Kirovograd, December 8, 2022
“Look at the icon of Christ, and tell Him that you forbid His Church,” the new hierarch of the Diocese of Kirovograd tells the deputies of the Kirovograd Provincial Council in an open appeal published on the diocesan website yesterday.
His Eminence Archbishop Nikolai, formerly a vicar of the Kiev Metropolis, was appointed to the Diocese of Kirovograd by the Ukrainian Holy Synod on November 23. His Eminence Metropolitan Joasaph was granted retirement for health reasons. He is also among the hierarchs being persecuted by the state Security Service.
Among his first acts as the new ruling hierarch was to call the local deputies to task for their own persecution of the Church. There’s no legal basis to ban the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, he writes. And in any case, there are more traitors among law enforcement he writes.
The deputies should look the faithful in the eye—look at Christ Himself—and tell them they are banning the Church, he writes.
Read his full statement:
Dear deputies, it’s probably a pity that I, as the newly appointed administrator of the Kirovograd diocese, don’t know you better, but we have a lot in common, first of all, the people who elected you, a significant part of whom I now represent as their diocesan bishop.
Guided, first of all, by concern for these people, which, I am sure, is also your concern, I would like to ask you a question—according to what legislation do you act and make such proposals?
I’m far from thinking that you, dear deputies, don’t know the articles of the Constitution and laws of Ukraine, so I ask—what guides you in your intentions?
Do you really think that the entire Ukrainian Orthodox Church, to which the citizens of Ukraine belong, is a traitor and works for the enemy?
For example, according to our president of Ukraine, 651 criminal proceedings on high treason and collaboration activities of employees of prosecutor’s offices, pre-trial investigation bodies, and other law enforcement agencies have been registered.
He said: “In particular, more than 60 employees of the prosecutor’s office and the SBU remained in the occupied territory and are working against our state,” the president said, noting that such data poses “very serious questions to the relevant leaders, and each of these questions will receive a proper answer.”
So why don’t you raise the question of banning the activities of the SBU, the prosecutor’s office, or the police in the region?
I would like to remind you that our Constitution is recognized as the best in the world, guaranteeing the rights of all segments of the population, including all churches. It guarantees protection even for the guilty.
To you, the deputies, the people delegated the right of power on the basis of the implementation of the Constitution, because the Constitution is a social agreement—power for the preservation of rights.
And war is not a reason to break the law. On the contrary, at this time it must be implemented more than ever, because this is the key to the unity of society as a condition for Ukraine’s victory in this war.
Look into the eyes of our believers who are fighting for Ukraine against the invader—Russia, look into the eyes of thousands of volunteers of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church who give everything to our soldiers, look into the eyes of everyone who goes to our churches—and tell them you want to ban them.
And most importantly, everything you do, you do in front of God. Look at the icon of Christ, and tell Him that you forbid His Church.
I urge you not to sow hostility on religious grounds, but to protect the unity of our Ukrainian people in every possible way and to observe the Constitution and laws of Ukraine.
His Eminence also includes a note that the Constitution only allows for a ban under martial law on the activities of political parties and public associations if they are aimed at harming Ukraine.
According to the Law on the Legal Regime of Martial Law, local government bodies have no power to ban religious organizations. The right to religious freedom is, in fact, upheld by the Ukrainian Constitution, he writes, as well as the EU and the UN.
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