KYIV PATRIARCH WARNS AGAINST LIQUIDATION OF
INDEPENDENT ORTHODOX CHURCH
From: Poland, Belarus & Ukraine Report
A Survey of Developments in Poland, Belarus & Ukraine
by the Regional Specialists of RFE/RL's Newsline Team
Patriarch Filaret, the head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Kyiv Patriarchate), told journalists on 6 November that the government is preparing the liquidation of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church's autocephalous status. Patriarch Filaret said he drew this conclusion after reading a government document dated 24 October 2001, which is a plan for a promotional action called "The Year of Ukraine in Russia." According to Filaret, the document envisages such measures as the building of a Ukrainian-Russian church, the organization of an assembly of Ukrainian and Russian hierarchs, and the Moscow Patriarchate's offer of autonomous status to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. "They want to forcibly drive us into [mere] autonomy and subordinate us to Moscow Patriarch [Aleksii II]," STB television quoted Filaret as saying.
Patriarch Filaret also said none of the Kyiv Patriarchate was invited to talks on the status of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church that took place in Zurich on 29-30 October. He added that the government was represented at those talks by State Committee for Religious Affairs head Viktor Bondarenko, who visited Moscow and Constantinople before going to Zurich. "We do not know what was discussed at those talks, but the fact that they were held behind our back testifies that some murky business is being done," Interfax quoted Patriarch Filaret as saying.
According to the Kyiv Patriarch, that "murky business" may relate to the creation of two autonomous Orthodox churches in Ukraine: one of them subordinated to the Moscow Patriarchate (some 9,000 Ukrainian Orthodox parishes which are currently under the jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate), the other under the Constantinople Patriarchate (some 1,000 parishes, mostly in western Ukraine, which belong to the third major Orthodox organization in Ukraine -- the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church). Filaret did not say what center -- Moscow or Constantinople -- would take charge of some 3,000 parishes belonging currently to the church he leads.
Filaret said that Constantinople Patriarch Bartholomew I, who has repeatedly declared his readiness to help Ukraine's three Orthodox churches to unite, is now being pressured by Moscow. "We do not know whether he [Bartholomew I] will withstand this pressure or agree to autonomy of the Ukrainian Church," Filaret noted . . . "This would be a prelude to a division of Ukraine itself."
Filaret said that Constantinople Patriarch Bartholomew I, who has repeatedly declared his readiness to help Ukraine's three Orthodox churches to unite, is now being pressured by Moscow. "We do not know whether he [Bartholomew I] will withstand this pressure or agree to autonomy of the Ukrainian Church," Filaret noted. According to Filaret, establishing two autonomous Orthodox churches in Ukraine would be tantamount to the situation in which the country "does not have its own national church that defends the interests of the state." And he added: "This would be a prelude to a division of Ukraine itself."
The government denied it has made any decisions regarding the country's Orthodox churches. "Certain media have recently freely interpreted one internal working document of the Cabinet of Ministers' secretariat, which is not of a normative character and which cannot be regarded as a document explaining the government position. This brings about undesirable tension in society," the government said in a statement.
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