ROC replies to US State Dept's statement on religious freedom in Ukraine

Deputy head of the ROC Synodal Department for Church, Society and Media Relations Vakhtang Kipshidze

The Russian Orthodox Church reminds that the protection of religious freedoms should not be selective.

In reply to a statement released by the United States Department of State on the protection of religious freedom in Ukraine, the Moscow Patriarchate has insisted on the need to protect the rights of the parishioners of the canonical Church, the deputy head of the ROC Synodal Department for Church, Society and Media Relations Vakhtang Kipshidze told Interfax-Religion.

"The logic of protecting religious freedom suggests that the choice of the canonical Church, which has distanced itself from the granting of autocephaly, should be defended by American diplomacy as a manifestation of religious freedom," the ROC representative stressed.

US State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said on Tuesday that the US "respects the ability of Ukraine's Orthodox religious leaders and followers to pursue autocephaly according to their beliefs. We respect the Ecumenical Patriarch as a voice of religious tolerance and interfaith dialogue".

The US "strongly supports religious freedom, including the freedom of members of groups to govern their religion according to their beliefs and practice their faiths freely without government interference," Nauert said.

Kipshidze said that the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church embraces most of the believers in the country and that the recent decision of its Synod not to take part in the "Constantinople affair" should be protected by mechanisms for protecting religious freedom both at the level of the US Department of State and at the level of international organizations.

"If someone concludes from this statement that the State Department will support only what seems to be the 'right' choice in the area of religious freedom, this vision of religious freedom and freedom in general will fail to be understood either in Ukraine or even in the US itself," Kipshidze resumed.

Earlier, the US Special Representative for Ukraine Kurt Volker stated that the United States is a secular power that is based on the principle of religious freedom and does not interfere in the resolution of religious issues in Ukraine.

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