Statement of the Department for External Church Relations in connection with the deterioration of the situation regarding the provision of rights for Ukrainian Orthodox Church religious communities and faithful in the Ivano-Frankivsk oblast’

Statement of the Department for External Church Relations

in connection with the deterioration of the situation

regarding the provision of rights

for Ukrainian Orthodox Church religious communities and faithful

in the Ivano-Frankivsk oblast’

It is with sadness that the Department for External Church Relations of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC DECR) notes the significant deterioration of the situation regarding the provision of rights for UOC faithful in Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast’.

A striking example of this is the raid and seizure of the UOC Annunciation Church in Kolomyia, that was initiated and implemented on October 18, 2017 by the priests of the UGCC Mikhaylo Arsenych and Yuri Atamaniuk, with the support of the “Right Sector” and the “Chorna Sotnia” (“Black Hundred”).

Raid attempts to seize the Annunciation Church by the above-mentioned priests of the UGCC began in June 2017. Then, on June 8, 2017, the DECR UOC issued a statement in which it urged the leadership of the UGCC and the leadership of the Kolomyia-Chernivtsi diocese of the UGCC to take immediate action to resolve the issue.

On June 13-14, according to mass media reports, the situation surrounding the Annunciation Church of the UOC was discussed at the 76th session of the Synod of Bishops of the UGCC, where, it was confirmed that “the UGCC in Ukraine will continue to do its utmost to avoid violent confrontation and interdenominational conflicts and not attempt to seize churches or indeed any other property by force”.

On June 29, 2017, the Kolomyia District Court recognised the inactivity of the police and ordered it to investigate the raid attempts to seize the Annunciation Church of the UOC, and on October 4, 2017, the Ivano-Frankivsk District Administrative Court confirmed the right of the religious community of the UOC to celebrate Divine services in the Annunciation Church.

However, neither the position of the UGCC Synod nor the court rulings prevented the priests of the UGCC from forcefully seizing the Orthodox church in Kolomyia on October 18 of this year.

We call on the leadership of the UGCC and the administrators of the Kolomyia-Chernivtsi diocese of the UGCC to urge their priests to vacate the church which the UOC religious community is legally entitled to use and to also not disrupt Divine Services in future.

However, the brazen raid and seizure of the UOC Annunciation Church in Kolomyia is not the only such case in Ivano-Frankivsk oblast’. Specifically, on October 15, the seized UOC church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin in the village of Staryi Hvizdets, Kolomyia district, and the UOC church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the village of Rohynya in the Horodenka district, as well as the worsening situation surrounding the UOC church of St. George the Victorious in the village of Ostrivets in the district of Horodenka district, where local authorities and representatives of the UOC-KP are not abandoning their efforts to use strong-arm tactics and in contravention of the Laws of Ukraine, to forcibly change the jurisdiction of the UOC religious community and seize its church.

Attempts to change confessional subordination are carried out in the “traditional” way of recent times for the “UOC-KP”, ie. by initiating referendums at a general assembly of villagers, most of whom do not even belong to the religious community, and therefore, under the legislation of Ukraine, have no right to decide on denominational affiliation of the religious community of the village (Article 8 of the Law on Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organisations).

We call on local authorities to restore the violated rights of believers and religious communities of the UOC, and also not to interfere in their internal affairs, and to ensure their right to freedom of religion.

 

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