Is Zelensky a new creator of the "single local church"?

14 January 13:50
Zelensky decided to follow in the footsteps of Poroshenko and create a Zelensky decided to follow in the footsteps of Poroshenko and create a "single local church"? Photo: UOJ

The OP announced the govt's intention to create a "single local сhurch" in Ukraine – a year before the presidential election. Everything is like Poroshenko 5 years ago.

The authorities in Ukraine decided once again to create a "single local church". Following Yushchenko and Poroshenko, Zelensky announced similar ambitions. Advisor to the Head of the Office of the President Mykhailo Podoliak came up with a whole program in which he spoke about the plans of the state in the church sphere. Since Podoliak is essentially a full-time speaker of power, we can assume that he is voicing its official position.

Thesis one: there will be only one correct Orthodox denomination in Ukraine

Mykhailo Podoliak: “We will end the era of the two-church system. We will have one local church. Orthodox. We won't have two churches".

In essence, the idea is correct. However, only the clergy or believers of the Church, not the state, can voice it. To leave one denomination means to destroy another, which is discrimination and iniquity. The Constitution of Ukraine clearly states that the Church is separated from the state, besides, we quote: “no religion can be recognized by the state as compulsory.” So the destruction of other confessions in favor of one is precisely the imposition of a compulsory religion. Therefore, the intentions of the authorities with regard to the “single local” directly contradict the Constitution, and therefore are anti-legal.

Thesis two: the UOC is an enemy Church

Mykhailo Podoliak: “There is a Ukrainian church, that’s all, full stop. And there is a propaganda institution, under any name, in this case, the UOC, which upholds the values, I emphasize, the values of another country.”

How could anyone think that in the 21st century a representative of authority could speak lies about the Church so explicitly? Engage in inciting religious hatred? Are there any statements, decisions or documents of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church that promote the values of another country? None. And Podoliak is perfectly aware of this fact.

Thesis three: services should be performed only in the state language

Mykhailo Podoliak: “Our Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra should be totally Ukrainian. Services should be done in our Ukrainian language. These are key, fundamental elements.”

This sounds so savage that it is even redundant to comment on it. Will the authorities tell believers what language they should pray in? Seriously? Does it mean that for more than a thousand years, believers prayed in the “wrong”, Church Slavonic language in our land, and now they will start doing it in the “correct”, Ukrainian? Well, then, probably, everyone, not just the Orthodox, should pray in the state language? For example, Ukrainian Jews or Muslims. Will the authorities put forward the same demands to these confessions too?

Thesis four: the UOC is the ROC, and its believers support the enemy

Mykhailo Podoliak: “The Russian Church should be called Russian. If you go to the Russian church during the war, I emphasize, not the UOC-MP, but the Russian Orthodox Church, then you must tell yourself whether you are ready to support the army of another country that kills and rapes your children.”

The UOC is already tired of reiterating that it has a completely independent status, but now absolutely all state agents, let alone the media, obstinately persist in calling it the Moscow Patriarchate or the Russian Church.

At the same time, everyone realizes vet well that this is being done intentionally in order to link the Church with the enemy, discredit it as much as possible in the eyes of the people, and then destroy it.

One can argue for a long time with the speaker of the Office of the President and say that today the UOC has nothing to do with the Russian Church. But it is best to listen to what Podoliak said only a few months ago.

Mykhailo Podoliak: “There is the Russian Orthodox Church, which, of course, supported the Russian aggression, but as for the confessions that exist in Ukraine, these are somewhat different confessions, including the UOC. It took a different position. And this is a great deal of people who listen to priests, etc. People will make all decisions, and I think they have already made them, including the UOC, which made all the decisions that will only benefit Ukraine.”

It turns out that until quite recently, the UOC, in the mouth of the authorities, was a Church completely unrelated to the ROC, which opposed the war. In fact, not only Podoliak woud say about it.

Let's listen to the Minister of Culture Tkachenko. In September 2022, he stated that there is no Moscow church in Ukraine: “I don’t know the representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church in Ukraine, there is the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which at the last synod dissociated itself from the Russian Orthodox Church.”

However, a few months later, Tkachenko already calls the UOC none other than Moscow Patriarchate: “The priests of the UOC-MP are precisely those who contribute to the spread of Russian narratives during the war in Ukraine.”

Even yesterday, the country's leaders warned of the danger of an internal split in society because of the church issue. Head of the Office of the President Andriy Yermak wrote in March that “useful idiots” are dispersing the idea of a religious conflict in society due to the presence of a “Russian church” in Ukraine.

Podoliak said the same thing: “I would ask people not to speculate on this (the ban on the UOC – Ed.), because we can trigger an internal conflict. But the unity demonstrated by Ukraine to the whole world is much more fundamental and important for us today.”

The same words were spoken at the end of April by the Speaker of the Parliament Ruslan Stefanchuk in the context of bills against the UOC: “During the war, we have no right to adopt a single law that splits the Ukrainian society.”

Apparently, now is the right time to split the society.

Ruslan Stefanchuk (January 2023): “Today, society and all of us are ready for radical decisions. The Cabinet of Ministers has been tasked to draft a bill as soon as possible, which, I am sure, will be unanimously adopted in the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine. This what we should we will further do with any religious organization posing a national threat to the security of Ukraine.”

The UOJ wrote a lot about what the SBU found in the churches and monasteries of the UOC. These are children's bibles and prayer books, liturgical breviaries published in Moscow back in the 70s, portraits and books of Patriarch Kirill, liturgical instructions and other similar materials. Obviously, there is no security threat from the UOC and cannot be. And the SBU searches are nothing more than a high-profile media campaign organized by the authorities to discredit the Church, all this while the Church officially condemned the invasion of the Russian Federation and sent over a million tons of humanitarian aid to the Armed Forces of Ukraine and the IDPs during the war.

Now there is a real war against the UOC. The Upper Lavra was taken away from it, and the Lower Lavra is in question. The same is being spoken about the Pochaiv Lavra. The Constitutional Court unblocked Poroshenko's law on the renaming of the UOC. Zelensky stripped a number of UOC bishops of citizenship or imposed sanctions against others. Now the authorities promise to destroy the Church altogether so that only the OCU remains. In the terms of Yermak, useful idiots disperse the idea of a religious conflict and an internal split in society in the interests of Russia.

But if we know that the UOC does not pose any threat to society, why is all this happening?

Recall that Poroshenko’s activity in organizing a “single local church” began exactly one year before the 2019 presidential election. Coincidentally, a year before the 2024 elections, another president, Zelensky, is preoccupied with the same idea – to become the spiritual father of the nation. Will it just work? Now Poroshenko's adepts, despite Zelensky's policy against the Church, still consider Poroshenko the father of the nation.

Holovanov: “Supporters of the fifth President Poroshenko are now spreading opinions on social networks that we must not forget who brought the Tomos to Ukraine. President Zelensky is only stealing the spotlight of the ‘army-language-faith’ program, initiated by Poroshenko, while Zelensky only skims the cream off.”

Podoliak is trying to answer that, they say, it doesn’t matter what Poroshenko did there, Zelensky’s actions are important, but this appears feeble. For the electorate of Poroshenko, which Zelensky is now trying to win over, he is still just a miserable imitator. Their hero is the ex-president. And not only theirs.

On January 7, on the anniversary of the Tomos, Poroshenko went to Phanar, to Patriarch Bartholomew, to celebrations. He called Poroshenko the president (!), his friend, and recalled Poroshenko's contribution to the creation of the OCU. In other words, the Phanar looks upon Zelensky’s efforts to destroy the UOC favorably, but Poroshenko is still its “friend” and “president”.

Therefore, the current government can build its campaign on Poroshenko's “manifesto”, but it still won't entice Poroshenko's electorate. A copy is always worse than the original. As for the intentions to destroy the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, they are ridiculous and naive. There have been many such efforts in history. The last one was only a few decades ago, during the Soviets. If Ukraine is a Christian country, then it must remember the words of Christ, “I will build My Church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.” The Bolsheviks did not heed these words – and disappeared in the end. One had better not repeat their mistake.

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