How Poroshenko Pushes Ukraine Towards an Interconfessional Conflict

Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard

19/04/2018 1/2

On April 17th, the President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko said that he managed to reach a new stage in the fight for creating a local church in Ukraine. In particular, according to him, he appealed to the Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew with a request to allocate the Ukrainian church with autocephaly. According to him, this must happen before July 28th, when it will be 1030 years since the date of the baptism of Kievan Rus’.

On Thursday, April 19th, the Verkhovna Rada supported the address submitted by Petro Poroshenko to the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew about the autocephaly of Orthodox church in Ukraine. 268 People’s Deputies voted “for” the address.

Before voting the “Bloc of Petro Poroshenko”, “Samopomich”, the “Radical party” of Lyashko, and “People’s Front” expressed their support for the address about the creation of a local church for Ukraine.

The “Opposition Bloc” said that they won’t support the address because they perceive it as the pre-election campaign of Poroshenko, and reminded that the State shouldn’t interfere in church affairs. Also “Revival” refused to vote for it.

Speaking in front of deputies, Poroshenko noted that he paid special attention to the questions of the church both in the pre-election campaign and from the first days of presidency, and noted that “even the sun peeked out” when he started to speak about the draft bill about a local church in parliament. He asked deputies to support his address to the Ecumenical Patriarch.

The announced transition of schematics from the “Kiev Patriarchate” and Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kiev Patriarchate under the leadership of the Constantinople Patriarchate for the purpose of creating in Ukraine a “Uniform local Church” – weakening the positions of the Moscow Patriarchate – is an unrealistic scenario.

However, Poroshenko paying attention to this topic demonstrates that he follows the footsteps of his predecessor Viktor Yushchenko and, most likely, will finish his reign with a result that is no less sad.

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This was declared by the Kiev observer Dmitry Skvortsov.

“Poroshenko’s statement is either another bluff or more stupidity.

A bluff because in order to give autocephaly to a certain Church, this same Constantinople must firstly recognise as a Church what in our case (the so-called ‘Kiev Patriarchate‘ and the so-called ‘Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church’) is considered by the whole world as a self-appointed pseudo-orthodox formations.

Then Constantinople must accept in its bosom these very shady formations, and only then ‘grant’ them local status, having violated the canonical rules about the inadmissibility of locating several local Churches on the same territory.

In our case – on the canonical territory of the Russian Orthodox Church (represented by the Ukrainian Orthodox Church [Moscow Patriachate]).

So, in order to implement the whims of the world-famous corrupt official [Poroshenko – ed], the Patriarch [Bartholomew – ed] must renounce the canons of Orthodoxy three times. Moreover, having accepted illegal formations into its bosom, Constantinople will call into question its own legality.

Even if Bartholomew is not especially orthodox in his spirit, he nevertheless wants to remain lawful in the Orthodox world, because in Turkey he isn’t recognised as the Ecumenical Patriarch and lives on sufferance. I don’t think that Turkey now needs a deterioration of relations with Russia if the latter expresses bewilderment concerning the activity of the aforementioned Turkish national.

Yes, Bartholomew is financially dependent on the State Department of the US and is ready to fulfil its tasks aimed at destroying Orthodoxy, which resists ‘universal values’. Yes, on April 14th, the residence of the Constantinople Patriarch was visited by the newly appointed head of the US Commission on international religious freedom. Bartholomew could rather indirectly promise to the masters that he has in common with Poroshenko to make efforts to create a ‘local church’ in Ukraine. And this, perhaps, was apprehended in Kiev as a call to action.

But, once again, is Bartholomew ready, for the sake of Ukraine and its unclear prospects, to sacrifice what remains of his authority in the world?

Exactly 10 years ago such promises were made by Poroshenko’s godfather Yushchenko concerning the 1020th anniversary of the ‘baptism of Ukraine’. Bartholomew came to Kiev for a celebration and… didn’t gift anything to anyone.

Yushchenko, due to disappointment, didn’t even wait for the end of visit of the Istanbul guest, and quickly left either to extinguish the new fire or to pump out a new flood in the Carpathians. And Filaret stated that he wasn’t even going to be in any Constantinople Patriarchate, because he himself ‘is a patriarch’. So the next pseudo-president steps on the next rake, once again without realising it.

That’s why Poroshenko’s statement is, most likely, the beginning of a pre-election campaign, in the role of the spiritual unifier of the nation. As we remember, Yushchenko also started as a Messiah. And we remember how he finished,” notes Skvortsov.

According to Kirill Molchanov, the Deputy Director of the Ukrainian Institute of Analysis and Management of Policy, according to the Constitution of Ukraine, the church is separate from the State. Therefore on April 17th Poroshenko in fact declared that he violated the country’s Constitution, having addressed the Ecumenical Patriarch on behalf of the Ukrainian clergy.

“Obviously by doing this he wanted to gather points on the eve of the presidential elections, because besides the ‘visa-free’ regime he has nothing to brag about. But he won’t achieve anything concerning the church, because the Constantinople Patriarchate isn’t even going to consider the question of creating a local church in Ukraine. At the same time the proposal read out by Poroshenko can easily lead to a new episode of inter-religious conflict in the country. Hotheads from the Kiev Patriarchate can decide that they were given a green light for a new wave of church occupations. In the conditions of an extremely divided Ukrainian society this can lead to irreparable consequences.”

And on April 19th this green light was indeed given. This was reported on the “Vsesvitnyo-Brovarske TV” YouTube channel, which acts as a mouthpiece of radical nationalist ideas.

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“Today two hours haven’t even passed since that moment when we made a very mild message to Christians in connection with the actions of our favourite President Poroshenko and in connection with the creation of a United local orthodox Church. A few hours barely passed before accusations of being provocative already started to sound. They started to sound concerning our peaceful liberal address to, figuratively speaking, set fire to the beards of Moscow priests. In reality, it was an abstraction, the question was about something else, first of all about the fact that there is a need to capture the temples of the Moscow Patriarchate, and first of all – the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra,” stated the radicals in the studio.

“What does being a priest of the Moscow Patriarchate mean? It means to be a heretic, it means to be a paid employee of the FSB under the cover of a tale. Should we pay attention to all these nuances? What is this brothers and sisters about? Ukrainian sacred places are still the under occupation of Moscow, in particular the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra. And if until recently the authorities closed their eyes to it, then the President Poroshenko, by his address to the Ecumenical Patriarch, has unambiguously given a signal to Ukrainian patriots that there should be no more waiting, no more closing the eyes to this lawlessness, and that it is necessary to capture the temples of the Moscow Patriarchate,” said the nationalists.

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