6 Jan 2019 14:11

Ukraine's chief rabbi speaks against law on renaming of Ukrainian Orthodox Church

KYIV. Jan 6 (Interfax) - Ukraine's chief rabbi Yaakov Dov Bleich has spoken in defense of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, calling the law on its renaming unconstitutional.

"The state wants to decide for the Church what it should be called [...] We cannot exclude 20-25% of Ukraine's population and say they are low-grade citizens if they belong to this church. These people are Ukrainians, too, they live in Ukraine and they believe in God," Yaakov Dov Bleich, who also chairs the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and religious Organizations, said in an interview with Glavcom.

"The decision made by the Verkhovna Rada means that no religion can feel protected from state interference in Ukraine. Today's it's the Moscow Patriarchate, tomorrow it's Muslims, Jews, etc. That is, if the state doesn't like you, it can interfere. Because the state tells you how to believe in God," the rabbi said.

Yaakov Dov Bleich said he was absolutely certain that Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko would not sign that law because it contradicts the Ukrainian Constitution and had negative consequences to a majority of the country's population.

"It seems to me that the Constitutional Court will recognize the law as unconstitutional. Because it is clearly against the Constitution of Ukraine, 100%. International organizations, even those that support Ukraine, have already made statements that it's wrong and what happened in the parliament is a provocation," the rabbi said.

He also said he would ask the president and Ukraine's Verkhovna Rada to "delay the observance of this law," which is now being studied by the Constitutional Court.

According to earlier reports, Ukraine's parliament on December 20 adopted by 240 votes amendments to the law On the Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organizations, The document was signed by President Petro Poroshenko on December 22.

The document obligates a religious organization included in the structure of a religious organization with a center in a state that perpetrated military aggression against Ukraine and temporarily occupied its territory to reflect in its name its affiliation with such religious organization outside the country.

The Ukrainian Orthodox Church is not mentioned in the law, but it believes that the document is targeted against it and intends to appeal it in the Ukrainian Constitutional Court.

Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia said he believes the Ukrainian authorities' attempts to change the name of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church may lead to repression and even "bloody conflicts."