Zelenskyy announces a ban on the UOC: What's next?
President Zelenskyy suddenly declared war on the UOC: large-scale searches by the SBU, hatred in the media, draft laws on a ban, etc. What awaits UOC believers?
On December 1, 2022, Zelenskyy's traditional evening video message was devoted to the church issue. He reported on the meeting of the National Security and Defense Council, at which decisions were made regarding the fate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. And soon, by decree 820, Zelenskyy put this decision into effect. What's happening?
Apparently, President Zelenskyy announced the destruction of the UOC. The first step is to submit a bill to ban it to the Rada.
Zelenskyy: "The NSDC instructed the government to submit to the Verkhovna Rada a bill on the impossibility of activities in Ukraine of religious organizations affiliated with centers of influence in the Russian Federation."
Here, obviously, we are talking about a bill recently prepared by Poroshenko's MPs to ban the Russian Church in Ukraine. You will say that the bill is pointless, since the UOC declared its complete independence from the Russian Orthodox Church at the May Council, and you will be wrong. Poroshenko and his team are now actively calling to unblock the 2018 law on the forced renaming of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church into the Russian Orthodox Church in Ukraine. That is, the scheme is very simple, it has only two moves. First, the UOC is forcibly renamed into the Russian Church in Ukraine, and then solemnly banned as the Russian Church in Ukraine. Well, if so, it has no need for the Lavra.
Zelenskyy: “To ensure verification of the legal grounds and compliance with the terms for the use by religious organizations of property located on the territory of the National Kyiv-Pechersk Historical and Cultural Reserve.”
Dumenko’s structure responded with lightning speed. The next day, the OCU registered the legal entity "Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra", and the schismatic leader himself announced the imminent return of Ukrainian prayer to the Orthodox shrine.
On the same day, Zelenskyy said that the announced measures against the UOC are just the beginning, and he is not going to stop.
Zelenskyy: “But that's not all. There will be more steps. Ukraine will never stop halfway again.”
But it is especially necessary to emphasize his words that society "powerfully supports" the actions of the authorities against the UOC.
Zelenskyy: "I see that people support these steps, they support them very strongly."
What did he mean?
Surely, the media PR of the SBU actions, which nightmarizes priests, bishops and monks.
From mid-November, a powerful attack began against the UOC. The security forces are conducting searches in the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra, dioceses, monasteries and hundreds of churches. According to their results, the media issue materials in which they call the UOC a Kremlin, FSB structure. Before the first searches, the SBU said it expected to find weapons and saboteurs. They searched 350 temples and 850 people but did not find anything like it anywhere. But what did the SBU find then? On what does it base its accusations of treason?
Everyone knows the “expectations and realities” meme. Let's compare accusations and evidence.
November 22, Lavra and monasteries of the Sarny diocese.
The SBU found “pro-Russian literature used in teaching at the seminary and parochial schools, including for propaganda of the ‘Russian world’.”
What's in the photo? A couple of issues of the Russky Vestnik newspaper for 2020, a 2014 issue of the Russky Dom magazine, two brochures of "Russian Ideology" by St. Seraphim (Sobolev), a stack of Easter greetings from the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, a stack of leaflets with a photo and text supposedly by Patriarch Kirill.
November 25, Chernivtsi-Bukovyna diocese.
The SBU claims that it “found warehouses with wholesale batches of pro-Kremlin literature that praises the aggressor country and calls to support the occupiers.”
We look at the photo: there really are warehouses with literature. But what are these books? "Children's Bible", "Primer for Public Schools", "Catechism in Pictures", "Pastoral Conversations with Children", "Prayer Rule".
Can it be called literature that supports the occupiers?
The SBU also states that it found in the computers of the diocese, a quote, “photocopies of IDs of rushists who participated in hostilities against Ukrainian troops.”
As evidence, we can see 3 screenshots with some kind of open Russian website about the military who conquered Crimea in 2014. Could this be evidence of some kind of guilt of priests or bishops?
In the searches in the rest of the dioceses, the arguments are about the same power of persuasion. And on the basis of such findings, the SBU initiates treason cases against the UOC.
But that's not all. During the searches of the SBU, someone slings mud on the UOC. In the Korets Convent, in a damp and unheated attic, the SBU found stacks of brand new leaflets with fake words from Patriarch Kirill, in which he allegedly calls to “restore justice” and return Ukraine to Russia.
Nun Savvatia of the Korets monastery: “We didn’t have these leaflets, they appeared during the search. I don't know where they came from, who planted them on us. The attic where they found them is very damp. Any literature – books or newspapers – immediately gets wet. However, those planted were dry and clean."
The same leaflets, only in color printing and in Russian, were “discovered” during searches in the Khust, Rivne and Zhytomyr dioceses.
In the church of the Glinsk village, Rivne diocese, the SBU planted leaflets about supporting the aggressor in the sacristy. It occurred while the rector went to Germany to buy a car for the Armed Forces of Ukraine.
Archpriest Vasyl Nachev, rector of the Assumption Church in the Glinsk village: “When the headman opened the temple, the SBU employees did not let him inside, but told him that he should stay outside. When they let him after a while. Then in his presence, they again began to inspect the temple, and when they entered the sacristy, they took out two packs of leaflets from the closet, which they’d also put there. Because they simply could not be physically in our church.”
But that’s just the beginning. Complete mess occurred in Chernivtsi. There, the SBU officers broke down the doors, broke into the office and put Metropolitan Meletiy and everyone they found against the wall.
Metropolitan Meletiy: “They broke the doors and broke into my room, put me against the wall at gunpoint. They demanded that I not turn around and be silent. We went up to the third floor. There was not only Fr. Nikita, there are cells where novices live – guys who help in the service. The video record of the search can confirm this.”
The secretary of the diocese, Archimandrite Nikita, and one of the novices were stripped down to their underwear and photographed. These photos were immediately leaked to the “right” channels and the media, which whipped up a "homo scandal" from them. The pro-OCU journalist Koshkina, all the Poroshenko media, television and telegram channels began the enthusiastic rant that sodomy was commonplace in the Chernivtsi diocese. The same Koshkina reported that child pornography had been allegedly found in the laptops of the diocese. Moreover, that it was not downloaded from the Internet, but filmed on a video camera.
Everything that happens is clearly no accident. This is a well-thought-out black PR campaign, the purpose of which is obvious – to convince Ukrainians that the UOC is a marginal Kremlin organization that consists of enemies, and immoral enemies at that. This means it can and should be banned and one cannot feel sorry for it.
And so the Minister of Culture tells how this can happen.
Oleksandr Tkachenko: “Although there are indeed legislative difficulties related to how to approach this issue (banning the UOC – Ed.), we will find such an option in the process of deliberations, including with experts.”
There is another goal – to force the episcopate and the priesthood to join the OCU. The SBU speaks about it directly.
Metropolitan Meletiy: “One of those ‘kind’ people in masks called me in the courtyard and said: ‘If you want to stop this a circus and live in peace, get to the OCU.’”
Well, it looks like Zelenskyy has taken the same path as Poroshenko, only he acts more decisively and, like a former media worker, more inventively. Only he knows why he suddenly became preoccupied with lobbying the interests of the OCU. But here are some remarks in this regard.
In 2019, Ukrainians voted for Zelenskyy as the antipode of aggressive Poroshenko’s policy. They vorted for a person who promised to stop dividing people into right and wrong.
Zelenskyy in a campaign video, 2019: “This is us: those who have been divided. Into the right and wrong, into the little pro-Russian Ukrainians and big Ukrainians in embroidery."
Zelenskyy, New Year's address on the eve of 2020: “Our passport does not indicate whether a Ukrainian is right or wrong. It says – a citizen of Ukraine."
Therefore, millions of believers voted for him in the hope that the new president would leave the Church alone and let it live normally. Then it was a lively and humane Zelenskyy, who said that faith is a personal matter and it is unacceptable to interfere in it.
Zelenskyy in an interview with RBC, 2019: “Religion is the number one issue. We never discuss things that divide families and society. I never do that. Never."
Having become president, the once-upon-a-time Zelenskyy would approach believers, listen to their troubles and promise help and reiterate that the state does not interfere in the affairs of the Church.
Zelenskyy at a meeting with believers of the Rivne diocese, 2019: “The state should not interfere in the Church.”
Now this is a completely different person who gives the go-ahead for the destruction of the Church, for the destruction of faith. Now he is almost indistinguishable from Poroshenko and speaks in almost the same words: about spiritual independence, about the opposition of the empire within the Ukrainian soul, etc.
Zelenskyy, 2022: “We will never allow anyone to build an empire inside the Ukrainian soul.”
Poroshenko, 2019: “The empire is losing one of its last levers of influence over its former colony.”
Zelenskyy, 2022: “We guarantee Ukraine spiritual independence.”
Poroshenko, 2019: “We are finally acquiring spiritual independence… Having our own church is a pledge of our spiritual freedom.”
Only recently, Zelenskyy very convincingly said that it doesn’t matter which Church we go to, but the main idea for Ukrainians should be the idea of living in respect for each other.
Zelenskyy, 2020: “Would it really matter to us which Church Kadenyuk or Lobanovsky go to? … This should become our national idea – to learn to live together in respect for the future of our country.”
There is an ancient Burmese parable – "Kill the dragon". Its main idea is that it is not so difficult to slay the Dragon – it is much more difficult not to become a Dragon yourself. And now, when we look at the president, we need to take a closer look to say if it is Zelensky or Poroshenko.
According to worldly wisdom, one should not be fascinated, so as not to be disappointed in the end. The psalmist David says even more precisely – "Do not put your trust in princes, in mortals, in whom there is no help."
Poroshenkos and Zelenskyys come and go. The Church is eternal: prosperous or persecuted, it does not matter. She is alive and cannot be destroyed, which the Bolsheviks proved. And while we are in Her bosom, we are with God, which means we have a future.
Metropolitan Longin of Bancheny: “We will not betray our Church and we will not leave Her, because God will not leave us. Fear nothing, brothers and sisters. God is with us. All Ukraine is Orthodox. We are here, we are at home. This is our Church, this is the Church of the Lord. No one can defeat either God or His Church."