"Religion can never be instrumentalized for political purposes," - Head of the UGCC
It was said that in western Ukraine, during the elections, it is quite popular to use the Church for PR.
"You see, church authority is a great temptation for politicians. Many people want to increase their political dividends through people's trust in the Church. In other words, all politicians will always be tempted to instrumentalize the Church.
On the eve of the next election, we always feel that this is a big problem. As long as certain candidates for the post of President, or for the post of deputy of different levels are increasingly shamelessly trying to appropriate the favor of a particular church.
I think this is completely unacceptable. For our part, we always say that we never support a single candidate for a position of any function in the state system. What do we support?
We support values and principles. And when a candidate undertakes to implement certain principles to society, then citizens should decide for themselves. If the Church is used as a tool for political struggle, then the Church will always lose," Patriarch Sviatoslav said.
At the same time, he added that there are certain temptations that churches have not always managed and will continue to avoid: "we live today in a secular world. And when a political party takes on the obligation to sometimes even impose some religious values by force, it can be tempting for certain churches.
When such a party comes to power and begins to force state coercion to profess certain values, then everyone loses. And first of all, people's trust in the Church as such is being undermined."
According to the first hierarch, in a religious issue in the modern world, this type of practice or policy always goes to the detriment of the Church. Therefore, we sometimes see even conflicts between churches arise due to the fact that another church has allowed itself to be instrumentalized from one or another political, I would say, part of that palette. And this, His Beatitude Sviatoslav notes, is very dangerous.
"Religion can never be instrumentalized for political purposes," the head of the UGCC said, adding: "We have always really wanted partnership and cooperation in the name of the partnership of our country and our people. We have clear instructions on how clergymen should behave, in particular in the context of the election campaign. Although we state certain facts that there are violations, the priests violate this instruction. We even do an investigation later. According to our instructions, a clergyman cannot be a candidate for deputy. But, unfortunately, there are such cases. And then what does the bishop do? He suspends this priest from service, that is, prohibits him from performing priestly functions. You know, a clergyman cannot be a member of a political party that is coming to power. Other Churches have adopted a different stance. We have a clear ban on this.
On the other hand, today, we are dealing with blatant populism. This or that Mayor, this or that political party will voice what people want to hear. Will he fulfill in future what he has promised – of course not. But in order to win favor, they will go to Church and show their piety on camera in order to gain affection. And this is a big misfortune," the head of the UGCC stressed.
It should be added that the Orthodox Church of Ukraine has a slightly different ban. For example, the Synod of the OCU officially banned bishops and clergy from running for the Verkhovna Rada elections on July 21, 2019.
However, the ban does not apply to local elections. The OCU can participate in elections to a city council, village council, or territorial community council. However, one has to procure the bishop's blessing.