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    OCU Primate visits World Council of Churches

    On April 10, 2024, at the invitation of the Secretary General of the World Council of Churches, Pastor Dr. Jerry Pillay, His Beatitude Metropolitan Epifaniy of Kyiv and All Ukraine visited the institution. During the visit, the Primate was accompanied by the deputy head of the Department of External Church Relations, Metropolitan Yevstratiy of Bila Tserkva, reports the OCU press service.

    At the WCC HQ in Geneva (Switzerland), Metropolitan Epifaniy was received by the General Secretary of the Council, Pastor Dr. Jerry Pillay. The conversation was also attended by Peter Prove, Director of the International Affairs Commission, and Professor Dr. Vasile Octavian Mihoc, who deals with programs on ecumenical relations.

    During the long dialogue, the parties exchanged opinions and assessments as regards Russian aggression in Ukraine, as well as the involvement of the structures of the Russian patriarchate and their leader Kirill (Gundyaev) personally in justifying and supporting the war of aggression. Metropolitan Epifaniy noted that the latest public statements by the “World Russian People’s Council” headed by Gundyaev, in which the attack on Ukraine was referred to as a “holy war”, the goal of which is the complete destruction of the sovereign Ukrainian statehood, require an immediate reaction from the international community, including from religious leaders.

    “Attempts to justify Russia’s criminal, diabolical aggression against Ukraine are absolutely unacceptable. We have testified from the very start that the doctrine of the ‘Russian world’ is anti-human, and from the church’s point of view, it is a heretical teaching, the rhetoric of which resembles the pro-Nazi rhetoric of the so-called ‘German Christians’ of the 1930s. Now that the documents of the meeting in Moscow were published, it is clearly visible to everyone. Such actions require the response from the international community, primarily religious leaders, and we hope for such a reaction from the World Council of Churches. Russian officials must clearly and clearly see that the doctrine of the ‘Russian world’ is rejected and condemned by all people of good will in the whole world, that it has neither support nor sympathy,” His Beatitude Bishop emphasized.

    In turn, Pastor Jerry Pillay noted that the World Council of Churches is preparing an appropriate response to the unacceptable and outrageous statements made in Moscow. He expressed his solidarity with the Ukrainian people suffering from the war and assured them of praying for peace for Ukraine.

    The parties discussed in detail the current situation of the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine, in particular the facts of systematic violation by the invaders of basic human rights and freedoms, including freedom of religion. There was also a detailed exchange of views on the current religious situation of Ukraine as a whole.

    The head of the OCU spoke about the attitude of the religious community to the legislative ban for Russian religious associations to have religious organizations in Ukraine under their jurisdiction.

    “There is not a single religious association in Ukraine that would publicly support the fact that religious organizations in Ukraine can continue to be subordinate to structures controlled by the Russian state. After all, everyone sees how the Russian government weaponizes religion to justify their war of aggression. The amendments to the legislation proposed by parliament do not affect freedom of religion. On the contrary, they protect religious organizations in Ukraine from becoming a tool of the Kremlin’s hybrid war,” Metropolitan Epifaniy noted.

    The parties also discussed the possibility of dialogue between the Orthodox in Ukraine. “The position of our Church is consistent and unwavering – we are open to dialogue, to communication with those who are still subordinate to the Russian patriarchate. Unfortunately, on the other side, we see the opposite position – the leadership of the MP structure in Ukraine categorically rejects dialogue with us. But we are still ready for contacts because our goal is to achieve the unity of all Orthodox in Ukraine, as defined by canon law and the Tomos of autocephaly,” the Head of the OCU noted.

    The peacemaking potential of the religious community was also discussed during the meeting, in particular in the context of the future Peace Summit, set to be held in Switzerland this June.

    In the second part of the visit, in a conversation with its dean Dr. Professor Benjamin Simon and other designated figures from the WRC, practical steps were discussed regarding the procedure for the Orthodox Church of Ukraine to become a member of the World Council of Churches. Two years ago, the relevant appeal was filed and taken into consideration.

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