Ukrainian priests told to keep out of politics

A man looks towards Kiev's Independence Square, Ukraine, Friday, March 7, 2014. At right is the Trade Unions Building, which was damaged in a fire in late February.(AP Photo/David Azia)

The Synod of Bishops of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church earlier this month approved instructions that commanded UGCC priests to not get involved in elections.

This has become particularly relevant as the Ukrainian presidential elections, which had been scheduled in 2015, have been brought forward to 25 May 2014.

With ongoing conflict in the east of Ukraine, with pro-Russian militias taking control of government buildings, the UGCC is seeking to avoid involvement in a potentially escalating conflict.

The document's authors were quoted by the Religious Information Service of Ukraine explaining the impetus behind it: "The signs that came from the UGCC faithful and other citizens, publications in the media, and our own observations prompted the bishops to issue this document."

Priests and other figures with official leadership positions in the UGCC are now prohibited from:

  • Becoming a member of a political party
  • Distributing campaign materials of any kind on Church property
  • Volunteering for a campaign
  • Openly expressing their views in private conversations with members of their congregation.

Speaking about their goals, the document states: "The goal of the instructions is on the one hand to ensure the smooth implementation of the church's mission in the world, and on the other hand to prevent the involvement of the church in the electoral process and the abuse of its authority for the selfish ends of individual candidates or political parties during election campaigns."

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