How Zelensky does not forbid Ukrainians to practice religion


The Orthodox Church has become the object of attention of Western journalists. Some media release materials that are complimentary to Russian propaganda. Let’s try to analyze one of these examples.

The fight is not with religion, but with the agents of influence of Russia

December 8, 2022, Tucker Carlson spoke about the searches and banning of the activities of the UOC MP in Ukraine. Let’s analyze his main theses.

Tucker Carlson, television host, conservative political commentator and writer

«…Zelenskyi’s secret police have raided monasteries across Ukraine. Dozens of priests were arrested without any justifiable reason and in clear violation of the Constitution of Ukraine».

«…Zelensky announced his plan to ban the entire religion, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, and seize its property for not being sufficiently loyal to his regime».

«…You cannot send soldiers into churches. You can’t arrest dozens of priests because they refuse to bow to you».

Zelensky does not have his own secret police. Churches and monasteries were searched by the Security Service of Ukraine (SSU). They report on all security measures and search results on their official website.

The impetus for inspections of UOC churches was the public disclosure of a video showing a service glorifying «Russian peace» in one of the churches of the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra.

«The investigation is carried out according to Part 1 of Art. 436-2 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine — justification, recognition as legitimate, denial of the armed aggression of the Russian Federation against Ukraine, glorification of its participants,» — the SSU said in a statement.

Therefore, all actions are legal. And the reason for searches, investigations, and bans is not insufficient loyalty to the «regime», but a threat to national and state security.

«UOC MP actually condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine.»

Indeed, on February 24, the head of the denomination — Metropolitan Onufriycondemned Russia’s attack on Ukraine. Various dioceses helped the Armed Forces. On May 27, the UOC held a council at which it formally announced its separation from Moscow.

However, isn’t this just an outer picture for a cover?

There are people in the UOC MP who are loyal to Russia.

For example, on July 31, 2022, the hierarch of the UOC MP — Metropolitan of Izyum and Kupyan Yelysei Ivanov «blessed» the collaborator Vitaly Ganchev, who was in charge of the occupied part of the Kharkiv region. The priest supported the Russian government and praised Patriarch Kirill.

Metropolitan of Lugansk and Alchevsk Panteleimon at the ceremony of bringing the territories to the Russian Federation

The hierarch of the UOC MP, Metropolitan Panteleimon of Luhansk and Alchevsk, is present at the «accession» ceremony of the annexed territories of Ukraine. And most importantly, both priests were approved by Metropolitan Onufriy.

The search was successful: the secret services found traces of Russian influence

«UPC has no connection with Putin’s government.»

During searches in Bukovina, the SBU found correspondence with curators from Russia. Priests were instructed to conduct church liturgies: they had to spread disinformation about the war, deny Russian aggression against Ukraine, and incite religious enmity through narratives about the «oppression of the Moscow church.»

The SBU found propaganda materials glorifying Russia on the premises of the Kherson Diocese.

Pro-Russian Materials Found in the Churches of the Moscow Patriarchate

On the territory of the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra, the SBU found pro-Russian literature, which was used to teach seminarians.

«Personal and economic sanctions will be imposed on any Christian caught in worship»

Volodymyr Zelenskyi signed a decree on the implementation of the decision of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine dated December 1, 2022 «On certain aspects of the activity of religious organizations in Ukraine and the application of personal special economic and other restrictive measures (sanctions)».

However, sanctions will not be imposed on any Christian, but on up to 10 people — clergymen of the UOC — whom the SBU suspects of activities that threaten national security.

A Brief History of the Emergence of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate

«The Ukrainian Orthodox Church is not Russian, it is Ukrainian»

Let’s look into the history and understand how and why the UOC MP was born.

First of all, the Kyiv Metropolitanate in Kyivan Rus-Ukraine (10th–13th centuries) was founded in the early 990s. The Russian Orthodox Church received autocephaly in 1448.

The church has always played an important role in the state and the lives of its citizens. It was a large sphere of influence on society. Therefore, the invaders of the Ukrainian lands tried to seize the Ukrainian Church, in particular, Russia wanted to create a single church with its center in Moscow:

«In 1162, the Volodymyr Prince Andriy Bogolyubsky unsuccessfully tried to obtain the blessing of the Patriarch of Constantinople for the formation of a separate Vladimir Metropolitanate. As a result, he made an attack on Kyiv, burned the Pechersk Monastery and the Sophia Monastery Kyiv Metropolis in Kyiv Rus-Ukraine cathedral. The result was the transfer of the seat of the metropolitans to the north of the territory, although this contradicted the canonical rules. In 1448, the final division of the Kyiv Metropolitanate into two separate ones took place — Kyiv and Moscow. In 1686, the non-canonical accession of the Kyiv Metropolitanate to the Moscow Patriarchate took place. During the years 1721-1917, the ecclesiastical policy of the Russian imperial government was aimed at the Russification and denationalization of Ukrainian church life: the Ukrainian language was prohibited during divine services, and Ukrainian theological seminaries were closed. The consequence is the bureaucratization of church life, the Russification of liturgical, educational, and publishing activities, the decline of Ukrainian church traditions and customs, etc. In the following decades, Ukraine tried hard to restore the UAOC. On January 5, 2019, His Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew signed the Tomos on the Autocephaly of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine,» — says the UOC historical reference.

So, the UOC MP is an attempt to take away their history from Ukrainians, to move the religious center from Kyiv to Moscow, and thus have an influence on believers.

And everything that is happening now in Ukraine is the return to Ukrainians of their church, their faith. Without foreign (Russian) influence. As it was historically. And as it should be in a democratic and free state.

Anna Ostymchuk

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