Washington, D.C., November 7, 2023
The Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations (UCCRO) sent a delegation to America on a propaganda tour last week.
Besides talking about the effects of the war, the delegation blatantly lied about the facts of the persecution against the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
The group consisted of schismatics, Uniates, Jews, Muslims, and sectarians, but the canonical UOC, the largest confession in Ukraine, was not permitted to send a representative.
Among the speakers at a panel discussion with the U.S. Institute of Peace was “Metropolitan” Evstraty Zorya, once the faithful servant of the defrocked and anathematized “Patriarch” Philaret Denisenko, and now a representative of the “Orthodox Church of Ukraine,” whose ministry, conducted online, is centered on denouncing the faith of his fellow Ukrainians in the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
Zorya spoke of the UCCRO as an image of the “peaceful co-existence of people who have different faiths, different national identities, but deep and fruitful, mutual cooperation.”
“We really enjoy freedom of religion and belief. We really protect these rights,” the schismatic claimed, while failing to mention that the people of his organization routinely violently attack priests, matushkas, monastics, and laymen while damaging and seizing their churches.
Zorya also deceived his audience concerning the draft law that aims to ban the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. He noted that the bill does not name any specific religious organization, but aims to ban any group that is headed within Russian. Thus, according to him, the fact that the canonical UOC is against the bill proves that they still consider themselves part of the Moscow Patriarchate. However, he chose not to mention that despite the fact that the UOC declared its independence already more than a year ago, the Ukrainian state has, conversely, declared that the UOC remains part of the Moscow Patriarchate. This supposedly justifies outright persecution against the only canonical Orthodox Church in Ukraine.
The same propaganda was repeated the next day at a meeting with American journalists, representatives of research institutions, and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa).
Zorya also gave an interview to Voice of America in which he called Tucker Carlson and Bob Amsterdam, the lawyer who is providing a pro bono defense to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, propagandists because they spoke about the facts of persecution in Ukraine today.
He also claimed that the canonical UOC “did not consider it necessary to send a person corresponding to the level of the delegation to participate in this event.” However, Archpriest Nikolai Danilevich, Deputy Head of the UOC’s Department for External Church Relations, explains that this is another lie, that the UCCRO ignored the UOC’s attempts to involve a delegate.
The UOC’s Department for External Church Relations issued a response to the propaganda from the UCCRO delegates:
On October 31, 2023, the official website of the UCCRO posted a message stating that during a recent trip to the USA and meetings with American journalists, experts from leading research centers, and a U.S. Senator, which took place in Washington on October 31, 2023, the delegation members declared that “despite the martial law, a high level of religious freedom is maintained in Ukraine and no church has been banned.”
In connection with the fact that on October 19, 2023, the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine adopted in the first reading bill №8371, which is aimed at prohibiting and violating the right to freedom of religion of religious communities and believers of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – the largest religious association in Ukraine, the declared "high level of religious freedom" may be lost.
Furthermore, we draw attention to the fact that some statements that were made public by individual representatives of the UCCRO cannot be considered as the position of the UCCRO, as they were not subject to review and were not adopted at its meetings, where decisions are made by consensus. Therefore, such statements should be regarded as the personal position of some representatives of the UCCRO delegation.
We also believe that in light of the adoption in the first reading of bill №8371, it is incorrect to speak about the presence or absence of violations of religious freedom concerning a particular denomination, in our case – the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, without the direct presence of representatives of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, who for some reason were not included in the delegation, although they had submitted a candidate representative.
In view of this, we emphasize that:
Some statements that sounded in Washington should not be considered as the position of the UCCRO, but only as the personal position of individual members – that is, individual religious figures.
It is also incorrect to speak about the Ukrainian Orthodox Church without the presence of its representatives. Just as the state of Ukraine demands that politicians do not decide its fate and do not lead discussions about its position without its presence at the international level, so too our Church calls not to talk about it without the presence of official representatives from the UOC.