America Is Trying to Create a “United Local Church” in Ukraine and Persuades Filaret to Leave

Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard


As was predicted the day prior, the Verkhovna Rada voted for the resolution on the address to the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew on granting autocephaly to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

How parliamentarians voted on this resolution and what the political consequences of this there will be, “Strana” analysed.

268 voted “for”

Upon arrival in the Rada, the President looked considerably tired, although he tried to gesticulate actively during his speech.

Tomos of the patriarch will increase our independence, will remove the rudiments of the political project that is called the ‘Russian world’ and which was invented, by the way, by the hierarches of the Russian Orthodox Church,” he declared.

“At the same time I want to assure that the Tomos that we so hope and try our hardest to receive, and the emergence of a recognised united local church doesn’t at all mean a violation of the constitutional principle of freedom of worship. The united Orthodox local Church won’t become a State one. All believers have and will have the right to freely choose for themselves both a specific temple and church jurisdiction. Whoever will want to remain in that church that will keep its unity with the Russian Orthodox Church will also still have a guaranteed right to have their own choice. In such matters as religion any coercions or bans are categorically inadmissible. I want to separately emphasise the unacceptability of any violence in inter-faith relations. Its splashes, heaven forbid, and collisions definitely won’t bring us closer to the aim, but will distance us from it. Moreover, they can make its achievement impossible. When there will be autocephaly time will put everything in its place. Not in a day, not in a month, not even in a year, but it for sure will put things in place,” said the President to parliamentarians convincingly.

The Activity of Americans

Sources of “Strana” in diplomatic and religious circles say that this time work with Patriarch Bartholomew to convince him to support autocephaly happens at a much more serious level than two years ago.

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And, according to our sources, the Americans joined in.

Firstly, not long ago the ambassador of the US in Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch met the head of the Ukrainian Greco-catholic Church Svyatoslav Shevchuk who earlier opposed the creation of a united local Church, however, now he changed his position.

Secondly, on Saturday, April 14th, the United States Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback came to Turkey. The official reason for its visit is to attempt to release from prison the American pastor-evangelist Andrew Branson, who Ankara accuses of having ties with the preacher Fethullah Gülen. However, during this meeting, Brownback made a visit to the residence of the Constantinople patriarch.

Thirdly, the former ambassador of the US in Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt visited Athos, and following the results of the meeting he announced that he discussed with the priors of the Athos monasteries important questions concerning “Orthodoxy around the world”.

Fourthly, according to our sources, work with the head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kiev Patriarchate Filaret, who is being convinced to leave, is being carried out by both sides – the Americans and the Ukrainian authorities.

“According to many signs it is precisely Filaret who is an obstacle in order for a part of the episcopate of Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate to support autocephaly,” says the source. “And without this it’s unlikely that Bartholomew in general will somehow react to this address. That’s why Filaret is now being convinced by different sides, including from our American partners, to declare that he doesn’t lay a claim for dominance in the local church. Attempts are being made to find someone from the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate to find someone for this post. However, all these actions don’t yet guarantee that Bartholomew will answer in the affirmative. The probability of this is still small. But if Filaret doesn’t leave it will be equal to zero”.

Meanwhile, against the background of the authorities’ attempts to create a local church, experts predict the strengthening of the religious standoff.

“This is only the beginning. It will become much more rigid later. The seizure of temples, parishioners, and territories will start. We understand who this policy is aimed at, and there are structures, for example – C14, that already carry out such actions,” said political scientist Konstantin Bondarenko to “Strana”.

The pre-election topic

However, even if the story about the creation of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Petro Poroshenko will end in zilch, it anyway will rank high in the electoral campaign of the President. According to the political scientist Ruslan Bortnik, the Rada’s adoption of the resolution, irrespective of its consequences, is a continuation of the President Petro Poroshenko’s attempts to get the support of the nationalist electorate.

“This is a game of politics – the President tries to bind key political markers (ideas that divide, via which ordinary citizens identify politicians in accordance with the ‘mine/not mine’ system) to his name. Accession to the EU and NATO (the idea of a referendum), the cancellation of the language law, privatisation of the ‘war’ topic via the adoption in parliament of the law on Donbass and the end of the ATO, sharp anti-Russian attacks, and now the Church too – these are all attempts to grab these markers and to manipulate them. It is attempt to lead a nationalist electorate or to at least ensure its loyalty on the threshold of elections, although a stake can also be placed not on this electorate, but on bribing state employees,” said Bortnik to “Strana”.

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