Ukraine’s Ministry of Culture has announced that a visit to Kyiv by Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, is undesirable.
Volodymyr Yushkevych, the head of the Department of Religious and Ethnic Affairs at Ukraine’s Ministry of Culture, explained his reasons in an official statement posted on the Ministry of Culture website, June 19, referring to the Holy Synod of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate that currently taking place at the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra:
As has been reported by various media sources, this Synod of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, under pressure from external forces, may reach a decision to invite the Moscow Patriarch Kirill to Ukraine. Therefore, as the head of the of the state authority responsible for church-state relations, I wish to announce that this visit during ongoing Russian military aggression against Ukraine is undesirable, provocative and designed for political ends.
I assure you that Ukraine will do everything within available law and legislation for this visit not to take place on any territory in Ukraine, including temporarily occupied territories. In my view, such a visit by the head of the Russian Orthodox Church can only provoke a wave of inter-confessional conflict. Therefore, this visit would be possible only after Russia ceases its aggression and returns all the territories it has seized from Ukraine.
Additionally, I want to inform you that Ukraine will not allow politicians to interfere in the internal matters of churches and religious organizations and, without exception, will continue to ensure the protection of the rights and freedoms of citizens, especially in matters of the freedom of conscience and religion.
I would like to take this opportunity to wish the members of the Holy Synod of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church productive work and informed and responsible decisions that will benefit the Church and an independent and united Ukraine at this difficult time for the people of Ukraine.
Director of the Department for Religious and Ethnic Affairs at the Ministry of Culture of Ukraine Volodymyr Yushkevych
Translation: Anna Mostovych