Why priests of the canonical Church are barred from chaplaincy

18 May 17:45
Officials to soldiers-parishioners of the UOC: it's okey to fight, but not okey to take communion in the canonical Church. Photo: UOJ Officials to soldiers-parishioners of the UOC: it's okey to fight, but not okey to take communion in the canonical Church. Photo: UOJ

A huge number of UOC parishioners are fighting at the front at the behest of their hearts. However, the priests of our Church are not allowed to serve as chaplains. Why?

The war in Ukraine has been going on for more than a year. During this time, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church has done a myriad of charity work. It is not only about helping the front, but also helping immigrants and refugees. The humanitarian mission of the UOC amounts to tens of millions of hryvnias, collected by ordinary parishioners and clergy. But the biggest sacrifice is, of course, not money, but people.

Even on the first day of the war, the Primate of the UOC, His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry called on the faithful to defend their homeland. And this call was heard – hundreds of thousands of parishioners of the UOC in the rear are helping the front, while tens of thousands are fighting at the front.

Almost every day we hear that the priests of our Church perform funerals for soldiers who died in the war, many of them bury their children. In addition, according to reports, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church lost more priests and clergy in this war than all other religious organizations in the country combined. The same can be said about temples and places of worship.

In other words, the current war, which brings great suffering to our people, is also the most merciless in relation to the Church. In this context, the persecution of the Church by the authorities looks particularly barbarous and cynical. And this is not only about actual backing of church raids, but also about social isolation of the Church, and most importantly, about depriving believers of the opportunity to pray, partake of the Holy Mysteries of Christ and confess their faith. Moreover, now we are talking not only about those believers from whom the supporters of the OCU have taken away churches in the rear, but about those who are at the forefront defending our country from the enemy.

Who can be a chaplain in Ukraine

On the Internet, you can find a huge number of videos in which the soldiers of the Armed Forces of Ukraine appeal to the authorities with a request to leave the UOC alone. The message of the soldiers is clear: while we are fighting here and defending the native land, the enemies of the Church are using the situation to take our churches. As one of the believers of the UOC, who came from the front line to support the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra, said, “I came here because someone pulled and pushed my mother near the church where she prays.” Then the military invited all the raiders to the front: "You are welcome to go to the military enlistment office, take summons, instead of going to temples and shaking our Orthodox people. Because only in this case will you be reasonable Ukrainians if you fight for the state and not against our Ukrainians exactly like me."

We do not know if any of the raiders followed his call (we admit that it is hardly so), but we know for sure that this warrior, and not only him, was deprived of the opportunity to pray at the front.

Thus, the head of the State Service for Ethnopolitics and Freedom of Conscience, Viktor Yelensky, said that representatives of the UOC have not been given a single mandate for chaplaincy. According to him, "in order to become a military chaplain, they need to abandon the Moscow Patriarchate." At the same time, in addition to the OCU, mandates for chaplaincy were issued by the UGCC, the Roman Catholic Church, the Ukrainian Evangelical Church, the Ukrainian Church of Evangelical Christians, the Spiritual Administration of Muslims of Ukraine and a number of other religious organizations. This decision of the authorities looks all the more strange because there is a catastrophic shortage of military chaplains in Ukraine. But even that is not the point.

Believers of the UOC – enemies?

Let's think again about Yelensky's statement: "in order to become a military chaplain, they need to abandon the Moscow Patriarchate." Let us ignore the illiteracy (or deliberate distortion) of Yelensky's statement about the "Moscow Patriarchate", because it is obvious that the head of the State Ethnopolitics has in mind the representatives of the UOC. The question is why he finds it impossible to be a priest of our Church and a chaplain?

The answer lies on the surface – because today there is a struggle against the UOC at all levels. Priests are referred to only as “FSBs”, “collaborators” and “representatives of the hostile Church”. There are dozens of such statements, and anyone can easily find them. Any arguments that the UOC provides assistance to the front, that it is engaged in humanitarian and charitable projects in the rear, that its children are dying at the front, fall on deaf ears of the enemies of the Church. Because what matters to them is not arguments, but the destruction of the Church in general. Another strange thing.

For example, the "priest" and chaplain of the OCU from Volodymyr-Volynsky Yuri Zdebsky told the monks of the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra that they were "non-humans and washed-up Muscovites." Zdebsky's statements could be taken as the opinion of a not quite healthy person and not paid attention to them, if not for the fact that he simply follows the logic of his "primate", Epifaniy Dumenko.

So, according to the head of the OCU, the Lavra is defended by the “Russian world” with anti-Ukrainian sentiments. In another place, he stated that the representatives of the UOC are collaborators.

According to Dumenko, the believers and clergy of the UOC are parasites who do not like everything Ukrainian: “These shrines already belong to Ukraine and the Ukrainian people. However, they continue to be used by those who do not really love this nation. For they do not truly love our language and culture, do not know and do not want to know our true history and in unison with the Kremlin do not recognize our right to state and church independence. When and how these people will stop parasitising on our shrines depends on the Ukrainian authorities and their determination in this really important for the state issue.”

Note that both Dumenko and Zdebsky, and other representatives of the OCU, who allow themselves to insult the UOC, are talking not only about priests, but also about laity. For them, everyone who prays in the Church together with Metropolitan Onuphry is “collaborators”, “FSB agents”, “parasites” and “Russian world”. We reiterate – all believers of the canonical Church, not only priests.

Who is fighting against the Church?

Now back to the chaplaincy issue. Like it or not, it turns out that the believers of the UOC who are fighting at the front are denied spiritual guidance. The soldiers of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, risking their lives every minute, defending, among others, Yelensky and Dumenko, cannot confess and take communion in the denomination they identify themselves with. Because according to certain functionaries, they "belong to the enemy Church."

At the same time, they are allowed to fight, according to the Ministry of Defense. To be on hot-spot positions in Bakhmut, Makeyevka, Konstantinovka. How come? For if their Church is “enemy”, then how can we understand all this? You can and must fight, but you can't take communion. Where is the logic here?

Ultimately, it is clear that there is no logic here and cannot be. Because if the true believers of the UOC were “collaborators”, and the UOC itself were an “enemy Church”, then it would be necessary not only to expel them all from the front line, but also to admit that those who carry out the mobilization are involved in a grand conspiracy for the destruction of Ukraine and are accomplices of the aggressor. Nobody says that, right?

So why then does all this crazy bacchanalia around the UOC continue? Who needs it?

We will give a somewhat unexpected answer: it is the enemies of Ukraine who are persecuting the Church. A simple example.

In Khmelnytsky, representatives of the OCU took away the St. George's Church. Now this temple is empty, believers do not go to it, nor do the raiders. However, quite recently, a canteen functioned in this temple, in which up to a hundred people were fed daily, mostly refugees and internally displaced persons, and the parishioners of the temple regularly sent aid to the front. Now they will no longer feed the needy or help the army in St. George's Church. Who benefited from this? Ukraine? Of course not. And there are dozens, if not hundreds, of such examples.

* * *

What happens?

It turns out that by banning the UOC, depriving the believers of our Church of the opportunity to pray and take communion in their churches alongside depriving the soldiers of the Armed Forces of Ukraine of spiritual and material support at the front, Ukrainian officials are acting contrary to their statements about the desire for an early victory for Ukraine.

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