On March 20, 2023, the Holy Synod of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church adopted an appeal to the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky as the head of the Ukrainian state, “with the hope that our voice will be heard.”
The appeal says that the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, to which many millions of our fellow citizens belong, “always educated and educates the flock to love their homeland, to be worthy citizens of their state and to adequately fulfill their civic duties. With the beginning of the invasion of the Russian Federation on the territory of Ukraine, our Church was the first among other religious organizations to strongly condemn this military aggression and called on its believers to stand up for their native land. A large number of parishioners of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church are now in the ranks of the Armed Forces of Ukraine and other military formations. The forces of parishes and monasteries provide material assistance to military personnel, internally displaced persons and other categories of the population who find themselves in difficult circumstances. The trips of our clergymen with humanitarian supplies to the cities and villages that have been especially affected by the war do not stop. The position of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church is unchanged: we defend the territorial integrity and sovereignty of our state and strongly condemn the Russian military aggression against Ukraine.”
The members of the Synod noted that “today our state needs unity more than ever. Instead, the clergy, monastics and believers of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church feel for themselves how the flames of confrontation on religious grounds are fanned in Ukraine. For a long time, our Church has been suffering from illegal re-registration of communities, raider seizures of churches and discredit in the media with the spread of a large number of baseless accusations. These accusations are not true, but serve as a prerequisite for discrimination of the rights of citizens of Ukraine on religious grounds and talk about a ban on the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.”
The appeal also says that nine draft laws have been registered in the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, which, contrary to the principle of equality of religious organizations, “are aimed at excluding the activities of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. It should be noted that most of these draft laws received negative opinions from the scientific and expert department of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine and contain a large number of comments and reservations regarding violations in the field of such constitutional rights of citizens as freedom of conscience and religion. But the difficult situation in the religious sphere deteriorated critically after it became known that the state authorities intended to evict our monastic community from the territory of the Holy Dormition Kiev-Pechersk Lavra, which the monks literally raised from the ruins in thirty-five years since the resumption of the activity of this ancient monastery “.
The appeal also says that “with independence, the Ukrainian state began to return to the Church the churches and monasteries taken away by the Soviet government or to grant the right to use them. Basically, these were destroyed, abandoned and mutilated buildings. With their own efforts and means, the religious communities of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church rebuilt these shrines and filled them with life again. Golden-domed temples have become a real decoration of different parts of Ukraine. A special place among the revived shrines is occupied by the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra. Today, the Kiev Lavra is a powerful religious, educational and administrative center, because more than two hundred monks serve on its territory, almost three hundred students of the academy and seminary study, and the administrative center of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church is also located. In addition, powerful work is constantly carried out in the Lavra to provide humanitarian assistance to all who need it. For every clergyman, monk and believer of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra is a priceless shrine nurtured by love. That is why the news about the groundless deprivation of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the right to be in the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra caused a great wave of indignation among our believers. Every day we receive an increasing number of requests about the need to protect our shrines and our legal rights and to protect them in the future.”
“Honorable Mr. President! Since the beginning of the formation of independence, the Ukrainian state has tried to implement into the national legislation the postulates on freedom of religion proclaimed in international legal acts. Without freedom of religion as a legislatively guaranteed right of an individual to freely, without external coercion, choose whether to profess any religion or not to profess any, it is seen as impossible to build a democratic society in an independent state, especially when Ukraine is on the path to European integration. Therefore, we respectfully appeal to you as the head of state and the guarantor of compliance with the norms of the Constitution of Ukraine – to ensure the constitutional right to freedom of conscience and religion for believers of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, to prevent the adoption of anti-constitutional laws against the Church that are under consideration in the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, and also to do everything due so that the clergy, monastics and believers of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church could continue to serve in the Holy Dormition Kiev-Pechersk Lavra,” the hierarchs of the UOC stressed.