Ukraine has moved closer to banning the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which despite declaring that it broke ties with the Moscow Patriarchate comprises members and institutions promoting pro-Russian sentiments amid nine months of the Russian invasion.
In his 1 December evening address, President Zelenskyy informed that Ukraine’s Ukraine’s National Security and Defence Council (RNBO) has set wheels in motion to ban the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP), and also initiated a review of the legality of the UOC-MP’s presence at a venerated monastery, the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra.
Stating that the RNBO meeting considered “numerous instances of links between certain religious circles in Ukraine and the aggressor state,” Zelenskyy said that:
- the NSDC instructed the Government to submit a draft law to the Ukrainian Parliament on banning religious organizations affiliated with Russian-based centers of influence from operating in Ukraine.
- the State Service of Ukraine for Ethnopolitics and Freedom of Conscience will analyze the UOC-MP statute to establish any presence of a church-canonical link with the Moscow Patriarchate and, if necessary, to take measures provided for by law
- the government is to audit the legitimacy of “religious organizations” leasing Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra from the state. This venerated monastery was turned into a museum in Soviet times but is now partially used by the UOC-MP;
- national security agencies were instructed to step up actions to counter Russian secret service subversive activities in Ukrainian “religious circles.”
This announcement comes after two weeks of repeated raids by Ukraine’s Security Service (SBU) on UOC MP facilities in various parts of Ukraine. During these raids, various literature promoting the ideology of the “Russian world,” a notion denying Ukrainian sovereignty, was found, according to the SBU. As well, several church hierarchs were found to have Russian citizenship.
After the beginning of the 2022 Russian invasion, in May, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church under the Moscow Patriarchate claimed to have cut all ties with the Russian church. However, there were numerous cases of the collaboration of the priests of this church on occupied territories as well as propaganda during sermons that undermined Ukraine’s Independence.
On November 14, the Security Service opened criminal proceedings regarding church singing that glorified Russia during a service in the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra and started searches on November 22, conducting “counterintelligence measures” and explaining it is raiding the monastery “taking into account the armed aggression of the Russian Federation, the risk of committing terrorist acts, sabotage, and hostage-taking increases, especially in places with a large concentration of citizens,” and for:
- preventing the use of the Lavra as a center of the “Russian world” ideology;
- checking reports on the use of UOC premises for hiding sabotage and intelligence groups, foreign citizens, storing weapons, etc;
- securing the population against provocations and terrorist acts.
During these largest-ever proceedings against the Moscow-affiliated church, numerous leaflets declaring Ukraine’s independence “a mistake” and promoting “unity” with Russia were found, along with other evidence.
Similar raids were carried out in three other UOC MP monasteries the same day.
On 25 November, Russian propaganda manuals, warehouses with pro-Kremlin literature, and “Hero of Russia” certificates were found on the territory of the Chernivtsi-Bukovyna eparchy controlled by the Moscow Patriarchate during a counterintelligence raid.
On 1 December, the SBU found literature, brochures, and other materials that praised the so-called unity of Russia and Ukraine and Russian Patriarch Kirill, who had given his “blessing” to the Russian soldiers invading Ukraine at the St. Cyril and Methodius Convent of the Mukachevo Diocese of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Moscow Patriarchate in western Zakarpattia Oblast.
About 13% of Ukrainian Orthodox Christians identified themselves with the Church of Moscow patriarchate in Ukraine before the invasion on 24 February, which dropped to 4% after the invasion. The majority of Ukrainians belong either to the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (independent) or Ukraine’s Greek-Catholic Church, also known as the Uniate Church.
About half of Ukrainians want the UOC MP banned in Ukraine.
- Only 4% of Ukrainians still identify as followers of Moscow Orthodox church – survey
- Getting killed in Ukraine washes away all sins, Russian patriarch tells invading army
The “Russian world” ideology, which mandates a “Triunite Rus” consisting of Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine, has been a major driving force in Russia’s war against Ukraine. The doctrine of the Russian World is theological at its core, as it pits “Holy Russia” against the “godless West.” It is precisely the “Russian World” that is driving both Putin’s bloody war against Ukraine and the Russian population’s overwhelming support for their fuhrer, theologian Cyril Hovorun explained to Euromaidan Press:
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