"The unity of the Church is the gift of the Holy Spirit, and we are called to protect and strengthen it. The destruction of this unity is the gravest crime. Taking this opportunity, we condemn in the strongest terms those who take actions against the parishes of the canonical Orthodox Church in Ukraine, "said His Beatitude Patriarch of the Holy City of Jerusalem and the whole of Palestine Theophilus III.
Turning to 5 June 2017 for those attending the solemn reception in the Russian spiritual mission, the Primate of the Orthodox Church of Jerusalem stressed: "It is not in vain that the holy fathers remind us that the destruction of the unity of the Church, the split is the gravest sin ... Let the Holy Ghost, who on that day descended On the disciples of Christ, will enlighten our minds of the heart and give us the strength to preserve the precious gift of the unity of the Church entrusted to us by the Divine Providence. "
As previously reported, bills No. 4128 and No. 4511 have been prepared for consideration by the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine.
The bill No. 4128 "On Amendments to the Law of Ukraine" On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organizations "(on the substitution of religious organizations for subordination)" suggests introducing into the religious legislation a vague concept of "belonging of a person to a religious community" on the basis of some "self-identification". Individuals "belonging to a religious community" who would not claim this title are proposed to be given the right to change the charter of the community by a simple majority vote. In fact, the bill proposes to legalize the practice of fictitious "referendums" with the participation of all residents of the locality (and possibly even visitors) claiming to belong to this religious community.
The bill No. 4511 "On the special status of religious organizations whose governing centers are in a state recognized as the Supreme Rada by an aggressor country" suggests that all the communities whose canonical centers are located in Russia (that is, primarily the communities of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church) should be imposed, a certain "special status" associated with a significant loss of rights. In addition to forcibly re-registering all the communities of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which will inevitably provoke new seizures of churches and clashes between believers of different faiths, the bill will give the secular state government bodies the widest powers in controlling the internal life of religious communities: to approve the appointment of leading cadres of the communities, to allow or not to allow visits of foreign religious leaders, as well as forcibly liquidating religious communities on a wide range of grounds.
The draft laws provoked a sharp reaction in society and received a negative evaluation from Ukrainian religious figures, secular experts and human rights activists. In just a few days, hundreds of thousands of signatures were collected in different regions of Ukraine against these legislative initiatives.
In connection with the situation, His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia sent messages to the heads of state of the Normandy Quartet, the Primate of the Local Orthodox Churches, the Pope of Rome Francis, the Secretary-General of the United Nations and the Secretary General of the World Council of Churches.
Expressing his assessment of the proposed bills, the Primate of the Alexandrian Orthodox Church in the reciprocal message stressed their anti-church character.
For its part, His Beatitude Patriarch of Antioch John condemned attempts to adopt laws against the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine.
His Holiness Patriarch Irenaeus called the amendments to Ukrainian legislation proposed for adoption discriminating against the believers of the canonical Church.
The Primate of the Orthodox Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia called for the removal of bills No. 4128 and No. 4511.
In connection with attempts to adopt anti-church laws in Ukraine, the Holy See expressed solidarity with the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
The World Council of Churches also expressed grave concern.
18 May 2017, when it was planned to pass bills number 4128 and No. 4511 to vote, the walls of the Verkhovna Rada held a thousand-thousand prayerful place, headed by His Beatitude Metropolitan of Kiev and All Ukraine Onuphrius. On this day, consideration of anti-church amendments to Ukrainian legislation did not take place.