Kiev, November 23, 2022
At a time when the Church is facing increased pressure and persecution from local and state authorities, the Holy Synod of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church met at the Holy Dormition-Kiev Caves today and issued a statement on the major issues facing the Church and its faithful today.
Just yesterday, the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU), National Police, and National Guard carried out “counterintelligence” activities at the Kiev Caves Lavra and several other UOC monasteries and one diocesan administration. Hundreds of buildings and people were “thoroughly checked” for any signs of sympathy for or collaboration with the Russian Federation.
His Eminence Metropolitan Jonathan of Tulchin also faces such accusations from the SBU, which he completely denies. As the Synod notes, other clerics also face ungrounded accusations of collaborationism.
Local authorities continue to ban the Church in their areas, and yet another bill was registered in the Ukrainian Parliament just this month calling for a complete ban on the Church throughout the entire country. Other bills call for the Kiev Caves Lavra to be taken from the Church and given to schismatics.
And in many places, schismatics continue to seize Orthodox churches, often with the consent and/or help of local authorities and law enforcement.
Despite the persecution that it faces, the Church continues to stand with its people, helping all who are affected by the war, and calling on all to prayerfully unite to bring about peace.
In its statement today, the UOC Synod reiterates that it has been against the war since it began in February and that it “consistently stands for the preservation of the sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity of Ukraine.”
The faithful of the UOC serve in the Ukrainian Armed Forces and other military groups, and the Church rejoices in the victories of the Ukrainian military, the Synod states. “At the same time, it is with deep pain that we continue to receive news about the deaths of our defenders and civilians. Eternal memory to all the victims of this terrible war!”
As for accusations against clergy, the Synod states:
Unfortunately, today some clergy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church are being accused of collaborative activities. For our part, taking into account the various circumstances that have developed as a result of the military aggression of the Russian Federation against Ukraine, we declare that these artificial accusations are unproven and groundless. Those bishops and priests who have remained in the occupied territory of Ukraine and continue to perform their pastoral ministry there are not collaborators. On the contrary, many of them are real heroes of the Ukrainian people. In the difficult circumstances that developed as a result of the war, they did not leave their flock. Risking their reputation, the clergy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church are doing everything possible for our Ukrainian people to survive where the war destroys the chances for human life.
Further, the Synod condemns the violent and abusive practice of seizing churches, emphasizing how unseemly it is that this often happens with the participation of local government structures. “It’s a shame that some government officials allow themselves to make provocative statements openly directed against our Church. We’ve already noted that such actions split society, and this is a particularly serious crime under martial law,” the hierarchs declare.
It's also a matter of grave concern that the SBU has been searching Church properties recently. The Synod calls for law enforcement officers to maintain objectivity and impartiality in their actions: “Once again, we urge not to foment an internal war, but to unite everyone in order to survive and defeat the evil facing us. Only our common work without internal strife will be able to stop the bloodshed.”
As part of its efforts to unite the country, the Church supports Ukrainian soldiers “not only in word, but also in deed,” it gives shelter to internally displaced persons, and it helps all those who are suffering because of the war. “We are deeply convinced that by doing deeds of kindness and mercy, the clergy, monastics and laity make a significant contribution to ensuring that our homeland survives in times of severe trials,” the hierarchs state.
“We hope that in the near future the biased attitude towards the Ukrainian Orthodox Church will be put to an end, and that our clergy will be included in the quotas of the confessional representation of military chaplains and will be allowed in wherever our faithful soldiers are,” the statement reads.
The Synodal statement concludes: “We pray that, according to the preeminent Apostle Peter, everyone might be “of one mind, compassionate, brotherly, merciful...” (cf. 1 P. 3:8-9), that the Lord might keep everyone healthy and unharmed, and that peace might reign in our Ukrainian land!”