Archbishop Eustratius (Zorya) of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate. Image: gordonua.com
One of the gravest dangers — and potentially most serious defeats –any country combating an authoritarian aggressor is that in the name of defending itself against aggression, it will take steps that will make it resemble in some ways those against whom it is being forced to defend itself.
The Western allies faced such risks in combating fascism during World War II. The democracies of the world were confronted by other such dangers when opposing the communist dictatorships during the Cold War. And now Ukraine is facing a similar kind of threat in the course of its struggle against an aggressive and authoritarian Russia.
One area where this risk is greatest is in the area of religious affairs. There, many Ukrainians believe, entirely reasonably, that the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate is the Kremlin’s handmaiden in its aggression against Ukraine and thus should be banned.
But Archbishop Eustratius (Zorya), the secretary of the Holy Synod of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, warns that such a step would be a mistake as a matter of principle and of practice as well.
“I am absolutely convinced,” he says, “that the Moscow Patriarchate in Ukraine should not be prohibited. When fighting with a dragon, we must not become one, and when struggling with Russia, we must not become like Russia. This is complicated because it is always more difficult to do good than to do evil. But good is constructive while evil is only destructive.”
Ukraine must deal with religious organizations using the laws it already has and pursue those who work against Ukraine “under the cover” of a religious organization,” the churchman says. And Ukraine must expose those who are doing so, a relatively small number but ones who are seeking “to subordinate the entire structure of the Moscow Patriarchate in Ukraine.”
At the same time, Eustratius says, “it is very important that this church receives its correct name, that it be called the Moscow Patriarchate in Ukraine and not cover itself with the name of a Ukrainian church. Were Ukraine to proceed along the path of prohibiting an entire church, this would be a big gift to the Kremlin.”
That mistaken action, the Ukrainian patriarchate official says, would allow the Kremlin “to set off a genuinely religious civil war,” to “set our democratic allies in Europe and America against us,” and thereby to “help the aggressor win. We must be wise and not allow such things to happen.”
- Russian court orders demolition of Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Kyiv Patriarchate) in Moscow Oblast
- Russification through the church
- Scholar: Russian Orthodox Church Moscow Patriarchate supports repressions, militarism
- Moscow Patriarchate still has more parishes in Ukraine than its Kyiv counterpart but fewer followers
- Moscow Patriarchate taking control over property of its parishes in Ukraine to block them from leaving
- How the Moscow Patriarchate is creating a separatist Lavra “republic” in Kyiv