Ukraine’s Verkhovna Rada has changed the rules for the transition of religious communities. 229 Ukrainian parliamentarians voted “for,” while the Opposition Bloc members were blocking the rostrum
Bill # 4128 On changing the rules of transition of religious communities was registered in the parliament back in 2016. It had to prescribe the mechanism of the parishes’ transition, which should be adopted by the majority of the religious community members. The document proposed an extremely vague definition of the religious community members. In accordance with it, membership in a religious community is determined by self-identification of the parishioners. According to 112.ua sources in the coalition factions, the bill was opposed by the opposition and some MPs from the parliamentary majority. There were rumors that the Ecumenical Patriarchate was also dissatisfied with this version of the draft law, hinting at the risks of raidership. That is why the draft document has been excluded from the agenda for a long time.
However, at the end of last year, the Orthodox Church of Ukraine was established, recognized by the Ecumenical Patriarchate. The representatives of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church said this would cause the desire of the newly-formed structure and its supporters to put pressure on their parishioners so that they could be transferred to Ukraine’s Local Church. And such cases have already begun. Using some supposedly collected signatures of the parishioners, the raiders tried to transfer some parishes into the newly created church. A similar incident occurred in Balta, Odesa region. Local nationalists came to the UOC church and presented a list of 300 signatures to parishioners in favor of the decision to transfer the church to the administration of Ukraine’s Local Church. The same scheme was worked out in Olenivka, Chernihiv region, where, under the guise of the local residents, unknown people voted for the transfer. At the same time, local authorities were in a hurry to announce that the parishes would voluntarily transfer to the new church.
Currently, Ukraine has no legally fixed legal procedure for the transfer of communities from one jurisdiction to another. So the MPs decided to address this issue. Parliamentary speaker Andriy Parubiy expressed the hope that the MPs would consider the bill #4128, the adoption of which, in his opinion, would ensure the “democratic nature of the transition of religious communities.” On Wednesday evening. Verkhovna Rada Committee on Culture and Spirituality approved the updated version of the document.
Unlike the original version, the MPs have changed the formula for the religious communities transition. According to it, the decision to make the transition and make the appropriate changes to the statute of a religious community should be made by at least 2/3 of the number of community members. Thus, if there are 60 people in a community, for example, 31 people are needed for a quorum, then 20 members are enough to change the subordination of the community. The list of community members is determined in accordance with its charter.
In addition, it is assumed that members of the community who refuse to move can form a new community — they might continue to hold services in one temple with those who joined the other church.
However, this option did not suit everyone. Because it does not completely exclude church raiding. For example, some 20-30 people might orderly come to a village, call themselves members of a local religious community and vote for the transition. The parliamentary coalition is assured that the law would protect not only those communities that decide to join Ukraine’s Local Church, but also those that decide to remain as part of the UOC because now the transition process would be transparent.
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Thursday (January 17) was another "religious day" in Ukraine’s parliament. The MPs proceeded to the consideration of the bill announced by the speaker. The attempts of the Opposition Bloc faction to demand a break did not have any success.
“Do not provoke a conflict,” said the head of the parliament. The Opposition Bloc members, in turn, decided not to interfere with the consideration of the issue. There were no rallies under the parliament.
The bill was supported by 229 votes (at the second attempt). Not all the MPs from the ruling coalition supported the initiative. In particular, MPs from the Udar group, which is part of the Bloc of Petro Poroshenko (BPP) faction, refused to vote. According to 112.ua sources in the pro-presidential faction, the reason was that the majority ignored the group's amendment to the draft law on "social services." Part of the parliamentarians simply did not show up in the session hall. Our sources in the coalition factions noted that the President’s Administration needs to get the maximum rating effect from Poroshenko’s so-called “Tomos tour,” that is why the church transition issue was imposed on the parliamentary agenda.
Their “opponents” adhere to a different opinion. MP Yuriy Boyko promised to cancel the “church laws” adopted by the parliament.
However, most likely, the status quo would be preserved until February. Deputies from the "Opposition bloc" have submitted a draft resolution on canceling the results of voting for the church bill, which would not allow parliamentary speaker Andriy Parubiy to sign it.