Bishop Victor names the number of illegally seized UOC temples and parishes

01 December 2020 19:57
Bishop Victor (Kotsaba) of Baryshevka. Photo: Bishop Victor (Kotsaba) of Baryshevka. Photo:

The issue of violations of the UOC believers’ rights has been considered at the OSCE forum, said the Head of the UOC Representation to International Organizations.

In recent years, 122 temples have been forcibly and illegally confiscated from the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and 220 parishes have been unlawfully re-registered in favor of the OCU. This was stated by the Head of the UOC Representation to European International Organizations, Bishop Victor (Kotsaba) of Baryshevka in an interview with the Greek resource regarding his participation in the annual OSCE meeting "Supplementary Human Dimension Meeting (SHDM) on Freedom of Religion or Belief", dedicated to religious freedoms and the protection of human rights.

"This year, on behalf of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, I appealed to the international community to assist in ending the ongoing violation of the rights of believers in Ukraine," the UOC hierarch said. "Unfortunately, the seizures of temples, the beating of our believers, the burning of churches, and the adoption of discriminatory laws continue, and we are extremely concerned that these offenses are not being properly curbed by the Ukrainian authorities."

He noted that similar offenses against the UOC began in 2015, when supporters of the UOC-KP seized about 40 churches alongside "hundreds of attempted seizures", and after the establishment of the OCU in late 2018, seizures continued by activists of this organization, which had emerged by combining two non-canonical structures – the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Kyiv Patriarchate.

"As a result, in recent years and to this day, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church has lost 122 temples, which were also forcibly, with many offenses, transferred to the 'OCU'," said Bishop Victor. "In addition, 220 parishes of the UOC were illegally re-registered by state bodies in favor of the ‘OCU’."

The reason for the acts of hatred towards the UOC, the hierarch stressed, is the preservation of a spiritual, canonical relation with the ROC, which has nothing to do with politics, but "unfortunately, the UOC believers are gradually labeled as an ‘enemy’: authorities and politicians, who want to cash in on the topic of war, are getting the UOC involved in this dirty business, because it is much easier to take a church from ordinary believers than to prove their patriotism on the battlefield."

Bishop Victor noted that at this year's OSCE forum, the issue of violations of the UOC believers’ rights has been the subject of quite a wide discussion.

"Thus, according to a number of human rights organizations, violations of the rights of believers in Ukraine have the same underlying causes as in Montenegro and Northern Macedonia. In all these countries, the politicians in power seek to leverage the religious factor to achieve political gains, eager to forcibly sever the historical and canonical communion of the believers of Montenegro and Northern Macedonia with the Serbian Orthodox Church, while in Ukraine – with the Russian Orthodox Church.

As a result, it leads to mass violations of the rights of ordinary believers. Therefore, we have to convince the international community that it is necessary to publicly criticize the actions of those politicians and government officials who try to include a sensitive religious issue in their election campaigns and use believers for their political projects," said the Head of the UOC Representation to European International Organizations.

As reported by the UOJ, at the OSCE forum held on November 9, 2020, Bishop Victor (Kotsaba) of Baryshevka called on the international community to respond more actively to systemic violations of the UOC believers’ rights.

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