UOC DECR Commentary regarding Ministry of Culture of Ukraine statement of 13.07.2017

On July 13, 2017, the Ministry of Culture of Ukraine released a statement, in which His Eminence Metropolitan Mytrofan (Yurchuk) of Luhansk and Alchevsk was accused of allegedly cooperating with authorities of the so-called “LPR”, referring to an interview of Andrey Litsoyev from 30 April 2016. In connection with this, the UOC Department for External Church Relations (DECR) announces the following:

  1. The accusations that the Ministry of Culture of Ukraine has published in a statement with regards to His Eminence Metropolitan Mytrofan of Luhansk and Alchevsk are absolutely baseless and the issue itself is clearly not a competence of the above-mentioned Ministry. In fact, the Ministry has overstepped the proper bounds of its powers and has enacted functions that go far beyond its jurisdiction. Metropolitan Mytrofan categorically rejects all of the malicious allegations levelled in his direction and claims that false information was cited in the Litsoyev interview. The statement is seen as a provocation aimed at discrediting the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) and Metropolitan Mytrofan personally.
  2. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church is today present in a place where Ukrainian authorities themselves are not present. The people who continue to live in territories not presently under the control of Ukrainian authorities – continue to be Ukrainian citizens. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church represented by its episcopacy and clergy has remained in place with our people, and they continue to live in these extremely difficult conditions. Our clergy have maintained their loyalty to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, the centre of which is located in Kyiv.
  3. The Mission of the Church in the face of conflict and war is to pacify the opposing sides. Since the times of Kyivan Rus, the Metropolitans of Kyiv often pursued a mediating role and pacified feuding feudal princes. It is obvious that the Church is called to fulfil the same peacekeeping mission today, and is making every effort to reconcile the warring sides and relieve civilian suffering.
  4. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church is the only religious organisation that is actively involved in the process of the release of captives. Relatives of the prisoners and representatives of the competent government organs continue to ask us for help in such important matters. To date, the efforts of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church have been instrumental with the release of more than fifteen Ukrainian military personnel from captivity. However, such provocative and misleading statements and totally unfounded accusations made by the Ministry of Culture of Ukraine against the Ukrainian Orthodox Church endanger the future ability of our continued efforts in facilitating the release of prisoners of war.
  5. The Ministry of Culture is increasingly using information from unverified sources, and in this particular case, an interview of one of the representatives of the “LPR” that is over a year old, testifies to the total incompetence and unprofessional nature of officers who are currently working at the Ministry. We also get the distinct impression that the Ministry intimately trusts information sources coming out of the unrecognised quasi-republic. Conversely, such a State organ as the Ministry of Culture of Ukraine would be far wiser if it cited reliable information from trusted sources.
  6. Canonical law of the Orthodox Church does not contain rules, which can result in the instigation of canonical-disciplinary action for simply expressing personal views and opinions.This right, by the way, is actually guaranteed by the Constitution of Ukraine (Article 34) and by a number of International legal acts, such as the “Universal Declaration of Human Rights “(Art. 19), the “Convention on the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms” (Article 10).
  7. The said statement released by the Ministry of Culture may indicate an attempt to prepare the ground for further provocations against the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, similar to what we have been seeing in recent years and on numerous occasions. In particular, a couple of days ago, the Committee on Culture and Spirituality of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine (VRU) recommended to approve another anti-church Draft Bill No. 5309, according to which the Ukrainian Orthodox Church would be deprived of its own name . This gives reason for this scandalous statement from the Ministry of Culture to be considered as preparation for forming public opinion with this step in mind. We are convinced that any attempt to declare the Ukrainian Orthodox Church an “enemy of the people”, deprive it of its own name, and to put it outside the law, may adversely affect the stability of Ukrainian society and lead to unpredictable consequences.

That is why we urge the Ministry of culture of Ukraine to:

• not to abuse its power and to act within the limits of authority determined by Law;

• not create enmity on religious grounds between Ukrainians;

• stop discrimination of the largest Church in the country, which represents millions of faithful Orthodox citizens of Ukraine.

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