How Zoria fancies OCU temples seized by canonical Church

Ivan (Eustratiy) Zoria accused the UOC of seizing the churches of the OCU. Photo: UOJ

The spokesman of the OCU suddenly announced the UOC seized churches from the OCU throughout the country. How should one take these words, and how much are they truthful?

Adolf Hitler once spoke about the activities of the Jews in the First World War: "The more whopping your lie is, the sooner they will believe you." Ivan (Eustratiy) Zoria, spokesman of the OCU, said almost the same, but in other words: "The UOC is seizing churches from the communities of the OCU."

However, Hitler and the Jews are a terrible page in human history, while Zoria's rhetoric is rather absurd and comical. Reviewing another video where raiders of the OCU break into the doors of another temple of the UOC, Zoria's words, even against the background of his usual narratives, cause shock and dismay alongside a question – is it really possible to lie so flagrantly? It turns out, yes, it is.

Of course, some readers will be outraged by the fact that the UOJ again pays attention to the words of this man in a cassock and, thereby, render him additional publicity. But we will not agree. Zoria is not just another "expert" from another Poroshenko-owned channel. He is an official spokesman of the OCU, representing this entire structure. A person who participates in the divine services of the Patriarchate of Constantinople and even "ordains" bishops there. In other words, the words of Zoria are the official words of the OCU, which may well then be relayed to Phanar. Therefore, let's consider his arguments.

Does the UOC bring people to conflict villages to "replace" the community that has moved to the OCU?

So, Zoria says that at the polls in the conflict villages, representatives of the UOC take into account the votes of only their supporters, even if there are only a few. And then they are allegedly engaged in raiding schemes "with the expulsion of the community and its replacement with a new one, loyal MP":

“The Moscow Patriarchate throughout Ukraine, from Donbass to Transcarpathia, is trying to seize churches from the OCU communities. At the same time, in the vein of the Kremlin hybrid war, it accuses the OCU of those 'seizures' ... In cases of voting, the MP (UOC – Ed.) almost always considers its supporters as the only 'community' – even if there are only a few of them. Therefore, there is a classic raider scheme of seizing temples with the expulsion of the community and its replacement with a new one, loyal MP. It is the same that Russia did in Crimea through the Supreme Council of the ARC and in the Donbass through 'referendums'."

Although Zoria's publication is more sizable than usual, the author does not give any more arguments in his favor, except perhaps "killer" accusations that the UOC "persistently calls the events in Crimea and Donbass only a 'conflict' and even a 'civil war'."

What is the answer to this?

We do not know how the referendums in Crimea and Donbass were held (Zoria, apparently, was there and got familiar with the situation), but almost all the seizures of the UOC churches were committed in villages where everyone knows their neighbour. Therefore, his words that the representatives of the UOC expell and replace with some newcomers those who have “passed” to the OCU are simply ridiculous. It turns out that the UOC brings in and populates the conflict village with dozens and hundreds of newcomers in order to "replace" those who have "transferred" to the OCU? How does it all look in practice? Does it fetch people from all over Ukraine who agree to move to some distant conflict village, buy or build new houses for them, have them employed only to form a new community out of them and defy the OCU? So what?

It turns out that the UOC brings in and populates the conflict village with dozens and hundreds of newcomers in order to "replace" those who have "transferred" to the OCU? How does it all look in practice? Does it fetch people from all over Ukraine who agree to move to some distant conflict village, buy or build new houses for them, have them employed only to form a new community out of them?

It is difficult to say what kind of audience such arguments are intended for, but Zoria clearly does not consider it to consist of people with high intellectual capabilities. Moreover, if there were at least one such case, it would cause a huge impact. Has there been at least a single resonant case yet? No, we haven't heard of any. Neither has Zoria, that's for sure. Otherwise he would have offered a case study.

So how did the voting for transitions actually take place?

Let us remember how, according to the law, meetings should be held to change the confessional affiliation of a church community. Thus, the Law on Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organizations (Article 8) reads: “The decision to change subordination and make appropriate changes or amendments to the statute is made via a general meeting of a religious community. Such a general meeting of the religious community may be convened by its members. The decision to change the subordination and make appropriate changes or amendments to the statute is made by at least two-thirds of the number of members of the religious community required for the recognition of the authority of the general meeting of the religious community in accordance with the statute of the religious community."

In fact, we have deliberately bolded the phrase “religious community”. It contains the answer to all existing questions and perplexities and implies that ONLY those who are its members can make decisions about the fate of the church community. Not all villagers or those brought “to help” from villages or Baptists, Uniates, Catholics, Protestants and atheists, but only those Orthodox who regularly attend services, confess, receive the Holy Gifts and regularly participate in the life of the community. This is also stated in the statutes of the communities of the UOC.

But what happened during the wave of “transitions” at the beginning of 2019 under the Poroshenko rule, when almost all such votes were held at Poroshenko's orders? The pattern was the same everywhere. The local authorities, together with the OCU, organized a gathering of ALL villagers in a village club, a school or a village council, where they raised a "transition" issue. Thus, two most important points of the Law on freedom of conscience and religious organizations were violated at once:

  • that the initiative to organize an assembly should belong to the religious community and not to the local authorities;
  • that ONLY members of the religious community can participate in such a meeting and make appropriate decisions.

All these points were fully observed at another meeting, which was simultaneously held in the church, and in which ONLY members of the religious church community participated.

Let's remember just a few examples (in fact, there were dozens and hundreds of them).

  • Baranivka town, Zhytomyr region. On February 14, 2019, hundreds of parishioners of the UOC community in honor of the Nativity of the Mother of God gathered at a meeting in their church and voted for loyalty to the UOC and His Beatitude Onuphry. On February 20, 2019, a meeting of the territorial community was held at the House of Culture, at which a vote was held for the transfer of the temple to the OCU. The organizer of the meeting is Oleg Kovalsky, a Catholic deputy. On March 10, Kovalsky organized an assault on the UOC temple, but the parishioners managed to defend their shrine. 
  • The village of Pylypovychi, Kyiv region. On March 17, 2019, members of the church community of the UOC in honor of the Great Martyr Demetrius of Thessaloniki held a meeting of the church community in the church, where they decided to stay in the bosom of the UOC lead by His Beatitude Onuphry. A week later, Uniate deputy Ruslan Khvaliboga organized a rural meeting near the House of Culture to transfer the church community to the OCU. It is very significant that Khvaliboga was also at a meeting of the church community, where he said that, although he is a Greek Catholic, he does not go to the UOC church (of course), but he positions himself as a member of the community, because he “goes there to put a candle” (!) ... A very indicative moment, clearly demonstrating who and how organized the "transitions" of the UOC to the OCU.
  • The village of Zadubrivka, Chernivtsi region. On January 27, 2019, the authorities organized a meeting in the House of Folklore, which was attended by representatives of the regional authorities, the police, some villagers, but there was neither a priest nor members of the UOC religious community of the St. Michael the Archangel. Nevertheless, those who had gathered on behalf of the community voted to appeal to the “Metropolitan” of the UOC-KP / OCU, Daniel, with a request to accept the parish into his jurisdiction. But on February 3, the rector of the community of Archangel Michael, Archpriest Leonid Delikatny, held a legal meeting of the religious community of the UOC near the walls of the church, at which the believers unanimously confirmed their loyalty to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, headed by His Beatitude Onuphry.
  • Privetov village, Zhytomyr region. On January 23, 2019, nearly 400 people from the religious community of the village supported the UOC. But on February 2, in a village club, at the initiative of a member of the Baptist Church Alexander Predchuk, the village community gathered and tried to transfer the church to the OCU. According to the testimony of the rector of the church, Archpriest Alexander Litviniuk, Baptists, Pentecostals, Jehovah's Witnesses voted for the transition.

The size of the article does not allow us to give more examples; there are, we repeat it, hundreds of them. But everywhere everything happened according to the same scenario: the church community held its legal meeting and decided to stay in the UOC, but the authorities ignored it and purusued their own policy. Under the guise of a religious community, they gathered a village meeting and "transferred" the parish of the UOC to the OCU. The temple was re-registered in favor of the OCU, and the community was driven out into the street.

Let's give the floor to the Sarny diocese, in the context of the last sensational attempt at capture in Zabolotye. This is what they wrote there back in 2019, when the parishioners of the community of St. John the Theologian learned from the Internet (!) that they had been de jure “transferred” to the OCU.

“Meetings of the village are held, certain decisions are made, which are passed off as decisions of the religious community. The community itself does not participate in this, it prays and continues its usual activities, the diocesan press service explains. But the authorities do not take this into account, they are not interested in whether such a community exists or it being faithful to the UOC, whereas the initiators of such illegal meetings are warmly welcomed and receive new documents with accurate registration data of our parish. Thus, the authorities give a direct impetus for a further raider seizure of the temple."

Thus, in almost all cases, the decision on "transitions" are not made at all by members of the church community, but by people that simply happen to live near the church, who at best go there to consecrate their Easter cakes and sausage at Easter.

The decision on "transitions" are not made at all by members of the church community, but by people that simply happen to live near the church, who at best go there to consecrate their Easter cakes and Christmas sausage.

Such schemes were described in detail at the Congress of the persecuted communities "Faithful", held in the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra on February 22, 2021. It was attended by 350 believers from more than 130 communities of the UOC.

To illustrate the absurdity of the situation when the fate of the temple is decided by a territorial community, let's simulate an appropriate analogy. Why don't the residentsKyiv who live near the St. Michael Cathedral of the OCU get together and vote to transfer it to some other confession? For example, to Muslims or Pentecostals? And if Zoria and Dumenko feel indignant, why shouldn't these residents say that the OCU is seizing their cathedral from the transferred community (Muslims or Pentecostals)? Is this logic any different from Zoria's?

Didn't anyone go to the OCU voluntarily?

Since the beginning of 2019, OCU activists, with the support of politicians and radicals, have seized more than 120 churches of the UOC. Another 240 were illegally re-registered (which, as we already know, is the basis for subsequent seizures). But there were such parishes of the UOC that voted (by the church community, according to the law) and voluntarily made a decision to move to the OCU. Nobody hindered them. According to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, there are 84 such communities. There are also those who initially voted for the transition to the OCU, but then repented and returned back, as it was with the community in Morozovka. What does this mean? it means that if everything happens according to the law and the members of the community themselves want to get to another confession, they could and can freely do it. So why does Zoria make such absurd statements then?

How to interpret Zoria's words?

Of course, everyone in the OCU is well aware of how the meetings were organized to ensure “transition” into their structure, who voted there and how, and that the overwhelming majority of such meetings and their decisions are completely unlawful. But the problem is that the supporters of the OCU on the ground, with their anti-Christian actions, constantly create problems for their leadership. Captures, brutal beatings of UOC believers, expelling priests and their families into the street, throwing holy thrones onto the road, throwing sewage (!) into the homes of priests and other offences – all this creates a powerful backlash and spoils the OCU's image of a “popular” “loving” church ...

Let's recall the actions of the OCU supporters only in the last couple of months, in our relatively calm and peaceful time.

All this information is not only spread across Ukraine, but also falls into the field of vision of the Local Churches. And there is so much of it that it becomes simply impossible to be silent and “not notice”.

That is why the spokesman of the OCU has to respond and tell an overt lie about seizures in the "they-did-it-themselves" fashion. By the way, at the beginning of 2019, in the midst of scandals around Poroshenko's "transitions", the head of the OCU already tried to speak in a similar vein, stating that the transitions should take place "on the basis of love and unity", and that "the community that made up its mind to pass tp the OCU sometimes cuts off locks on their own temple, which it built. Because legally, they made a decision and chose their Ukrainian church." Why the community “in love and unity” cuts off the locks of its own church, Epiphany could not explain then, the public responded to his words with explicit ridicule, and Dumenko did not repeat such theses any more.

Zora's statements are encountered with the same ridicule. Let's read the opinions of the commentators on the UOJ website.

Seryoga Seryoga: “It's spring after all. The usual time when half of the country is in line to see psychiatrists."

A male user: "At this point he got carried away ..."

Friney Fisher: “It's clear with Ivan Bezdomny ... Blue Johnies. The question is: how did it happen that the OCU is only 2 years old, and the UOC seizes from it the churches of two hundred years ago?"

Mikhailo Brich: “I read it and nothing decent occured to me. How can you lie so impudently and without scruples, calling yourself a clergyman and not blushing? Does he (Zoria) think that after that everyone will rush to the OCU at once? I think, on the contrary, these OCU men are digging their own graves."

Al Al: "The evil always tries to imitate Holiness in a perverse way."

Some people even write something like this in the comments under Zoria's Fb post.

Galina Galina: “You are writing nonsense ... the UOC is seizing temples ... Maybe they beat themselves, call the police themselves, poison themselves with gas of unknown origin? Every day, there are new 'pearls' of your fellow brothers 'in faith'. Do not disgrace yourself by writing such posts, because this is pure 'clownery', only to make people laugh."

One could agree with the last commentator. Zoria really wrote a "clownery" publication. But there is one "but". There are a lot of people in Ukraine who do not bother to study the facts and the real state of affairs. It is enough for them that they are “patriots”, who fight “traitors” next to them, because those are “enemies” worthy of destruction. This is the target audience for Ivan Zoria and his colleagues.

But is it worth it to be outraged and indignant at the words of the spokesman of the OCU and, all the more, wish God to punish him for deceit? No, it isn't. Instead, it is worth remembering the words of the Savior that "Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy" (Matt 5: 7). We wish therefore the servant of God Ivan sincere repentance and, accordingly, a change of his mind. For he needs it very badly.

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