20 November 2018, 19:18
Ukrainian Orthodox Church says its bishops are being pressured into attending "unification gathering"
Kiev, November 20, Interfax - The Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) has sounded alarm over the pressure being put on its archbishops to force them to attend the so-called unification gathering which aims to create a church independent of Moscow.
"To date there have been efforts by various forces to put pressure on UOC bishops. This is evidenced by a number of pickets and unlawful acts outside UOC diocesan offices and bishop residences. (...) Furthermore, UOC bishops have been summoned for a talk at the SBU [Security Service of Ukraine]. Given their consistency, simultaneity and mass scale, these acts are aimed at pressuring bishops and forcing them to participate in the so-called 'unification gathering'," the UOC head lawyer Archpriest Alexander Bakhov was quoted by the UOC's information department as saying on Tuesday.
These provocations are a direct violation of the Ukrainians' constitutional rights, the archpriest said.
"By organizing a project such as 'the unified local Ukrainian church,' the state is providing for the freedom of conscience right of a certain part of Ukrainian citizens while violating the rights of the other part which belongs to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church," the priest said.
The recent pickets staged by autocephaly supporters outside various diocesan offices were "clearly of an artificial and centralized nature," like the one outside the residence of Archbishop Feodosy Boyarsky, which "immediately" broke up before even police arrived, the lawyer said. "Apparently, they were tipped off," he said.
The pressure on the canonical Church bishops was "to expected to a degree," given that the UOC episcopate had refused to support the Patriarchate of Constantinople and Ukrainian government's decision to create an autocephalous church in this country, the priest said.
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