Persecuted Moscow Patriarchate Priests: The SBU Tries to Intimidate Us Into Supporting Autocephaly

Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard


On December 5th 14 priests of the Rovno and Sarny dioceses of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church [Moscow Patriarchate – ed] received summonses for questioning in the SBU as witnesses in a criminal case.

The press secretary of the SBU in the Rovno region Inna Ilyuchok confirmed the information about 12 priests being summoned as witnesses within the framework of initiated criminal proceedings, however she didn’t announce any detail concerning the case. “Taking into account article 222 of the Criminal Procedure Code and article 387 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine, I can’t yet provide information about the features of the pre-trial investigation, because I don’t have permission from the investigator to publish information about the pre-trial investigation,” explained the SBU in the Rovno region.

As the Vicar of the Rovno Diocese bishop Dubensky Pimen reported, the clergymen are incriminated under Article 111 (State treason) and Article 161 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine (Violation of citizens’ equality based on their race, nationality or religious preferences, namely “actions aimed at inciting religious strife”). He also added that 12 priests were summoned for questioning, and two more were summoned for questioning in a verbal form. According to them, they are unaware of the reason for the summonses.

In addition, the bishop disproved the information about brochures that aim to incite interfaith strife being in the possession of the clergy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church [Moscow Patriarchate – ed]. “Concerning the brochures, no propaganda information was ever distributed in our Church. Even in these brochures that are being referred to, there is simply an explanation of what a schism is”.

According to the secretary of the Rovno diocese, the keen interest showed by SBU employees towards priests of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church [Moscow Patriarchate – ed] arose as a result of the desire of the President of Ukraine to create a United Local Church for the purpose of forcing the clergymen of the UOC MP to participate in a “unifying Sobor”.

“We are charged with state treason and inciting religious strife. This is being done in order to intimidate us. We link this with the granting of Tomos and the future ‘unifying Sobor’. However, our priests won’t go to this unifying sobor. Because all of them are faithful to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and support Metropolitan Onufry,” assumed Father Aleksandr.

After the interrogations, which lasted for several hours, all priests who visited the SBU are sure that they won’t be left alone, and they don’t exclude the possibility of searches being held in their houses and the emergence of custom-ordered materials that will dirty their reputation.

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As a reminder, on December 5th the SBU reported about the results of the searches that were carried out in the rooms belonging to the Zhytomyr and Novograd-Volynsky diocese and the Ovruchsko-Korostensky diocese of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, as well as private houses. According to the SBU, during the searches “signs of a functioning organised distribution network for materials kindling religious discord were found”.

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