"Spiritual independence" is the goal of Ukraine as President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has been taking actions that are opposing the church. The Ukrainian government, led by President Zelenskuy, has accused the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) of collaborating with Moscow and undermining Ukrainian unity.
As a result, authorities ordered the UOC to leave its base in the Pechersk Lavra monastery complex, which is over 900 years old. According to an article shared by US News, this move prompted the Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill to request the help of Pope Francis and other religious leaders to stop the crackdown.
The Call and Action for Spiritual Independence of Ukraine Starts to Intensify
President Zelenskiy addressed the situation in a nightly video, stating that the move was one more step towards strengthening Ukraine's spiritual independence. He also emphasized that Ukrainians have reacted positively to the decision and that they will continue to resist any attempts to manipulate their spiritual life or steal their cultural values.
Kirill, a religious leader, has expressed his support for Russia's invasion of Ukraine and has urged others to prevent the forced closure of a monastery. According to Reuters, in response, the Security Service of Ukraine has taken actions against the UOC, including searches, sanctions, and criminal cases against clergy members. The UOC claims that they and their followers are being targeted unfairly.
Orthodoxy is the primary religion in Ukraine, and the Moscow-linked UOC competed with an independent Orthodox Church, established in 1991 but only officially recognized by the church hierarchy in 2018. Since the invasion, the independent church has gained followers, while the UOC has faced scrutiny. The Ukrainian culture ministry has set a deadline for the Moscow-linked church to vacate the Pechersk Lavra monastery complex by March 29.
Also Read: Ukraine's Proposed Ban on Russia-Linked Churches Sparks Controversy
Ban on Russia-Linked Churches
In the story here in Christianity Daily, the President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, has pledged to ensure complete independence for his country, including spiritual autonomy. Last year, this statement came in response to accusations from Russian officials that Ukrainian authorities are enemies of Christ and the Orthodox faith.
There has been a long-standing competition between the Moscow-affiliated church and the independent Ukrainian church established after Ukraine gained independence. According to Inquirer, a survey conducted by the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology revealed that only 4% of Ukrainians identify with the Moscow-subordinated church.
Ukrainian authorities recently raided several monasteries under the jurisdiction of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and found large amounts of cash, suspicious Russian citizens, and materials promoting Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Ukrainian authorities have imposed sanctions on at least 10 UOC members, and the UOC has reported that local authorities have issued over 70 orders to ban its activities.
These actions have sparked controversy and concern about potential violations of religious freedom. Ukrainian officials have stated that they will investigate whether the Moscow-linked church branch has the right to operate at the Pechersk Lavra complex in Kyiv.
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