Kiev, December 15, 2022
As local administrations continue to declare legal bans on the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, politicians are increasingly clamoring to declare a nationwide ban on the federal level.
Several such bills have come before the Verkhovna Rada—Ukrainian Parliament—recently, and President Zelensky himself ordered two weeks ago that a bill be submitted within two months that would ban any religious organizations “affiliated with centers of influence in the Russian Federation.”
And although the canonical UOC scrubbed any mention from the Russian Church from its statutes back in late May—a move that His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev and All Ukraine has termed a “separation” or “disassociation” from the Moscow Patriarchate—it’s well known that such bills are aimed precisely at banning the canonical Church in Ukraine.
At the same time, while some within the Rada are ready to rush ahead and ban the Church at all costs, there are other voices calling for a more dispassionate response, in line with Ukrainian and international legislation.
Earlier this week, the Rada’s Committee on Humanitarian and Information Policy called the legislative body to approve the laws on prohibiting the UOC and transferring its property to the so-called “Orthodox Church of Ukraine,” reports the Rada press service.
The Committee head Evgenia Kravchuk argues that the UOC can’t exist in Ukraine because it’s “actually a division of the FSB [Russian Federal Security Service].”
And although the UOC’s primate and highest governing bodies have repeatedly condemned the war, Kravchuk claims that the UOC “approves of the genocide of Ukrainians and blesses it.”
However, according to the expert conclusions of the Parliament’s Main Scientific-Expert Department, the relevant bills calling for a ban on the Church actually contradict the Ukrainian constitution and could very well cause a split in society.
The bill proposes that only those churches subordinated to the schismatic “Orthodox Church of Ukraine” could be “Orthodox”—something the state is clearly forbidden to rule on, according to the constitution, which defines Ukraine as a secular state, the Department argues in its report, published on the Ukrainian outlet Strana.
Moreover, the concept of “foreign religious organizations” is included but not explained in the bill, the Department notes. The bill also fails to define what it means by a “declaration” of connection with the Russian Orthodox Church.
Thus, such a bill could “entail significant religious tension in society among believers,” the experts conclude.