GERMAN DIOCESE: 22 December 2022
Metropolitan Mark of Berlin and Germany makes an appeal on attacks on the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church (video)

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

It is with pain that we are compelled to report on new persecutions of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. Suspected of a lack of loyalty to her state and people, she is subjected to brutal searches, her property is being confiscated and new laws threaten to entirely ban her very existence despite her centuries-long history, her contribution to the spiritual development of the nation, and despite the millions of citizens who are her members.

The Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) is the most populated (1) and historically the most ancient Church in Ukraine, and, as is the majority of the country, for many centuries bound with Russia. Under the Russophobic governments which followed the “Orange Revolution,” the UOC has come under increased political pressure, she is unfairly targeted and called a pro-Russian political organization despite the fact that she was and is an independent Church, devoted to the Ukrainian people.

Under the pretext of the circumstances of the terrible war, true Christians, though themselves citizens of Ukraine, are denounced as enemies of the state! The aim of some politicians, it seems, is the forced institutionalization of a new nationalistic and politically-controlled ecclesiastical structure. Over recent weeks, attacks on the freedom of conscience and religion in Ukraine have escalated:

1) Discrimination: on 11/22/2922, Petro Poroshenko’s party “European Solidarity” introduced Bill № 8221 (2), calling specifically for the use of the term “Orthodox Christian” solely to the so-called “Orthodox Church of Ukraine” (OCU), the creation of which was the personal project of Poroshenko himself, and is a highly-controversial entity throughout the Orthodox world and for many reasons canonically illegitimate. At the same time, all ecclesiastical and religious institutions which in any way could be connected to the “Russian Orthodox Church” may be banned. This corresponds to the narrative used against the UOC. Over recent years over 500 churches of the UOC have already been seized and transferred to the “OCU” (usually under pressure from local authorities and often by use of violence on the part of extremist right-wing groups).

2) Denunciations, searches: Since the end of November, searches of church buildings, monasteries and churches conducted by the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) since October 2022 have massively expanded and expanded in many dioceses. For instance, Holy Dormition Pochaev Lavra, one of the leading and historically-important monasteries in the Orthodox Christian world in general, was ransacked for over a week, leaving behind disorder and great material loss. During these searches, the mass media often published false reports that alleged “proof of hostile actions” of the UOC were discovered. Metropolitan Melety of Chernovtsi was blatantly told on 11/25/2022 that he will be left unmolested if he transfers to the OCU. Meanwhile, during a 12-hour search, he was already declared by the mass media to be “an enemy of the state.” Such actions have occurred dozens of times since the end of November and continue unabated.

3) The thread of prohibition: on 12/1/2022, instructions were issued by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky:

a) Parliament must within 2 months draft and adopt a law banning all religious organizations which might be connected with the Russian Federation.

b) The State Ethnopolitical Service and Freedom of Conscience must be directly subjected to the central state executive organs, that is, to the government. Consequently, all local government administrations must be subjected to this department, into which authority also fall matters of the freedom of conscience and faith and activities of religious organizations.

c) Over the following 2 months the government must examine “the presence of the rights and observation of the use by religious organizations of property on the territory of the National Kiev-Pechersk Historical-Cultural Monument.” The Kiev-Pechersk Lavra, which in 1926 was turned by the communists into a historical-cultural museum upon the liquidation of monasticism, was through the efforts of the legitimate UOC in the 1990’s reestablished as a monastery. Now it is once again threatened by separation in some measure from the Church, even if not completely confiscated. In 1990, the faithful already had to resist the forced seizure by the nationalistic party “Rukh.”

4) A video appeal by the president: That same day, 12/1/2022, President Zelensky declared in public that the National Security Council supports the proposed law of the prohibition of religious organizations which may be influenced by the Russian Federation (likely No. 8221, above).

5) Provocation and schism: On 12/2/2022, the aforementioned “Orthodox Church of Ukraine” registered a new legal entity under the official name of “Holy Dormition Kievo-Pechersk Lavra (Men’s Monastery)” with an address on the same street that Kievo-Pechersk Lavra is located, but with the address number of 14 instead of 15.

6) Sanctions against individual citizens: On 12/3/2022, sanctions were announced against 7 bishops of the UOC, 2 retired bishops, and against Protodeacon Vadim Novinsky. The sanctions include the freezing of accounts, the prohibition of travel within Ukraine and the prohibition of the rental of government property (including church structures).

How do such actions correspond to liberal-democratic values, to religious liberty? We call upon all our fellow citizens, the Church and politicians not to close their eyes but to lift their voices and demand the restoration and observance of elementary human rights in Ukraine.

+ MARK, Metropolitan of Berlin and Germany

The German Diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia is a society legally incorporated in Germany. Its Synod and head, His Eminence Metropolitan Nicholas of Eastern America and New York, are located in the USA. Our Church was founded in exile as a result of the militantly-godless revolution of 1917. It is historically closely tied to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, the head of which at the present time is His Beatitude Metropolitan Onouphry of Kiev and All Ukraine. Our two Churches are equally independent and autonomous, maintaining friendly relations with each other, praying for peace and rejecting the present war.

[1] In light of the present dynamics it is difficult to evaluate the reliability of statistics. Judging from official figures of 20 October, 2022, the UOC has 9,107 parishes, the OCU has 5,194. The UOC lists 12,148 parishes of its own for the end of 2022. Since the establishment of the OCU in the beginning of 2019, there are some 1,000 (?) churches transferred from the UOC to the OCU. How many of these transfers were voluntary and how many were forced seizures is not reflected in the statistics. At the same time it is difficult to determine to what degree the number of parishes corresponds to the number of parishioners (Thomas Bremer: “Which Orthodox Church in Ukraine is the Largest?” https://publicorthodoxy.org/2022/11/09/ukraine-largest-church/)

At the same time, the number of monasteries and monastics demonstrates the deep roots the people adhere to within the Church. In 2018, the UOC numbered over 200 monasteries (over 4,600 monks and nuns). By contrast, the OCU (officially the so-called “Kiev Patriarchate”): some 63 monasteries with 230 monks and nuns. The UOC maintains the Theological Academy in Kiev, the Theological Academy in Uzhgorod, the Theological University in Lugansk, the Theological Institute in Chernovtsi, 7 theological seminaries and 8 professional religious schools. Despite the fact that since 2019, some 1,000 churches of the UOC were transferred to the authority of the OCU, often violently, most clergymen and believers apparently do not support the changes imposed upon the Church.

[2] The bill is published on the official website of the Ukrainian Supreme Rada: https://itd.rada.gov.ua/billInfo/Bills/pubFile/1553221

In an open letter of the Holy Synod of the UOC to President Zelensky, this and other proposed bills are outlined in detail: https://news.church.ua/2022/12/21/open-address-of-the-holy-synod-of-the-uoc-to-president-of-ukraine-volodymyr-zelenskyi/?lang=en

A German- and Russian-language video from the German Diocese is posted here:




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