Ukrainian bishop found guilty of “inciting religious enmity” for having Orthodox books

Kropivnitsky, Kirovograd Province, Ukraine, May 12, 2023

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In another glaring example of the Ukrainian state’s psuedo-judicial justification for outright persecution against the largest religious confession in the country, a hierarch of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church and the secretary of his former diocese were given a suspended prison sentence yesterday. Their “crime”: reading and sharing information on Orthodox canonical norms and violations. According to the court in a country whose constution guarantees religious freedom, defending the ancient canons of the Orthodox Church is “inciting religious enmity.”

His Eminence Metropolitan Joasaph, previously the ruling hierarch of the Kirovograd Diocese of the UOC, and Fr. Roman Kondratyuk were both sentenced to three years imprisonment with a probationary period of two years. They were also banned from holding senior positions in any religious organizations for a year, reports Suspilne.

Met. Joasaph’s home was searched by the Ukrainian Security Service in October. Having found a number of Orthodox books about the schism in Ukraine, the Service then officially notified him in December of suspicion of having spread “pro-Kremlin views,” and a few days later, a court in Kropivinitsky placed him under house arrest. In late November, he was granted retirement from the Kirovograd Diocese and made a vicar of the Kiev Metropolis.

At the trial, the works, The Russian Orthodox Church Guarding Orthodoxy in the 21st Century, Contribution to the Dialogue on Ukrainian Autocephaly, The Ukrainian Church Question, The Modern Ukrainian Question, and The Rules and Unity of the Church were specifically mentioned, noting that Fr. Roman presented them at a meeting of deans in September 2021 “to incite religious hatred and enmity.”

According to Suspilne, when the prosecutor asked: “Do you understand the causal relationship that was associated with your actions to distribute these books?” Met. Joasaph replied: “I admit my guilt, but I won’t say anything more.” Fr. Roman also “admitted his guilt.”

In the end, the judge ruled to “impose a sentence of three years in prison with the deprivation of the right to hold senior positions in religious organizations of Ukraine for a period of one year” and to “release Pyotr Ivanovich Guben [Met. Joasaph—OC] from serving his sentence with a probationary period of two years, imposing on the convicted person the duties of periodically appearing for registration with the authorized probation body.”

Fr. Roman received the same sentence. The two clerics have 30 days to appeal the decision.

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