Kiev, December 2, 2022
President Vladimir Zelensky of Ukraine issued a decree yesterday aimed at, in his words, ensuring Ukraine’s spiritual independence.
“We will never allow anyone to build an empire inside the Ukrainian soul,” he said.
However, as state searches of monasteries, churches, and diocesan administrations intensify (accompanied by allegations of planted “pro-Russian” evidence), with the Ukrainian Security Service opening cases against hierarchs and clergy (the Lavra hieromonk who was anointing the faithful while a group of women sang about the spiritual revival of Holy Rus’ and His Eminence Metropolitan Joasaph of Kirovograd are the latest to come under official suspicion), and as local administrations continue to declare bans on the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church (there were reports of at least three more bans yesterday), many members of the Church are concerned about the state’s vision for spiritual independence.
Commenting on the meeting of the National Security and Defense Council held yesterday, the President said: “We have to create conditions where no actors dependent on the aggressor state will have an opportunity to manipulate Ukrainians and weaken Ukraine from within.”
Thus, the President ordered:
The National Security and Defense Council to instruct the government to submit a bill to Parliament within two months that would ban religious organizations “affiliated with centers of influence in the Russian Federation.”
The State Service for Ethnopolitics and Freedom of Conscience to examine within two months the statues of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church for any “church-canonical connection with the Moscow Patriarchate and, if necessary, to take measures provided for by law.”
To verify within two months the legality of the presence of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church at the Kiev Caves Lavra, which is owned by the state.
All national security bodies to intensify their measures “to identify and counter the subversive activities of Russian special services in the religious environment of Ukraine.” Personal sanctions will be applied as necessary.
The State Service for Ethnopolitics and Freedom of Conscience must be reformed and placed under the direct authority of the Ukrainian Cabinet of Ministers “to really protect the rights and legitimate interests of Ukrainians and the state.”
“With these and other decisions, we guarantee Ukraine's spiritual independence,” Zelensky affirmed.
The head of the State Service for Ethnopolitics, Elena Bogdan, has warned several times that a ban on the Ukrainian Orthodox Church is ill-advised and would certainly cause destabilization in society.
She has also confirmed that the statutes of the UOC adopted at the Council in May show no connection to the Russian Orthodox Church. She has also commented that the schismatic “Orthodox Church of Ukraine” has no need of the Kiev Caves Lavra, as they have only 50 monks in all of Kiev—a statement that greatly angered “Metropolitan” Epiphany Dumenko of the OCU.
Bogdan most recently addressed these issues in an interview last week.
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