MOSCOW, November 6. /TASS/. The process of creating an independent Orthodox church in Ukraine, in which Ukrainian politicians actively interfere, will only further aggravate tensions in the Ukrainian society, Chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk said in an interview with Italy’s SIR agency.

“The Ukrainian government’s attempts to drastically reform the religious situation despite the opposition from the majority of believers will entail most serious consequences for civil accord in the country, which is already being torn apart by a conflict,” he said.

“With regret, we have to state that the Constantinople Patriarchate, which made the decision to legitimize Ukrainian schismatics, contributed to fuelling religious tensions in Ukraine. The hypocritical call to refrain from violence, which he made while making his unlawful move, is what Serbian Patriarch Irinej eloquently described as ‘turning a blind eye to easily predictable consequences of one’s own moves’ and ‘Pilate-style washing of hands,’” Metropolitan Hilarion added.

According to the Russian cleric, the Ukrainian authorities, together with schismatic religious organizations, are preparing to seize property of the canonic Ukrainian Orthodox Church, reporting to the Moscow Patriarchate. 

“The Ukrainian leader assured that there will be no seizure of church property, but it is hard to believe that. This country’s culture ministry has already started ‘cataloguing’ churches belonging to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. Plans to review all documents establishing the church’s right to use its facilities are being voiced. Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Pavel Klimkin claimed that ‘there is no place for the Moscow Patriarchate in Ukraine,’” Metropolitan Hilarion said. “Besides, Verkhovna Rada [Ukraine’s parliament] is now considering discriminatory bills which de-facto make seizures of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church’s property legal, establish control over religious affairs and even force the canonic church to change its name.”

He added that even before religious tensions intensified in Ukraine following the Constantinople Patriarchate’s controversial decision, “the canonic church’s parishes were regularly vandalized, churches were seized and legitimate orders to return them were ignored.”

“Right now, schismatics openly lay claims to this country’s most prominent holy sites,” he said. “Recently, the synod of the schismatic Kiev Patriarchate bestowed the title of Sacred Archimandrite of the Kyiv-Pechersk and Pochayevsk Lavras on Filaret Denisenko [head of the Kiev Patriarchate]. However, those centuries-old Orthodox monasteries, which millions of Orthodox Ukrainians view as places of worship, are not under his authority, they belong to the canonic Orthodox Church of Ukraine. Therefore, it was a declaration of intent to seize Ukraine’s biggest monasteries,” he said.

The Holy and Sacred Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople decided at its meeting held on October 9-11 to proceed with granting autocephaly to the Ukrainian Church. It revoked the 1686 decision on transferring the Kiev Metropolitanate under the jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate and announced plans to bring it back under the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. It also reinstated the heads of two non-canonical churches in Ukraine, Filaret of the Kiev Patriarchate and Makariy of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Church, to their hierarchical and priestly ranks.

On October 15, the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church said in response to that move that full communion with the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople was no longer possible.

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