At its session of 19 May 1998, the Holy Synod received a report from the theological commission of UPTs and then issued the following letter resonding to concerns about the introduction of a personal identification system in Ukraine.
LETTER OF THE HOLY SYNOD OF THE UKRAINIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH
To the president, the Supreme Soviet, and the government of Ukraine;
the clergy, monastics, and all true servants of the Ukrainian Orthodox church
Today the Orthodox people, as the true depository of faith and piety, are especially concerned about all that is happening in the religious, political, economic, academic, and cultural life of our country and of the whole world. In this we see a gratifying expression of strength and spiritual vigilence within the church environment. In our turn, with all pastoral responsibility before God for the souls entrusted to us, we note that contemporary civilization unfortunately is not only being persistently secularized but frequently is being guided in its development by ideals that are contrary and even hostile to God.
As a result of this there have appeared the application of previously unknown means of mass destruction, international terrorism, drug addiction, propaganda of immorality and violence by the mass media and, finally, vulgar intrusion into the mystery of life. The contemporary western world in its incessant talk about freedom and independent development actually by its whole lifestyle is turning the individual into a slave of passion and sinful desires. The pernicious antichristian spirit is penetrating ever more aggressively into our daily life through the insistent imposition of western values: the idols of comfort, self-confidence, autonomy, and the like. According to the Revelation of St. John, at the appointed time this process will culminate in the rule of Antichrist and the apostasy of many of the faithful from the grace of God through the application of a sinister, fatal seal. Just as, according to his holiness John Chrysostom, before the universal flood humankind drowned in its own sins, so at the end of history people will be filled with the spirit of Antichrist and then will receive his seal.
At the present time in many believers, the servants of the Ukrainian Orthodox church, great anxiety has been produced by the plans of the state authorities of Ukraine to introduce in the country a universal identification system, in accordance with a resolution of the cabinet of ministers of Ukraine "On measures for introduction identification numbers of physical persons" of 6 November 1997. Many Orthodox Christians are inclined (not without basis) to see in this the fulfillment of the apocalyptic prophecy about the seal of Antichrist, viewing the identification numbers as the "number of the beast" cited by the holy apostle and evangelist John the Divine (Rv 13.17-18).
It is already easy to imagine the possible consequences of the enumeration of the entire population of the country since with the subsequent creation of a data bank about all citizens of the state the control of each individual person could grow colossally. Then the international consolidation of computerized systems of control of the individual will create all of the preconditions for the appearance of suprastate governing structures which could be transformed into the "world government" predicted by the prophets. This would become the last step on the road to the full realization of the eschatalogical vision (the development of events in the final period of human history) described by the holy apostle and evangelist John the Divine, for in the event of the seizure of such an apparatus of total control of the individual the "kingdom of Antichrist" would be easily achieved.
But at the same time it is necessary to recall that the seal of Antichrist is only the culmination of the process of apostasy from God and his grace which now is being covertly accomplished in the depths of human hearts. It is precisely in such an event that the individual identifical number which will be assigned to and carried by each person, with the aid of some technology of "indelible writing," really could become the "seal of Antichrist." In the end a person will be faced with a dilemma: either to accept the number, without which the existence of a person in society would become impossible, or reject it and thereby step outside of the antichristian society and be subject to persecution; that is the outcome of the future events which are depicted in the Revelation of the holy apostle John the Divine.
The Holy Synod of the Ukrainian Orthodox church, having comprehensively reviewed the problem connected with the introduction of the system of identification numbers, which earlier, at its direction, had been reviewed by the expanded session of the synodal theological commission, which included besides its members specialists in computer systems, economists, agents of the state tax administration, as well as abbots, rectors, and confessors of certain monasteries and other authoritative clergy, has come to the conclusion that to issue a categorical declaration stating that Orthodox Christians of Ukraine are being forced to receive the "seal of Antichrist" would be premature and unjust.
First, according to the teaching of the holy fathers, the seal of Antichrist is supposed to be universal for all humanity. At present, by God's mercy, our nation still has not been drawn into the secularized family of western nations and our passport and identification numbers still are intended only for internal use.
Second, in and of itself the identification system has nothing about it that can be characterized as an antichristian requirement. However, each Orthodox Christian has the right to determine individually whether receiving such a number of permissible.
In connection with this, without dulling the attention of the faithful, we consider that accepting these identification numbers does not entail betrayal of Christ and thus does not signify receiving the "seal of Antichrist." The holy church, at the proper time, will raise its voice to warn and preserve its true servants from an irreversible error.
Thus, recognizing that the current introduction of the identification system in Ukraine cannot be equated with the imprint of the "seal of Antichrist," the Ukrainian Orthodox church at the same time cannot fail to express its serious concern about the possible consequences of this step, even if only in the long run. The church calls the state authority to use a cautious and deliberate approach to the resolution of such an important matter as the introduction of the identification system which is viewed by the people in quite different ways and which, besides everything else, can lead to destabilzation within society and the loss of popular confidence in the state.
We call the responsible state agencies to create for Orthodox believers of Ukraine an alternative, nondiscriminatory system of taxation and registration of individuals and religious organizations, as well as the right for all citizens to free choice in the system of payment of taxes that in no way compels anyone to accept the identification number which, besides, depersonalizes individuals by virtually depriving them at the level of state and civic life of family and personal names, diminishing their worth and leading to violation of their rights and freedoms. In any case, out of respect to the religious convictions of citizens, each believer should be given the right to refuse to receive a number containing three or more "sixes."
We ask the state authority not to punish administrativly or criminally those faithful of our church who do not wish to accept an identification number at all.
We remind all true servants of holy Mother Church of the apostolic command: "Love not the world nor what is in the world; whoever loves the world does not have the love of the Father. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, lust of eyes, pride of life, is not from the Father but from the world. The world will pass away and its lust, but the one who fulfills the will of God abides forever" (1 Jn 2.15-17)
Therefore, "watch and pray that you not fall into temptation" (Mt 26.41), for "you know not the day nor hour when the Son of Man will come" (Mt 25.13). "May the God of all grace who has called you to his eternal glory in Jesus Christ . . . restore, establish, strengthen and make you steadfast. To him be glory and power forever. (1 Pt 5.10). (tr. by PDS)
Russian text at Ukrainian Orthodox church