Summary: Ukraine’s parliament has voted to advance a bill that could effectively ban the Ukrainian Orthodox Church over its links to Moscow. The legislation is perceived as targeting the church, which has declared its independence and support for Ukraine against Russian invaders.
Ukraine’s parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, voted overwhelmingly in favor of legislation that could lead to the banning of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. The bill requires further voting before reaching President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s desk. This move has raised concerns over the church’s ties to the Moscow Patriarchate and questions about its independence.
The Ukrainian Orthodox Church, historically affiliated with the Moscow Patriarchate, declared full independence from Moscow in May 2022 after the Russian invasion. Its leader, Metropolitan Onufry, has called on believers to defend Ukraine, but there are lingering suspicions about the church’s loyalty to Moscow. A government study earlier this year undermined the UOC’s claim of independence, stating that it remained a structural unit of the Russian Orthodox Church.
The bill, if passed, would prohibit religious organizations with ties to a religious organization located in a state involved in armed aggression against Ukraine. The UOC, one of the two rival Orthodox bodies in Ukraine, is seen as the target of this legislation. Supporters of the bill celebrated when the vote tally was announced in the Verkhovna Rada.
The Ukrainian security service, the SBU, has initiated numerous criminal proceedings against UOC representatives since the war began, including charges of treason, collaboration, and incitement to religious hatred. The UOC argues that the bill violates the right to freedom of religion enshrined in Ukraine’s constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights.
The bill is part of an ongoing standoff at the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra, a historic Orthodox site in Kyiv, where the government is attempting to evict representatives of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. The church legal department has called for a revision of the measure, stating that it undermines human rights and freedoms. The conflict between the UOC and the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, recognized as independent in 2019, has also added to the tensions.
The move has drawn criticism from Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, who accused Ukraine of oppressing those affiliated with Russian culture and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. However, the bill still requires further voting before it becomes law.
Tags: Ukraine, parliament, Orthodox Church, Moscow, religious freedom