Moscow, September 26, Interfax - In reply to a statement released by the United States Department of State on the protection of religious freedom in Ukraine, the Moscow Patriarchate has insisted on the need to protect the rights of the parishioners of the canonical Church.
"The logic of protecting religious freedom suggests that the choice of the canonical Church, which has distanced itself from the granting of autocephaly, should be defended by American diplomacy as a manifestation of religious freedom," the deputy head of the Russian Orthodox Church's Synodal Department for Church, Society and Media Relations, Vakhtang Kipshidze, told Interfax-Religion on Wednesday.
U.S. State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert said on Tuesday that the U.S. "respects the ability of Ukraine's Orthodox religious leaders and followers to pursue autocephaly according to their beliefs. We respect the Ecumenical Patriarch as a voice of religious tolerance and interfaith dialogue."
The U.S. "strongly supports religious freedom, including the freedom of members of groups to govern their religion according to their beliefs and practice their faiths freely without government interference," Nauert said.
Kipshidze said that the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church embraces most of the believers in the country and that the recent decision of its Synod not to take part in the "Constantinople affair" should be protected by mechanisms for protecting religious freedom both at the level of the U.S. Department of State and at the level of international organizations.
"If someone concludes from this statement that the State Department will support only what seems to be the 'right' choice in the area of religious freedom, this vision of religious freedom and freedom in general will fail to be understood either in Ukraine or even in the U.S. itself," Kipshidze said.