ST. PETERSBURG, October 16. /TASS/. Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia Kirill has called on participants in the 137th Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) in Russia’s St. Petersburg to pay attention to attempts to discriminate against the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
"While lamenting the absence of Ukrainian parliamentarians at this assembly, I cannot but point out the ongoing legislative attempts in Ukraine to discriminate against the Ukrainian Orthodox Church solely for its canonical link to the Patriarch of Moscow," the Russian Orthodox Church head said addressing a plenary meeting of the Assembly. "The draft laws promoted by radicals will set up conditions for a bureaucratic interference within the internal affairs of parishes and dioceses, further aggravating the religious divide of Ukrainian society," he added.
Patriarch Kirill pointed out that "as demonstrated by the massive religious procession for peace in Ukraine, the Orthodox Church there speaks exclusively in favor of intra-Ukrainian peace." "Such legislative attempts seek only to turn the Church as well as its members into a tool for internal political strife. This is utterly unacceptable. I should like to ask you to heed this situation most seriously," Patriarch Kirill said.
The official Ukrainian Orthodox Church is self-governing within the Moscow Patriarchate. There are also two church structures unadmitted by global Orthodoxy: the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kiev Patriarchate and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church.
Starting from 1991, the Ukrainian authorities have made numerous attempts to set up a local Orthodox church that would be independent from the Moscow Patriarchate. In 2008, the then-President Viktor Yushchenko tried to gain the support of Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I. The patriarch, however, did not give his consent for the split.
The Kiev Patriarchate has been recently conducting a rather aggressive policy towards the parishes of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, seizing its churches and hindering its growth in every way. According to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, it has lost 40 churches in the past two years, all of which became the property of the Kiev Patriarchate.
According to earlier reports, the Verkhovna Rada (Ukraine’s parliament) has drawn up two bills that may ban the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and bring the activities of churches under the control of the state. More than 300,000 Ukrainians have signed a petition demanding to prevent the adoption of these bills by the Rada.