Moscow, January 18, 2023
The Chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations addressed the UN Security Council yesterday, sounding the alarm about the ongoing persecution of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
His Eminence Metropolitan Anthony of Volokolamsk addressed the Council remotely in a session initiated by Russia’s permanent representative to the UN, Vasily Nebenzia.
Recall that the Ukrainian Church’s own Department for External Church Relations issued a statement on Monday in response to Nebenzia’s call, emphasizing that “we did not authorize anyone from the ROC-MP to speak on our behalf at the UN” and “call[ing] on the Russian authorities not to speak on behalf of our Church.”
Opening his speech, Met. Anthony said the ROC is concerned about protecting the rights of Christians worldwide and is “extremely concerned about the blatant violations of the universal and constitutional rights of Orthodox believers in Ukraine.”
Orthodox Christianity could be the common foundation for restoring peace between Russia and Ukraine, but this dialogue is being undermined with attempts to destroy the UOC, Met. Anthony lamented.
The ROC DECR Chairman pointed to last month’s decree from the Security and Defense Council of Ukraine and President Zelensky that aims to ban the canonical Ukrainian Church and which launched counterintelligence activities against the Church. It also led to the Church being deprived of the use of the upper section of the Kiev Caves Lavra and to sanctions being imposed upon UOC clergy.
And beyond sanctions, 13 hierarchs were actually deprived of their Ukrainian citizenship, “which is likely to be used as a basis for their forced expulsion from the country,” the Metropolitan said.
Such punishments are aimed only at the clergy of the UOC, and are imposed without any judicial legitimate procedure, His Eminence emphasized.
These actions from the state clearly violate the Ukrainian constitution and international law, he noted.
Since October, the Ukrainian Security Service has been carrying out searches of Church properties, Met. Anthony recalled, during which the clergy are humiliated and slandered, and criminal cases are being opened on preposterous grounds—all this reminds of the Soviet Union, Met. Anthony said.
The Russian hierarch also referred to the history of the creation of the schismatic “Orthodox Church of Ukraine” and the attempts to force the canonical Church and believers to unite with it.
129 canonical churches were forcefully seized by schismatics and nationalists in 2022 alone, he said.
He also informed the Security Council about the constant legislative attempts to forcefully rename the UOC, to deprive it of its property and rights, and to completely ban it.
These legislative attempts are backed up by a widespread slanderous media campaign, Met. Anthony added, which leads to more violence against members of the Church.
In conclusion, Met. Anthony called on the Security Council to “pay attention to the illegal actions of the state authorities of Ukraine against the largest denomination of the country.”
A top UN official also voiced serious concerns about religious freedom violaitons in Ukraine.