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On Sunday, May 26, 2024, St. Basil's recognized Hannah Holowach who graduated from Catholic Central High in Saratoga Springs.  Hannah will be studying civil engineering at RPI in the fall.  Hannah, who was a part of our church school and is a member of our choir, received a monetary scholarship, an icon, and a copy of the Orthodox Study Bible.  We wish Hannah continued success in her studies and in all future endeavors.  Many years!

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SCANDALOUS BILL NO. 8371 “ON BANNING THE UOC”

Although this article is from the beginning of April and there have been a number of updates, and the bill has for all intents and purposes been accepted, the author’s explanation of the essence of the matter continues to be relevant.—OC.

The Verkhovna Rada [Ukrainian Parliament] is currently considering bill 8371, which proposes banning the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC). However, the Ukrainian Parliament seems to be dragging its feet on adopting this controversial initiative. This story involves American Republicans and Ukrainian industrialists. Will the Church be banned in Ukraine? Read about it in our article.    

History of the Issue

In October 2023, the Verkhovna Rada supported bill 8371 with 267 votes, which Ukrainian believers call the “law on banning the UOC.” After this, it was supposed to be brought to a vote for the second reading, but this has not yet happened.

Bill 8371 bans the activities of the Russian Orthodox Church or religious organizations associated with it in Ukraine. There is already a conclusion from a religious studies examination stating that the UOC is such an organization. Previously, the bill only allowed courts to issue rulings banning such religious organizations.

After the first vote, the UOC turned to American lawyer Robert Amsterdam, head of the international human rights firm “Amsterdam & Partners LLP,” to protect the Church’s interests. The human rights lawyer gave an interview to TV host Tucker Carlson, in which he spoke about the persecution of the UOC. The interview garnered 50 million views.

In one of his statements, Amsterdam threatened the deputies with US sanctions if bill 8371 is passed. He also mentioned that the ban on the UOC would negatively impact US support for Ukraine.

Anglican Bishop Nick Baines from the UK appealed to the Ukrainian ambassador in London to withdraw the bill. In his opinion, the provisions of the bill are discriminatory and violate international norms.

Additionally, there are dissenters among the Rada deputies regarding bill 8371. In November 2023, fifty-one deputies appealed to Speaker Ruslan Stefanchuk, requesting that the bill be sent to the Venice Commission.

As a result, despite Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s call to pass bill 8371 as quickly as possible, it has yet to be brought to a vote. The deputy head of the parliamentary committee on humanitarian policy, Yevhenia Kravchuk, had previously promised that the document would reach the floor by February. However, it was only finalized in March.

Foreign Influence

The problem with passing bill 8371 is that the issue of persecution of the UOC is being actively used in the election campaign by American Republicans. In 2022, the son of former president and election candidate Donald Trump stated that Zelensky is banning Orthodoxy in Ukraine.

“Zelensky is going to ban the activities of the UOC. His government is also conducting raids in UOC churches and detaining priests. Maybe that’s why he’s become a superstar among Democrats?” he wrote on the social network X (formerly Twitter).

In addition, TV host Tucker Carlson has repeatedly spoken about the persecution of the Church and the involvement of current Democratic President Joe Biden. In one broadcast, he said:

“The US government, under several presidents, has effectively funded the killing of Christians in Syria, and this continues throughout the Middle East and Eastern Europe, in Ukraine. The most obvious example: The Ukrainian government has now banned an entire Christian denomination,1 and almost no one in the US has said anything about it.”

Some Ukrainian publications link the support for the UOC in Washington to the activities of major Ukrainian businessman Vadym Novinsky. Novinsky is part of the financial and industrial group of Ukraine’s wealthiest man, Rinat Akhmetov, who has his own contacts in the US. Securing support from Republicans, who need reasons to criticize Democrats, is quite feasible.

Under such circumstances, it is plausible that the White House asked the Kyiv authorities to slow down the passage of the bill to avoid providing grounds for criticism. However, the problems for the UOC have not ended.

Ongoing Persecution of the Church

Alongside the saga surrounding bill 8371, there are ongoing arrests of clergy and seizures of UOC churches in Ukraine. The main instigators in this process are the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), schismatics from the “Orthodox Church of Ukraine,” and nationalists.

In mid-March, journalists from the publication “Union of Orthodox Journalists” and representatives of the human rights initiative “Center for Legal Protection” were detained. On March 14, one of them, UOC Archpriest Sergey Chertilina, was sent to a pre-trial detention center for two months by the court. The SBU stated that the journalists and public activists were engaged in “information sabotage” and face life imprisonment.

In Zakarpattia, unknown individuals kidnapped the secretary of the Khust Diocese, Archpriest Ioann Rozman. He was first summoned to the police by a subpoena, but upon leaving, he was detained by masked, armed men who took him away in a minibus to an unknown location.

Additionally, UOC churches are being seized across Ukraine. For example, on March 13 alone, two churches in the village of Kotsiubynske in the Kiev region were seized: St. George’s Church and the Dormition Church.

The usual method for seizing a church involves a well-practiced scheme akin to a corporate raid. A “gathering of believers” is organized, where “activists” are brought in, and then they storm the church, with complete indifference from the police.

In some cases, churches have managed to fend off these seizures. For instance, on March 14 in Volhyn, parishioners of the Nativity of the Theotokos Church in Kamin-Kashyrskyi were able to defend their church. Schismatics and nationalists broke the gates and repeatedly stormed the church, but about 200 parishioners gathered to protect their parish and succeeded.

In Cherkasy, despite the prosecutor’s petition, the court did not detain Metropolitan Theodosy (Snihiryov) of Cherkasy and Kaniv. The demand the bishop be sent to pre-trial detention also came from the SBU [formerly the KGB of Ukraine].

The lack of legal mechanisms and the general uncertainty of the Ukrainian authorities regarding the church issue prevent judges from making repressive decisions. However, the pressure from the Ukrainian security services and the nationalist segment of Ukrainian society on the Church persists.

Will the Bill Be Passed?

We managed to speak with a former employee of the Kiev Metropolia of the UOC and an expert on religious relations. He believes that the US is indeed pressuring the Kiev authorities to not pass the bill. However, there are other factors as well.

Firstly, given the setbacks on the front, Zelensky desperately needs any kind of victory. The ban on the “pro-Russian” UOC could serve as such a symbolic victory.

Secondly, Kiev is currently highly dependent on London, which, according to this expert, is actively turning Ukraine into an “anti-Russia.” This process also involves religion—there is an attempt to “Catholicize” Ukrainians. Banning the UOC would allow the transfer of believers first to the schismatic OCU, and then to the Greek Catholic Church of Ukraine.

“What will come of this remains to be seen. But the likelihood that the bill will be passed has increased. Most likely, it will be done under the pretext of strengthening national security,” the expert believes.

Alexander Koval
Translation by OrthoChristian.com

Pravoslavie.ru

5/27/2024

1 Of course, denomination is not the proper word from the Orthodox point of view.—OC.

 

A STRANGE ICON

The nuns of the St. Prohor Pcinjski Convent, situated in the south of Serbia a few miles from the Macedonian border, told us this story.

When we dropped in at the convent’s icon shop we spotted an unusual icon: A saint was depicted with a cross in his hand (it was clear that he was a martyr or a confessor), but he was clothed in a soldier uniform and not traditional garments. Someone supposed that it was a depiction of the Russian martyred soldier Evgeny Rodionov, who remained faithful to Christ to the end, did not agree to take his cross off and was murdered by Chechen bandits on May 23, 1996, at age nineteen. But it was not he: As was seen on the icon, the coat of arms on the soldier uniform was Serbian, not Russian. We took a magnifying glass and read the following inscription in Serbian: “Saint John the Russian, a Confessor. A helper of the Serbian people.” Why was he in the Serbian uniform then? What did it mean? True, all saints are our helpers regardless of nationalities. We ask for the intercession of such saints as George the Victorious, Isaac the Syrian, Nicholas the Wonderworker of Myra and Moses the Black. But why the Holy Confessor John the Russian?

This is what the nuns told us. Everybody well remembers the horrific NATO bombing campaign of March 1999, as a result of which Kosovo and Metohija, the cradle of Serbian Orthodoxy, fell under the power of Islamists and their masters—the NATO “peace-keepers”. We also remember those mocking “Paschal greetings” that the invaders wrote on the bombs and missiles. As a result of these bombardments thousands of people were killed. The main victims of that brutal campaign were innocent civilians. According to UN Special Representative for Human Rights in the former Yugoslavia Jiri Dienstbier, NATO’s Balkan operation caused more deaths among civilians than the very conflict in Kosovo for whose resolution it seemingly was launched. The ecology of Serbia was devastated, the country’s industries were ruined. Now, eighteen years after those events, Serbia, used to endless wars through its history, is gradually being restored. But more prolonged bombardments would most likely have led to a total chaos in the country and a greater number of victims. Yes, Serbia was forced to submit to NATO in order to avoid the country’s total destruction and devastation. And, as we remember, Russia (which had previously lent a helping hand to Serbia on many occasions) was not a reliable partner at that moment.[1] But Serbs relied on Russian saints. The Holy Confessor John the Russian was a striking example of humility in the difficult circumstances that the Serbs were going through. In his captivity in Turkey, St. John converted many people to Christ through his humility. There were no secular, resounding victories in his life, there were no high-sounding hymns in praise of the Russian tsar, but there was the victory of Christ and humility—a quiet and radiant victory of God Who prefers to convince by His presence and love, in a still small voice (1 Kings 19:12).

And, as the nuns told us, St. John the Russian appeared to one Serbian monk from Mt. Athos while he was fervently praying (in the vision the saint was clothed in a Serbian military uniform). St. John said: “I am going to help my brothers, the Serbs.” On the following day, June 10, 1999, the NATO bombing ended…

Christians have faced trials at any time during history, and our days are no exception. If we look at what is going on in Kosovo and Metohija, it cannot be called a peaceful and happy life at all. However, the Good News of Christ is still being spread despite everything. And, according to the monks of local monasteries, some of the Albanians and NATO soldiers who at first disregarded Orthodoxy and even were hostile toward it, eventually became committed Orthodox Christians. Some embraced Orthodoxy after experiencing miracles, others were inspired by the above-mentioned “still small voice”—the peaceful light of Christ’s love that triumphs over all kinds of weapons. So it is too early to say that Orthodoxy in Kosovo and Metohija is dead. If one saintly Russian captive was able to convert thousands of people to Christ through his meekness, then why can’t thousands of Orthodox Serbs, who became captives in their native land, do the same?

Source:  Orthochristian.com

UNDER COVER OF NIGHT, UKRAINE DESTROYS TITHES CHURCH, BUILT ON SITE OF FIRST KIEVAN CATHEDRAL
Place where the Tithes Church stood
Place where the Tithes Church stood
Place where the Tithes Church stood
Tithes Church (in foreground) demolished May 17, 2024
Tithes Church (in foreground) demolished May 17, 2024
Tithes Church (in foreground) demolished May 17, 2024
Destroyed Tithes Church carried away by dump truck
Destroyed Tithes Church carried away by dump truck
Destroyed Tithes Church carried away by dump truck

Kiev, May 17, 2024

Ukraine’s National History Museum and anti-Orthodox nationalists have finally achieved their dream of dismantling and destroying a church that, until this morning, stood on the site of the first cathedral of Kievan Rus’.

The ancient cathedral was blown up by the godless authorities in 1936, but in 2006, the new church, belonging to the Tithes Monastery, was built by Kiev residents with the blessing of then-primate Metropolitan Vladimir of Kiev and All Ukraine.

The anti-Orthodox element in Ukraine has been trying to dismantle the church since at least 2018, during the time of President Petro Poroshenko, arguing that it was illegally built on the territory of the National History Museum.

The church was vandalized and set on fire on January 25, 2018. On February 3 of that year, about 200 radicals staged a protest near the monastery, calling for its dismantling. More than 3,000 came out to defend the monastery on the same day. The former abbot of the Tithes Monastery, His Grace Bishop Gideon of Makarov, was temporarily deprived of his Ukrainian citizenship in 2019-2020 after he spoke out about the persecution of the Church.

In February 2023, the Economic Court of Kiev ruled to dismantle the church, which was later upheld by other court rulings.

Last month, the Museum announced a fundraiser towards the church’s demolition, calling it a piece of “garbage.”

And last night, the Tithes Monastery and other sources began reporting on the demolition of the church.

“At present, the church is surrounded by police and military personnel, with many buses carrying soldiers,” the monastery wrote at 10:34 PM. The next message called for prayers and physical help from anyone who was able.

At 10:49, the monastery reported that police were trying to detain the monastery brethren. It later reported there were more than 100 armed police officers present.

At 11:40: “Jammers for mobile communication and internet have been activated at the site, and the entire perimeter of the mountain is cordoned off by police. The sound of bulldozers can be heard.”

At 12:18, the monastery posted video of massive dump trucks carrying away debris. “Icons… Crosses… The altar…” the monastery wrote.

“The church that was consecrated by His Beatitude Metropolitan Vladimir and His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry no longer exists…,” the monastery wrote at 12:20.

Source:  Orthochristian.com

PATRIARCH PORFIRIJE OF SERBIA FORBIDDEN ENTRY INTO KOSOVO
17 May 2024 year 10:22

The International Human Rights Alliance "Church Against Xenophobia and Discrimination" has described the refusal of the authorities of Kosovo to allow hierarchs led by Serbian Patriarch Porfirije to enter for worship and official events as a gross violation of international law and an act of discrimination against believers of the Serbian Orthodox Church.

As reported earlier, on May 13, 2024, His Holiness Patriarch Porfirije and a group of seven archpastors, who were heading to the monastery of the Serbian Patriarchate in Peć to perform the Divine Liturgy, with which they, according to tradition, were supposed to open the next Bishops' Council of the Serbian Orthodox Church, were stopped at the Merdare checkpoint on the administrative line separating Kosovo and Metohija from Central Serbia. Without explanation, the Serbian Patriarch and the accompanying hierarchs were informed that entry into the territory of the unrecognized "Republic of Kosovo" was prohibited for them.

In a statement published on May 16th by the press service of the Alliance "Church Against Xenophobia and Discrimination," attention is also drawn to the fact that this refusal is "not in any way justified" and furthermore, "it was not legally formalized, and at present the formal reason for the entry ban remains unknown."

"We consider it appropriate to organize a legal process to protect rights in this situation in accordance with international law, as well as according to the legislation in force in the territory of Kosovo," the statement said, posted on the website of the human rights organization. In this regard, the Human Rights Alliance "Church Against Xenophobia and Discrimination" will send corresponding proposals and recommendations to the Serbian Orthodox Church Patriarchate, as well as written requests regarding the incident to the authorities of Kosovo.

"On our part, the Alliance will ensure the presence of information on the fact of discrimination, unjustified restrictions on the freedom of movement, and religious activities of the hierarchs of the Serbian Orthodox Church at international conferences related to Kosovo, including within the framework of reporting procedures for monitoring compliance with human rights standards," –emphasize the human rights activists.

The International Human Rights Association "Church Against Xenophobia and Religious Discrimination" was established in December 2023 by a group of hierarchs and clergy of Local Orthodox Churches together with non-governmental organizations "Public Advocacy", "VSI Zmogaus teisiu apsauga" and "European institute for religion and law", which have a consultative status within the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.

DECR Communication Service/Patriarchia.ru