Will Ecumenical Patriarch encourage sectarian war in Ukraine?

President Petro Poroshenko and other high-ranked Ukrainian officials state that Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew is ready to create an autocephalous (independent) Orthodox Church in Ukraine. The new religious organization is said to be based on the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAOC) and Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyivan Patriarchate (UOC-KP), both of which haven’t been recognized by the Orthodox world.

In its communique of April 22, the Ecumenical Patriarchate doesn’t deny it. The Holy Synod has started to review the appeals of the President, Ukraine Parliament and the archbishops of the mentioned Churches.

According to the comments of Ukrainian experts and high-ranked officials published in the media, the participation of state in this process is a demand of His All-Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew while the new Ukrainian Orthodox Church won’t become a “state” one and will function along with the others. Officials claim that a new canonical Church (recognized by the Orthodox world) will put an end to inter-confessional conflicts in the country.

Meanwhile, till this moment, the Ukrainian authorities haven’t sought or simply been unable to adhere to the principle of confessional equality, showing support only to one Church – the UOC-KP.

As known, in the cities of Bar (Vinnitsia region) and Lokhvytsia (Poltava region), local councils’ deputies, being under the pressure of the far-right group Pravy Sector, rejected the UOC-MP’s claim to allot a lot for building a church in favor of the UOC-KP. The interference of nationalist organizations in property disputes between congregations shows that Ukrainian authorities can’t secure the equality of confessions.

Within the period of just four months of 2018, the Ukrainian authorities ignored:

Three arsons of UOC-MP churches:

  • Another seizure of an UOC-MP church in Ptycha village (Rivne region) by UOC-KP followers and the members of the paramilitary organizations Azov Battalion and Aidar Battalion;
  • The desecration of the gates of an UOC-MP monastery in Odessa region;
  • The demolition of an UOC-MP cross in Kyiv.

In all cases, the police inaction was considered unlawful. Probes on destroying and desecrating objects of worship were started by court orders only after complaints from human right organizations.

It doesn’t seem that against the background of such a policy just the emergence of a canonical alternative to the pro-Russian Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate will end the confessional discrimination in Ukraine.

Moreover, the indifference of the UOC-KP clergy and episcopate to lawless actions committed in favor of their personal and corporate interests is incompatible with their high ministerial service, especially under the omophorion of His All-Holiness Bartholomew, the Archbishop of Constantinople-New Rome, the Ecumenical Patriarch.

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