The Primate of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, Metropolitan Epifaniy of Kyiv and all Ukraine, believes that the Russian government of the Crimea is trying to completely oust the Ukrainian Church and compares the situation on the peninsula with “Stalin’s times”. He said this in the Radio Liberty program “Saturday Interview”, according to the website Krym.Realii.
“In Crimea, the Russian authorities, the provisional authorities, are trying to completely oust our presence. Now the fight is being waged for the eviction of Bishop Klyment from the diocesan administration and the Cathedral under the guise of repairing.
“And another more absurd decision was made by the court in Yevpatoria, that our parishioners should demolish the temple, the temple structure on their own.
“This is reminiscent of the old Stalinist times of the USSR when churches were destroyed. That is, the atheists destroyed churches, and now we see it in the occupied territories of the Crimea and Donbass,” said Metropolitan Epifaniy.
The Metropolitan also noted that the OCU regularly draws the attention of the international community and the Ukrainian authorities to the problem of oppression of the Ukrainian Church in Crimea.
“We do everything we can. When I was in the United States, I noted that there are ongoing prosecutions, and we ask the international community to express concern.
“And, as far as we know, a bill has already been registered in the Congress that the right to worship is violated here in the occupied territories of Crimea and Donbas.
“Therefore, we will continue to appeal to international institutions and sound the alarm here in Ukraine, so that our Ukrainian government will join this process,” the head of the OCU said.
About 600 parishes of Moscow-aligned Church have converted
In the meantime, and despite the oppression, some 600 parishes in Ukraine belonging to the Orthodox church aligned with the Moscow Patriarchate have in one year switched over to the newly formed Orthodox Church of Ukraine, according to the new church’s first metropolitan.
Epifaniy, told RFE/RL in an interview over the weekend that he foresaw another “wave” in the future of “such massive conversions.”
However, “we want them to continue to be peaceful, calm, and voluntary… we do not need confrontation,” he said.
“The first year of the institutional formation of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine is coming to an end, and today we can say that the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, as such, has been a success.
“But we still have a lot of work to do so that all Orthodox Ukrainians to unite around Kyiv, so that all of us together in the one Local Ukrainian Orthodox Church serve God, serve the interests of our Ukrainian people and serve the interests of the Ukrainian state”, the first Hierarch said.
The Ukrainian Orthodox Church–Moscow Patriarchate doesn’t recognize and opposes the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, which was granted independence in January 2019 by the Patriarchate of Constantinople in Istanbul.
The move ended more than 300 years of control by Moscow.
Epifaniy was installed as the new church’s metropolitan on February 3 after an election by high-ranking clergy in Kyiv.
In November, the Patriarchate of Alexandria in Egypt recognized the autocephaly of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine. A month earlier, the leadership of the Church of Greece extended its recognition.
*Material from RFE/RL copyright (c) 2020. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036.