Holy Synod Ukrainian Orthodox Church Published Open Address to Ukrainian President
OCP News Service – 23/12/2022
Kyiv – Ukraine: Session of the synod that was held on December 20, 2022, at Panteleimon Monastery in Feofania decided to publish an open address to the President of Ukraine Zelensky. The address that was published condemns unlawful acts, violence, human rights violations, and legislation against the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
Synod also reported activities of the church in the year 2022 that were focused more on delivering aid, rescue, and support to the armed forces.
Full Version of the Open Address:
Dear Volodymyr Oleksandrovych!
The Ukrainian Orthodox Church has more than a thousand-year-long history. Since the times of the baptism of Prince Volodymyr, Equal-to-the-Apostles, it is our Church that was at the roots of Ukrainian statehood. Rises of creative thought, science and high art were related to its beneficial educational and pedagogical influence. In the most critical periods of the being of our people, the Holy Church was the power that preserved their identity and gave them the courage to get up from the knees and move on. We see numerous examples thereof from the pages of history, in the times of the Mongol invasion, the Lithuanian and Polish period, the Cossack times, the Soviet period and up to present times.
With the beginning of the Russian Federation’s invasion into the territory of Ukraine, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church was the first among other religious organisations to decisively condemn this military aggression and express its unconditional support of the territorial integrity of our Motherland. Since the very beginning of the hostilities, our faithful have been defending their country, sacrificing their lives for the liberation of their native land. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church constantly offers up prayers and provides material aid to servicemen, forcibly displaced persons and other categories of the population that have suffered from the war.
At this background, those numerous examples of slander, insults and groundless accusations that sound towards the Ukrainian Orthodox Church are a great upset. They not only form a negative public opinion, but also stir up religious enmity, which sets Ukrainians against one another, splits up our people, who need unity in the circumstances of the war so much. That flow of dirt which is poured at the Church engenders anger and intolerance towards each other in the Ukrainian society, which, in turn, leads to spiritual decay and the loss of moral values. That stimulates beating up believers and priests, seizing and destroying churches and banning the Church itself. Apart from that, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church is still deliberately called ‘Russian’ and ‘Moscow’, and the faithful who are citizens of Ukraine are groundlessly regarded as enemies only because they belong to this Church.
Presently, the bills are being prepared for adoption at the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine: reg. No 7403 dated 24.05.2022, author – I.R. Sovsun; reg. No 8012 dated 08.09.2022, author – A.V. Bohdanets; reg. No 8221 dated 23.11.2022, authors – M.L. Kniazhytskyi et al.; reg. No 8262 dated 05.12.2022, authors – I.M. Konstankevych et al. The above bills do not conform to the international law and the Constitution of Ukraine, establish advantages and restrictions, thus violating the principle of the equality of religious organisations, and are aimed at the discrimination of believing citizens of Ukraine and the closing down of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
Moreover, for the first time in the history of our state, ‘personal’ sanctions have been unlawfully and unjustly imposed upon clergymen who are nationals of Ukraine. It is a brazen interference with the activity of religious organisations. As a consequence, the activity of entire dioceses, which cover tens of thousands of the faithful and provide large-scale social and humanitarian aid to servicemen, forcibly displaced persons and many other groups of the population in need, is blocked. In fact, those restrictions violate not as much personal rights of clergymen as rights of almost a thousand of religious communities.
The systematic violation of the right to freedom of religion, the rhetorics of hatred and religious animosity towards the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which is cultivated in the Ukrainian society with impunity, result in such negative revelations in the media as took place on 7 December 2022. On that day, a video of the programme Bayraktar News#104, produced by the Kvartal 95 Studio, was published in the TV broadcast and on the Youtube channel named Официальный канал Чисто News (Chisto News Official Channel). Throughout nearly 14 minutes, blasphemy, mockeries and sacrilege concerning God and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church sounded in the programme; furthermore, false and unreliable information, disregard and insults of the religious feelings of the faithful and the ignition of religious enmity were used.
However, it is the blasphemous words, which are impossible even to repeat, that were shocking. Those were cynical mockeries of the Holy Scripture, the Trinity God and the Lord Jesus Christ, for whom thousands of people sacrificed themselves and went to martyric death.
When giving the commandments to Prophet Moses at Mount Sinai, the Lord emphasises that His holy name must not be taken in vain, for ‘the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain’ (Deut. 5:11; comp. Ex. 20:7). Sacrilege towards God and His name entailed severe consequences, even up to death punishment: ‘Whoever curses his God shall bear his sin; and whoever blasphemes the name of the LORD shall surely be put to death’ (Lev. 24:15–16). ‘I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me’ (Ex. 20:5). However, it is not this world that the person suffers the greatest harm in. The Lord says in the Gospel: ‘Whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this world or in the age to come.’ (Matt. 12:32).
In relation thereto, the clergy and laymen of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church addressed the direction of the 1+1 TV channel and the composite authors of the Kvartal 95 Studio with the demand to make public apologies for the programme and exclude it from the information space, as well as addressed the law enforcement agencies for a proper investigation of that shameful video. We expect the authors of the plot of the programme mentioned, its anchormen and actors to draw proper conclusions and make apologies to the Christian community of Ukraine.
Today our State needs God’s help more than ever. Public abuse of God is unacceptable. We respect the freedom of other citizens to profess a religion chosen by them or profess no religion, but in the case in question the matter concerns the abuse of the religious feelings of believing citizens of Ukraine, many of whom are currently defending its territorial integrity and sovereignty while sacrificing themselves.
The present war is our common struggle for the universal human values: freedom, dignity, human rights. And we believe that Ukraine will come out of the flame of war exactly a country in which the constitutional rights of every citizen are respected. That is why there is no place in our state for such methods and technologies that offend and disregard the Church and cynically insult the religious feelings of millions of believers. Those are methods that the theomachy authorities used in the times of the Soviet totalitarianism. Hundreds of thousands of clergymen, monks and laymen, whom we praise nowadays as martyrs and heroes, were then deprived of human rights, exiled and murdered. Today Ukraine is trying to overcome the totalitarian past for the future once and for all. But the real decommunisation should take place in the area of human cognition. Overcoming the remnants of the communist system is impossible if we allow applying its methods, especially in the legal, public and information realm. In no case may war against God be waged, as it is a path to self-destruction.
Honourable Mr President! In your person we see the guarantor of the respect of the Constitution of Ukraine. At the 2019 elections you showed yourself to be a charismatic person, a person unspoiled by the bureaucratic system. By this you earned the trust of the faithful of our Church, a lot of whom voted for you. You managed to consolidate the Ukrainian people in all regions of Ukraine around the values of democracy, freedom and dignity. That is why the whole world respects and supports you.
And today we respectfully ask you to ensure the right to freedom of conscience and religion for the faithful of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. To protect the Ukrainian society from the rhetorics of hatred and intolerance on the basis of religion, which stirs up religious enmity in the country. To unblock the activity of the religious organisations which found themselves under sanctions together with their archpastors. To prevent the adoption of the anti-constitutional laws against the Church which are under consideration at the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine. We rest our hopes upon you, that you will manage to prevent an artificial split-up of the Ukrainian people on the basis of religion, which is vital in the circumstances of the external aggression. Let the spiritual values which we profess and uphold actually be fulfilled and let their realisation be the true indicator of our national maturity.
members of the Holy Synod of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church
OCP News Service