Ukrainian far-right MP declares ‘hunt’ for Moscow-loyal priests after split

17 Dec, 2018

A Ukrainian MP and ex-head of ultra-nationalist Right Sector has called for all priests loyal to the Russian Orthodox Church to ‘hunted down’ and ousted. It came after Kiev proclaimed its church to be independent from Moscow.

Until last weekend there were three Orthodox Christian churches in Ukraine. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church is an internationally-recognized autonomous part of the Russian Orthodox Church. The two others were self-proclaimed and universally considered schismatic.

On Saturday, the latter two unified into an Orthodox Church of Ukraine, an organization purporting to be part of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. Priests of the canonical Church were invited to participate and break ties with Moscow, but only two did.

ccording to Dmitro Yarosh, a far-right Ukrainian MP, the Ukrainian priests who stayed loyal to the Russian Orthodox Church, should now be ‘hunted’ and ousted from the country. The representative got his current seat in the Parliament in the wake of the 2014 armed coup in Kiev, in which members of the Right Sector group, which he headed, played the part of the opposition fighting force. He remains a respected figure in the circles of Ukrainian extreme nationalists.

Yarosh shared what could be considered a call for violence on Sunday on his Facebook page, which has since apparently been suspended by the social network. The statements however were cited by many media outlets prior to the suspension.

“The clergy of the so-called UOC MP (Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate), who failed to find national courage, strength and reasons to join the Ukrainian Church are not servants of God, but agents of [Russian security service] FSB and [Russian President Vladimir] Putin, which makes them Enemies of Ukraine,” Yarosh declared. He added that he considers Putin, who by many accounts is a practicing Orthodox believer, ‘a satanist.’

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An adherent of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, which is not part of the Eastern Orthodoxy and sees the Pope as its leader, Yarosh believes the new Ukrainian church will eventually become one with his and be recognized by both the Vatican and Constantinople.

The religious reform in Ukraine is seen by many as President Petro Poroshenko’s reelection campaign. Constantinople promises to declare the newly-created church independent from itself next year, before the election is held in late March. The president was present at the Saturday gathering as a co-chair and addressed crowds of Ukrainians after the decision, declaring the new organization ‘free from Putin’.

On the path to the unification of the schismatics Poroshenko repeatedly stressed that priests of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church will not be persecuted for not joining the new church. But with Poroshenko’s rhetoric being so close to that of Yarosh, there are fears this promise is far from being a certainty.

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