Ukrainian regions ban largest Orthodox church — RT Russia and the former Soviet Union

The governments of two regions in western Ukraine banned the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC) and its activities this week.

The UOC is canonically part of the Russian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate – the largest Orthodox Church in the world, with 150 million faithful worldwide.

The local parliament in the Rovno region of northwestern Ukraine, which borders Belarus, was the first to ban the UOC. All 55 lawmakers attending an emergency session on Monday backed the move in a unanimous vote, the parliament said in a statement.

Lawmakers also revoked the registration of UOC religious chapters in the Rovno region and terminated rental contracts with them, the statement added.

They then vowed to demand that the Ukrainian parliament – the Verkhovna Rada – « Immediately adopt a law on the prohibition of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church [of] the Moscow Patriarchate » in all the countries.

On Tuesday, the parliament of the neighboring Volyn region, which borders Poland, followed suit and banned the UOC in another unanimous vote. Lawmakers also issued an appeal to UOC members and called on them to sever all ties with the Church.

Lawmakers then called on the regional military administration to terminate lease agreements with the UOC granting the church access to temples and other religious building complexes, including monasteries.

Ukrainian lawyer Vasily Samoliuk told the media that any decision by a local authority like this “is currently illegal.” Rental contracts with religious organizations also cannot be terminated unilaterally if there is “no reason for that”, he added. The UOC has yet to comment on the development.

The UOC has historical ties to the Russian Orthodox Church and has been accused by Ukrainian officials of being a security threat amid the military conflict with Russia. The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) raided UOC churches, ostensibly searching for stockpiles of weapons and evidence of treason.

Earlier, the mayor of the city of Lviv in western Ukraine also said the UOC – the only canonical Orthodox Church in Ukraine according to most other Orthodox churches in the world – “ended” in the city, as authorities demolished some of the Church’s properties and handed over others to the Kyiv-backed Ukrainian Orthodox Church (OCU).

Established in 2018, the OCU was only recognized by the pro-Western Patriarchate of Constantinople and three other out of 15 Orthodox Churches.

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