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Poroshenko signs law on Ukrainian Orthodox Church renaming

December 22, 2018, 18:37 UTC+3 KIEV

The document concerns the names of religious organizations which are incorporated a religious organization which governing center is located outside Ukraine

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Ukraine’s President Pyotr Poroshenko

Ukraine’s President Pyotr Poroshenko

© REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko

KIEV, December 22. /TASS/. Ukraine’s President Pyotr Poroshenko signed into law on Saturday a bill binding the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church to include the affiliation to the Russian Orthodox Church in its name, the presidential press service said.

"President Pyotr Poroshenko has signed the Ukrainian Law ‘On Amendments to Ukraine’s Law On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organizations,’ concerning the names of religious organizations which are incorporated (are part of) a religious organization which governing center is located outside Ukraine," the press release said.

On Thursday, Ukraine’s Verkhovna Rada (national parliament) bound the Ukrainian Orthodox Church to include affiliation to the Russian Orthodox Church in its name. In particular, that bill envisions that the church incorporated into a religious organization "centered in the aggressor state" is bound to refer in its name to its affiliation to that foreign religious organization. Nonetheless, Rada’s expert department, which decisions are not binding, pointed out that this bill runs counter to Ukraine’s Constitution.

Under Ukraine’s Constitution, church and religious organizations are separated from the state which, in its turn, cannot interfere into their operation. 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.

Ukraine’s President Pyotr Poroshenko said earlier that the Ukrainian Orthodox Church would be renamed the Orthodox Church of Russia as soon as the newly established Ukraine’s autocephalous church received a decree of autocephaly, or the Tomos.

Church crisis in Ukraine

Kiev has attempted to create a Local Orthodox Church in Ukraine independent of the Moscow Patriarchate since 1991. This idea has been actively fomented by the current Ukrainian authorities after they came to power in a state coup in February 2014. In April 2018, Poroshenko wrote a personal letter to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople asking for autocephaly for the Ukrainian church.

In October, the Holy and Sacred Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople decided 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.

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. The canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church made a similar decision.

On December 15, Kiev hosted the so-called ‘unification’ council held under the supervision of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople and brokered by the Ukrainian authorities. After the council, Pyotr Poroshenko, the president of a secular Ukraine who had attended the schismatic gathering, declared the establishment of a new church, the Autocephalous Local Orthodox Church. Metropolitan Epiphanius of Pereyaslav and Belaya Tserkov who had earlier served as a bishop of the non-canonical Kiev Patriarchate, was elected as the head of the new religious institution.

The canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate declined Constantinople’s invitation, stressing that both the ‘unification council’ and the newly founded church were illegitimate.

Epiphanius, together with Poroshenko, is expected to travel to Istanbul in January to receive the Tomos (decree) of Autocephaly (independent status of the local church).

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