Ukraine Faces Religious Unrest

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The Ukrainian government is under scrutiny due to its arrest and trial of a Ukrainian Orthodox priest. The Russian government has called for their release, according to Reuters.

Ukraine has a diverse religious landscape overlapping on cultural and linguistic divides. Three-quarters of Ukrainians follow the Orthodox religion, but it is split between multiple denominations. Orthodox Churches have a church structure similar to Catholicism and Episcopalianism. Patriarchs from various bishoprics are in communion with each other, but each has the authority to manage its own church. The Patriarch of Constantinople, located in Istanbul, is the symbolic leader of the churches.

In 2018, Constantinople and Moscow had a fallout, where the former recognize Kyiv as its own independent church despite it historically belonging to Moscow’s Patriarchate. Since the start of the war in Ukraine, the remnants of the Moscow Church in Ukraine have been accused of collaborating with Russian troops.

The Ukrainian SBU, the domestic security service, has accused Ukrainian metropolitan bishop Pavlo of denying the existence of Ukrainian statehood. Churches have been seized and priests arrested on similar charges, though they have denied political connections to Moscow. This situation bears strong similarities to the fate of the Anglican Church in the American colonies during the American Revolution, who had to contend between their oaths to the King and the new American government.

Tucker Carlson has brought to light this Orthodox controversy to American audiences when he interviewed Mike Pence. The Russian Patriarchate has called for the release of the clerics.

Patriarch Kirill, head of the Russian Orthodox Church, on Saturday appealed to Pope Francis, the head of the United Nations and other religious and political figures to show support for the detained cleric.

“I urge you to pay attention to the ongoing persecution of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Ukraine and to take all possible measures to protect Metropolitan Pavlo … from lawless persecution,” Kirill said.

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