Cherkasy bishop: My case is fabricated, the Church is persecuted in my face

21 August 2023 17:45
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Speech by the head of the Cherkasy diocese of the UOC, Metropolitan Theodosy, in court. Photo: Eparchy’s Facebook page Speech by the head of the Cherkasy diocese of the UOC, Metropolitan Theodosy, in court. Photo: Eparchy’s Facebook page

According to Metropolitan Theodosy, the initiators of the criminal proceedings against him want him to be silent and "to keep the whole Church silent."

On August 21, 2023, at a meeting of the Sosnivka District Court of Cherkasy, Metropolitan Theodosy of Cherkasy and Kaniv stated that the criminal case against him was artificially fabricated and was a manifestation of persecution of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

"While the charges are formulated against an individual, this entire criminal case is artificially fabricated against me specifically as the Metropolitan of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, overseeing the Cherkasy Eparchy," the hierarch said. "This criminal proceeding is taking place within the framework of the ongoing persecution against the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in our state, and against the Cherkasy Eparchy in particular. As an individual, as a citizen of Ukraine, I am of little interest to the prosecutors. In my person, they are persecuting the Church, and in court, I am representing the Church. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which is discriminated against and persecuted in Ukraine today."

Metropolitan Theodosy stated that he "does not acknowledge the charges brought by the Security Service of Ukraine and cannot acknowledge them because they are completely artificially fabricated and falsified."

Vladyka noted that the SBU incriminates him with two articles of the Criminal Code.

"The first and more serious charge is under Article 436-2 (Parts 2 and 3), alleging that I supposedly gave instructions to publish extremist materials on the official website of the Cherkasy Eparchy. But I never gave such instructions and never intended to do so. This statement is completely false and does not correspond to reality in any way. The prosecution has no facts, no evidence whatsoever to claim otherwise. The charges against me under this article of the Criminal Code of Ukraine are entirely fabricated from start to finish," said the Metropolitan.

Another accusation against the hierarch was brought by the Security Service of Ukraine under Part 1 of Article 161 of the Criminal Code (incitement of religious enmity and hatred, insulting the feelings of citizens due to their religious beliefs, direct or indirect restriction of rights or establishment of direct or indirect privileges of citizens based on religious beliefs).

"This accusation is being seriously brought against us today in a situation where mere affiliation with the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in our society, manipulated by controlled media, is already dangerous for a person. Widespread persecution of our Church and discrediting in the media is taking place everywhere. Our temples are illegally and raiderly seized, including in Cherkasy and the Cherkasy region," the bishop stated.

According to him, it is not only he who stands before the court, but also, through him, "all Orthodox believers of Cherkasy Oblast – the Cherkasy Eparchy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church."

The hierarch pointed out that representatives of the authorities "humiliate, trample upon the rights of believers of our Church, citizens of Ukraine at every step."

"They insult them with dirty words and scorn officials of various ranks. Mayors of cities and local deputies make unconstitutional decisions against the UOC, insult millions of our believers in words and in documents. Several bills are being prepared in the Verkhovna Rada to ban the activities of our Church – contrary to the Constitution, contrary to international legal principles, contrary to common sense, finally. Today, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and its believers – millions of Ukrainian citizens – have become third-class people, outcasts in their own country, in the country where they were born and where they live. Today, in Ukraine, in the eyes of the whole world, the persecutions against the UOC have completely trampled and defiled Article 35 of the Constitution and Article 161 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine. And amidst all this, the Prosecutor's Office and the Security Service of Ukraine are seriously bringing charges under Article 161 against representatives of the persecuted Church, including against me. For people with unimpaired logical thinking, this can only cause cognitive dissonance. Such cognitive dissonance arises in people all over the world," Metropolitan Theodosy said.

In his opinion, "this trial will most likely be indicative, as it already generates broad public resonance both in Ukraine and beyond its borders. This trial can also set a precedent for modern Ukrainian justice. But it will certainly become another serious test for the impartiality and fairness of our justice."

The Metropolitan emphasized that the initiators of the criminal case want to judge him "not for specific unlawful actions."

"They want to obstruct and publicly condemn my very position as a hierarch of the Church," the bishop said. "The initiators of this criminal proceeding want me, as an Orthodox hierarch and as a citizen of Ukraine, to be silenced and not speak anymore. So that other faithful of the Church see this, get scared, and also keep silent. Ideally – to silence the entire Church. They want to condemn not only our position, our statements, but also our thoughts. The goal of the beneficiaries of this criminal proceeding is to condemn our very civic attitude towards what is happening in the religious sphere of Ukrainian society. To condemn dissent. And not only mine personally, but also millions of people like me, citizens of Ukraine, primarily the faithful of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, but not only them."

As the UOJ reported, the Sosnivka District Court of Cherkasy held the first session, dedicated to the consideration of the merits of the case against Metropolitan Theodosy.

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