OCA Primate Urges US To Influence Kiev To Respect Religious Freedom

OCA Primate Urges US to Influence Kiev to Respect Religious Freedom

WASHINGTON (UrduPoint News / Sputnik - 29th March, 2023) The primate of the Orthodox Church in America Metropolitan Tikhon called on the US government on Tuesday to influence Kiev in order to respect religious freedom in the country.

On March 10, the National Kiev-Pechersk Historical and Cultural Preserve in Ukraine, which is based on the territory of the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra, the oldest Russian Orthodox Monastery, ordered the monks of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) to leave it by March 29 after an interdepartmental Ukrainian commission accused the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) of violating the terms of an agreement on the use of state property. Ukrainian Culture Minister Oleksandr Tkachenko said the monks could stay in the Lavra if they joined the schismatic Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU), a decision that might be "stimulated through the joint work of specialists and law enforcement officers."

"We confidently hope that, as the United States continues to provide aid for Ukraine in response to the Russian Federation's invasion, the United States government will do everything in its power to encourage the government of Ukraine to respect fundamental human rights, including that of religious freedom, during this time of conflict," Metropolitan Tikhon said in a letter to the US Commission on International Religious Freedom Chair Nury Turkel.

The OCA is observing the situation in lavra with special concern, he noted, adding that this convent is the motherhouse of monasticism in Rus and in Ukraine in particular.

Tikhon also pointed out that the clergy and the faithful of the UOC are beset by troubles on all sides. HE reassured them that the OCA stands ready to support them both with prayers and by any other means at its disposal.

The Metropolitan pointed out OCA's condemnation of any kind of violence, including Russia's military operation in Ukraine. "While recognizing the legitimate need of states to ensure their security, especially in times of war, we also decry restrictions on the religious freedom of any group in Ukraine and especially denounce any generalized religious persecution of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church," he said.

The Russian Orthodox Church said the UOC is a "self-governing church with the rights of broad autonomy" within the Moscow Patriarchate. However, in the wake of the military operation that Russia launched in Ukraine a year ago, the UOC said that it was independent from the Moscow Patriarchate and did not support the conflict. In January, the Ukrainian government submitted a bill to parliament that seeks to ban the UOC in Ukraine if its connection with Russia is proven.

The OCA is one of the largest Orthodox churches in the United States, which is partly recognized as autocephalous and consists of more than 700 parishes, missions, communities, monasteries and institutions in the US, Canada and Mexico.