Metropolitan Antony: What Will Happen to the Moscow Patriarchate as a Result of Kiev’s Anti-Church Laws

Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard


Metropolitan Antony (Pakanich) of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate – about the consequences of the law on names of religious organisations adopted by the Verkhovna Rada…

The adoption by the parliament of Ukraine of laws that are described by people as being anti-church caused big concern in religious community of our country. In particular, the chief rabbi of Kiev Yaakov Dov Bleich, who is now the chairman of the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organisations (AUCCRO) publicly stated his position. In his opinion, law No. 5309 (which makes amendments to the Ukrainian law “On Freedom of Worship and Religious Organisations”) doesn’t correspond to the constitution, because it flagrantly violates the principle of the separation of the church from the state.

As Yaakov Dov Bleich emphasised, after the decision made by the Verkhovna Rada, no faith can feel protected from state interference. In this regard he hoped for the recognition of the mentioned law as unconstitutional.

In addition, the chairman of AUCCRO placed particular emphasis also on the fact that the corresponding steps made by the authorities didn’t find understanding outside of our country. According to him, international organisations, even those that support Ukraine, already made statements about the incorrectness of such actions, having designated this event in parliament as a provocation.

It should be noted that isn’t an exaggeration at all. The specified legislative initiatives create the conditions for the emergence of a long and extremely painful crisis phenomena in the religious and public life of Ukraine. Carrying out a large-scale raider attack against the Ukrainian Orthodox Church [Moscow Patriarchate – ed] can become one of the factors that is capable of provoking such a processes.

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We all know how such a scheme is realised in business. The organisation, the property of which is coveted by criminals, suddenly has a “clone”. It was officially registered, and its name literally differs a tiny bit from the name of the structure that was chosen as the victim by the raiders. Such a simple move allows them to re-register illegally appropriated assets for the new structure. At the same time the process can be accelerated considerably if the authorised documents of the attacked organisation are recognised as invalid.

Law No. 5309 indeed creates such conditions. After all, the refusal of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church [Moscow Patriarchate – ed] to implement the illegal demand to change its official name can be used for the commission of one more violation, namely the removal of the UOC-MP from the boundaries of the legal field. With such a succession of events the principle “there is no person – there is no problem” will work. In the conditions of the alleged “invalidity” of the authorised documents of our Church in order to carry out an illegal mass transfer of communities and temples in the structure of another confession will be much simpler. Especially since the “clone” – in the form of the Kiev Metropolitanate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (OCU)” – was already created.

Unfortunately, practice shows that such fears aren’t groundless. Regardless of how the provisions of the law were prescribed, nobody can guarantee that they won’t use this law to cover themselves while implementing certain criminal schemes. A striking example of this is the situation with draft law No. 4128, which, among other things, regulates the process of transferring communities of believers from one faith to another.

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Everything looks smooth on paper: only members of a religious community can make the relevant decisions. However, in reality things are not so – temples are being transferred to other jurisdiction via the votes of representatives of a territorial community, who often simply ignore the position of parishioners.

This a gross violation of the law, however very few people among the authorities sound the alarm. On the contrary – cases where heads of Village Councils and district councils initiated illegal actions were repeatedly documented. For example, organising and holding meetings between the inhabitants of the respective settlements during which decisions to take away the temples and property of the UOC-MP in favour of other faith were made.

Anyway, in the media almost every day there is information about another similar raider capture. And so far there isn’t any prospect of solving the problem. However, this isn’t surprising since two significant moments hide behind the campaign for the illegal transfer of the communities of our Church to the “OCU”.

The first one – the desire to ensure the recognition of the so-called OCU at the level of local orthodox churches. As one of the well-known supporters of the new religious structure said, solving this issue will in many respects depend on “how actively communities and even whole dioceses” of the UOC will start to join the OCU.

The second one – the forceful transfer of a large number of parishes of our Church to the OCU will give the Constantinople Patriarchate the chance to affirm that its decision on granting autocephaly to Ukraine was correct, and that it promoted not the legitimation of a church split, but the alleged unification of Ukrainian Orthodoxy.

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However, regardless of the reasons that guide the inspirers and performers of the mentioned campaign, all of us must understand – it is impossible to build something rather good and worthwhile on a lie and violence. After all, as is said in Psalter, “For the arms of the wicked shall be broken: but the Lord upholdeth the righteous”.

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