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Law renaming Ukrainian Orthodox Church rejected by Rada’s expert department

December 20, 2018, 20:26 UTC+3 KIEV

According to media reports, the experts concluded that the law imposes restrictions on the right to the freedoms of expression and religion

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KIEV, December 20. /TASS/. Ukraine’s Verkhovna Rada (parliament) has passed the law on renaming religious organizations which runs counter to the Constitution, Rada’s expert department said.

"The suggested novelties look as if they lack motivation and reasons and go beyond the boundaries stipulated in relevant provisions of Article 35 of the Ukrainian Constitution and the Law ‘On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organizations’," the expert department said in conclusions which are not binding.

The Strana publication writes that according to experts, the law imposes restrictions on the right to the freedoms of expression and religion.

Under Ukraine’s Constitution, the church and religious organizations are separated from the state which, in its turn, cannot interfere into their activity. Besides, the main law says that all religions, faiths and religious organizations are equal before the law, so neither advantages nor restrictions shall be set for one religion, faith or religious organization compared to others.

Earlier in the day, Ukraine’s Verkhovna Rada ordered the Ukrainian Orthodox Church to include affiliation to the Russian Orthodox Church in its name. In particular, the document envisions that the church incorporated into a religious organization "centered in the aggressor state" is bound to refer to its affiliation to that foreign religious organization.

History of crisis

Kiev has attempted to create a Local Orthodox Church in Ukraine independent of the Moscow Patriarchate since 1991. The current Ukrainian government has been promoting the idea since February 2014 after a coup in the country. In April 2018, Ukrainian President Pyotr Poroshenko wrote a personal letter to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople asking for autocephaly for the Ukrainian church.

The Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople decided at its meeting held on October 9-11 to proceed with granting autocephaly to the Ukrainian Church. It revoked the 1686 decision on transferring the Kiev Metropolitanate under the jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate and announced plans to bring it back under the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. It also reinstated the heads of two non-canonical churches in Ukraine, Filaret of the Kiev Patriarchate and Makariy of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Church, to their hierarchical and priestly ranks.

On October 15, the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church said in response to that move that full communion with the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople was no longer possible.

On December 15, the St. Sophia’s Cathedral in Kiev hosted a so-called ‘unification’ council held under the supervision of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople and brokered by the Ukrainian authorities. Ukrainian Orthodox Church’s Holy Synod said that the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople had no canonical right to convene any church meetings in Ukraine.

After the council, Poroshenko, the president of a secular state who had attended the schismatic gathering, declared the establishment of a new church - the Autocephalous Local Orthodox Church. Metropolitan Epiphany of Pereyaslav and Belotserkovsk, who had earlier served as a bishop of the uncanonical Kiev Patriarchate, was elected head of the new church. The Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew promised to grant the Tomos of Autocephaly to that church on January 6.

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