Case on forced renaming of Ukrainian Church opens in Constitutional Court
February 12, 2020. After being put on hold by a previous court decision, the case on the forced renaming of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church opened in the Grand Chamber of the Constitutional Court of Ukraine yesterday.
In particular, at the open part of the plenary session, the Court began to hear the case on whether the law on renaming religious organizations administratively centered in an “aggressor country,” which included the UOC in the eyes of the Poroshenko administration, complies with the Ukrainian constitution, reports the Court’s website.
The session was attended by Alexander Dolzhenkov and People’s Deputy Vadim Novinsky—representatives of the 49 deputies who submitted a constitutional presentation on the given case.
The Grand Chamber completed the study of the case materials and moved into the closed part of its session to make a decision.
The judge in the case, Irina Zavgorodnyaya called for the President of Ukraine, the Parliament, the Prime Minister, the chairmen of the Parliamentary Committee on Culture and Spirituality and Regulations and Organization of Work, as well as the Ministry of Justice to voice their positions on the case.
The Court also appealed to a number of higher educational institutions and the Ukrainian Helsinki Union for Human Rights to provide the judges with their views on the case.
The Court will continue its consideration of the constitutional submission at one of its next plenary sessions.
As the Union of Orthodox Journalists reports, His Eminence Metropolitan Luke of Zaporozhye called on his flock to read the akathist to St. Nicholas the Wonderworker so the judges would make an unbiased and objective decision that would protect the Ukrainian Church from being forcibly renamed.
Under former President Poroshenko, the Ukrainian Parliament adopted a number of laws aimed against the canonical Ukrainian Church, including Bill No. 5309, according to which all religious organizations having governing bodies in an aggressor country must include the name of their parent organization in their titles. As Russia is officially considered an “aggressor country” by Ukraine, the bill would have forced the Ukrainian Orthodox Church to rename itself as the “Russian Orthodox Church in Ukraine,” with the aim of persuading the Ukrainian people that the UOC is administered in Moscow, although it enjoys full administrative independence and is governed by Ukrainians in Kiev.
As Church authorities have successfully pointed out, there is no legal relationship between the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and the Russian Orthodox Church.
The law is widely acknowledged as a thinly-veiled attack on the canonical Church, facilitating the seizure of its parishes and monasteries. “Patriarch” Philaret Denisenko even openly stated how the law would be used to take the Kiev Caves and Pochaev Lavras away from the UOC.
The Ministry of Culture set April 26, Holy Friday, as the last day for the Ukrainian Church to legally change its name, though several court decisions halted that process in the meantime. The Ukrainian Church brought its claim against the Ministry of Culture in March.
In July, the Sixth Kiev Administrative Court of Appeals dismissed the Ministry of Culture’s appeal against the Church on the matter.
In December, the Supreme Court of Ukraine rejected the Ministry of Culture’s appeal to force the canonical Church to rename itself, forbidding registration authorities to undertake any actions of entering information on the Kiev Metropolis of the UOC and of its structural religious organizations into the state registry until a resolution of the dispute on the merits.