UOC hierarchs speak out of discrimination by Vinnitsa authorities
The hierarchs of Tulchin and Vinnitsa eparchies of the UOC called on officials to adhere to the principle of equal representation of different faiths at official events.
Ignoring the representatives of the canonical Church at official events held in the region by the Vinnitsa authorities is a deliberate discrimination on the religious ground, which is unacceptable in the state of law, reads a joint statement by Metropolitan Jonathan of Tulchin and Bratslav and Archbishop Varsonofy of Vinnitsa and Bar, published on the website of the Vinnitsa Eparchy of the UOC.
The statement says that on May 9 of this year, none of the bishops of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church was invited to the celebrations in Vinnitsa of Victory Day in World War II, although the participation of the clergy is traditional for such events.
“Every year, heads of the eparchies of the UOC, the UAOC and the UOC KP in the Vinnitsa region were invited to May celebrations,” the UOC hierarchs emphasized. “Never has such a format of events provoked conflict, public tension, or even a simple misunderstanding. However, this year, the local authorities, inviting three hierarchs of the OCU to the celebrations, who, moreover, share one Vinnitsa eparchy of this structure (after all, each of the three is of Vinnitsa by title), did not invite a single bishop of the UOC.”
At the same time, the overwhelming majority of the Orthodox in the Vinnitsa region are believers of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church, and the local authorities are well aware of these facts: the three eparchies of the UOC in the Vinnitsa region — of Vinnitsa, Tulchin and Mogilev-Podolsk — together unite about 1,000 parishes, while the total number of OCU parishes in the region is just over 300.
The hierarchs emphasized that they see ignoring the hierarchs of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church by local authorities as conscious discrimination on the religious ground.
“We consider it appropriate to recall that the Constitution of Ukraine proclaims the equality of all citizens before the law. Discrimination, including on the basis of religion, is unacceptable in the state of law,” the UOC representatives noted.
They also pointed out that similar systemic and targeted discrimination against bishops, clergy, and believers of the UOC has already been observed in the Vinnitsa region for several months.
“Since November last year, representatives of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church have not been invited to any official event. Celebrations on Ukraine’s Unification Day and the Day of Liberation of Vinnitsa took place without the participation of the UOC clergy. Traditionally visiting the churches of the city during Christmas and Easter holidays, the authorities demonstratively ignored the UOC temples. Another manifestation of discrimination was the unwillingness to invite Metropolitans Jonathan and Agapit, as well as Archbishop Varsonofy, to the celebrations dedicated to Victory Day,” the ruling hierarchs stated, expressing outrage at the actions of officials.
At the same time, Metropolitan Jonathan and Archbishop Varsanofy hope that the local authorities will reconsider their position and continue to adhere to the principle of equal representation of different faiths at official events.