UOC hierarch: Ukraine demonstrates double standards in relation to Church

Bishop Victor (Kotsaba) of Baryshevka. Photo: Bishop Victor's Facebook page

The situation in Ukraine is characterized by attempts by politicians to legally restrict the UOC and create advantages for the OCU, says Bishop Victor (Kotsaba).

President of Ukraine Vladimir Zelensky does not pursue such an active policy regarding the religious issue as his predecessor did, but the UOC still feels double standards in comparison with the OCU and other denominations. Bishop Victor (Kotsaba), the head of the Representation of the UOC to European International Organizations, spoke about this in an interview with the Greek resource news-politics.com.

The hierarch noted that the situation in Ukraine is characterized by attempts by politicians of the highest level to legally restrict the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and create advantages for the OCU.

“It manifests itself in various actions,” he explained. “So, in Ukraine, a law has been passed that all religious organizations of our Church are obliged to change their names and include in the information about their belonging to the Russian Orthodox Church. This is done in order to bully our believers, to create an image of pro-Russian forces for them, which will allow them to play on military sentiments, inciting hatred and enmity towards our people, seizing churches and transferring them into the OCU promoted by nationalist and radical politicians.

Bishop Victor pointed out that today the law on renaming the UOC has been suspended by a court decision, "however, the problem has not been fully resolved because the Ukrainian parliament does not show any intention to cancel this discriminatory act".

Also, he added, the Ukrainian authorities blocked the registration of some statutes of the eparchies and monasteries of the UOC, and due to this "our central legal organizations are actually unable to carry out their activities".

“On the other hand, the communities of our Church from time to time continue to be attacked by various radical structures, which are often joined by clerics and activists of the OCU, which leads to new waves of confrontation,” the hierarch noted. "Our believers are forced to keep the line and defend their shrines in various ways that the law and the specific situation allow."

According to him, in 2019-2020 there has been a certain lull due to the fact that, unlike ex-President Petro Poroshenko, Vladimir Zelensky does not pursue such an active policy regarding the religious issue, “but we still feel double standards in relation to the UOC in comparison with the ‘OCU’ and other religious confessions of the country”.

He stressed that the UOC does not require a special attitude towards itself from the state, and “we are in favour of ensuring that all confessions of Ukraine have equal rights under the law, regardless of their quantitative composition”.

The hierarch also recalled that, despite all the strength of external pressure over the past five years, the UOC is the largest denomination in Ukraine, numbering 12,338 parishes, 12,411 clergymen and 254 monasteries, housing 4.5 thousand monastics.

“The main problem remains the impunity of offenders who publicly seize our churches, not only not hiding their identities but also posting videos of their crimes on social networks. If the authorities acted according to the law in relation to such criminals, many problems would be resolved in a civilized way, but the temptation to politicize the religious issue is still winning in our country," resumed Bishop Victor of Baryshevka.

As reported, Bishop Victor (Kotsaba) named the number of seized churches and parishes of the UOC.

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