Wednesday, May 25, 2022

    U.S. concerned about Moscow trying to cancel historic granting of tomos to OCU

    U.S. Ambassador to Greece and former Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt expressed concern about Moscow’s actions in countries with the Orthodox majority of the population where it is trying to sow instability, including by seeking to cancel the historic granting of the tomos of autocephaly to the OCU.

    “[T]he United States remains concerned that Moscow continues to try to foment instability and undermine the sovereignty of independent Orthodox-majority nations, including its efforts to reverse the Ecumenical Patriarch’s historic grant of Tomos to the Church of Ukraine.  Our own U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom has listed Russia as a “country of particular concern” for engaging in systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom,” Pyatt told the 3rd International Conference on Religious Diplomacy.

    The U.S. Ambassador to Greece also quoted U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken as saying that “in 2014, the Ukrainian people chose a democratic and European future for themselves.  Russia responded by manufacturing a crisis and invading.  Ever since, Russia has occupied Ukraine’s territory in Crimea and has orchestrated a war in the eastern part of Ukraine – with proxies that it leads, trains, supplies, and finances – that has killed nearly 14,000 people and redrawn Ukraine’s borders by force.  Beyond its military aggression, Moscow has also worked to undermine Ukraine’s democratic institutions.  It has interfered in Ukraine’s politics and elections; it has blocked energy and commerce to intimidate its leaders and pressure its citizens; it has used propaganda and disinformation to sow distrust; and it has launched cyber-attacks on the country’s critical infrastructure.”

    Geoffrey Pyatt recalled how last week the Orthodox Church of Ukraine celebrated the three-year anniversary of receiving the Tomos of Autocephaly from Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. The U.S. Ambassador to Greece also spoke of the Ukraine visit of U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

    “When he was in Kyiv last summer, Secretary Blinken met with Metropolitan Epiphanius and discussed the Tomos while touring St. Michael’s.  The Secretary affirmed Ukraine’s right to religious freedom as a fundamental human right, while Epiphanius raised his concerns about the violations of religious freedom in the occupied territories of Donetsk, Luhansk, and Russian controlled Crimea. Again last week in Washington, Secretary Blinken addressed publicly and forcefully the issue of Russian violations of Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity,” he said.

    Pyatt noted that due to the importance of the events in Ukraine and Russia’s aggression, these issues also “figured prominently” a prominent place in the Ecumenical Patriarch’s conversations with Blinken in Washington.