Head of Russian Orthodox Church urges world leaders to stop Kiev from tampering with religion

The fate of millions of faithful and over 200 monasteries are in the hands of Ukraine’s president, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church said, urging the international community to stop Kiev from deepening the religious rift.

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“Recently, the interference of the leaders of the secular Ukrainian state in church affairs has grown into a blatant pressure on the episcopate and clerics of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, what allows us to speak of the beginning of the large-scale persecutions,” Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia said in a letter sent to the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, Pope Francis, head of the Anglican Communion Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, as well as other religious leaders and top politicians.

The fate of “over two hundred monasteries and millions of faithful” is currently in the hands of Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko, who, “in concert with Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople” seeks to create “some new religious organization” to replace the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church, the letter reads.

The letter came on Friday, just ahead of the so-called “unification council” scheduled for December 15. The event has been actively championed by the country’s top government officials. The gathering is supposed to bring Orthodox hierarchs together and create a new, allegedly “independent” church. The only canonical religious entity of the country – the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – is a constituent part of Moscow Patriarchate. The vast majority of its hierarchs are not expected to partake in the “unification council.”

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Active involvement of government officials in the drive for the supposed church independence is actually a blatant breach of the country’s constitution, Patriarch Kirill stressed.

“The Ukrainian President himself does not make secret his hostile attitude towards the Church. Mr. Petro Poroshenko publicly threatened to banish from the country those Ukrainians who do not want to join the “autocephalous church” which is being created by the government,” the letter reads.

The Constitution of Ukraine stipulates that ‘the church and religious organizations in Ukraine are separated from the state’ and therefore any interference of the state in inter-church relations is unconstitutional.

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