In Ukraine, a religious conflict may soon erupt with a new force, experts say. This time the confrontation flares up between the authorities and the divisive Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kiev Patriarchate (UOC-KP).

Thus, on Wednesday, the Ukrainian Ministry of Culture announced the liquidation of this religious organization in connection with its accession to the non-canonical Orthodox Church of Ukraine (PCH) created in late 2018. However, Filaret (Denisenko), who heads the UOC-KP, is trying to challenge this decision.

"The Holy Synod of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Orthodox Church of Ukraine) as the governing body of this religious association at its meeting on July 27, 2019 decided to terminate the activities of the religious organization" Kyiv Patriarchate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate "by joining the religious organization" Kyiv Metropolis of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (the Orthodox Church of Ukraine) ”, about which a corresponding entry was made in the“ Unified State Register of Legal Entities, Physi businessmen and public formations, ”the Ministry of Culture of Ukraine reported.

This statement followed the appeal to the Ukrainian Ministry of Justice of the head of the UOC-KP Filaret with a call to keep the registration of the splitting organization under his control.

“Neither the leadership of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, nor the liquidation commission created by him have any relation to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kiev Patriarchate ... We ask the Ministry of Justice of Ukraine to continue the existing registration of the UOC-KP and the Kyiv Patriarchate of the UOC-KP as a legal entity,” Filaret said.

He also asked the President of Ukraine, Vladimir Zelensky, for help. In a letter published on the UOC KP website, he stressed that last year he was misled at the so-called unification council regarding the conditions under which the autocephaly tomos will be received.

“A raider attack on the property of the Ukrainian Orthodox Kyiv Patriarchate is starting now, and this raiding is headed personally by Metropolitan Epiphanius, the head of the PTsU. We received information that the Ministry of Justice on July 29, 2019 began the process of liquidation of the UOC-KP ... I ask for your direct intervention and the termination of this outrage, ”the letter says.

On Wednesday, Filaret also said that he had sued the Ukrainian Ministry of Culture.

“The Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Justice have decided to deregister the Kyiv Patriarchate. They have no this right, - quotes Filaret "Ukrinform". “Therefore, we filed a lawsuit against the Ministry of Culture, which illegally withdrew the Kiev Patriarchate and the UOC-KP from registration. There was no trial yet, but we filed a lawsuit. ”

According to the deputy director of the Institute of History and Politics of the Moscow State Pedagogical University, Candidate of Historical Sciences Vladimir Shapovalov, Denisenko will not give up the struggle for power, but his opportunities are limited, among other things, by his old age - he turned 90 years old in January of this year.

“Philaret is a super-ambitious and energetic person who is obsessed with a thirst for sole authority. He is already a sufficiently age hierarch, therefore, most likely, he has a limited time resource to actively defend his interests. I think he will carry out a campaign to delegitimize the, ”Shapovalov believes.

Disunifying Cathedral

Recall that in December 2018, with the support of the authorities of Ukraine and the Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew, the so-called unifying council was convened. Bishops of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP), as well as representatives of two schismatic organizations: the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAOC) and the UOC-KP were invited to participate in it.

  • Petro Poroshenko and Metropolitan Epiphanius (Dumenko)
  • Reuters
  • © Gleb Garanich

The reason for its convocation was the appeal of the UAOC and the UOC-KP to Bartholomew with a request to grant them autocephaly. This initiative was actively supported by Petro Poroshenko, who took a direct part in the preparation of the cathedral.

It was assumed that according to its results a new united Ukrainian Orthodox Church would be created, which would unite the schismatic organizations and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, but the latter refused to participate in this event.

On December 15, 2018, the council decided to create the so-called Orthodox Church of Ukraine. Filaret was declared the “honorary patriarch”, and the former head of the UOC-KP Epiphanius (Dumenko), who received the title of “Metropolitan of Kiev and All Ukraine”, became the actual head of the PCU.

Split among the schismatics

On June 20, 2019, Filaret held the so-called Local Council of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kiev Patriarchate, whose members decided to cancel the dissolution of the UOC-KP and leave this organization from the CCA. Also, according to its results, it was announced that the autocephalous tomos received earlier does not correspond to the status of autocephalous churches, and therefore makes the PCU dependent on the Patriarchate of Constantinople.

The Council determined that the UOC-KP is still the owner of all facilities previously acquired or received from government bodies. The status of Filaret, who was called the "Patriarch of Kiev and All Russia-Ukraine" elected "for life at the Local Council of the UOC of the Kiev Patriarchate on October 20-22, 1995," was also confirmed.

  • Metropolitan Epiphanius
  • Reuters
  • © Valentyn Ogirenko

According to Bohdan Bezpalko, a member of the Council on Interethnic Relations under the President of Russia, Filaret is unlikely to give up his ambitions, which threatens a new round of confrontation.

“Philaret will not give up his churches, will fight for finances and continue to pretend that he is the legal representative of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. Perhaps he will start the process in court, where he will demand to re-register and recognize the UOC-KP again, because he has enough personal funds to hire lawyers. I do not exclude that in the near future pickets and rallies will be held in Ukraine on this issue, ”Bezpalko said.

The RT source in the Popular Front party also believes that Filaret will not abandon attempts to save the UOC-KP.

“It was immediately clear that Filaret would not give up power. Therefore, he asks the Justice Ministry to abolish the liquidation of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kiev Patriarchate, will sue in court. On the transfer of churches in general can not speak. If necessary, they will be defended by force, ”the source said.

He also added that "Ukraine is on the threshold of a large religious conflict."

Kiev Propaganda Project

According to Shapovalov, it is early to put an end to the history of the opposition of non-canonical Ukrainian churches.

“The conflict between the PCU and the UOC-KP is not completed. The conflict between the supporters of Epiphanius and Philaret will continue inside the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, ”the expert believes.

The position of the CCP is further aggravated by the fact that the main initiator of its creation, Petro Poroshenko, left the government, Shapovalov said. In his opinion, under these conditions, this religious structure is awaited by the fate of the UOC-KP - it will not be able to draw believers over to its side and will remain a kind of propaganda project of the Kiev authorities.

“It is important to remember that the control center was blinded out of incompatible parts of the UOC-KP and the UAOC. The Orthodox Church of Ukraine will follow in the same direction as these two organizations - it will remain a small divisive structure that will exist solely as a propaganda project of the Kiev authorities as long as they are interested in this, ”the political scientist said.

The RT source in the Batkivshchyna party believes that this problem has no simple solution, and Zelensky will most likely have to intervene in the conflict.

“Both options are bad here. If you extend the work of the UOC-KP, then you can get a lot of questions from the Ecumenical Patriarch. If to ban, the conflict with Filaret will begin, which is also unprofitable for the authorities. They will not pass the church by force. It seems that Vladimir Zelensky will have to penetrate deeply into the religious problem and take an unpopular decision, ”the source said.

People's Choice

The processions held in Kiev on July 28, timed to the Day of the Baptism of Russia, demonstrated that the UOC-MP continues to enjoy the support of the overwhelming majority of Orthodox in Ukraine, experts say. According to TASS, more than 300 thousand people took part in the procession organized by the canonical church in the Ukrainian capital, while the PCC event, despite the support of the authorities, was attended by only about two tens of thousands. The number of those who attended the procession of Philaret was hundreds in all.

  • The procession in Kiev on the occasion of the 1031st anniversary of the Baptism of Russia
  • AFP
  • © Sergei SUPINSKY

“The recent action, which was devoted to the baptism of Russia, demonstrated that the people of Ukraine support the UOC of the Moscow Patriarchate. Despite the tremendous pressure on the hierarchs and parishioners of the UOC, the seizure of churches, physical atrocities and large-scale information propaganda that the Ukrainian government has undertaken, the people of Ukraine choose the canonical church, ”said Shapovalov.

One of the reasons for the unpopularity of the splitting structures among the broad masses of the population, Bogdan Bezpalko, considers their obvious politicization.

"All schismatic church structures are politicized and less popular among the population than the canonical church of the Moscow Patriarchate," he said.