UOC Holy Synod addresses Volodymyr Zelenskyy
The UOC has told Zelenskyy that it is receiving a big number of appeals about the need to defend shrines and the legal right to protect them.
On 20 March 2023, the UOC Holy Synod made a statement to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, reports the UOC Information and Education Department.
Addressing Zelenskyy, the synodals expressed hope that their voice as citizens of Ukraine would be heard.
They reminded the President that "the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which includes many millions of our fellow citizens, has always educated and is educating the flock to love their Homeland, to be worthy citizens of their state and to carry out their civic duties with dignity".
"With the beginning of the invasion of the territory of Ukraine by the Russian Federation, our Church was the first among other religious organisations to strongly condemn this military aggression and called on its faithful to stand up for the protection of their native land," the Synod’s statement reads.
The document also said that "a large number of parishioners of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church are in the ranks of the Armed Forces of Ukraine and other military formations," and "through the efforts of parishes and monasteries, material aid is provided to servicemen, displaced persons and other categories of population who found themselves in difficult circumstances."
"The stance of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church is unchanged: we stand up for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of our state and strongly condemn the Russian military aggression against Ukraine," the Holy Synod stressed.
The UOC believes that "today our state needs unity more than ever". However, "the clergy, monks and believers of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church feel better how the flame of confrontation on religious grounds is being fanned in Ukraine".
"For a long time now, our Church has been subjected to illegal re-registration of communities, church raids and discrediting in the media with the spread of a large number of baseless accusations. These charges are untrue but set the scene for the discrimination of Ukrainian citizens’ rights on the religious ground and talk about banning the Ukrainian Orthodox Church," the document said.
The Synod noted that "there are nine draft laws registered in the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine which, contrary to the principle of equality of religious organizations, are aimed at making it impossible for the Ukrainian Orthodox Church to operate".
The Holy Synod of the UOC noted that "most of these draft laws received negative conclusions from the scientific-expert department of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine and contain a large number of comments and reservations about violations of constitutional rights of citizens, such as freedom of conscience and religion”.
"But the difficult situation in the religious sphere critically worsened after it became known that the state authorities intend to evict our monastic community from the territory of the Holy Dormition Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra, which the monks have literally raised from the ruins in the thirty-five years since the reopening of this ancient monastery," the statement said.
The Synod reminded Zelenskyy how "with gaining independence, the Ukrainian state started returning churches and monasteries taken away by the Soviet authorities to the Church or granting the right to use them".
However, these were "mostly ruined, abandoned and mutilated buildings. With their own efforts and funds, the religious communities of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church have rebuilt these sanctuaries and filled them with life again. Golden-Domed temples have become a real decoration of various corners of Ukraine".
"The Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra takes a special place among renewed shrines. Today, the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra is a powerful religious, educational and administrative centre, in fact, more than two hundred monks serve in its territory, about three hundred students of the Academy and Seminary study there, and also there is an administrative centre of Ukrainian Orthodox Church".
In addition, the document says, "in the Lavra, powerful work on the provision of humanitarian aid to all those in need is constantly carried out," and "for every clergyman, monk and believer of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra is an invaluable shrine nurtured with love."
"That is why the news of the groundless deprivation of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church’s right to be in Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra caused a huge wave of indignation among our faithful. Every day we receive more and more appeals about the need to defend our sanctuaries and our legal rights to protect them in the future," the synodals told the President.
"Since the beginning of its independence, the Ukrainian state has been trying to implement postulates of religious freedom in national legislation, declared in international legal acts, without which "it seems impossible to build a democratic society in an independent state, especially when Ukraine is on its way to European integration," the Holy Synod stressed.
"Therefore, we respectfully appeal to you as Head of State and guarantor of compliance with the norms of the Constitution of Ukraine – to ensure the constitutional right to freedom of conscience and religion for believers of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, not to allow the adoption of anti-constitutional laws against the Church, which are under consideration in the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, and also to do everything due so that the clergy, monks and believers of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church could continue to perform their service at the Holy Dormition Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra," the appeal concluded.
As reported, UOC Synod members arrived at the President’s Office to meet Zelenskyy.