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  • Hannia
    ATLANTIC COUNCIL Taras Kuzio September 10, 2018
    Why Independence for Ukraine’s Orthodox Church Is an Earthquake for Putin

    On September 7, Ukraine inched closer to a globally recognized international church. That day, Constantinople Patriarch Bartholomew I placed Ukraine under the canonical jurisdiction of US Archbishop Daniel of Pamphilon and Canadian Bishop Ilarion of Edmonton who head Ukrainian Orthodox Churches in both countries under Constantinople’s canonical jurisdiction. Since 1685, the Russian Orthodox Church has claimed Ukraine lies within its canonical territory, but no longer. The two appointments are preparation for granting the Orthodox Church in Ukraine autocephaly (independence) from the Russian Orthodox Church.

    It’s no exaggeration to write that the granting of autocephaly from the Russian Orthodox Church to Ukraine’s millions of Orthodox believers is as significant as the disintegration of the USSR for Ukraine. Granting Ukraine’s Orthodox Church a Tomos is the last step Ukraine needs to take in order to become truly independent.

    Why have the stars aligned now?

    Ukraine has been seeking autocephaly since it became independent. When Metropolitan Filaret broke with the Russian Orthodox Church to establish the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Kyiv Patriarch (UOC-KP), it was never recognized by Constantinople. In 1990, under pressure from the nationalist drive for independence, the Russian Orthodox Church revived the autonomous status of its exarchate in Ukraine and renamed it the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC), so there have been two competing Orthodox churches in Ukraine since then. The UOC has been loyal to Moscow, while the UOC-KP represents an independent Ukraine.

    Since Russia’s annexation of Crimea and military aggression in eastern Ukraine, the Russian Orthodox Church and UOC have been unable to maintain neutrality. Russian Orthodox Church clergy have blessed Russian nationalists traveling to the Donbas. Some UOC clergy have refused to serve at funerals of Ukrainian soldiers and UOC Metropolitan Onufry (Berezovsky) and senior clergy refused to stand in parliament in honor of slain Ukrainian soldiers.

    There’s another factor working in favor of independence now. As the former ideological secretary of the atheist Communist Party in Ukraine, President Leonid Kravchuk had no legitimacy on church-state matters, while President Viktor Yushchenko’s strongly supported the UOC-KP and was perceived as anti-Russian. President Leonid Kuchma was even-handed, while Yanukovych openly backed the Russian Orthodox Church.

    President Petro Poroshenko is a deacon in the UOC and Constantinople does not view him as “anti-Russian.” Importantly, due to his influence, senior UOC clergy have supported the UOC-KP and smaller Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church in seeking autocephaly. The Ukrainian parliament strongly backs independence. Poroshenko adopted a legalistic approach to seeking autocephaly that left the Russian Orthodox Church with little room to maneuver.

    Russia also overplayed its hand in the Balkans and this also contributed. Russia’s involvement in an attempted violent coup in Montenegro to thwart it from joining NATO was followed by the expulsion of Russian intelligence officers from Greece attempting to derail the country’s rapprochement with Macedonia (permitting the latter to join NATO and EU).

    The decision to grant Ukraine autocephaly should be understood in three ways:

    First, size and power. Greece and the Constantinople Patriarch have had enough of Russia’s interference and see the emergence of an autocephalous Ukrainian Orthodox Church as a way of cutting it down to size. In the USSR, two-thirds of Russian Orthodox Church parishes were in Soviet Ukraine. Today, despite Ukraine having a third of Russia’s population, both countries have roughly the same number of Orthodox parishes (14,000).

    In the USSR, a majority of Russian Orthodox Church parishes were in western and central Ukraine, and that remains the case today. It was always therefore wrong to describe Ukraine divided between a “Catholic West” and “Orthodox East.” There are far fewer Orthodox churches in the Donbas.

    There will not be a “civil war” over religion, and most UOC faithful will peacefully join Ukraine’s new autocephalous church.

    Second, national identity. The USSR and Russian Federation have used the adoption of Orthodoxy in 988 to lay claim to Kyiv Rus as the “first Russian state.” This falsehood is sometimes repeated by Western journalists and nearly always in Western “histories of Russia.” Russian and Western historiography ignores the existence of Ukrainians until many centuries later and forever links them to Russians and Belarusians.

    Russians believe, and Russian President Vladimir Putin constantly reiterates, Kyiv Rus gave birth to the three eastern Slavs and their desire in the Tsarist, Soviet, and contemporary eras was always to remain in union. Nationalists opposed to this idea were working for various Western empires, governments, and intelligence agencies.

    In 2007, the Russkiy Mir (Russian World) was meant to unite Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine around the Russian Orthodox Church and become the core of the Eurasian Economic Union. Putin and Russian nationalists understand the word Russkiy to include the three branches of the “Russian” people (Belarussians, Russians, and Ukrainians) and regard Ukrainians as “Little Russians.” Ukrainians and Russians are “one people”’ and, as Putin said to the NATO-Russia Council in 2008, Ukraine is an artificial state.

    Ukraine rejects Russkiy Mir ideology and support for membership in the Eurasian Economic Union has plummeted. Autocephaly will reinforce growth in Ukrainian patriotism, support national integration, and spur a final divorce from Russia.

    Third, geopolitics. An independent Ukrainian Orthodox Church would mean that the Russian Orthodox Church is no longer the world’s biggest Orthodox Church. The Ukrainian and Romanian Orthodox Churches will be roughly equal in size. Constantinople will have a staunch Ukrainian ally in its dealings with the Russian Orthodox Church. While the Russian Orthodox Church is predictably anti-Western like Putin’s regime, the autocephalous Ukrainian Orthodox Church will be pro-European.

    Autocephaly will deepen existing changes in Ukrainian identity reflected in opinion polls. Ukraine’s emerging identity is premised upon European integration and distancing from Russia.

    Since 2014, Russia's soft power in Ukraine has collapsed. Only one percent of young Ukrainians support the Russian model of development while 69-71 percent of Ukrainians oppose it, including 56 percent of Russian speakers. This is an outgrowth of Russia associated in the eyes of Ukrainians with “aggression” (66 percent), “cruelty” (57 percent), and “dictatorship” (57 percent).

    With the Russian Orthodox Church as the last source of Putin’s soft power now gone, Ukraine’s movement out of Russia’s orbit is irreversible. The creation of an autocephalous Ukrainian Orthodox Church is Ukraine’s ultimate answer to Putin’s aggression. Why Independence for Ukraine’s Orthodox Church Is an Earthquake for Putin

    Taras Kuzio is a non-resident fellow at the Center for Transatlantic Relations at Johns Hopkins-SAIS, and is the author of “Putin’s War Against Ukraine” and co-author of “The Sources of Russia's Great Power Politics: Ukraine and the Challenge to the European Order.”

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  • Hannia
    Constantinople moves to grant autocephaly to Ukrainian Church, outraging Moscow
    EUROMAIDAN PRESS 2018/09/09 - 11:10 Paul A. Goble

    Yesterday, the Ecumenical Patriarchate announced that it has appointed as its exarchs in Kyiv an archbishop from the US and a bishop from Canada “both of whom are serving the Ukrainian Orthodox faithful in their respective countries under the Ecumenical Patriarchate … [as part of] preparations for granting autocephaly to the Orthodox Church in Ukraine.

    This is the clearest public statement yet that Patriarch Bartholomew in his role as the senior and universal patriarch has decided to grant autocephaly and has rejected Moscow’s insistence that Ukraine is part of the Russian church’s “canonical territory” and thus must be subject to Moscow’s diktat.

    Not surprisingly, the Moscow Patriarchate was outraged. Vladimir Legoyda, who heads the Moscow Synod’s department for relations with society and the media said that Constantinople’s action “without the agreement of the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia and the Blessed Metropolitan of Kyiv and All Ukraine is an unprecedented crude intervention into the canonical territory of the Moscow Patriarchate.”

    Such actions, Legoyda said, “cannot remain without an answer,” although he did not specify just what that “answer” might look like. Constantinople moves to grant autocephaly to Ukrainian Church, outraging MoscowEuromaidan Press |

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  • Hannia
    Russian Orthodox Church Threatens Retaliation Against Istanbul-Based Patriarch
    September 08, 2018 21:02 GMT

    The Russian Orthodox Church has threatened to retaliate against its Istanbul-based rival if it allows Ukraine to cut its spiritual ties with Moscow and thereby end Russian religious rule in the country.

    Metropolitan Hilarion, head of the Russian Orthodox Church's External Relations Department, said on September 8 that if the patriarch of Kyiv was recognized, "we will have no choice but to sever relations with Constantinople."

    Hilarion also accused Istanbul-based Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople of acting in a "despicable and treacherous way."

    Bartholomew, known as the "first among equals" of Orthodox Christian leaders in the world, is expected to rule in the coming months on an appeal from Ukraine to break away from Moscow and create an independent church.

    The Russian Orthodox Church is especially upset with a decision on September 7 by Bartholomew to send two envoys to Ukraine as a step toward declaring ecclesiastical independence for the church there.

    The Istanbul-based Patriarchate said it will send two bishops to Ukraine "within the framework of the preparations for the granting of autocephaly to the Orthodox Church in Ukraine," strongly suggesting it had already decided to grant independence to the Orthodox Church in Ukraine.

    "When one brazenly and cynically interferes in the affairs of a local Orthodox Church, one creates not only a hopeless situation, but threatens the global Orthodox world with a schism," Russian news agencies quoted Hilarion as saying.

    Bartholomew's rival in Russia, Patriarch Kirill, has called the prospect of the Ukrainian church being separated from Moscow an "all-Orthodox catastrophe."

    The Russian church claims authority over the church in Ukraine. But many Ukrainian parishes reject the Moscow Patriarchate and have formed a separate church that is pushing for recognition as a self-governing, or autocephalous, institution.

    The Orthodox Church in Ukraine is therefore split between a branch whose clerics pledge loyalty to Moscow and one that is overseen by the unrecognized Kyiv-based Patriarch Filaret.

    While Constantinople is the oldest Orthodox Church, Moscow is currently the most powerful, with the largest number of worshippers.

    It is unclear what granting Ukraine the right to create an independent church will mean in practice.

    But experts say it would be a blow to Russia's spiritual authority in the Orthodox world. The row comes against the backdrop of a four-year conflict between Kyiv and Russian-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine that has made many Ukrainians turn away from the Moscow church.
    With reporting by AFP and AP

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  • Hannia
    Ecumenical Patriarchate refutes reports on Russia's attempt to poison Patriarch Bartholomew during talks
    UNIAN 03 September 2018

    At the same time, Yevstratii Zorya of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (KP) noted that it was the Russia delegation who were apparently afraid that Patriarch Kirill could be poisoned in Constantinople.

    Archbishop Job Getcha of the Constantinople Patriarchate made a remark on the reports about "an attempt to poison the Patriarch Bartholomew" during the talks with the delegation of Russia's Patriarch Kirill.

    "Stupid fake news. The servant giving drinks is a worker of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. We, at the Ecumenical Patriarchate, do not allow guests to do the service. Greek hospitality forbids!," the Archbishop, a Canadian with Ukrainian roots, who was the official spokesman of the All-Orthodox Council in 2016, commented on Facebook, according to Yevstratii Zorya of the Chernihiv Diocese chief at the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate.

    He now represents the Ecumenical Patriarchate at the World Council of Churches.

    At the same time, Yevstratii Zorya noted that the real attention in the video in question, released by the Ukrainian Local Orthodox Church Facebook community, should be paid to the moment where the Russian security guard points to Patriarch Kirill the glass he should take that has apparently been checked.

    "That is, the Muscovites really believe that their patriarch could be poisoned in the Ecumenical Patriarchate," the cleric wrote. The detail, which well demonstrated the price of Moscow's verbal assurance in 'happy brotherly feelings' the meeting has left. [Patriarch Kirill's] 15 guards, too."

    As UNIAN reported earlier, on September 2 meetings (Synaxis) were held of the Hierarchy of the Ecumenical Throne Constantinople (Istanbul), Turkey, to consider the question whether the Church of Constantinople is authorized, without the consent of other churches, to grant autonomy, or autocephaly, to a church that has requested it.

    Following the meetings, the answer was positive: "Yes, the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople is authorized to grant autocephaly without any consent [from other churches]."

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  • Hannia
    Ecumenical Patriarch to grant Ukrainian Orthodox autocephaly, Greek Church source says
    EUROMAIDAN PRESS 2018/09/02 - 12:59
    The Ecumenical Patriarch of the Orthodox Church, Bartholomew I of Constantinople (R) receiving Moscow Patriarch Kirill (L). Istanbul, Turkey. August 2018 (Photo:

    The Ecumenical Patriarch of the Orthodox Church, Bartholomew I of Constantinople, has decided to grant autocephaly to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, according to a Greek church site, giving a major victory to Kyiv and inflicting an even larger geopolitical defeat on the Moscow Patriarchate and the Kremlin.

    Archbishop Yevstraty Zorya, the press secretary of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate, citing the Greek outlet, says that Bartholomew informed Moscow Patriarch Kirill about his decision during the latter’s recent visit to Constantinople.

    Yevstraty added that the headline in the Greek source could be translated as “The Die is Cast! Ukraine is Receiving Autocephaly.”
    He said that Patriarch Kirill left his meeting with Bartholomew “in not the best spirit.” But Ukrainians are celebrating what will be a major victory for them.

    A spokesman for the Ecumenical Patriarch told that “no one wants yet another split,” something Moscow has threatened if Constantinople proceeded.

    “Everyone wants unity in the Church.” But he added the Ecumenical Patriarchate won’t be guided in its action by “threats from anyone,” a clear rebuff to Moscow.

    According to the spokesman, the Ecumenical Patriarch took the decision about offering autocephaly to the Ukrainian Church in April and is now in the process of implementing it. And in the months since, Constantinople has signaled that it intends to meet Ukraine’s request although it has not provided a specific date.

    It is important to recognize what the grant of autocephaly in Ukraine will and won’t do.

    It will elevate the status of the Ukrainian church and underscore its separation from Moscow, but it won’t end the existence of the Moscow Patriarchate’s network of churches in Ukraine, although it will undoubtedly cause many of them to shift their subordination to Kyiv.

    Most important, it will undermine the Moscow Patriarchate’s claim to speak for all Orthodox on the former Soviet space and cost the church itself a great deal of its income given that half of its existing congregations are in Ukraine rather than in Moscow. And it will call into question Moscow’s claim to be the largest Orthodox church in the world.

    Obviously, Moscow both religious and secular isn’t going to accept this without a fight. But the decision of the Ecumenical Patriarch means that Ukraine has won a major victory, one that it is likely to build on in the future and one that may serve as a model for other post-Soviet states as far as Orthodoxy is concerned. Ecumenical Patriarch to grant Ukrainian Orthodox autocephaly, Greek Church source saysEuromaidan Press |

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  • Hannia
    Fancy Bear And The Patriarchs: Russian Hackers Said To Target Orthodox Clergy
    RFE/RL August 31, 2018 14:36 GMT
    AP News Agency

    An investigation by the Associated Press claims hackers from Russian intelligence have been targeting the e-mail of senior clerics from the Orthodox Christian Church. Some analysts say this could be part of the Kremlin's attempts to keep Ukraine's church under Moscow's control.

    See video:

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  • Hannia
    Waiting for Constantinople’s historical decision on Church autocephaly in Ukraine
    EUROMADAN PRESS 2018/08/30 - 12:15
    Aleksandr Morozov, Russian journalist, political commentator

    The Ukrainian Orthodox Church has reached an important milestone. Not only is Constantinople’s promise to grant the Tomos of Autocephaly to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church decisive for Ukraine, but it is also important for Europe as a whole.

    When Russia annexed Crimea and invaded the Donbas in 2014, it was clear that it was only a matter of time before the issue of an independent Orthodox Church in Ukraine would once again be on the agenda.

    And so it is… In April, the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople officially accepted the appeal to grant the Tomos of Autocephaly to the Orthodox Church in Ukraine, a document that would allow a significant part of Ukrainian Orthodox faithful and churches to quit the Moscow Patriarchate and become one of the legitimate Local (Autocephalous) Churches.

    Previously, the Ecumenical Patriarchate was not very willing to make a clear statement on the future of an independent Orthodox Church in Ukraine. However, Patriarch Bartholomew has publicly confirmed that work on the Tomos is underway.

    After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Orthodox parishes in Ukraine were divided into three groups. Initially, most of the parishes belonged to the Moscow Patriarchate; a few parishes joined the Kyiv Patriarchate led by Metropolitan Filaret, and the smallest group called itself the Ukrainian Autocephalous Church. Today, the number of faithful and parishes belonging to the Kyiv Patriarchate and supporters of autocephaly far outnumbers the number of pro-Moscow parishioners. Moscow has not recognized Metropolitan Filaret to this very day.

    We are currently caught up in an active phase of negotiations and controversy. Will Patriarch Bartholomew receive the support of the other leaders of Local Churches – there are 15 of them – in order to decide on the creation of an autocephalous church in Ukraine even if Moscow is against it? Such a decision seemed virtually impossible before. Moreover, even among the Orthodox parishes in Ukraine there never used to be a strong movement toward autocephaly. But, the historical situation has changed. Everyone understands this, both in Kyiv and in Moscow, as well as at the headquarters of the other eastern churches.

    It’s a straightforward question. If the Ecumenical Patriarch declares a Tomos to create a canonically recognized Local Church in Ukraine, then the parishes of the afore-mentioned three groups will be allowed to join this newly-created independent Local Church. The authorities in Kyiv guarantee that those who do not want to join can retain their old status and parishes.

    Moscow argues that such a decision could lead to conflicts, a split in Orthodoxy and might even result in civil war in Ukraine. This is, of course, a gross exaggeration. The unity of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church with Moscow has already been severely damaged by the Kremlin’s policies after 2014. A Local Church in Ukraine would mean the end of this frozen situation, which has remained static after the collapse of the USSR.

    Why should the European Union and the European countries pay more attention to this situation? Until 2014, the Moscow concept of the “Russkiy mir” (Russian world) was generally cultural and historic. But, when Russia invaded Ukraine, it became clear that Moscow was using the “Russian world” as a neo-imperial concept and just another tool for its hybrid war.

    Unfortunately, the Moscow Patriarchate did not distance itself from this ideological change. Thus, another situation has arisen, whereby belonging to the “Moscow church” is a sign of adhering to the ideology of Moscow’s neo-imperial hegemony. This argument was the basis for a movement that has gained more and more momentum within Ukrainian parishes and among the episcopate. Even Metropolitan Onufriy, the current head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate, is said to have supported autocephaly as a historical mission in the early 1990s.

    The appearance of an important canonical Orthodox Church in Eastern Europe, which would be focused on European development and integration, constitutes a very significant historic event. Several European countries have a dominant Orthodox Church. Some of them are already members of the European Union (Greece, Bulgaria, Romania); others (Serbia) are on their way. The creation of an independent Orthodox Church in Ukraine would place it among these European countries.

    Moscow has the power and resources to exert pressure on the Synod of the Church of Greece, and also expects that Georgia, Bulgaria and Romania will not support the Ecumenical Patriarchate and Kyiv. According to the Ukrainian media, the Tomos has already been drafted, but not yet signed by Patriarch Bartholomew and members of the Synod of Constantinople. Metropolitan Ilarion – the right hand of Kirill, Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church – visited Greece in late June, and often meets with the leaders of the other Local Churches. In fact, he seeks to destroy the slowly-emerging alliance in favour of Ukrainian autocephaly.

    Seen from a long-term historical perspective, it is clear that Moscow will not retain its ecclesiastical domination in Ukraine. As a matter of fact, it would be beneficial for Moscow to agree to Ukrainian autocephaly. In the future, canonical relations between the two countries would become simpler and equal to those of Moscow with the Serbian and Bulgarian Church.

    Autocephaly would allow both churches to escape politics and remain “sister churches” exclusively in the Christian sense.

    In this sense, if the Ecumenical Patriarchate now makes this historic decision on Ukrainian autocephaly, it will lay solid foundations for the future development of a true European Orthodox community. Waiting for Constantinople's historical decision on Church autocephaly in Ukraine |Euromaidan Press |

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  • Hannia
    Cleric: 'No going back' on Ukraine split from Russia Church
    Associated Press AYSE WIETING Aug 31, 2018 09:07 AM CDT

    ISTANBUL (AP) - A senior official in the Orthodox Church says "there's no going backwards" in granting Ukrainian clerics full ecclesiastic independence from the Russian Orthodox Church to which they have been tied to for hundreds of years.

    However, Metropolitan Emmanuel of France, who is part of a committee dealing with the Ukrainian question, told The Associated Press that the final step of the procedure has yet to be reached.

    His comments came as Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I welcomed Patriarch Kirill of Moscow in Istanbul on Friday.

    Ukraine's president has launched a campaign to persuade Bartholomew, seen by many as the first among equals of Orthodox leaders, to accept Ukraine's request.

    Ukrainian politicians see a declaration, known as a "Tomos of Autocephaly," as a key step in consolidating their country's national identity.

    Russian religious leaders see it as an attack on Orthodox unity and are fighting to stop it.

    "Today, the Ecumenical Patriarch repeated in person, in this meeting of the two primates, that the decision of the Ecumenical Patriarchate is reached and we are not going backwards," Emmanuel said. "So we are following this decision, we are implementing the decision."

    He added: "We have not reached the end of the procedure. The Tomos, which is the decision that is issued, is at the last stage of this implementation. But we have still some work to do and this is what the Ecumenical Patriarchate is coordinating."

    Earlier this week, The Associated Press reported on a Russian digital espionage campaign targeting Bartholomew's top aides in the midst of the religious tussle between Kiev and Moscow over the religious future of Ukraine.

    The AP found that the same hackers charged with intervening in the 2016 U.S. presidential election also spent years trying to eavesdrop on Bartholomew's entourage.

    The granting of the "Tomos of Autocephaly" would be a momentous step, eroding the power and prestige of the Moscow Patriarchate, which has positioned itself as a leading player within the global Orthodox community.

    Russia's Tass news agency, meanwhile, quoted Patriarch Kirill after the meeting with Bartholomew that "the organization of the Orthodox churches is such that not one church can make a decision that contradicts the position of the other churches. Therefore we are simply programmed for cooperation."

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  • Hannia
    Russian Parents Worried Orthodox Priests Are 'Zombifying' Their Kids At Summer Camp
    RADIO FREE EUROPE - RADIO LIBERTY August 27, 2018 15:22 GMT
    Aleksandr Molchanov & Robert Coalson

    PETROPAVLOVSK-KAMCHATSKY, Russia -- Earlier this month, a local eparchy of the Russian Orthodox Church announced its "Bells Over Kamchatka" project.

    Priests, it pledged in a small notice on its website, would "carry out meetings and conversations" at all the children's summer camps in the region before the beginning of the school year.

    The church's article described one priest's visit to the Voskhod (Sunrise) camp, during which he lectured on the history of bells in the church and gave the children the chance to ring a miniature carillon. The visit was conducted under a joint program between the eparchy and the Kamchatka Krai Ministry of Youth and Education.

    A week later, local resident Aleksei Nikolayev appealed to the regional prosecutor's office over what he saw as proselytizing to his 10-year-old daughter at the same camp this summer.

    "I didn't care about this until it affected me personally," he said. "At summer camp, some priests spoke with my child and this made me mad. I read about it first on [local news website] Kam24 and then, naturally, spoke to the child."

    Nikolayev asked prosecutors to file criminal charges against the clergymen and government officials who organized the events.

    Kam24 reported on August 20 that children at another camp, Mettalist, had been baptized with the consent of officials at the camp.

    "I saw several publications on the Kam24 website about how priests carried out a mass baptism of children at the camp," Nikolayev told RFE/RL. "There were reports that members of the National Guard were kissing some [religious] relics. Prosecutors, too. I don't know exactly what relics, but some sort of bones were brought around to all the offices."

    A spokesperson at the eparchy acknowledged in the Kam24 report that there had been baptisms.

    "Fourteen children from children's correctional home No. 3 who were vacationing at the Metallist children's camp were baptized," the spokesperson said. The church also reported that local nuns were made godmothers to the newly baptized children.

    "We have bureaucrats who are growing fat at the expense of the people," Nikolayev said. "And now there is the church as well, which is also getting fat at our expense. I have very negative views of religion, of the church. And not just the Orthodox Church but all of them."

    The director of the Voskhod camp, Olga Petukhova, told RFE/RL that she saw no problem with the church's presentation to the children at her camp.

    "I was personally present during the entire lecture," she said. "Father Boris Murzin came and told the children about bells in Russia and gave the children the chance to ring a church bell. I don't understand why some parents are reacting in this way. After all, this is our history, part of our life. During the whole lecture, the word 'Orthodox' was not pronounced. The whole thing was about the historical side of the issue."

    Although the Kamchatka eparchy declined to comment for RFE/RL's story, the article on the church's website describes the Voskhod visit as "a missionary trip."

    Critics in Russia have expressed concern about the Russian Orthodox Church's close relations with the government under President Vladimir Putin and its perceived influence in cultural and social affairs.

    Inna Zagrebina, a lawyer who specializes in church-state relations and who is participating in Nikolayev's appeal, told RFE/RL that the law forbids children under the age of 14 from being "drawn into the activity of religious organizations." Other laws protect children under the age of 18, she added, saying that the authorities are obliged to respond to complaints from parents of such children.

    "Missionary activity should not be taking place in children's camps," she said. "It is another matter if in this particular case we aren't talking about missionary work but about exposing the children to historical and cultural values."

    She said that prosecutors would likely be looking into the legal status of the event and whether there was "an agreement on cooperation between the camp and the eparchy."

    "They will also have to check whether the parents agreed to this program or not," Zagrebina said.

    Nikolayev recalled that last year, parents at his daughter's school were asked to choose an elective course for religious and moral education.

    "They gave us the option of six or seven confessions," he said, "plus there was the choice of 'foundations of secular ethics.' That is the one that we chose, since I protect my daughter from everything religious. [In my daughter's class], 21 of the 28 children are studying secular ethics. Several are studying Islam, but not one is taking Orthodoxy."

    Nikolayev said a few years ago parents were upset to learn that priests were teaching in public schools.

    "People got angry and wrote to the prosecutor and so on," he said. "The priests stopped going to the schools. Now they are going to the camps. They don't give up. They are zombifying underage children and imposing their religion."

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  • Hannia
    On A Holy Roll: Russian Church Flexes Secular Muscle With Restitution Push
    RADIO FREE EUROPE Russia Svetlana Prokopeva & Robert Coalson
    Aug 18, 2018 13:20 GMT

    VLADIMIR, Russia -- The unique, UNESCO-protected 12th-century Golden Gate is a gem of this ancient city some 200 kilometers east of Moscow.

    Currently, it is owned by the Culture Ministry and houses an exhibition about the seizure of the city by Mongols in 1238. It is one of the key stops along the legendary Golden Ring tourist route of quintessential medieval cities including Yaroslavl, Suzdal, Kostroma, Rostov, among others.

    But if the Russian Orthodox Church gets its way, the Golden Gate could soon become church property. The church has submitted a claim to the fortification, one of hundreds of similar claims it has filed with the government since passage of a 2010 law on the restitution of church property.

    Officials and many locals in Vladimir are not happy at the prospect of turning over a talisman of the city to the church.

    "The Golden Gate has long been the symbol of our city -- and not a religious symbol," said Aleksandr Karpilovich, spokesman for the mayor's office. About 1,000 people have signed an online petition urging that the church's request be denied.

    Local activist Ilya Kosygin, who started the petition and whose grandmother's family actually was assigned housing inside the Golden Gate in the 1920s, agrees.

    "It is the foundation of our local identity," he said. "This is the Golden Gate – Vladimir is an ancient city, a former capital. This is an important feeling to have."

    The church's claim to the edifice is based on the presence of a small church above the gate, inside the fortification.

    "But the Golden Gate was never a working church," said Alica Aksyonova, former founding director of the Vladimiro-Suzdal museum complex. "In all eight centuries of its existence, almost nine now, they only held services there for [only] 40 years."

    She added that one must ascend 64 medieval steps to reach the church, meaning it is essentially useless for services intended for the Russian Orthodox Church's largely elderly constituency. In addition, she added, the museum complex has never stood in the way of the church conducting services in any of the buildings under its control. But now things have changed.

    "The main thing [for the church] is to be able to report that one more monument of the 12th century belongs to the church," Aksyonova told RFE/RL. "They are going after everything -- every day, insatiably."

    The 8-year-old restitution law was intended to enable the church to regain control of religious buildings that were forcibly nationalized by the atheist Soviet government. Many of those buildings were destroyed, while others were abandoned or used as storage. Beginning in the 1960s, however, many of the most prominent monuments were restored by the government and turned into museums.

    Under the 2010 law, the decision on restitution is up to the government's property agency, Rosimushchestvo, which is one of the most opaque agencies in the Russian government. The Culture Ministry, which owns many of the properties in question, is only able to submit a counterstatement with its objections. The law stipulates that if a property is handed over to the church, the state must give an "equivalent" property to the previous owner.

    In the case of the Golden Gate, said museum director Igor Konyshev, that is simply nonsense. He added that past experience shows that restitution to the church means sharply reduced public access to the country's cultural heritage.

    "In the mid-1990s, about 15 local churches were handed over to the church," Konyshev said. "Among them was the UNESCO monument the Prokrov na Nerli Church. These days, the Prokrov na Nerli Church has basically been eliminated from the tourist agenda.... Yes, you can see it on the covers of [history and culture] textbooks, but just try to get inside it!"

    Since 2012, the church has applied to have 26 monuments in Vladimir Oblast restituted, including the Georgiyevsky Cathedral in Gus-Khrustalny and the Spaso-Yefimiyevsky Monastery in Suzdal. Most of the church's applications are eventually granted because, under the law, they can be refused only if it can be demonstrated the building never served a religious function.

    But it is far from a local phenomenon. There is no general database, but local media reports from the last few weeks show the church seeking three buildings in downtown Yekaterinburg, a residential building in Moscow, a riverfront plot of land in Cheboksary, and the St. Nicholas Cathedral in St. Petersburg.

    According to the newspaper Delovoi Peterburg, authorities in St. Petersburg alone have transferred 101 monuments to religious organizations since the restitution law was passed -- most of them to the Russian Orthodox Church.

    Last month in Yaroslavl, church lawyers gathered for a seminar on how to make applications under the 2010 law.

    On August 10, the entire country was rocked when the iconic, 18th-century wooden Uspensky Church near the far northern town of Kondopoga went up in flames and was completely destroyed.

    Although authorities suspect arson, some experts are blaming the Russian Orthodox Church, which gained ownership of the masterpiece from the Culture Ministry in May 2017.

    "The church was given a gift of enormous value," said Vyacheslav Orfinsky, a professor of architecture and director of the Folk Architecture Research Institute. "The church definitely bears responsibility. We all thought those people would be doubly interested in protecting it -- for religious reasons and because of their moral code. But this incident shows their complete lack of care. Gaining control of such a monument, they should have done everything to protect it. The church has to answer for what happened."

    "This was not only a religious monument," he added. "It was a cultural monument, a monument of our common culture. I think that in the best case, what happened shows irresponsibility and bungling by the church.... Such national treasures must be under the protection of the Culture Ministry."

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  • Hannia
    Colorado Springs Catholics helping churches in Ukraine
    THE GAZETTE Michelle Karas Aug 5, 2018

    After visiting a sister parish in Ukraine in 1995, the Rev. Paul Wicker returned to his congregation at Holy Apostles Catholic Church with one recommendation: “We have to do this.”

    While on the trip, Wicker encountered proud people who had maintained their faith despite living in extreme poverty.

    “I was there for the Easter season,” he recalled. “They had a little church, and the condition of it was terrible. There was no heat, and the windows were Saran-wrapped. Later I watched as people lined up for one loaf of bread. There was no infrastructure and no jobs. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.”

    Wicker said he saw “Christ rising from the graves of communism” in Ukraine, which had been freed from Russia in 1991 but still struggled in its shadow.

    With the support of the Holy Apostles parish in Colorado Springs, Wicker started Catholic Outreach to Northern Ukraine. By 2000, CONU was an established nonprofit whose members made team visits to that area, helping to rebuild churches and provide aid. The group sent pediatricians, nurses and dentists, help for orphanages and rehabilitation centers, and supported a blind community and nuns who were helping single mothers.

    Wicker, who retired from Holy Apostles in 2015, continues his mission today as executive director of CONU.

    “The mission was to give them self-reliance. We are trying to help them help themselves,” he said. “They, in return, gift to us their stories.”

    CONU, which raises money for a variety of needs in Northern Ukraine, is holding an informal meeting Wednesday to attract interest and show appreciation to donors. A slideshow of CONU’s activities will be shown.

    The meeting starts at 6:30 p.m. at the Third Space Coffee Shop, 5670 N. Academy Blvd. All are welcome to attend.

    “We’ve been heartened by the community’s response to CONU over the years. This meeting is a larger attempt to reach more people,” said retired Air Force Lt. Col. David Humpert, a former Air Force Academy Russian language assistant professor who, with his wife, Mikell, is social media director for CONU.

    The Ukrainian Catholic community still needs help, Humpert said.

    “Churches were closed or destroyed by the communists, but there remained a kernel of faith,” he said. “They’re good people with good Slavic hearts. They’re very spiritual. They would put a lot of us who we consider to be faithful to shame.”

    Like Wicker, the Humperts felt called to help the faithful in Ukraine.

    CONU’s board has 11 members from Colorado Springs, plus three from the Ukrainian parish.

    “We’re just a group of like-minded people,” Humpert said.

    The latest project is helping to build a pastoral education center in central Ukraine.

    “We can help with the renewal of their spirit. They bring to us the example of working through darkness,” Wicker said. “You’ve heard of pay it forward. We want to pray it forward.”

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  • Hannia
    INTERFAX-UKRAINE 15:14 02.08.2018
    Kyiv Pechersk Lavra, Pochayiv Lavra monasteries to be transferred to Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Filaret

    Russia does not have church property in Ukraine, and after the recognition of the united Ukrainian Orthodox Church, the latter will receive the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra and Pochayiv Lavra monasteries, Head of Ukraine's Orthodox Church (Kyiv Patriarchate) Filaret has said.

    "The fact is that the Moscow Patriarchate does not own any property in Ukraine: it does not have any property. For example, take the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra and Pochayiv Lavra monasteries, which belong to the Ukrainian state. The state transferred its property to the Ukrainian Church (Moscow Patriarchate), but when Ukraine's Orthodox Church is recognized, the monasteries will be transferred to the Ukrainian church," Filaret said during an interview with the Priamy TV channel, published on the UOC-KP's website.

    Filaret said churches built using the funds of the parishes are the property of the parishes, and not of Russia.

    "Therefore, Russia has no church property in Ukraine," Filaret said.

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  • Hannia
    INTERFAX-UKRAINE 18:32 30.07.2018
    Tomos on granting autocephaly to Ukrainian Orthodox Church still not written

    The text of the Tomos on granting autocephaly to Ukraine's Orthodox Church does not exist, although there is a draft, Yaroslav Kotsiuba, author of an expert analysis for the Institute of World Policy, has said.

    "A couple of months ago there was information that Tomos was already written. This is incorrect. We managed to find out that it is not yet written. There is not text, only a draft document," Kotsiuba said in Kyiv on Monday.

    According to the expert, writing Tomos is not a big problem. He said a similar document issued to the Polish Orthodox Church in 1924 could be used as a template.

    Kotsiuba spoke about three components of the Tomos - the rationale, where it will be said that "the territory of Ukraine is the former territory of the Kyiv Metropolis" and that the Patriarchate of Constantinople gives its consent to the creation of an autocephalous church in Ukraine.

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  • Hannia
    Orthodox Believers In Russia, Ukraine Mark Anniversary Of Christian Conversion
    RADIO FREE EUROPE July 29, 2018 08:18 GMT

    Thousands of Orthodox Christian believers marched and chanted through the streets of Moscow, Kyiv, and other cities, marking the 1,030th anniversary of the adoption of Christianity in the region.

    The July 28 events commemorated the date in 988 of the baptism of Prince Vladimir, who was the leader of a federation of Slavic tribes known as Kievan Rus.

    Centuries later, the federation evolved into the Russian Empire.

    Underscoring how deeply politics have become intertwined with religion, Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke to thousands of clergy and believers in Moscow, at a statue dedicated to Prince Vladimir.

    Adopting Christianity was "the starting point for the formation and development of Russian statehood, the true spiritual birth of our ancestors, the determination of their identity. Identity, the flowering of national culture and education," Putin said.

    The head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, referenced the fact that Putin shares a first name with Prince Vladimir.

    "I think there is no such thing as a coincidence, especially when we are talking about people whose actions truly change the world," Kirill told Putin.

    The location where Prince Vladimir was reportedly baptized is located on the Crimean Peninsula, the Black Sea region in what is now Ukraine. Russia seized Crimea in 2014, and Putin has in the past referenced the baptismal site as part justification for the unrecognized annexation.

    In Kyiv, meanwhile, thousands of people marched through the streets carrying religious icons and Ukrainian flags.

    Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko condemned the Russian Orthodox Church, calling it a threat to national security.

    The Orthodox Church in Ukraine is split between the largest branch whose clerics pledge loyalty to the head of the Russian church, and one that is overseen by Kyiv-based patriarch.
    With reporting by AP and AFP

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  • Hannia
    President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko
    Official website 28 July 2018 - 10:07
    The Ukrainian Church and its leaders have the right to their place among the Churches - the representative of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew

    At the celebration of the 1030th anniversary of Christianization of Ukraine-Rus’, representative of His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew Metropolitan of France Emmanuel emphasized that the Ecumenical Patriarch “will not leave his Ukrainian sons unprotected and abandoned”.

    "The Ecumenical Patriarch cannot remain blind and deaf to the appeals that have been repeated for more than a quarter of a century," Metropolitan Emmanuel said. "Sons of the Ukrainian Church and its leaders have the right to their place among the Churches," he added.

    "The Mother Church has already passed the ruling on April 20 this year. Namely - to begin the procedure for achieving the ultimate goal - to provide autocephaly to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church," representative of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew noted. He added that this became possible after the appeal of the Ukrainian authorities, the President of Ukraine, "which is the successor to the political structure of Kyivan Rus".

    "We are sure that the Ecumenical Patriarchate is on your side. You will not be orphaned because the Mother Church will find a way to become involved in your progress, your success, your growth in the faith of Christ," Metropolitan Emmanuel said.

    "We express our hope that our Lord will fill all your needs. May God bless you," Metropolitan Emmanuel said and gave blessings to the Ukrainian people from the Ecumenical Patriarch.

    Metropolitan Emmanuel stressed that the Ecumenical Patriarchate "will not allow those who hate the truth to make their devilry here in Ukraine".
    The Ukrainian Church and its leaders have the right to their place among the Churches - the representative of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew — Official website of the President of Ukraine

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