What stands behind the deportation of Bishop Gedeon (Kharon)

Bishop Gedeon (Kharon) is inconvenient for the Ukrainian authorities for several reasons

A court session on Tithe monastery, a request to protect believers at the US Congress, or a lawsuit against Tomos petitioners: what expelled the UOC bishop from Ukraine?

February 14, 2019 set a new bar in the history of persecutions of the Church in modern Ukraine. Early in the morning on this day, Bishop Gedeon (Kharon) of Makarov, the abbot of the Tithe Monastery, was deported from the country at gunpoint.

Bishop is not a minister

The night before, at the Borispol airport, border guards detained the bishop and took away his passport. Neither the lawyers nor the MPs, who came to His Grace, were allowed to approach him. Bishop Gedeon felt ill, and an ambulance was called to him.

“I was not allowed into Ukraine, which was motivated with my citizenship having been cancelled, and no longer valid, although I flew out 15 days ago, there were no problems, and there were no court decisions,” the bishop said in his video message.

The authorities called an American passport of the UOC hierarch one of the reasons for the deportation. Indeed, born in Ukraine, Bishop Gedeon served for a long time in the United States and received American citizenship there. Formally, to have another passport is contrary to the legislation of Ukraine – but it cannot be a reason for deprivation of citizenship. According to the Constitution of Ukraine, a person cannot be deprived of his citizenship at all without his consent.

In addition, a number of Ukrainian politicians and businessmen have dual citizenship, which for some reason does not prevent them from living and working in Ukraine. According to the ex-MP Andrei Artemenko, in the Verkhovna Rada more than 100 parliamentarians have foreign citizenship, in addition to Ukrainian.

The head of the Uniate, Sviatoslav Shevchuk, on the official page of the UGCC declared about having second passport. He reported that he owns the Vatican state biometric passport.

And in recent days, the whole country has been witnessing an epic with the American citizenship of Ulyana Suprun, who has been a Minister of Health of Ukraine for more than two years. Having received a Ukrainian passport in 2015, she, contrary to the Law "On Citizenship of Ukraine", did not refuse to give up US citizenship. Both she and all those, involved in her employment, violated the Law “On Public Service”, in accordance with paragraph 2 of Art. 19 of which a person who has the citizenship of another state cannot enter the civil service.

Because of this dual citizenship and also because of exceeding the permissible period of stay in the status of acting minister, the district administrative court of Kiev prohibited Suprun to fulfill her duties as a minister. Nevertheless, on February 13, the Cabinet of Ministers gave her such permission. It turns out that neither Ukrainian laws nor decisions of Ukrainian courts mean nothing to our functionaries: they are a law upon themselves. Another thing, if it concerns a priest of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

Two court trials and one meeting

However, is it only about nationality? A spokesman for the head of the State Border Service, Oleg Slobodian, explained that during the detention of Vladyka Gedeon, “the border guards were performing an order from a certian law enforcement agency.” As it appeared, the SBU has claims against the bishop: he allegedly "is engaged in anti-Ukrainian propaganda and is an active adherent of the ‘Russian world’."

What was this propaganda?

On February 5, Bishop Gedeon spoke to members of the US Congress. His Grace spoke about how the Ukrainian authorities violate the rights of believers of the canonical Church, how they commit raider seizures of temples in the country. US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo and the congressmen were handed over an official appeal from the UOC to consider cases of such lawlessness.

Vladimir Legoyda, head of the Synodal Department for Relations between the Russian Orthodox Church and Society and the Mass Media, sees the reasons for the deportation of the bishop in his speech to the congressmen. “It was his words of truth told to the Americans that caused such hatred of the Ukrainian authorities that they actually deprived him of his existing Ukrainian citizenship and forcibly sent him out of the country,” Legoida wrote in his Telegram channel.

Perhaps, the detention of Vladyka Gedeon is necessary for the authorities in order to “finish off” the Tithe Monastery, with which they have a number litigations. Debates on the case of cancellation of registration of rights to real property of the religious community of the monastery have been going on since last year. Perhaps, the expulsion of the abbot from the country will mark the beginning of a new pressure on the Tithe Monastery.

There are other "coincidences". The detention of the bishop took place right on the eve of the session of the Supreme Court of Ukraine on the claim to invalidate the appeal of the parliament to Patriarch Bartholomew on granting the Tomos. Vladyka Gedeon was also supposed to participate in this session as a plaintiff.

Riding four horses at one time

Consequently, having expelled the hierarch from Ukraine namely at this moment, the authorities are trying to hit several targets at once:

1.    Tomos Security. His Grace will not be able to attend a court hearing on the Tomos, which otherwise is very inconvenient for the President and his team.
2.    The more you complain – the worse it will be for you. We can see an indicative response to the complaint about the oppression of the UOC in foreign human rights organizations. "To make others feel scared," as the story goes.
3.    A blow to the monastery. In the absence of Bishop Gedeon, it will be easier to deal away with the Tithe Monastery.
4.    One less enemy. One of the bright and active hierarchs of the UOC, supporting His Beatitude Metropolitan Onufriy, is deported from the country.

In any case, we have another lap of persecutions of the Church – the lawless deportation of the UOC hierarch from Ukraine. This is indeed a “schtick” from the anti-Church campaigners – within one day to deprive the bishop of citizenship and expel him from the country without charge or trial.

The expulsion of the hierarch is only a link in the long chain of lawlessness, committed by the current government in relation to the Church and society. A rude incursion into the affairs of the Church, the adoption of anti-Church laws, public humiliation and defamation of the UOC believers, silent cover-up of radicals and church raiders, infringement of the rights of citizens to freedom of religion – this is what we have already seen and continue to see today.

Now a new page is also opened in the history of the persecutions of the Church in Ukraine – the expulsion of the UOC hierarch from his native country, of which he is a citizen. At the same time, the persecution of Ukrainian citizens on religious grounds is accompanied by almost total silence of the official media.

Who will be next? Which of the laws of Ukraine will the authorities break tomorrow? What other side will they choose to strike at the Church? What a pity that our officials thoughtlessly fall into the pattern of their Soviet predecessors – they are once again beginning to persecute the Church of Christ. How dramatic it is that the government does not understand simple things: a violation of God's commandments and civil laws leads the country down the drain.

Today, Bishop Gedeon wrote on his Facebook page: “Dear brothers and sisters! Thank you all for your support! I ask for your prayers that God strengthen us all for further work in the glory of our Lord and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church!”

Vladyka asked for prayers – and believers pray for him. Believers do what they can do. And human rights activists, in turn, do what they can do. If only the protection of the rights of ordinary citizens of Ukraine could be seriously considered today!

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