The Church supports only just peace, a joint message of the UOC-KP hierarchs from eastern regions
The UOC-KP bishops from Donetsk, Kharkiv, Luhansk, Dnipropetrovsk and Zaporizhia regions gathered in Dnipropetrovsk on 8-9 March for common prayer. The hierarchs told at the press conference of 9 March that during a Sunday service they announced a joint statement on the situation in the country. In particular, it says that Ukraine is indivisible; the Church must support the troops and volunteers, as reports RISU correspondent Sofia Bohutska.
"We do not stand for any peace that our opponents offer us – refuse from Donetsk and Luhansk regions and there will be peace in Ukraine! This is unjust peace. And the Church stands on the basis of justice. It will be just when the borders of our country are preserved,” says the joint statement.
Also, the bishops of the UOC-KP turned to the UOC (MP). “We condemn the aggressor. We made an appeal to the Moscow Patriarchate, in which we requested that they did not support the separatists, even secretly. And completing this statement, we asked everyone to get united,” says Bishop Symeon of Dnipropetrovsk and Krivyy Rih of the UOC-KP.
Bishop Fotiy of Zaporizhia and Melitopol expressed the common opinion that it is the Church that should give an example of unity and striving for peace in Ukraine.
In addition, the UOC-KP hierarchs are concerned about the fact that the UOC (MP) actually acknowledged Crimea as Russian territory. Bishop Fotiy of Zaporizhia and Melitopol said, “And recently we learned that the MP recognized the annexation of Crimea from Ukraine. The dioceses in the territory of Crimea moved under the Moscow Patriarchate jurisdiction, and previously they reported to the Metropolitan of Kyiv. The Church recognized it to be the Ukrainian territory. And now they officially confirm by this transmission that Crimea is Russian. We also condemn it because it is our territory, this being guaranteed by many international agreements.”
The hierarch said that the Ukrainians never took someone else's territory and our actions were always defensive. Therefore, we have every right to choose our own path. And even if we went the wrong way, this is our internal problem and no one the right to determine how we should live.
The hierarchs express concern that the declared truce is not observed in the ATO area. Bishop Afanasiy of Luhansk and Starobilsk of the UOC-KP had to leave his congregation. He said that he was simply deported from Luhansk. Now the Bishop is in Severodonetsk. There is no chance to come back to Luhansk. “Today the situation in Luhansk is controversial. I had certain negotiations with the so-called LNR and in principle they are not against the UOC-KP. They officially confirm that the Kyiv Patriarchate has the same right to exist in the LNR as the UOC (MP), as all other religions. But in fact it has not, because if I wanted to visit Luhansk, I just would not get there,” said Bishop Afanasiy.
Now the temples of the UOC-KP on the territory controlled by LNR are closed. However, there remain 15 priests of the UOC-KP. In particular, in Luhansk the underground service is conducted by the diocesan secretary. “He gathers believers at his home and served the liturgy. Pretty much people come for worship. They want to hear Ukrainian language and pray for Ukraine. There are people who want to get to Ukraine and cannot tolerate what is happening there,” says the head of the Diocese of Luhansk.
Instead, the churches in Ukraine-controlled regions still function. Most priests are intensively involved in volunteer work for Ukrainian army, usually the chaplaincy service. They visit all battalions, as everybody has spiritual needs, especially those guys who are on the front line and see death every day. "The UOC-KP priests arrange worship for soldiers even in mud huts,” says Bishop Afanasiy of Luhansk and Starobilsk.
The final stage of the meeting of the eastern Bishops in Dnipropetrovsk will be a special training “Support of volunteer organizations dealing with immigrants and ATO soldiers.” Training session was held in the framework of Kyiv Graduate Students Resource Center for exchange programs with the support of Dnipropetrovsk Regional Administration and the US Embassy in partnership with the Synodal Department for Social Service Ukrainian Orthodox Church. The event aims to support voluntary organizations and initiative groups whose activities are related to the provision of care for the ATO veterans and immigrants from East Ukraine and Crimea.
The second day of the training will take place in Dnipropetrovsk Seminary. “We will continue to support all military servicemen. The Ukrainian Church it is at the forefront with Ukrainian soldiers. We invite everyone to endorse and work together so that victory was on our side,” Bishop Symeon of Dnipropetrovsk and Kryvyy Rih concluded the meeting with the media.