Finnish Church defends religious freedom for Ukrainian refugees

Helsinki, January 4, 2023

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Archbishop Leo of Helsinki and All Finland of the Autonomous Finnish Orthodox Church (Patriarchate of Constantinople) has initiated a petition calling on the Finnish Immigration Service to ensure the right to freedom of religion of Ukrainian refugees.

The document, published on the site of the Finnish Church yesterday, is also signed by clerics from the country’s leading churches.

Abp. Leo spearheaded the appeal after incidences of priests and parish ministers not being allowed to visit refugees at state-run centers. As the document notes, the majority of those who fled from Ukraine “belong to the cultural sphere of Eastern Christianity and were members of Orthodox communities in their country.”

At the same time, the appeal notes that such refusals aren’t widespread, and there are other instances where priests of the Finnish Church were invited to refugee reception centers to meet and pray with Ukrainian refugees.

Abp. Leo and the other signatories condemned acts of “insulting the personal beliefs of people in a vulnerable situation fleeing war or persecution, stressing that “consolation and care for the suffering are deeply rooted in the nature and mission of the Church.”

“Help shouldn’t come from the thought of acquiring new parishioners, but from the love of one’s neighbor, independent of his beliefs,” the petition reads.

“First of all, we call on secular officials to make it possible for the religious affiliation of those in need of help to be made public,” the petition concludes.

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