Sunday, February 17, 2019

Moscow Patriarchate Won’t Allow Many of Its Priests in Ukraine to Return to Russia: It Wants Martyrs, Experts Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 15 – Now that more than 300 parishes have shifted from the Moscow church in Ukraine to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, many of the priests involved have sought to return to Russia; but the Moscow Patriarchate is limiting that flow because it wants to have martyrs in Ukraine, according to experts.

            URA journalists Stanislav Zakharkin and Mikhail Bely say that the Ukrainian state and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church are seeking to have as many parishes as possible make this shift and to see Moscow loyalists among the Orthodox clergy leave the country for Russia (

                Some Russian commentators, like Kirill Rogov of the Moscow Institute of CIS Countries, and Sergey Petrov, a specialist on religious affairs, say that Russian priests are at risk of physical reprisal in Ukraine and not surprisingly want to leave. But the numbers who have actually fled are still quite small.

            According to the former head of the ROC MP’s department for church and society relations Vsevolod Chaplin, only about “10 to 20 ‘refugees’” from Ukraine are now back in the Russian Federation.  The ROC MP makes that hard because it requires that parish priests get authorization from their bishops, something the bishops rarely give.

            According to Petrov, “the ROC has taken the position that its priests in Ukraine must remain in their own country despite mortal danger. The logic here is this: each pastor is a soldier and he must accept any tests.”  Christ did not run from danger, and priests must not either, the religious specialist says the ROC MP believes.

            Moscow’s position on this, however, may backfire. If priests who have been loyally service the Russian church in Ukraine come to realize that that church isn’t going to protect them, then at least some of them may be even more ready to change sides, something that will only accelerate the pace at which the Ukrainian national church will take shape. 

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