Officials at the UN Secretariat have refrained from comment on the much-debated Ukrainian bills that would put religious organizations under state control and would put the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church reporting to Moscow Patriarchate at risk of complete demolition.
When TASS turned for comment to Stephane Dujarric, the official spokesperson for the UN Secretary General, he only reaffirmed the UN’s general position in support for freedom of faith.
‘We do our best not to comment on draft laws, so I will heed that model at this point, but obviously as a matter of principle we stand for peoples' freedom to worship," he said.
Ukraine’s Verkhovna Rada, the national parliament, registered two bills earlier, the adoption of which might terminate the existence of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church reporting to Moscow Patriarchate on the territory on the country.
One of the bills suggested a special status for the Churches, "the governing centers of which" are located in Russia. The other bill presupposed a mechanism of changing the canonical jurisdiction of religious communities.
Earlier, the Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia Kirill I issued an appeal to the leaders of the Normandy Four countries - Russia, Ukraine, Germany, and France, the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, and Pope Francis I, urging them to help stop the discrimination of Orthodox Christians that might sweep Ukraine after the endorsement of these bills by the Rada.
The Rada was supposed to consider the bills on Thursday but the deputies did not take them up.
Ukraine has three denominations at the moment, each of them referring to itself at the Ukrainian Orthodox Church but only one of them is canonical or, in other words, recognized by all other local (national) Orthodox Churches of the world and the Ecumenical Orthodox Church of Constantinople. It is the Ukrainian Orthodox Church reporting to Moscow Patriarchate.
The two uncanonical organizations are the Ukrainian Orthodox Church reporting to the schismatic Kiev patriarchate and the so-called Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church.
Since 1991, the country’s authorities have made a number of attempts to create a local Ukrainian Church disconnected from Moscow Patriarchate. In 2008, the then President Viktor Yushchenko tried to secure support from the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I but the latter hierarch did not give a blessing to the canonical separation of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church from the Russian Orthodox Church.