Metropolitan Anthony: We respond to animosity with love
Why officials who “transfer” churches to the OCU should be held accountable, how the UOC helps victims, and why the Primate of the Albanian Church said, “You will win.”
Despite the fact that a large-scale wave of seizures of churches of the UOC was left behind with the presidency of Petro Poroshenko, this "activity" of Sergei Dumenko's wards continues today. In addition, the head of the OCU has repeatedly announced a new large-scale wave of “transitions”. What to expect for the Orthodox communities, how to protect themselves from forceful seizures and how the lawlessness of the Dumenko adherents is viewed by the Local Churches, we learned from the Chancellor of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Metropolitan Anthony.
– Your Eminence, why are churches still being seized from the UOC?
– Because the authorities, unfortunately, have not created the conditions for establishing (primarily legal) relations between the Church and the state within the framework of the Constitution. There have been adopted the laws that run foul of the Constitution: this is both the law whereby the Ukrainian Orthodox Church should change its name, and the law that creates and facilitates the conditions for the so-called “transitions”, but de facto seizures of our temples. These norms, unfortunately, are still existing, though blocked for now. Therefore, this provides a legal basis for certain "efforts" of the people (representatives of the OCU – Ed.), who live in a state of aggression and who want to eliminate the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
When officials violate the law due to their inner convictions or some tasks of a political nature, they must be held accountable.
We call ourselves a democratic society, a a rule-of-law state, but, unfortunately, we can see that our officials live by completely different principles, because when an official, by virtue of his convictions or some internal tasks of a political nature, violates the law, he must be held accountable. On the other hand, even under Poroshenko, who imposed great pressure on the UOC, such people did not succeed in fighting our Church, and it will not work now. Because people love their Church, and the majority of believers, faithful people, are members of the canonical Church, they are faithful to His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry of Kyiv and All Ukraine. Therefore, they will protect their temples as best they can, but the most important thing is that everything should be done within the framework of the current law.
– What should communities do when their churches are taken away?
– Of course, not to panic, not to lose heart, first of all. We must protect our temples, and there are all mechanisms to do it, because raider seizures are always illegal actions. Therefore, they (violations – Ed.) must be registered in various possible ways – video and audio, filing a complaint with the police and other institutions. In addition, each diocese has a legal department. Of course, everything must be done with the blessing of a ruling bishop. There is a hotline telephone in the Kyiv Metropolis, in the Legal Synodal Department, it is known to everyone. We are believers and should not respond to lawlessness with lawlessness. This is what Christ teaches us. Any aggression must be encountered with patience and love. But this doesn’t mean being powerless.
Any aggression must be encountered with patience and love; this is what Christ teaches us.
We need to conquer this aggression with patience, and then through patience the Lord will give us the ability to love. Because if we become infected with hatred, it’ll do only harm. Let us remember our Lord Jesus Christ. He was hanging on the Cross suffering terrible pain, physical and especially mental, because He was crucified on the Cross by those for whom He humbled himself, for whom He came to earth. And yet, no condemnation comes from the mouth of Jesus Christ. He prays for those who crucify Him. This is the path of many martyrs and ascetics.
– How does the Church help communities affected by raiding?
“To the best of our ability, we help both restore and build new churches. If possible, we help with church ware. Our parishioners know that from time to time we collect donations in order to later transfer them to those parishes that build new churches or restore them. And most importantly, we do not separate ourselves from each other in different regions of our state. We are one Church, and the main help of all of us is prayer. Prayer support is the unity that creates our wealth. Yes, we are very different, we live in different regions, we have a different history, but we all see ourselves in a single Church in our beloved state.
I see how you in the UOC are enduring these difficulties, with what hope in God, with peace in your soul, without aggression. I know history a little but. And I'm sure you will win.
Primate of the Albanian Church Archbishop Anastasios
– What is the attitude of the Local Churches towards lawlessness against the UOC?
– Recently I visited the Primate of the Albanian Orthodox Church, Archbishop Anastasios. This is a wise old man, a very respected theologian in the Orthodox world, one of the most prominent theologians in the field of missiology. At the end of our meeting, he said the following words to me: “Vladyka, I see how you (he meant our Church) are enduring these difficulties, with what hope in God, with peace in your soul, without aggression. And then he said – I know history a little bit. And I'm sure you will win." These words of Archbishop Anastasios may sound like the leitmotif of what is happening: the Church of Christ wins in humility, in patience. And this is Her strength.