Ukrainian inter-church hostilities fester


Dukhovnii Front Ukraini, 23 January 2021


The 22nd of January is an official state holiday: Ukrainian Unity Day (Den Sobornosti). It is a holiday that every year celebrates the day of the proclamation of the Act of Unification of the Ukrainian People's Republic (UNR) and the West Ukrainian People's Republic (ZUNR), which occurred in 1919. On this day it is customary also to recall another event that occurred exactly one year earlier, on 22 January 1918: the adoption of the Fourth Universal of the Ukrainian Central Council, which declared the complete independence of the Ukrainian People's Republic.


On 22 January, there also is the memory of the first deaths of participants in the Revolution of Dignity—Sergei Nigoian, Mikhail Zhiznevsky, and Yury Verbitsky.


How did the so-called Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (the Russian Orthodox Church in Ukraine [RPTsU]) mark these dates that are significant for the Ukrainian people? In no way!


The primate of the RPTsU, Onufry, in contrast to the primate of the PTsU (Orthodox Church of Ukraine), Metropolitan Epifany, did not address the Ukrainian people with greetings; nobody from the Moscow patriarchate mentioned this significant moment in the history of Ukraine, when on Sofia Square the UNR and ZUNR were joined in a single unified state.


But on the website of the church, which "is always with its people, in sorrows and in joys, from birth until death" (as Antony Pakanich put it), the 22nd of January had only one news item: "Hierarch of the Dnepropetrovsk diocese held working meeting with representatives of the OSCE." The meeting itself was held on 20 January.


Just what did the vicar of the Dnepropetrovsk diocese of the UPTsMP, Evlogy, discuss with the international observers? Perhaps he discussed Russia's armed aggression against Ukraine, which has continued until the present? Perhaps he recalled that six years ago, on 20 January 2015, Russian troops blew up the new terminal of the Donetsk Airport and the concrete floors, and the ceiling collapsed in many sections, burying the Ukrainian defenders? Or he was upset by another violation of the "regime of silence" in the region of operation of the Unified Forces on the same day? Or he sympathized with residents of Donetsk, whose electricity and water the occupiers shut off so that they will not go to a Ukrainian church? By no means.


The representative of the Russian Orthodox Church complained about the effect of the coronavirus epidemic on church life in the region and he also reported the "pressure on believers of the UPTs on the part of officials."


"Archbishop Evlogy also described for the observer from the Monitoring Mission the attempts to use the administrative resources intended for combating the coronavirus infection to put pressure on clergy and believers of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, with the goal of forcing them to renounce their identification with the canonical church in favor of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine. However, as the vladyka reported, believers of the Denpropetrovsk diocese of the UPTsMP have not changed their position. In 2020, there were no transfers of its religious communities into the PTsU," the official publication of the UPTs recounted the conversation.


We recall that it was the monasteries of the Russian Orthodox Church in Ukraine that were transformed into infection bombs at the beginning of the epidemic of the coronavirus illness in Ukraine. The Moscow patriarchate defied the order of the government, risking and sacrificing the lives of believers. Worship services in the churches of the Moscow patriarchate are still being conducted in closed premises of churches primarily without protective medical masks and without social distancing.


And as to "pressure on UPTs believers," one can find on the website of the Dukhovny Front of Ukraine many examples of how clergy and believers of the Moscow patriarchate are blocking transfers of religious communities into the PTsU.


We recall that on 8 May 2015, the primate of the UPTsMP, Onufry, did not stand at the ceremonial session of the Verkhovna Rada during the reading of the name of troops of the Anti-Terrorism Operation, supposedly in order to emphasize that it is necessary to stop the war immediately. (tr. by PDS, posted 23 January 2021)

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