The Patriarchate of Constantinople is morally responsible for the present oppression of the Church in Ukraine, one Church representative said.

Rivne and Sarny, Ukraine, December 3, 2018


The Ukrainian Security Service, the nation’s successor to the KGB and counterintelligence and anti-terrorism agency, has begun summoning priests of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church for interrogation.

About 20 priests of the Rivne Diocese and the deans of the Sarny Diocese of the Ukrainian Church recently received summons for questioning from the Ukrainian Security Service in the Rivne Province, all being called to appear on Wednesday at 10:00 AM.

The Rivne Diocese is among the many that have officially expressed their support for the canonical status of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and its primate His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev and All Ukraine.

News of the summons comes just after Security Service employees took part in an unannounced “inventory” of sacred items at the Kiev Caves Lavra and three buses full of Security Service members searched the residence of the Lavra’s abbot His Eminence Metropolitan Pavel of Vyshgorod and Chernobyl. It was also earlier reported that the Service has been summoning hierarchs as well.

The Ukrainian government has also begun systematically depriving the brethren of the Pochaev Lavra of the right to the monastery’s buildings.

According to the Union of Orthodox Journalists, the priests of the Dubno Deanery in the Rivne Province are the first to be targeted by the Security Services.

The priests were summoned to be questioned as witnesses but with no explanation as to what they would be testifying about, reports the site of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

As the Church site states, such provocations against the hierarchs and clergy of the Church have increased since the Bishops’ Council of the Ukrainian Church adopted a number of resolutions on November 13 rejecting Constantinople’s decisions of October 11: “In particular, illegal actions near the residences of diocesan offices and bishops of the UOC were carried out. Additionally, the systematic calling of the bishops of the UOC for conversations with the Ukrainian Security Service began.”

And the Church believes the purpose of this pressure is to force hierarchs and clergy into participating in and supporting the so-called “unification council” that Constantinople is organizing to create a new church in Ukraine.

According to Archpriest Alexander Bakhov, the head of the Ukrainian Church’s legal department, “Given the systematic nature, the simultaneity, and the mass character, these actions are aimed at the bishops with the purpose of pressuring and forcing them to participate in the ‘unification council.’”

He also stressed that these provocations are clear violations of the hierarchs’ and priests’ rights as Ukrainian citizens.

The Union of Orthodox Journalists spoke with several priests who received summons but are still perplexed about what is going on.

“I called a lawyer and together we drove up to the office, the summons was given, but not charges were pronounced. At this point, I still don’t understand what is going on,” sad Archpriest Ivan Savchuk.

And Archpriest Vasily Nachev, the head of the Rivne Diocese’s Social Department, reflects: “I was trying to figure out why I was summoned, but to no avail. Am I surprised? No, such actions are expected in light of recent Church events. In fact, this is the beginning of what the Holy Fathers warned about.”

There are also reports that the Security Service is preparing provocations in more than 20 churches of the canonical Ukrainian Church that are considered architectural monuments.

Such pressure, provocations, and attacks are only increasing against the background of Constantinople’s work towards creating a new, autocephalous church in Ukraine. The canonical Ukrainian Church has declared that it will remain faithful to the Ukrainian Church and not take part in the so-called “unification council.”

In this light, Archpriest Igor Yakimchuk, the Secretary on Inter-Orthodox Relations for the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for External Relations, has commented that the Patriarchate of Constantinople is “morally responsible” for the present oppression of the Church in Ukraine.

“Searches at the abbot of the Kiev Caves Lavra’s place are one of the many examples of discrimination and undisguised pressure on the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which is the largest religious confession in the country. The purpose of this pressure is to force the hierarchs of the UOC to participate in the so-called unification council, designed to establish a new Orthodox church in Ukraine, supported by Constantinople,” Fr. Igor commented to RIA-Novosti.

“Moral responsibility for the persecution of the canonical clergy in Ukraine belongs to the Patriarchate of Constantinople, at whose order the above-mentioned council is being organized,” the Church representative added.