Ukrainian parliament to consider bills that would ban canonical Orthodox Church
May 15, 2017 – The Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine will consider two draft laws on the status of religious organizations on May 18, one of which would effectively prohibit the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, the second of which would legalize the seizure of churches.
The first bill, No. 4511, “On the special status of religious organizations with headquarters located in states recognized by the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine as aggressor states,” proposes that such religious organizations be able to appoint metropolitans and bishops only in agreement with the governing authorities. The same bill also gives the government the right to forbid a confession if its representatives cooperate with religious centers in “aggressor states.”
No specific denominations are mentioned in the bill, but only the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP) meets all the criteria listed.
One of the authors of the initiative, Deputy Dimitry Tymchuk, confirmed that the document does indeed deal specifically with the UOC-MP: “Across the whole country their churches remain points of agitation against the Ukrainian state. They sell anti-Ukrainian literature even in the center of the capital at the Kiev Caves Lavra,” he stated.
The main research apparatus of the Verkhnova Rada has criticized the bill and recommended that it reject the bill as violating the constitution and acting laws in the country.
The second bill, No. 4128, practically proposes to legalize raiding churches. The document introduces the term “self-identification” and clarifies the minimum number of representatives of a religious community needed to decide to change membership to an active Ukrainian religious center.
The UOC-MP believes that with this law the schismatic Kiev Patriarchate will begin to take away its parishes by introducing a group of people into a parish who will “self-identify” as members of the parish and vote to change jurisdictions, which has already been attempted many times.
Metropolitan Luke of Zaporizhia sharply criticized the bill and its authors in a letter, calling them the “servants of the devil.” “Using their methods of pressure on the Church, they propose to adopt new legislation aimed at destroying the prayer life of our Mother Church, the established Church-administrative structure for centuries,” he wrote.
In his May 14 homily, Metropolitan Agafangel of Odessa called upon the faithful to strengthen their prayers, that the Verkhovna Rada not accept the “anti-people, ungodly laws, aimed at the destruction of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church on the territory of Ukraine.”
“We always pray for our God-protected country, and for the authorities and we desire that God would enlighten them. Through crisis and catastrophe the Lord calls all to repent and change… Therefore, we need to strengthen our prayer … that the Lord would give us patience and courage, for he is always with us,” Met. Agafangel preached.
In just one day, with the blessing of His Beatitude Met. Agafangel, more than 52,000 faithful of the Odessa region signed an appeal to the Ukrainian parliament to reject the two bills as dangerous to the Church and discriminatory against the faith of Ukrainian believers.