Five religious communities in Kirovohrad region have joined the Orthodox Church of Ukraine since the beginning of the full-scale Russian aggression toward Ukraine. Seven are preparing for legally sealing the move.
Bishop Mark, head of the Kropyvnytskyi Diocese of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, spoke with the Suspilne public broadcaster to elaborate on the latest developments.
In the Church of the Holy Intercession (Adjamka, Kropyvnytskyi district), services are conducted in the Ukrainian language by Priest Petro of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine. It wasn’t always the case. Until April, the church had belonged to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate.
“I have been a patriot of Ukraine since childhood, and I’ve always known that there is a Russian church and there is a Ukrainian church out there. When the war started in 2014, I became even more convinced of this. People would ask me: ‘But what about the Moscow Patriarchate? We don’t want an occupiers’ temple or branch to be in Ukraine. I would set the Ajamka community as an example to others, the example of pro-active moves.”
According to the local official, Tetiana Zaichenko, not all residents in the community were even aware that the temple belonged to the Russian Orthodox Church in Ukraine.
“Unfortunately, it has been documented through the statutes that the Ukrainian Orthodox Church is a structural subdivision of the Russian Orthodox Church. During the parish meetings of the religious community, which took place in April, it was determined that the community shall change its canonical affiliation and shift to the Orthodox Church of Ukraine.”
Oleksandr Kryvyi had visited the said temple until April. He did not like hearing prayers in Russian. “They said that the service is conducted in Old Slavic, but it is more like the Russian language. Of course, I stand for the Ukrainian church.”
“Priests and faithful of the Moscow Patriarchate are part of the Russian Orthodox Church,” said Bishop Mark. “But they are constantly looking for excuses to hide this truth, hiding behind the sign of the ‘Ukrainian Orthodox Church.’ But such a local autocephalous church as the Ukrainian Orthodox Church does not even exist. This is a gathering of dioceses that are part of the Russian Orthodox Church.”
Since the Tomos of autocephaly was granted to the OCU, 10 communities in Kirovohrad region have decided to change their denominational affiliation, switching to the Orthodox Church of Ukraine. Five of them have switched since the full-scale invasion of Ukraine by Russia on February 24. Two communities are currently in the process of re-registration, and a total of seven communities are preparing for the transition.
The decision to change religious affiliation, according to the Law on Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organizations, shall be made by members of a religious organization at their meeting, by two-thirds of the votes. Next, registration paperwork shall be filed with the regional state administration, said the head of the regional public communications department, Vitaliy Lastnyi.
“During the review, the regional administration is studying the question of how these meetings were convened, who were the initiators and participants.”
The former priest showed no support for the decision of the Ajamka community. At the same time, it was impossible to get a comment from him, the report reads, adding that the comment was offered by Protodeacon of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Ioann Hanchyn.
“The temple was raided. Parishioners who remained faithful to the UOC and rector of the church are forced to serve in their homes. Currently, the churches of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church are being taken over by representatives of the OCU or by people who have nothing to do with the church. In this regard, we are preparing to file a court appeal.”
Currently, there are 115 churches run by the Orthodox Church of Ukraine and 295 churches operated by the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) in Kirovohrad region.