Participants of the inter-Orthodox dialogue condemned forceful methods of resolving conflicts between communities
On that day, a group of OCU believers led by clergymen and supported by local authorities and activists forcibly expelled representatives of the UOC-MP from the church. The Information and Educational Department of the UOC MP reported that young men in balaclavas gassed priests and believers from the Church of the Nativity of Christ.
We submit the full text of the application published in the Facebook group "Open Orthodoxy Network".
Statement on the church conflict in Ivano-Frankivsk
We, the representatives of the clergy and faithful of the OCU and UOC, who participate in the interchurch dialogue, are currently witnessing an escalation of the long-standing conflict between Orthodox jurisdictions in Ukraine. On March 28, 2023, an unfortunate incident occurred in Ivano-Frankivsk over the ownership of the Church of the Nativity.
We condemn any forceful means of resolving this and other conflicts or violent acts against any religious communities, regardless of their names and jurisdiction, as this is fundamentally contrary to the fundamental principles of the Gospel of Christ and the commandments of God. Disregarding the altar and violent actions against living icons, which are all people regardless of jurisdiction, are radically contrary to the Christian ethos and cannot be taken for granted. We consider it unacceptable to apply the principle of collective responsibility on the part of some groups of believers in relation to others and once again emphasize that the only true Christian way to resolve conflicting or controversial issues is the format of a dialogue in the spirit of evangelical peace and love.
These actions also run counter to the standards set forth by the OCU itself, as well as the Declaration of Understanding between the clergy of the OCU and the UOC dated July 5, 2022, which calls for "abandoning aggression, stereotypes, biases, and language of ultimatums and hostility in communication with each other and in the public sphere," "moving away from narrow corporate interests in inter-Orthodox dialogue," "acknowledging the existence of different models of coexistence of Orthodox jurisdictions," and "embracing different approaches to the practice of changing jurisdictions, with a shared understanding that they must occur through the free and legitimate expression of the will of their members."
We are fully aware of the broader context in which this local event took place, including Russia's full-scale war against Ukraine, the reluctance of the UOC hierarchy to unequivocally sever ties with the Russian Orthodox Church, the collaboration of some UOC members exposed by the SBU, and the pro-Russian sentiments of certain priests and believers. Therefore, we believe it is disproportionate to compare the conflict in Ivano-Frankivsk to the role of the Russian Orthodox Church in the aggression against Ukraine.
Fully understanding the emotions of Ukrainian society towards a significant part of the UOC, we cannot justify the illegal actions taken to express those emotions. These actions not only contradict the Gospel but also cause irreparable damage to the international image of Ukrainian Orthodoxy and the state as a whole. Furthermore, they promote pro-Kremlin rhetoric and undermine Ukraine's credibility with the West, whose support we now need.
Furthermore, aggressive actions by overly zealous supporters of the OCU undermine years of efforts towards achieving unity within Ukrainian Orthodoxy. The use of violence to resolve inter-church conflicts typically produces the opposite effect. Additionally, insincere followers are not needed by the OCU. We are witnessing significant changes in Ukrainian church life, and we do not want the events in Ivano-Frankivsk to set a precedent for resolving church disputes in Ukraine. The modern Ukrainian Church should not follow the motto "the end justifies the means," but instead choose the "Open Orthodoxy" model.