Ukrainian Orthodox Church asks for return of property both expropriated and given to schismatics

Kiev, February 15, 2011

The head of press service of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Vasily Anisimov, has advocated adopting a law that will enable the return to the UOC of church property illegally acquired by the schismatic Ukrainian Church.

"Filaret's followers should return what they stole: Church funds and property.... It's necessary to adopt democratic legislation, to return expropriated Church property, including the property transferred to schismatics," Anisimov said on Tuesday in his interview with Interfax-Religion.

Speaking about the head of the schismatic Ukrainian church , Anisimov noted that the latter had resources for lobbying his interests. Filaret (Denysenko) is the head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church - Kyiv Patriarchate, a schismatic organization which broke from the Moscow Patriarchate in 1995. Filaret was formerly a metropolitan of the Russian Orthodox Church until 1992. He was excommunication by the Moscow Patriachate in 1997.

Anisimov stated that when former Ukrainian President Leonid Kravchuk failed to win the elections in 1994, the breakaway Filaret found himself without presidential support, and police officers were free to investigate  his organization's commercial activities, "they were amazed at the number of small companies set up under his auspices."

The companies were involved in oil trading abroad and importing cars to Ukraine, "criminally evading tax liabilities" in billions of rubles [at the ruble value of the time]. They imported various goods, such as 'humanitarian aid,' and even had structures involved in enlisting volunteers in hot spots of the CIS-countries. They [the companies] existed under his wing," Anisomov said.

Anisimov called Filaret's organization "a serious pseudo-religious business structure, the octopus, binding the commerce."  Because of this commercial involvement, Anisimov said, "He [Filaret] will not surrender without fight."

When asked what Ukrainian authorities can do to overcome schisms, the UOC press service head answered,  "It would be better they did nothing."

"The Church is separate from the state, and the President is required by the Constitution to fulfill the laws. If all the illegalities of the previous authorities in relation to UOC would be eliminated--and they should be eliminated--then separations would be overcome through ecclesiastical methods rather than administrative methods," the Church official said.

Interfax - Religion

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