“The whole civilian population of Donbas is suffering from the humanitarian disaster and armed conflict there together with the devout members of our church, whose parishes and cloisters make up a majority of religious communities in the region,” the patriarch told senior clergy on Monday, according to the website of Moscow Patriarchate.
More than 60 Orthodox churches were damaged by shelling in the Donetsk and Horlivka dioceses, at least 15 of them are ruined completely, the church leader said. There were cases where shells hit churches during a prayer service, killing and injuring parishioners. The hostilities killed the archpriest Pavel Zhuchenko, the archpriest Vladimir Kreslyansky, and the priest Georgy Nikishov.
“I am aware of the threats – and in some cases, death threats – received by at least ten clergymen of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. Those regions, where nationalist groups have been most active, saw acts of vandalism, church arsons, distribution of leaflets and posters inciting religious and ethnic hatred,” the patriarch said.
Peace in Ukraine will not be sustainable unless the country eliminates the causes of manifestation of “unfairness and discrimination based on language, nationality or religion,” he said.
Meanwhile, schismatic organizations, primarily the self-proclaimed Kiev Patriarchate, have been trying to take advantage of the difficult situation, the Russian Church leader said.
“In the past year alone, schismatics seized illegally at least 18 churches in the Rivne, Vinnytsya, Ternopol, Lvov and other regions. It should be noted that there were many more unsuccessful attempts to seize churches, which attests not only to schismatics’ persistence, but also to the courage and the firmness of the faith of the Ukrainian Orthodox Christians,” the patriarch said.