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Round-table conference in Kiev urges to revoke the anti-church “law on renaming"

Round-table conference in Kiev urges to revoke the anti-church “law on renaming'
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21 December 2021 year 10:21

On December 20, 2021, an international round-table conference was held in the Kiev Laura of the Caves on “The years-long attempts to compulsory rename the Ukrainian Orthodox Church: Consequences, assessments, comments”. 

Before the beginning of the event, a briefing was given by Archpriest Alexander Bakhov, head of the UOC Synodal Legal Department; Archpriest Nikolay Danilevich, deputy head of the UOC Department for External Church Relations, and Mr Yury Reshetnikov, a religious expert, who spoke about the tasks of the round-table. 

Archpriest Nikolay Danilevich reminded the journalists that it was three years since, under the former Ukrainian President Poroshenko, the so-called law on the renaming was adopted. He stressed that this utterly manipulative and propagandistic law was targeted against the largest confession in Ukraine. “We are the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and her faithful are citizens of Ukraine and, accordingly, we will defend our Church and the name of our Church to the end. Today we will speak about it in detail”, the priest said. 

The head of the UOC Synodal Legal Department said this legislative act No. 2662 lacks any mention of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, while an appropriate religious research expertise, called to identify the subjects of this law, so far has not been included in the legal space. “Therefore, to say that this law covers the Ukrainian Orthodox Church is wrong and illegal. As of today, there are many insinuations, arguments and attempts to artificially apply this law to the UOC”, the archpriest stressed, “In this connection, the roundtable will stress the problematic aspects that the Ukrainian Orthodox Church is encountering today in her work in the light of this law”. 

Religious expert Yury Reshetnikov described the efforts to rename compulsorily the Ukrainian Orthodox Church as an unlawful attempt of the state to interfere in the internal affairs of our Church. “Our Church alone has the right to determine her name. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church unites tens of millions of Ukrainians who are citizens of our country, who pay taxes and work for the good of our state”, he said, “Besides, we are convinced that the law we are to discuss has been adopted both with a violation of the Constitution and a violation of the international normative documents and therefore it should be revoked. And how we are to manage this will be discussed in our sharing of opinions and trying to find together the ways of our further actions”. 

Then the meeting of the roundtable took place. As the UOC Information-Education Department reports, it was attended by Metropolitan Meletiy of Chernovtsy and Bukovina, head of the UOC Synodal Department or External Church Relations; Bishop Spiridon of Vishnevska, vicar of the Metropolis of Kiev, Ukrainian people’s deputies, representatives of the Ukrainian intelligentsia, public figures and others. 

In his remarks, Metropolitan Meletiy assumed that the anti-church laws, in particular “the law on renaming” are actually aimed at the full liquidation of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. He reminded the participants that since 1990 the Ukrainian Orthodox Church has been administratively fully independent from the Russian Orthodox Church. For over 30 years now, her governing center is located in Kiev; the governance is carried out by Councils and the Holy Synod of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, as well as the Primate who is elected by the UOC hierarchs. 

“I hope that a dialogue with the authorities will begin at last, so that peace may prevail, the Ukrainian Constitution may be respected and equal rights of all the citizens to the free confession of their faith may be ensured”, His Eminence Meletiy said, “Nobody can remove from real life the objective reality of the existence of the millions-strong Ukrainian Orthodox Church. Despite all the previous oppressions, our Church has not only held on but continues to remain the largest Church in Ukraine”. 

According to MP Alexander Kachura from the Servants of the People party, the adoption of the so-called compulsory renaming was a PR-action of the previous authority. He said that some MPs did not even understand what they voted for, while some elected representatives of the people are still ashamed since they supported an anti-constitutional law to please their leader who was the president of Ukraine at that time. As Mr. Kachura noted, the problem of this law should be resolved in the Constitutional Court. 

Political scientist Ruslan Bortnik believes that it is time the revocation of Law No. 2662 should be voted at a Ukrainian national referendum. According to the expert, in the situation of pressure, the Church behaved “mildly” and now this approach should be changed. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Mr. Bortnik believes, should put forward an initiative to hold a Ukrainian national referendum on the repeal of “the law on compulsory renaming”. He is confident that this decision will be supported by millions of the Ukrainian citizens. 

The meeting discussed possible further actions and steps to be made by the canonical Church in case the law is approved by the Constitutional Court. 

In conclusion, the meeting adopted a final document “Three years of attempts at the compulsory renaming of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church: Consequences, assessments, comments”. As the UOC Information Center reports, the document states that “the law on the renaming” contradicts the basic principles of freedom of conscience, the Ukrainian Constitution and international legal documents and is fraught with threats to inter-confessional peace and therefore should be immediately revoked.

The participants in the round-table conference stated that “in all times the Ukrainian Orthodox Church has been the Church of the Ukrainian people uniting millions of Ukrainian citizens who are patriots of Ukraine working daily for the good and the future of our country and defending her sovereignty”. In this connection, “manipulative and insidious are any attempts - for adventurous purposes which have nothing to do with concern for the worth-while future of Ukraine and her people - to present the UOC and millions of her faithful, Ukrainian citizens, as “enemies of Ukraine”, “the fifth column”, someone’s agents, and to deprive the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of her name and impose on her some other name”. 

The final document also states that “the law on renaming” “provides for the state’s interference in the sphere of freedom of faith, violates the principles of the separation of religious organizations form the state, their equality before law, equal rights of citizens regardless of their religious beliefs, inadmissibility of establishing any advantages or limitations of one religion, faith or religious organization over the other”. 

The participants stated that the realization of this anti-church law for three years has led to the impossibility for new religious organizations of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church to be registered, to make amendments to the statutes of the Church’s religious organizations and to register their leaders; the UOC religious organizations are deprived of the possibility to actualize the data in Ukraine’s state registers.

At the same time, the lawless re-registration of religious communities of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church as members of the “OCU” (almost 500 respective violations of the law) are linked to a considerable extent with the consequences of the adoption of the above-mentioned law. The provisions of the legislative act under discussion are fraught with a threat of raiding captures of the property of religious organizations of the canonical Church. 

The participants also emphasized the fact that as a result of the adoption of “the law on renaming”, since the late 2018, dozens of thousands of the faithful of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, who serve in the army, have been deprived of the opportunity to receive pastoral help from the clergy of their Church. 

As the participants in the event at the Kiev Laura of the Caves noted, possible ways for solving this problem could be found in the decision of the Ukrainian Constitutional Court on the non-constitutional nature of “the law on renaming” or the revocation of this legislative act by the Supreme Rada. “As the history of parliamentarism in Ukraine knows of cases of the Supreme Rada’s revoking the previously adopted decisions as contradictory to legal norms, there are reasons to hope for the wisdom and truly public rather than populist and adventurous thinking of incumbent Ukrainian people’s deputies”, reads the final document of the roundtable. 

The faithful of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church by all possible lawful means will defend their religious option and their rights, their Church and her name. “Considering the fact that this year the authorities have not heard the voice of one million citizens who spoke for the need to revoke this Law, it appears expedient to announce a new collection of citizens’ signatures under an appeal on the need for such revocation”, the authors of the final document stressed expressing confidence that this appeal will be supported not only by the faithful of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, but also “all those who are not indifferent to the respect for the fundamental rights of citizens in our country and for the Ukrainian Constitution, the ensuring of inter-confessional peace, social accord and therefore also the worth-while future of our country”.

DECR Communication Service/

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