05 August 2014, 14:58
Russian Church urges Ukrainian authorities to stop persecutions against Orthodox Christians
Moscow, August 5, Interfax - The Moscow Patriarchate has urged the Ukrainian authorities to prevent an inter-faith standoff in Ukraine.
"We are calling on the Ukrainian state authorities to put a barrier in the way of those who would want the civil conflict to escalate into an inter-faith standoff as such a scenario would largely postpone the long-awaited peace on Ukrainian land," the Synodal Information Department said in a statement obtained by Interfax-Religion on Tuesday.
A cleric from the St. George's Church in the Lugansk diocese, Archpriest Vladimir Kreslyanskiy, died from injuries sustained in a shelling of residential areas of Lugansk, the document said. His five children are now orphans.
"Ever more reports are being received about acts of violence against churches of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and its priests who found themselves in the hostilities zone," the statement said.
Its authors stressed that Orthodox priests in the Ukrainian regions engulfed by fighting "actively continue ministering and peacekeeping amid constant threats to their life and the life and welfare of their families, without leaving their flock."
"At the same time, the churches and priests of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church not only increasingly suffer from consequences of the hostilities, they also become targets of deliberate attacks by Greek Catholics and schismatics who are using civilian sentiments to attain their malicious goals," the Synodal Department said.
Priests are being harassed, tortured and intimidated, detained and interrogated by armed members of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church or non-canonical groups, who claim they are authorized by the government and put forward "absurd accusations and ultimatums, including that of pulling out from the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and, therefore, re-writing the church's property," the statement said.
Having recalled that some of the attacks by armed people against priests, including beatings and threats of harm, were set out in a letter by the locum tenens of the Kiev Metropolia Metropolitan Onufry to Ukrainian President Petr Poroshenko, the Synodal Department called "for an immediate investigation of the said incidents both by the Ukrainian authorities and competent international human-rights organizations."
"Particular alarm is raised by the attempts by some of the Greek Catholic priests and representatives of schismatic communities to exchange the support by certain radical forces for the right to dictate and violence with respect to parishes of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church which has consistently maintained the peacekeeping position," the statement said.
Its authors are convinced that the only way to end the fratricidal war in Ukraine is to rely on values shared by both sides to the conflict and "preserved in the Orthodox spiritual heritage of the God-loving Ukrainian people," and urged all Ukrainian policy-makers to support the Ukrainian Orthodox Church "in its unifying, peacekeeping mission for the benefit of the whole people."