Ukraine’s Lviv symbolically votes to ban former Moscow-affiliated church
By Max Hunder
KYIV (Reuters) – The local council in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv on Thursday became the first to ban a branch of the Orthodox church that was until last month directly affiliated with Moscow.
According to Lviv Mayor Andriy Sadovyi, the council’s unanimous vote to ban the activity of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) – which has long-standing ties with Moscow – was “political” and without legislative effect, because the rules on religious organizations are established at the national level. .
“It is a position that we have publicly expressed, and now the state bodies must get to work,” said Sadovyi, quoted by the city administration website.
The UOC, which until May reported to Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, was the official representative of Orthodox Christianity in Ukraine until 2019, when the new Ukrainian Orthodox Church was officially recognized by the leaders of the Church in Istanbul.
A separate Ukrainian church, seen as an essential part of the newly independent Ukrainian state, was first proclaimed months after Ukraine gained independence from Soviet rule in 1991. It fought for years to be recognized by the Ecumenical Patriarch of Istanbul before finally getting her wish in 2019.
Most lay worshipers have moved to the new church, but the majority of parishes have not, sparking tensions that came to a head after Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24.
In late May, the Russia-affiliated church’s ruling synod voted to cut the church’s ties with Moscow in response to Patriarch Kirill’s blatant support for the war, described by the Kremlin as a ‘special military operation’. .
Most worshipers in Lviv, like much of western Ukraine, are Eastern Rite Catholics – tied to Rome but attending services similar to those in Orthodox churches.
According to the city council, only four churches in Lviv belong to the previously affiliated church in Moscow.
An aide to the metropolitan of the Lviv church told Reuters the church did not believe the ban applied to her because she was no longer loyal to Moscow.
However, Yuriy Lomaha, the city councilor who put forward the motion, said he considered Moscow’s public disavowal “wrong”.
“They’re going down this road to get less attention,” Lomaha told Reuters, reflecting wider mistrust in Ukrainian society of the church and its longstanding ties to the church. Moscow.
An April poll showed that 51% of Ukrainians polled wanted their government to ban the UOC, with considerably higher support in the west of the country.
(Reporting by Max Hunder; Editing by Ron Popeski and Richard Chang)