Metropolitan Hilarion’s comments on Ukrainian Supreme Rada’s forthcoming consideration of anti-church bills
An attempt to reformat the religious situation in Ukraine contrary to the opinion of a majority of the faithful – which is fraught with grave consequences for the civic peace in the country torn as it is by a confrontation – this is how Bills No. 4128 and No. 4511, expected to be voted on in the Supreme Rada on May 18, 2017, can be called. Both religious leaders and secular experts have described them as discriminatory towards the largest religious organization in Ukraine – the Ukrainian Orthodox Church with its more than 12 thousand parishes.
Bill No. 4128 provides for amendments to the Law On the Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organizations. The legislators are to adopt a provision on the belonging of a particular person to a religious organization on the basis of self-identification and to grant such persons a right to amend the statutes of a community through a simple majority vote.
What is there so bad about it, it would seem? But let us look at the situation as it has developed in Ukraine: at present, already over 40 churches of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate have been captured in raids. The pattern of captures is usually the same: in a village church some people appear, who were not its parishioners before (these can be people of the same village or even visitors). They declare that they are the community of the church and have the right to it and decide to move the church to the jurisdiction of the schismatics. Even if such actions are illegal now and if a legal action is taken, the communities of the canonical Church win them, in case of the adoption of such a bill the law will turn out to be on the invaders’ side.
The second bill to be considered by the Supreme Rada on May 18 introduces norms unthinkable in a country in which the freedom of conscience and confession is declared. Precisely for this reason, for instance, the Supreme Rada Commissioner for Human Rights Ms. V. Lutkovskaya stated that Bill No. 4511 contradicts the Ukrainian Constitution.
The bill ‘On Religious Organizations Whose Administrative Center is Located in the Country Recognized by the Supreme Rada as Aggressor Country’ proposes that a church organization with such status will be severely restricted in its rights. It will be obliged to conclude a special agreement with the Ukrainian State, to negotiate all the appointments to high and middle leading posts with the Ministry of Culture. Moreover, the state can simply liquidate it under this or that pretext.
The bill, if adopted, will be clearly aimed against one religious organization – the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, the only canonical Orthodox Church in that country, recognized by the world Orthodoxy. So, the matters concerning the election of bishops and appointment of rectors of churches will be decided not by the Supreme Church Authority but will depend on the arbitrariness of functionaries.
There was no such a large-scale and impudent interference in the Church’s affairs as is provided by this bill even in the Soviet Union, in which non-interference of the state in the internal church life was declared at least formally. In today’s civilized society there are no precedents of the adoption of such bills; they simply do not exist. Something similar could be seen, perhaps, only in the legislation of the fascist Germany.
The proposed discriminatory laws are aimed at deepening the schism in Ukrainian Orthodoxy and may provoke all kinds of clashes in society. That is why Bills No. 4128 and No. 4511 have provoked such a strong rejection by representatives of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and other religious leaders in Ukraine, as well as human rights advocates and public leaders. Hundreds of thousands of signatures against the adoption of these laws have been collected for only a few days in various regions of the country.
The adoption of these bills ‘threaten to become a glaring example of encroachment upon human rights, the freedom of religious confession’, His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia stressed in his appeal on May 16 to Ukrainian President P. Poroshenko, the Normandy Four members – Russian President V. Putin, Federal Chancellor of Germany A. Merkel, French President E. Micron, as well as to Primates of the Local Orthodox Church, Pope Francis of Rome, UN Secretary-General A. Guterres and Secretary General of the World Council of Churches, O. Fykse Tveit.
23.05.2017 12:02His Beatitude Patriarch John X of Antioch condemns attempts to adopt at Ukraine’s Verkhovna Rada the bills directed against the Ukrainian Orthodox Church
19.05.2017 23:07Patriarchal Exarch of All Belarus emphasizes anti-church nature of bills Nos. 4128 and 4511 that were to be considered by Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine
19.05.2017 22:36Holy See expresses solidarity with Ukrainian Orthodox Church over the attempts to adopt anti-church laws in Ukraine
18.05.2017 17:45Primate of the Orthodox Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia hopes anti-church bills will be withdrawn from Supreme Rada agenda
18.05.2017 16:40His Beatitude Metropolitan Onufry of Kiev and All Ukraine urges deputies of Verkhovna Rada to prevent the adoption of anti-church bills
17.05.2017 23:23Metropolitan Hilarion’s comments on Ukrainian Supreme Rada’s forthcoming consideration of anti-church bills
17.05.2017 20:46General Secretary of the World Council of Churches Olav Fykse Tveit sends letters to President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko and Chair of the Ukrainian Supreme Council Andrii Parubii
16.05.2017 21:12His Holiness Patriarch Kirill sends letters to heads of Normandy Four states, Primates of Local Orthodox Churches, Pope Francis, UN Secretary-General and WCC General Secretary concerning anti-church bills due to be adopted by Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine
16.05.2017 14:59Ukrainian hierarchs and religious leaders comment on anti-church bills to be considered by Supreme Rada
16.05.2017 11:35Discriminatory laws prepared against the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – a report at the World Summit in Defense of Persecuted Christians