Ukrainian Parliament votes for bill to ban UOC in first reading, second reading still to come

Kiev, October 19, 2023

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Deputies of the Verkhovna Rada voted today in favor of a bill that is aimed at banning the Orthodox Church in the country on a federal level.

Many local administrations have declared bans on the Church, though at the same time, the Church’s activities have continued in those localities.

267 Deputies voted in favor of Bill No. 8371 today, 15 voted against, and 2 abstained, reports the Union of Orthodox Journalists.

The Legal Department of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church notes that this was the first reading, and according to procedure, there must still be a second reading. Therefore, the bill has not yet become a law.

The department also emphasizes, as it has done repeatedly in the past, that such bills violate the right to freedom of religion and therefore violates the Ukrainian constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights.

In particular, Bill No. 8371 calls for a ban on the activities of religious organizations “associated with the aggressor state,” though it is well known that the authorities intend it to, in fact, ban the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

The Ukrainian Orthodox Church amended its statutes at a council last May, removing all connection to the Moscow Patriarchate. However, according to the statutes of the Moscow Patriarchate, such independence can only be granted by a Local Council of the Patriarchate (including hierarchs, clergy, monastics, and laity), and thus it continues to recognize the UOC as part of itself.

And in January of this year, the State Service of Ukraine for Ethnic Policy and Freedom of Conscience announced the results of its examination of the canonical status of the UOC, declaring it to still be part of the Moscow Patriarchate, based on Moscow Patriarchate documents.

Thus, in the eyes of the Ukrainian state, a ban on the Moscow Patriarchate is a ban on the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

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