Ukraine Parliament Targets Orthodox Churches

( – Citing concerns regarding a supposed connection to the Russian government, the Ukrainian parliament has given initial approval to a motion to ban the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) from the country.

Kyiv has accused the UOC of colluding with Moscow after the latter began its invasion of the country. While it was previously connected with the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC), the UOC said that it has since severed those ties and deny the Ukrainian government’s accusations. The UOC declared itself separate from the ROC in 2022. The Russian Orthodox Church’s leader, the Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, is a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, and has expressed support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Incidentally, Kirill has urged other churches to work to prevent the passing of the law, which he called the “mass infringements of religious rights” of the UOC. Kirill has also lodged an appeal addressed to Antonio Guterres, the Secretary General of the U.N.

The majority of Christians in Ukraine are Orthodox, but belong to the much bigger Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU), which started from the combination of two churches that split from the Russian Orthodox Church in 2018. In comparison, the UOC only holds 4% of Ukraine’s population – it used to be 18%, but the number has shrunk following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The bill to ban the UOC passed muster in the Ukrainian parliament by an overwhelming 267-15 vote, but it needs to undergo a second reading and after that, be approved by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy for the bill to fully become law. If implemented, the law would prohibit all activities of the UOC.

One Ukrainian lawmaker has described the bill as a step towards getting rid of “Moscow priests” from remaining in Ukrainian soil.

The UOC has expressed its own opposition to the bill, reiterating that it is no longer affiliated with the ROC and is an “independent and separate church.” However, the Ukrainian government has stated that it believes the UOC is still “canonically” connected to the ROC, and has accused its leader, UOC Metropolitan Pavlo, of provoking inter-religious hatred as well as distributing documents that attempt to rationalize Russia’s invasion. Pavlo, who has since been issued an electronic bracelet, has denied the accusations.

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