Clerics speak about forced liquidation of UOC communities in Rovno region
The priests of the UOC, rectors and believers of the seized temples in the Rovno region called on OCU supporters to act according to the law, and not with a grinder.
On April 15, 2019, at the Holy Dormition Church of Rovno, a press conference was held on the topic: “Forced liquidation of UOC religious communities in the Rovno region. Church raiding”, reports the UOC Information and Education Department.
Vicar of the Rovno Eparchy Bishop Pimen of Dubno, head of the Department for Interfaith Dispute Resolution at the Rovno Eparchy Archpriest Viktor Zemlianoy, secretary of the Rovno Eparchy Archpriest Alexander Yegorov, rectors of the seized churches and believers affected by the actions of OCU supporters in the Rovno region took part in the press conference.
“Despite the laws and codes of Ukraine, on the instructions of the Chairman of the Rovno Regional State Administration Alexei Muliarenko, UOC communities were forcibly liquidated in the Rovno and Sarny Eparchies of the UOC, orders on alternate worship in the UOC churches were issued in a dictatorship manner, and for the last two weeks over 60 parishes of the newly formed OCU got registration on the basis of the personal data of UOC religious communities, i.e. more than 60 parishes of the UOC were forcibly liquidated, 14 parishes were seized,” said Bishop Pimen.
According to him, the purpose of this briefing is to declare the rights of the UOC believers as citizens of Ukraine: “No matter what names they call us, no matter what labels they put on us, we are citizens. Violations of the rights of believers are so obvious and cynical, in most cases the desire of believers is simply ignored.”
Vladyka noted that it was representatives of the local authorities who initiated interfaith conflicts in the region.
"People set to monitor the implementation of the Laws of the state cynically violate them instead and incite not only hated but wage an inter-religious war, which leads to the destabilization of the already difficult situation in Ukraine, the destabilization of peace in both villages and cities of the Rovno region. The officials' desire to retain their authority or special influence is a cross-cutting theme,” Bishop Pimen of Dubno emphasized.
Archpriest Alexander Yegorov, secretary of the Rovne Eparchy, said that over the past 5 years, UOC believers have defended their rights exclusively in the legal field, but they themselves are witnesses of the precedent of incitement of religious hatred.
“I note that we are patriots of the state, defend the interests of believers, and do everything in the legal field. Unfortunately, no one listens to us. And the priests of the Rovno Eparchy are the best, because those parishes that have been seized still pray and do not leave Orthodoxy, the priest said and urged everyone to comply with the law: “You must be guided by the Law, not by a crowbar or a grinder!” Lent is silence, it is repentance, therefore, when the days of Easter Sunday are approaching, we must remember this. The Lord defeated evil! We believe that the Law will be respected by both parties, but, as we see, it is now interpreted by OCU supporters in their own way.”
Archpriest Viktor Zemlianoy, head of the Department for Interfaith Dispute Resolution at the Rovno Eparchy, spoke about the legal aspects of cases that take place in the Rovno region. The priest focused on the anti-church laws adopted by the Verkhovna Rada, which incite hatred towards the UOC, its clergy and believers.
Father Viktor noted that in almost all localities where the UOC communities were liquidated, conflicts were created artificially, temples were taken away with the use of force and with the assistance of representatives of state power.
Thus, in the village of Bushcha of the Zdolbunov district, the chairman of the Zdolbunov District State Administration Sergey Kondrachuk personally broke the church door with a crowbar; and in the villages of Kopytov and Urvenna, he took the keys to the temples. The official of the Korets DSA, Pavel Sukhoi, initiated interfaith confrontation in Kopytov, escalating the situation and pitting people against each other.
In the village of Rozvazh of the Ostrog region, the local farmer Petro Yagodka and the village head Yuri Yagodka incited interfaith conflict between the villagers. It was with their support on April 14 that the OCU adherents, having a fight, seized the Sts. Cosmas and Damian Church of the UOC.
State officials also interfered in church affairs in the Dubno district: in the village of Povcha, the chairman of the Dubno District State Administration Yuri Parfeniuk and the Chairman of the Dubno District Council Alexander Kozak initiated a meeting of the territorial community, trying to provoke a confrontation. As a result, the temple in Povcha was sealed.
Also, Archpriest Viktor Zemlianoy recalled the “strange” provocations with arson of the outbuildings, which took place after representatives of the UOC and OCU communities had held peace talks and reached an agreement.
“Over the past 5 years, we have tried to protect the rights of the Church in a legal way. However, as the facts show when the activists of the OCU seized UOC temples, and we won all the courts, the state executors did not fulfil the decision but simply dismissed from work, the state legal machine does not work or works only in favour of the OCU. The principle of democracy is violated, the Bill of Rights, which regulates the rights and freedoms of people of the state in which they live,” the priest said.
He stressed that despite the documentary liquidation of the parishes of the UOC by local governments, the UOC communities continue their religious activities and will defend their rights in court.