THE Council of Bishops of the Kiev Patriarchate of the Ukrainian
Orthodox Church has called for the creation of a single unified
Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
The bishops of the Kiev Patriarchate, which is not formally
recognised as a canonical Orthodox Church, have written to the
churches of the Moscow Patriarchate in Ukraine, urging them to join
together in "an association based on canonical order and traditions
of the Orthodox Church", including a "single definite order and
declaration of autocephaly".
"The wisdom of this principle is clearly evidenced by current
events," they say. "For now you are faced with a choice: to approve
the position of your Patriarch [Metropolitan Kirill] who actually
supported the Kremlin leadership in its aggressive actions against
Ukraine, or be loyal to your homeland Ukraine, protecting it from
the Russian intervention.
"Your submission to the Moscow Patriarch is one of the arguments
to justify the aggression by the Russian authorities against
Ukraine, whether you want it or not."
The Bishops have also written to the Ecumenical Patriarch,
Bartholomew I of Constantinople, the primus inter pares of
the Eastern Orthodox Communion, urging him to recognise the Kiev
Patriarchate as the official national Orthodox Church in
Elsewhere, the Acting Defence Minister of Ukraine, Igor Tenyukh,
has thanked the country's Churches for continuing their work in the
Crimea. He said that their work was particularly important "in the
current period of extreme tensions between the neighbouring
Clergy had continued to "carry out their pastoral duty among
troops in the Crimea", he said, in a statement issued on Monday.
"The voice of the Church is important as ever. It listens to
believers and unbelievers, the soldiers and their families,
employees of the armed forces of Ukraine, and the civilian
population living beside the deployment of military units."
Mr Tenyukh said: "Please do not stop on that path, and continue
to be among the faithful people striving to serve God through the
service of Ukraine."
He made his comments as a small chapel was established in the
blocked naval-command headquarters in Sevastopol. "The servicemen
have the right to satisfy their religious needs," Rear Admiral
Serhiy Gayduk said. "Unfortunately, it was impossible to do it
because of the headquarters blockade; so we took the decision to
establish a small chapel in the HQ premises."
Mr Tenyukh has ruled out military action to end the blockades in
Crimea: "Russia does not officially recognise the presence of its
troops in Crimea, calling them 'self-defence units'," he said; "so
any active efforts by Ukrainian troops to stabilise Crimea could be
seen by the international community as using force against our own
The new parliament in the semi-autonomous region of the Crimea
has called for a referendum on Sunday on leaving Ukraine and
joining forces with Russia. It has been condemned as unlawful by
the government in Kiev, and the international community. But it has
been welcomed by Russia, where the Duma will debate whether to
recognise Crimea as Russian territory on 21 March.
In a joint statement, the Bishopsof the Kiev Patriarchate said
that Russia's leaders were "acting just like Hitler". They accused
the Kremlin of "lying, cheating their own people, using military
force to take over neighbouring land, and justifying it as being in
the interest of the nation".
They said: "On behalf of our many congregations, we appeal to
the US, UK, and . . . the entire international community to stop
Russian aggression against Ukraine."