Immaculate Conception Ukrainian Catholic Church

“An Independent Ukrainian State Is Synonymous with Religious Freedom,” says Head of the UGCC at the Meeting of the Council of Churches with G7 Ambassadors

by Fr. Roman Bobesiuk

On June 11, 2024, a meeting of the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations with the ambassadors of the Group of Seven (G7) countries was held in Kyiv. The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church was represented by His Beatitude Sviatoslav, Father and Head of the UGCC.

The Head of the UGCC thanked the ambassadors of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Great Britain, the United States of America, and the European Union for their solidarity and support of the Ukrainian people during the war. “During these more than two years of the great war, together we won one major battle, in particular on the humanitarian front—no one died of hunger or cold in Ukraine,” the Primate stated.

His Beatitude Sviatoslav devoted the main part of his speech to the topic of religious freedom in Ukraine.

“For all of us—representatives of churches and religious organizations—an independent Ukrainian state is synonymous with religious freedom. We understand that if Russia captures Ukraine, religious freedom will come to an end,” said the Primate, recalling that the history of the UGCC is a history of systematic liquidations by both the Russian imperial authorities and the Soviet communist regime.

His Beatitude Sviatoslav noted that churches in Ukraine are an integral part of Ukrainian society. Being the nucleus of the transformation of society from a post-Soviet to a democratic one, they educated citizens in being free people. “For us, Russia’s victory would mean a return to the catacombs,” said the Hierarch.

The Patriarch also described the state of religious freedom in the occupied territories. According to him, there is “not just the instrumentalization of religious feelings, but the militarization of church life; religion is not just instrumentalized, but used as a weapon to destroy any connection with Ukrainianness.”

“The All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations guards religious freedom in our relations with state authorities because where there is religious freedom, other types and forms of democracy exist,” said His Beatitude Sviatoslav.

The Head of the UGCC expressed his belief that today the Ukrainian state has the right and duty to do everything to prevent the aggressor state from using the Church and religion as an instrument of aggression against Ukrainians. “We are aware that today the parliament is preparing a bill to limit at the legislative level the ability of Russia to influence and manipulate the religious environment of Ukraine,” he said.

His Beatitude Sviatoslav noted that although the Moscow Patriarchate calls it a “ban” on its patriarchate, the bill defends four principles “that will continue to guarantee religious freedom in Ukraine.” The first of these is the partnership between churches and the state authorities. The second is the principle of non-interference of the state in church affairs and vice versa. The third is the equality of all churches. The fourth is the right and obligation of the state, even in the religious sphere, to protect state interests, including security. The Primate noted that these principles are equally applicable to all churches and religious organizations.

In conclusion, the Head of the UGCC added that Ukrainian churches pray for the end of the war and a just peace in Ukraine. He also expressed support for the Peace Summit to be held soon in Switzerland, as it will focus on a peaceful formula not only to end the war in Ukraine but also to prevent World War III.

The UGCC Department for Information

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