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Ukrainian Orthodox bishops stress patriotism, seek meeting with Zelensky

March 21, 2023

» Continue to this story on Ukrainian Orthodox Church

CWN Editor's Note: Bishops of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) waited for two hours outside the office of President Volodymyr Zelensky on March 20, hoping for an opportunity to speak to him about “what the situation really is” with their Church, which has distanced itself from Moscow since the Russian invasion.

Zelensky declined to meet with the Orthodox prelates. His office said that a meeting had not been on his schedule. The bishops remained on the street outside his office until an air-raid siren forced them to move; they were obviously hoping to generate publicity about their effort to meet with the Ukrainian leader.

“We think that the president is not receiving true information about the UOC,” the bishops announced. In a statement that they had prepared to submit to Zelensky, they stressed that the UOC “has always taught her flock to love their Motherland, be worthy citizens of their state, and fulfill their public duties worthily.” They also reminded Zelensky that the UOC had denounced the Russian invasion.

The UOC, traditionally affiliated with the Russian Orthodox Church, declared its independence from Moscow last May in the wake of the invasion, which the Moscow patriarchate supported. However, the Zelensky government has restricted the activities of the UOC—most recently by moving to oust Orthodox religious from the historic Kiev Lavra monastery—on the grounds that the UOC is undermining Ukrainian national unity.

Since the beginning of the war in 2022, more than 700 Orthodox parishes have switched their allegiance from the UOC to the rival Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU), which won recognition from the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople in 2019 as an autocephalous (self-ruling) Orthodox patriarchate. The Moscow patriarchate has denounced the formation of the OCU as a violation of its canonical territory.

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