Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko on Friday ordered the closure of 74 temples belonging to the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC), citing his allegations “direct links” to the Moscow Patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church.
Klitschko’s decree is similar to the one used to seize kyiv’s Pechersk Lavra, or Caves Monastery, which Ukrainian police stormed last month. The world-famous holy site, almost 1,000 years old, was handed over to the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, a rival organization created by the government in 2018.
The Lavra is technically state property, but the Church administered it under a 2013 agreement, which Kiev declared null and void earlier this year, saying the UOC had violated it by because of its links with “enemy nation” Russia. Ukrainian courts rejected the UOC’s appeals.
The newly sequestered temples could be handed over to the OCU or the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, which is in communion with Rome, or could even be demolished. “illegal items” given the government’s cancellation of rental and use contracts.
Last March, President Vladimir Zelensky announced the seizure of the Lavra. “an approach to strengthen our spiritual independence” and accused the UOC of being a tool of Russia. So far, a third of Ukraine’s regions have banned the UOC outright.
Moscow has accused kyiv of persecuting the canonical Orthodox Church and Washington of tacitly approving Ukraine’s actions. The US Department of State, which publishes an annual report “Religious freedom” report, never commented on kyiv’s campaign against the UOC. The reports published so far only contain references to meetings with representatives of the government-backed OCU.
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