Press Releases 2006

Autonomous Orthodox Ask US Embassy to Help Church in Ukraine

25.02.2006, [13:09] // Violation of rights //Religious News Service of Ukraine (RISU)

Metropolitan Ioan (Notaro), prime bishop of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in America (AUOC-A), on 22 February 2006 sent a letter to James Heller, first secretary attaché at the US Embassy in Kyiv, asking for an investigation of the registration of the church by Ukraine’s government. Among the claims of the letter is that the bishops of the church “have been harassed by members of the” Security Service of Ukraine. The full text of the letter follows:

Autonomous Ukrainian Orthodox Church in America

February 22, 2006

Protocol: L1106

Mr. James Heller
First Secretary Attache of the United States
Embassy of the United States of America
6 Mykoly Pymonenka Street
Kyiv 01901, Ukraine

Dear Mr. Heller:

Peace be with you!

I am writing to you with the hope that you would investigate the matter which we are bringing before you and that you would personally meet with our Ukrainian Bishops and representatives and intervene in what we, as Americans, consider to be the violation of the fundamental human rights of our Bishops, clergy, monastics and people in Ukraine.

Our Bishops and representatives in Kyiv began the formal process of registering our jurisdiction in Ukraine in November, 2005. We are informed that the laws of the State of Ukraine specify a time-limit of one month for a decision on the registration of an entity to be made by the Department of Religious Affairs. However, the specified period can be extended an additional two months given the need for additional information by that Department. This time limit, as prescribed by Ukrainian law, has passed, and the process is still being stretched.

What we find especially troubling is the attitude of a certain Mr. Viktor Bondarenko. Mr. Viktor Bondarenko of the Department of Religious Affairs of the Ministry of Justice in Ukraine openly stated to our representatives that our compliance with the requirements for registration simply did not matter, because if we would be registered, then everyone in Ukraine would want to be registered. Mr. Viktor Bondarenko added that the purpose of the Department of Religious Affairs is to bring boundaries and to limit who is registered -- again, a bold statement made in direct contradition of Article 35 of the Constitution of Ukraine. Mr. Bondarenko has even been disrespectful of my person in conversations with our Hierarchs and others even though he has never personally met me. Some have stated that Mr. Bondarenko cannot remain neutral and should recuse himself completely from this matter, as he had been awarded a special honour by another Orthodox jurisdiction, namely, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church - Kyiv Patriarchate and that there is the possibility that Mr. Bondarenko is prejudiced and will not support the registration of any jurisdiction he may personally feel to be a “rival” of his own jurisdiction. In conversations with our Bishops and clergy, Mr. Bondarenko has been openly aggressive, hostile, has lost control and has openly screemed and insulted our representatives.

Our jurisdiction had submitted all required documentation to the Department of Religious Affairs through our representatives, His Grace Bishop Stephan Negrebetskyj and The Rt. Rev. Mitred Archpriest Valentyn Soroka. Expert legal opinions pursuant to our compliance with the requirements for registration have been submitted by (1) the National Ukrainian Academy of Science - Koretsky Institute of State and Law, (2) the University of Taras Shevchenko - Chair of Religion, (3) the Association of the Attorneys of Ukraine (cf. attached exhibits).

The questions asked of the legal experts were: (1) whether the Statutes and activities of our Archdiocese of Ukraine are in compliance with the Constitution of Ukraine and whether any of our activities might not be in compliance with the Constitution of Ukraine, (2) whether it is possible to register the Statutes of the Archdiocese of Ukraine with the Department of Religious Affairs which is a part of the Department of the Ministry of Justice of Ukraine and (3) whether it is actually necessary to register our parishes prior to the registration of our jurisdiction in Ukraine. Each of these expert legal opinions, without exception, concludes that our Statutes and activities are in full compliance with Article 35 of the Constitution of Ukraine, possess all the necessary requirements for registration, and, consequently, that our jurisdiction should be granted registration.

In addition, during the registration process, our Ukrainian Bishops have been harassed by members of the Slurzhba Bezpekiy Ukraiiny (SBU) [Security Service of Ukraine-editor]. They have received telephone calls from members of the SBU demanding that they “stop their activities.” Now, within the last few days, one of our parishioners has even been threatened and told that if he remains a part of our jurisdiction, he can lose his job and “suffer other consequences.” To us as Americans, this is not only a violation of the freedom of religion and conscience clauses of the Constitution of Ukraine but an aggregious violation of basic human rights.

Relative to these most recent threats and intimidation of our Bishops by the Slurzhba Bezpekiy Ukraiiny (SBU) and the members of the Department of Religious Affairs, we, as an Orthodox jurisdiction, fear for the well-being of our Bishops, clergy, monastics and people in Ukraine and ask for your direct intervention in this matter. The question our Bishops, clergy and parishioners here in the United States have asked is how can the United States government contribute millions-upon-millions of dollars to Ukraine if the government of Ukraine continues to act in a manner inconsistent with basic human rights such as freedom of religion and conscience? The media of Ukraine is replete with incidents detailing the violation of religious freedom in Ukraine. His Grace Bishop Bronislaw Bernacki (Odesa - Simferopol Diocese) and the Roman Catholics in Ukraine have suffered much; the Jews of Ukraine continue to be persecuted, physically assaulted and are treated as somehow less-than-human; the Russian True Orthodox Church is openly persecuted and is refused registration; everyone knows about all that the members of the Armenian Apostolic Church in L’viv have experienced. Now, we as an Orthodox Christian jurisdiction are forced to fear for the physical and psychological well-being of our members in Ukraine. All this, and not one Ukrainian government official has come forth to demand an investigation into the Department of Religious Affairs and/or to offer more than simple lip service to these inexplicable and shocking violations of human rights on the part of Ukrainian government officials.
+IOAN Notaro, Ph.D
Metropolitan Archbishop of the United States
Prime Bishop
Autonomous Ukrainian Orthodox Church in America

cc: US Senator Russell Feingold
US Senator Herbert Kohl
Mr. John Hanford, Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom
US Department of State: Office of International Religious Freedom
Mr. Barry F. Lowenkron, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Democracy, Human
Rights & Labor

Предстоятель Автономної Української Православної Церкви в Америці звинувачує владу України у порушенні права людини на свободу совісті

24.02.2006, [12:53] // Державно-конфесійні відносини // Religious Information Service of Ukraine - RISU


— У листі до Джеймса Геллера, першого секретаря-аташе посольства США в Україні Митрополит Йоан Нотаро, глава Автономної Української Православної Церкви в Америці просить розслідувати справу з „порушення в Україні фундаментальних прав єпископів, духовенства та вірних” цієї Церкви. Мова йде про відмову Державного департаменту у справах релігій зареєструвати в Україні юрисдикцію цієї Церкви.

У листі, зокрема, сказано: „Наші єпископи та представники в Києві у листопаді 2005 року розпочали процедуру реєстрації нашої юрисдикції в Україні... Нас стурбувала позиція Віктора Бондаренка з Департаменту у справах релігій, який відкрито заявив, що наші намагання не мають значення, бо у разі нашої реєстрації, кожен в Україні захоче зареєструватися”.

У листі наголошено також, що під час процесу реєстрації їх єпископи з України зазнали переслідувань від працівників Служби Безпеки України. Митрополит стверджує, що українські єпископи цієї Церкви отримували дзвінки з СБУ із вимогою припинити свою діяльність. „Одному з наших парафіян кілька днів тому погрожували втратою роботи. Для нас, американців, це не лише порушення прав людини на свободу релігії, але й порушення основних прав людини”, – наголошує Митрополит Йоан Нотаро.

Автор листа висловлює тривогу за долю духовенства та вірних цієї Церкви і запитує, „як уряд США може вкладати кошти в Україну, коли керівництво цієї країни продовжує порушувати права людини, зокрема право на свободу совісті та віросповідання”.

Митрополит Йоан Нотаро вважає, що в Україні переслідують також римо-католиків, юдеїв, представників Руської Істинно-Православної Церкви, Вірменської апостольської Церкви.

Довідка РІСУ

: Редакція не володіє інформацією про структуру та чисельність цієї Церкви як в США , так і в Україні. У листі також не вказано імен згаданих у ньому єпископів.

Окрім того, з 1 вересня 2005 року новостворений Державний департамент у справах релігій очолює Володимир Бондарчук. Віктор Бондаренко був головою Державного комітету у справах релігій, ліквідованого навесні 2005 року.

© Ukrainian Orthodox Church in America, Inc. 2013