial state administrations).
The congress also notes that unconstitutional laws have been passed and used to persecute the UOC and its clergy and faithful, including the law attempting to deprive the UOC of its long-held legal name, which creates problems for parishes that want to update their legal documents, open bank accounts, use notary services, and so on.
Pseudo-religious organizations also regularly use media lies to discredit the UOC, and the number of criminal offenses on religious grounds and trials on appeal against acts of the state authorities are on the rise.
The appeal continues:
Dear Mr. President, we the people, citizens of the united state of Ukraine, are deeply concerned that the current state policy is directed against millions of believers belonging to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. We are all Ukrainians, true patriots who love and respect their native land; we work conscientiously, treat the sick, conscientiously fulfill our military duty, pay taxes, and develop various spheres of public life. The Church has never divided, does not divide, and will not divide its children by origin, social status, nationality, language, or political preferences. Political preferences and contradictions should not separate parents from children, married couples, friends or employees. Politics should not sow the chaff of hatred and malice in our hearts. It is our common duty to preserve public peace and quiet in the maelstrom of today’s events and pandemics.
Thus, the participants in the congress call on the President to use his powers and take immediate and effective measures to protect the rights of the UOC, by canceling the unconstitutional laws aimed at persecuting the UOC, and combining efforts and resources “to create equal and safe living conditions in Ukraine and eliminate any kind of violence against believers.”