2017-05-18 12:04:00

World Council of Churches head calls on Poroshenko to withdraw bills "detrimental" to Ukrainian Orthodox Church

Moscow, May 18, Interfax - Responding to an appeal from Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia, World Council of Churches Secretary General Rev. Dr. Olav Fykse Tveit has forwarded messages to Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and Ukrainian Verkhovnaya Rada Chairman Andrey Parubiy to express "deep concern" over the prospect of passing bills that would be "detrimental" to the rights of the canonical Orthodox Church of Ukraine and calling for these bills to be withdrawn.

It was reported that Bill No. 4511, which the Verkhovnaya Rada is expected to debate at its session on Thursday, proposes granting special status to religious organizations "the administrative centers of which are located in a state which is designated by the Verkhovnaya Rada as an aggressor state."

Bill No. 4128 suggests allowing people who are members of a church community to change this church community's charter by a simple majority of votes, a move that the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate believes will result in legalizing "forcible" takeovers of its churches and transferring control over them to the self-proclaimed "Kiev Patriarchate".

"As an ecumenical organization which in its 70 years of existence has always stood for religious freedom and advocated against any form of discrimination in all parts of the world, the World Council of Churches considers that the above mentioned legislative initiatives, if adopted, endanger the freedom of religion and the equality of all churches and religious communities in Ukraine, and risk causing new tensions within Ukrainian society," the World Council of Churches secretary general said in his message shared with Interfax-Religion.

"While appreciating all the efforts made by the government of Ukraine for consolidating democracy and for improving Ukrainian legislation in order to meet international standards, it is our conviction that these two bills run counter to these efforts for democratic development of Ukraine," he said.

"We call for these detrimental bills to be withdrawn," he said.

The World Council of Churches is the largest ecumenical organization, which includes 348 member Churches representing more than 110 countries and 500 million Christians.

It was reported that Patriarch Kirill of Moscow had called on the leaders of the Normandy format countries, the Orthodox churches, Pope Francis and United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres to prevent the planned adoption by the parliament of Ukraine of the aforementioned bills that are regarded by the Russian Orthodox Church as discriminatory.

"As the messages state, these bills, if adopted, will legalize a discriminatory legal practice unheard of in today's Europe with regard to the majority of the Orthodox population in Ukraine. So restrictive a religious legislation did not function in Ukraine even under the communist regime, while in the rest of Europe something similar existed only during the Nazi rule in Germany," the Russian Orthodox Church said on its website on Wednesday.