Moscow church in Ukraine criticizes visit by American official


Union of Orthodox Journalists, 10 May 2021


Local authorities, representatives of the "Municipal Guard," and persons who have nothing to do with the church building who were recruited through a Viber group participated in the seizure of a church building.


The head of the representation of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church [UPTs] in European international organizations, Bishop of Baryshev Viktor, stated on his Telegram page that the statements by American Secretary of State Antony Blinken, spoken to the head of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine [PTsU], Epifany, during his visit to Kiev, led to the seizure of a church of the UPTs in Zabolotie.


"Several days ago we wrote that the words of American Secretary of State Antony Blinken about 'removing artificial impediments to free determination by parishes of their affiliation, based on principles of freedom of conscience,' spoken by him recently in the capital of Ukraine, could be taken by individual Ukrainian officials as 'instructions to act that will lead to a new wave of seizures of churches of the UPTs.' And now today it has been reported that in the village of Zabolotie . . . there occurred another seizure of an Orthodox church building by activists of the PTsU . . . with the direct participation of two district deputies and representative of the Municipal Guard," Bishop Viktor wrote.


The UPTs hierarch called attention simultaneously to several factors during the seizure of the church in Zabolotie.


"Participants in the church seizure were assembled in a Viber group. That is, these people have nothing to do with either the building itself or with the religious parish that gathers in the building."


"The locks were cut off of the church, which can be charged as a violation of current laws, and representatives of the Orthodox parish simply were not allowed to enter the building."


And third, "people's deputies, who according to the Ukrainian constitution are supposed to treat representatives of all confessions equally, participated in this illegal act. In addition, people who are supposed to preserve order, representatives of the Municipal Guard, also actively participated."


He said that all these facts provoke the question: "Is this the 'principles of freedom of conscience' about which the highly placed representative of the country across the ocean spoke, or the 'removal of impediments' from the path of these 'principles'?"


"In the event of affirmative answers to thee two questions, it becomes clear that the 'impediment' is the UPTs itself. And this 'impediment' is really serious and large, because as of today the Ukrainian Orthodox Church remains the largest confession in Ukraine," Bishop Viktor noted.


As the Union of Orthodox Journalists reported earlier, the UPTs hierarch declared that Blinken's words may be understood as a call for new church seizures. (tr. by PDS, posted 10 May 2021)

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