Kiev, November 8, 2023
A Kiev appeals court upheld the legality of the Ukrainian state’s attempts to forcefully rename the Ukrainian Orthodox Church last week.
On November 2, the Sixth Administrative Court of Appeal ruled to dismiss the appeal of the canonical UOC and to uphold the decision of the Kiev District Administrative Court of May 15 that declared the legality of the Ministry of Culture’s actions aimed at forcibly renaming diocesan structures, monasteries, and parishes, reports the Union of Orthodox Journalists, with reference to the court website.
The Ministry of Culture’s aim is to rename the Ukrainian Orthodox Church as the “Russian Orthodox Church in Ukraine”—a pretext for outright banning the Church on a federal level.
Recall that in January, the State Service of Ukraine for Ethnic Policy and Freedom of Conscience declared that the UOC remains part of the Moscow Patriarchate, despite the UOC’s own decision to depart from the Moscow Patriarchate the previous May, as reflected in the UOC’s new statutes. And last month, Verkhovna Rada deputies voted 267-15 in favor of a bill that would ban any religious organization centered in Russia (the bill awaits a second reading before it can pass into law).
Although it has been legally registered as the “Ukrainian Orthodox Church” for 30 years, there have been attempts at least since 2018 under President Poroshenko to forcibly rename the UOC as the “Russian Orthodox Church in Ukraine,” although these attempts had been repeatedly blocked by Ukrainian courts.
The matter was halted by the Ukrainian Supreme Court in December 2019, but in late December, the Constitutional Court ruled that the bill calling for the forced renaming of churches or religious organizations associated with organizations in Russia is in line with the state constitution. The case was resumed again in May of this year, with courts twice now upholding the legality of the forced renaming.
According to the latest court writing, the UOC can be recognized as part of the Russian Church if any of the following is true:
UOC statutes contain indications of belonging to the ROC
ROC statutes contain indications that the UOC is part of its structure
ROC statutes contain indications that UOC hierarchs are part of its structure
In its examination, the court relied on pre-May 2022 UOC statutes, which are no longer legally valid, and the ROC statutes to make its declaration against the Church.
The appeal court’s decision states that it can be further appealed to the Supreme Court within 30 days.