The All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organisations is worried about possible Government interference in the internal religious practices of the Confessions

The All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organisations (AUCCRO) plans to defend the principle of the autonomy of religious organisations and the inadmissibility of interference by state bodies in the internal religious processes, especially in the liturgical practices of the confessions, specifically the way and order in which the sacraments and ceremonies are celebrated.

Such a recommendation for leaders of the confessions was adopted by the Secretariat of AUCCRO at its February 6, 2018 session following a discussion of the possibility of the application of Article 161 of the Ukrainian Criminal Code against priests (“violation of the equal rights of citizens on grounds of race, nationality, religious beliefs, disability and other grounds”)

This issue arose from the fact that on January 11, 2018, the prosecutor’s office of the Zaporizhzhya oblast, according to Article 161 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine, initiated criminal proceedings regarding the “selective approach to the celebration of religious rites, giving preference to those individuals who had undergone baptismal rites at the UOC-MP, which offends the feelings of citizens in connection with their religious beliefs.”

The members of the Secretariat shared their concern about the criminal proceedings and agreed with the position of the UOC representative Archpriest Mykolay Danylevych, who emphasised that this is a dangerous precedent for all denominations, since it creates the possibility of interference and regulation by state structures of the procedure for the provision or celebration of church sacraments and ordinances.

In particular, the UOC representative referring to Soviet times in the history of the Church, stated: “I have not heard of any facts that prove that Soviet authorities forced the recognition of ceremonies or sacraments (religious practices) from other denominations through criminal prosecution. Yes, the persecution of the Church was cruel, but the Soviet government did not interfere with the internal religious practices of the Church. In other words, priests were not tried or imprisoned for performing a funeral service for someone or not, or whether they performed a baptism or not.

During the session, the members of the AUCCRO Secretariat also expressed concern about the “law” “On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Associations”, which was adopted by the so-called “LPR People’s Council” on February 2, 2018. This issue will also be on the agenda at the next AUCCRO session, where a common position of Ukrainian religious leaders will be formed accordingly.

 

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