Russia’s aim is to undermine the foundations of Ukraine’s national security by any means necessary. Starting from February 24, 2022, the Russian Federation launched a large-scale invasion into the sovereign territory of Ukraine. The fact of military aggression prompted the higher authorities of the Ukrainian state administration to take swift and effective defensive measures aimed at repelling such audacious invasion, as well as making relevant changes to existing legislative acts with the purpose of recognizing Russia as an aggressor state. Indeed, this was done in accordance with the preamble of the Law of Ukraine “On Ensuring the Rights and Freedoms of Citizens and the Legal Regime on the Temporarily Occupied Territory of Ukraine,” with amendments as of April 21, 2022.
It is clear that the cunning enemy utilizes not only weapons but also all possible means to provoke conflicts within the country and undermine the foundations of our national security, as clearly emphasized in the National Security Strategy of Ukraine (paragraphs 20, 45). The church is one of the most dangerous tools of Russian propaganda, actively employed, more precisely, the entire existing network and human resources of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC), as this religious organization, which will be substantiated and proven further, is an integral part of the Moscow Patriarchate. Furthermore, as of today, the official evidence of the dependence of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) on the Russian Orthodox Church is the conclusion of religious expertise on the Statute of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, conducted based on the order of the State Service of Ukraine for Ethnic Policy and Freedom of Conscience, which established the factual connection between these religious organizations. But let’s proceed in an orderly manner.
It should be noted that a considerable amount has already been written on the aspect of the violated issues, but I will focus on highlighting the legal side, relying on the texts of legislative acts and other official documents.
The work in the field of security to neutralize threats that may arise from the activities of religious organizations dependent on the Moscow center had been intensified long before the full-scale invasion. On December 20, 2018, the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine (Ukrainian Parliament) adopted amendments to Article 12 of the Law of Ukraine “On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Associations,” which established criteria for determining the dependence of a religious organization (association) located within the borders of Ukraine on the decisions and actions of the governing center located in a state recognized as an aggressor by law. These criteria, in fact, served as the normative basis for conducting the religious expertise I mentioned earlier.
Thus, the dependence of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) on Russian handlers exists when:
- Its statute contains instructions to be part of the structure of the Russian Orthodox Church.
- Similar instructions are present in the statute of the Russian Orthodox Church.
- Representatives of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) are part of the governing bodies of the Russian Orthodox Church.
It is worth noting that at the end of 2022, these changes were recognized by the Constitutional Court of Ukraine as compliant with the Constitution of Ukraine.
Priority steps towards preserving the spiritual independence of Ukrainian society
The issue of ensuring spiritual independence and preventing societal division became the subject of separate consideration at the meeting of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine, which took place on December 1, 2022. As a result of this meeting, the Government of Ukraine was tasked with developing a draft law to prevent the activities of those religious organizations that are governed from the territory of Russia within Ukraine. Simultaneously, the State Service of Ukraine for Ethnic Policy and Freedom of Conscience was to conduct religious expertise on the Statute of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) to determine the possible existence of ecclesiastical-canonical ties with the Moscow Patriarchate.
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In general, from 2022 to early 2023, three draft laws were submitted to the parliament concerning the prohibition of the activities of religious organizations governed from the territory of a state that carried out armed aggression against Ukraine. These are the draft laws No. 7204 of March 22, 2022, “On the Prohibition of the Moscow Patriarchate in Ukraine,” No. 8221 of November 23, 2022, “On Ensuring the Strengthening of National Security in the Field of Freedom of Conscience and Activities of Religious Organizations,” and No. 8371 of January 19, 2023, “On Amendments to Certain Laws of Ukraine Regarding the Activities of Religious Organizations in Ukraine.”This work is still ongoing as there are many related issues that need to be addressed at the legislative level. In particular, the prohibition of the activities of the network of Moscow Patriarchate churches will have property-related implications, including the early termination of lease, rental, and other agreements (as mentioned in draft law No. 8221).
An addiction that was hypocritically hidden
The active legislative work likely caused concern within the leadership of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) because just two months after the registration of draft law No. 7204, on May 27, 2022, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) convened a Council to discuss church matters arising as a result of the military aggression by the Russian Federation. As a result, the Cathedral, in a diplomatic manner to avoid offending the Russian clergy, which was quite expected, “expressed disagreement with the position of Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and all Rus’ regarding the war in Ukraine” (paragraph 3). The Cathedral also adopted a decision to make amendments to the Statute of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) with the aim of certifying its complete autonomy and independence from the Russian Orthodox Church (paragraph 4). But do the announced changes truly indicate independence, or are they merely an attempt to veil or conceal the connection and control by “Moscow leaders”? To answer this question, it is necessary to analyze the provisions of the Statute of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) and compare them with the content of the Statute of the Russian Orthodox Church, in the understanding of the aforementioned “criteria of dependence.” Furthermore, there is another aspect to consider. If indeed the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) has severed its canonical ties with the Russian Orthodox Church, it would simultaneously signify a loss of canonicity since, apart from the Moscow Patriarchate, it is not recognized by anyone else. True independence of any Orthodox Church is achieved when it is granted “autocephalous” status. Obtaining such a status entails the inclusion of such a church in an organized list known as the “diptych.” So, in the diptych of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, which includes 16 recognized churches (including the Orthodox Church of Ukraine), the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) is not found. And it is understandable why. If according to the canons, a church is not recognized as “self-governing and independent in its administration,” then what recognition by the Ecumenical Orthodoxy can be discussed?
What can be said when even in the invented list of churches by the Moscow Patriarchate, which, by the way, is not recognized by anyone, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) is also absent? This demonstrates that this church lacks real autonomy and independence.
Therefore, it is not surprising that the working group, which worked on the conclusion of the religious expertise of the Statute of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, reached a clear conviction: the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) maintains ecclesiastical-canonical ties with the Russian Orthodox Church and remains in a relationship of subordination to it. No documents or actions indicating the transformation of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) into an independent religious organization relative to the Russian Orthodox Church were found. This means one thing: the mentioned church is fully dependent on the decisions of Moscow leaders, receiving “valuable instructions” from them that justify open acts of armed aggression, as we have seen after the searches conducted by the units of the Security Service of Ukraine in several churches of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate), where literature advocating the necessity of spreading the “Russian world” and similar ideas was discovered.
Maintaining loyalty at all costs, or what official documents say
As for the Statute of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate), it indeed contains hidden mechanisms that, in a veiled form, indicate its inclusion within the structure of the Russian Orthodox Church. For instance, paragraph 1 of the first chapter of the Statute, while stating that the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) is “self-governing and independent in its administration and structure,” clearly establishes that this autonomy and independence are implemented according to the “Charter of the Patriarch of Moscow and all Rus’ Alexy II of October 27, 1990.” Furthermore, within the text of this Charter, we read that the “Ukrainian Orthodox Church, united through our Russian Orthodox Church with the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church.” Furthermore, the Charter also directly refers to the Resolution of the Bishops’ Council of the Russian Orthodox Church, which took place on October 25-27, 1990. The content of the Resolution further details the dependence of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) on the will of the Russian Orthodox Church. In particular, paragraph 3 stipulates that “The Primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church is elected by the Ukrainian episcopate and then blessed by the Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and all Rus”. Paragraph 8 of the Resolution also states that “the Metropolitan of Kyiv and All Ukraine, as the Primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate), is a permanent member of the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church.” So, what independence are you talking about? If your canonical ties remain, if you are dependent on the will of the curators who justified and called for an armed attack on Ukraine, then honestly admit it and do not be hypocrites. Simply stop lying.
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Another aspect that undermines the so-called “independence” of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) and reveals its manipulative actions is the fact that even in its official name, it reflected its affiliation with the Moscow Patriarchate. Since its inception, it was known as the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, and the indication of affiliation was only removed from its name in 2007 — over 16 years after acquiring “independence.” This change was made because the affiliation with the Moscow Patriarchate had already become a cause of declining support among the population and a significant decrease in the number of parishioners. Moreover, no other changes indicating or hinting at independence have been made.
The Statute of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) is also rich in provisions that indicate the dependence of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) on the administrative will of the governing bodies of the ROC, as well as the inclusion of representatives of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the composition of the ROC’s bodies and units. The document even highlights a separate Chapter X dedicated to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate). While according to paragraph 1 of this chapter, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) is granted the status of a self-governing organization “with wide autonomy rights,” the general provisions of the Statute establish that the Autonomous and Self-Governing Churches, which are part of the ROC, canonically constitute the Moscow Patriarchate (paragraph 2 of Chapter I).
Moreover, according to paragraph 3 of Chapter I of the Statute, the jurisdiction of the ROC extends to Orthodox believers residing on the canonical territory of the ROC in Ukraine. In other words, the Russian Orthodox Church considers Ukraine as its canonical territory! It is important to emphasize that in the given context, the “canonical nature of territorial jurisdiction,” as well as the canonical status of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate), is a subject of serious confrontation between the Ecumenical Orthodoxy and the Moscow Patriarchate. The Summit of the Pentarchy of Primates of the ancient Orthodox Churches in early September 2011 directly noted the necessity of strict adherence to the boundaries of jurisdiction by all Orthodox Churches, in accordance with the definitions of canons and tomoses. The basis for this decision can be found in the tomos of recognition of the autocephaly of the Polish Orthodox Church, which states that “the alienation of the Metropolitanate of Kyiv and the dependent Orthodox Churches of Lithuania and Poland from our Throne, as well as their attachment to the Holy Church of Moscow, from the very beginning was carried out not in accordance with the lawful canonical prescriptions…”. Therefore, the Ecumenical Orthodoxy holds the position that the exercise of jurisdiction by the ROC in Ukraine does not comply with the canons and, as a result, the canonical status of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) is not recognized.
Paragraphs 6 and 7 of Chapter I of the Statute also provide that the ROC has a hierarchical structure of governance, with the Local Council, the Bishops’ Council, and the Holy Synod headed by the Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and all Rus’, whose name is commemorated during services in all ROC churches (paragraph 3 of Chapter IV). These higher bodies hold full authority in the ROC. Specifically, concerning the higher leadership of the Russian Church, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) is subordinate. Furthermore, according to paragraph 5 of Chapter XI and paragraph 4 of Chapter XII of the Statute, it is the Patriarch of Moscow and all Rus’ who plays a key role in the election of the Primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate).
The participation of representatives of the UOC (MP) in the higher governing bodies of the ROC is evidenced by the following provisions of the Statute: the Metropolitan of Kyiv and All Ukraine is a permanent member of the Holy Synod of the ROC (paragraph 4 of Chapter V), and all hierarchs of the UOC (MP) are members of the Local and Council of Bishops and participate in their work, as well as in the sessions of the Holy Synod (paragraph 9 of Chapter XI, and paragraph 10 of Chapter XII).
Thus, it can be confidently stated that the UOC (MP) is a religious organization that, despite the statements of its official representatives, is directly dependent on the Russian Orthodox Church located in the aggressor state. To draw such a conclusion, it is sufficient to familiarize oneself with the content of the documents upon which these churches operate (relevant references have been provided for each source). And if they are connected, if their mentors openly “bless” the war against our state, justifying it and violating the norms of criminal legislation, can we close our eyes and ignore this problem? Definitely not! The higher leadership of Ukraine must redouble its efforts and continue working to combat the identified and hidden risks in the religious environment, within which there may be (and indeed is) a destructive influence on the consciousness of Ukrainian citizens.
Originally posted by Oleksandr Bukhanevych on LB. ua. Translated and edited by the UaPosition – Ukrainian news and analytics website
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