UOC rep: Main result is construction of new temples instead of seized ones
Summing up the results of the past year, Apt Nikolai Danilevich noted that the UOC has to build church life by the principle set forth in the biblical Book of Nehemiah.
Archpriest Nikolai Danilevich, Deputy Chairman of the Department for External Church Relations of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC DECR), in a commentary to the Pravoslavie.ru resource, spoke about what events became especially significant for the UOC in 2020 and where efforts should first be directed in 2021.
According to the UOC spokesman, the main challenge for the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and for all Churches in the past year was the coronavirus pandemic, which in many ways paralyzed the external church life, “therefore, there were not many significant events in 2020”.
Thus, the main event in the internal life of the UOC, according to Fr. Nikolai, the process of restoration of those parishes that suffered during the crisis years 2018-19 began.
“In 2020, many communities of the UOC built new churches to replace those that were seized by schismatics,” he explained. “Almost every week we read the news about how in different settlements they collect funds for construction, lay the foundations of future churches, build them all together, and then consecrate them. And this, in my opinion, was the most important event in the inner life of our Church in 2020."
According to the clergyman, “calm times in the life of the state and society are the times of the development of the UOC. And periods of unrest, socio-political unrest, revolutions and Maidans are the times of the development of the OCU”. Therefore, he added, if Ukraine has a balanced state policy in the sphere of religion, then the Ukrainian Orthodox Church will develop, "and if shocks begin again, then this is the time for the OCU".
“An unpleasant surprise” for the UOC in the past year was the recognition of the OCU by Archbishop Chrysostomos of Cyprus and part of the Synod of the Church of Cyprus, continued the deputy head of the UOC DECR. However, he stressed, “this fact did not affect the internal life of the UOC <...> the partial recognition of our schismatics by the Church of Cyprus did not change anything in the inter-confessional situation in Ukraine because after this – and as a result – not a single parish shifted from into s".
According to the clergyman, we can conclude from this: any potential recognition of the OCU by other Local Churches will no longer affect the internal life of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
“People have long since decided where the truth is and where a lie is,” Fr. Nikolai said. “In the UOC there really remained people faithful to it. And in a strategic perspective, any recognition of the OCU from the Local Churches will no longer help. Indeed, in fact, the main and most important thing for the "OCU" is to be recognized by us, the UOC, as a true and historically existing Church in Ukraine. Why? Because we are near and live in the same country. <...> They left us and must return to us. Such a church principle. Schismatics should return to the Church they abandoned and not create a new one."
As for the external life of the UOC, in 2020 it was marked by intensive communion with the Serbian Orthodox Church. As the archpriest noted, “to some extent, we have rediscovered our Orthodox brothers in the Balkans and become close to them. Probably, this happened because the challenges facing the Serbian and Ukrainian Churches are in many ways similar.”
One of the important events in the theological and academic life of the UOC last year was the international conference "The Church of Martyrs: Persecution of Faith and the Church in the 20th Century", which was held in February at the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra. According to Fr. Nikolai, “it is very good that we managed to hold such a significant representative forum since most of the forces of the UOC are now aimed at protecting the Church from various attacks from outside. And here we see the development of the academic activity, theological thought, the actualization of the history of persecution of faith in Soviet times, an appeal to the memory of the new martyrs and confessors."
“Summing up 2020 and looking with hope in the year 2021, I believe that in Ukraine we must build our church life according to the principle set forth in the biblical Book of Nehemiah. It refers to the times when the Jews came out of Babylonian captivity and began to rebuild the walls of their capital, as well as the Jerusalem Temple. They worked, holding a trowel in one hand, and a sword in the other, fighting off the tribes who wanted to prevent them with their raids. In other words, they not only defended themselves but also built.
Therefore, in my opinion, our Church should not only defend itself but also create <...> Most of our efforts should be directed at spiritual life, pastoral work, organization of conferences, support and development of external relations, missionary and educational activities. I would like very much that the example of Nehemiah's constructive activity in the times of crisis in the history of the Israeli people would become for us a kind of model in the development of our modern Ukrainian church life,” Archpriest Nikolai Danilevich resumed.
Earlier the spokesperson for the UOC said that discrimination against the Church harms the unity and conciliarity of Ukraine.