The Ukrainian Orthodox Church is being used for the ?incitement of Russian-Ukrainian hatred,? he said
The "architects" of international conflicts hate the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) because it could serve as an instrument of reconciliation between Russian and Ukrainian people, Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) has said. That is why there is a demand for its persecution, he believes.
In a speech on Thursday, Kirill expressed "deep grief and righteous anger" over what he called "attempts by incumbent authorities in Kiev and their foreign backers to use the UOC as a weapon of incitement of Russian-Ukrainian hatred."
Future reconciliation "will be impossible" without an apolitical Orthodox church in Ukraine, the Patriarch predicted. "That is why [the UOC] faces such hatred from the modern architects of world conflicts," he explained.
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He lamented the "unprecedented persecution" of the UOC by the Ukrainian government, which he compared in "scale and cynicism" to the anti-religious campaign that the Bolshevik government launched after seizing power in Russia in 1917.
Orthodox priests and faithful in Ukraine are facing fabricated criminal cases, slander in the media, seizure of property and desecration of their sacred places, Kirill said. The are even calls for an outright ban of the UOC, he added.
There have been religious tensions among Orthodox Christians in Ukraine since the early years of the country's independence. Some priests split from the UOC to form a "Kiev patriarchate," which the Moscow patriarchate condemned. In 2018, some clerics of the UOC and some of the schismatics formed a new "Orthodox Church of Ukraine."
Then-President Pyotr Poroshenko touted the recognition of the new church by the Turkish-headquartered Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople as a key achievement of his presidency.
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In his speech on Thursday, Patriarch Kirill criticized Constantinople for its role in fostering divisions among Orthodox Christians. Moscow cut spiritual and diplomatic ties with Constantinople over its Ukraine move.
In November last year, the Ukrainian security agency (SBU) launched a crackdown against the UOC, raiding monasteries and churches, searching for evidence of collusion with the Russian government. The service claimed that the church could be sheltering Russian agents and weapons stockpiles.
On Wednesday, Zelensky imposed the latest round of personal sanctions targeting UOC clergy, including several bishops.