26-04-2019

Tangle of church and state roils Ukraine’s Orthodox parishes

Fred Weir

The Christian Science Monitor, Apr 17, 2019

In the West, religious institutions and governments tend not to be closely aligned. But for Ukraine’s Orthodox churches, the relationship is far blurrier. And that is causing heated debates within the country’s parishes.

The idea of an independent Ukrainian church has long been a dream of Ukrainian nationalists, and it was realized just a few months ago, with the creation of the new Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU) in Kyiv.

But the arrival of the new state-backed church has brought upheaval to Ukraine’s many Orthodox parishes, which now face a difficult, politically charged decision. They can either remain part of the traditional church, which owes spiritual allegiance to the patriarch in Moscow, or they can shift their affiliation to the OCU and break with centuries of history. The debate is forcing Ukrainians to decide which is more important: religious freedom or national identity.

“I am supposed to represent the state here, but I have no idea what to do,” says Olena Korotka, the elected head of the town council of Pylypovychi, a village divided over the fate of its church. “I don’t think this problem can solve itself. There are so many aggressive-minded people getting involved. It even causes families to quarrel. ... When people start fighting like this, nothing good comes of it.”

www.risu.org.ua

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