Communist Leader Symonenko on Religion in Ukraine
Mr. Symonenko reported that in Odessa he met with Ahafanhel, Metropolitan of Odessa and Izmail (Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate). At that meeting he expressed his thoughts on the possible consequences of Pope John Paul II’s visit to Ukraine from 23 to 26 June. He also acknowledged that he will work to ensure that the law on freedom of conscience now being considered in Ukraine’s Verkhovna Rada (parliament) will in no way violate the rights of believers. “Many people don’t know this but I am currently engaged in defending in court one of the Orthodox parishes [of the Moscow Patriarchate] in the Khmelnytskii region which is being pressured by the local authorities,” Symenenko said. Symonenko also addressed another very current concern in the Ukrainian religious scene, the union efforts of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Kyivan Patriarchate and Ukrainian Autocephalous Church. (See RISU news of July 23 and 16 and June 29 for details.) “We are disturbed that Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew [of Constantinople] can make a decision regarding the canonical status of the Orthodox Church of the Kyivan Patriarchate and the Autocephalous Church. We have already gathered over 120 signatures from deputies of the Verkhovna Rada for a letter addressed to Bartholomew, in which we lodge our protest.” (See RISU’s news of July 16 for details on this letter of protest.) Materials for this article were taken from the Russian-language site www.strana.ru.