Court dismisses Ukrainian official who illegally transferred canonical parishes to schismatics

A public official in the Vinnitsa Province of Ukraine has been suspended from his duties over accusations of illegally re-registering parishes of the canonical Ukrainian to the Constantinople-created and schismatic “Orthodox Church of Ukraine” (OCU).

The decision was made over Igor Saletsky, the head of the Vinnitsa Province Department on Religious and Ethnic Affairs, yesterday, October 10, Archpriest Vladimir Puchkov, the press secretary of the canonical Vinnitsa Diocese told the Union of Orthodox Journalists.

The decision is a welcome breath of fresh air, following months of state-sponsored persecution under ex-President Petro Poroshenko.

A criminal case has also been opened against the Uniate Andrei Yurash, the Director of the Department for Religious and Ethnic Affairs of the Ministry of Culture, who was one of the main organizers of the pressure on the canonical Ukrainian Church.

Meanwhile, supporters of the schismatic OCU picketed outside the court and the national police building, Fr. Vladimir reported.

Moreover, OCU supporters inside the court, including a schismatic “priest,” started a fight and were shouting nationalistic slogans such as “Away with the Moscow priests” and “Get out of Ukraine.”

When the decision was read out, the 30 or so OCU supporters started shouting, “Shame!”

In particular, Saletsky is accused of reregistering parishes in the villages of Velikaya Kosnitsa and Luka-Meleshkovskaya of the Vinnitsa Province from the canonical Church to the graceless OCU, in violation of Ukrainian law.

The Holy Transfiguration parish in Luka-Meleshkovskaya voted in favor of remaining in the canonical Church under His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev and All Ukraine on January 26, though the territorial community met the same day in the local country club, voting to transfer to the schismatic church.

His Grace Bishop Barsanuphius of Vinnitsa and Bar (now Metropolitan) was later physically assaulted in the church yard during a confrontation started by the supporters of the OCU who were trying to physically seize the church building.

According to Fr. Vladimir Tyutenko, the head of the Vinnitsa Diocese Legal Department, there are currently 5 cases against Saletsky in civil court. “The issue is that he received the minutes of the meetings of the territorial and religious communities, but ignored the minutes of the religious communities and, contrary to the law, did the reregistration.”

Unfortunately, many parishes of the canonical Church have suffered the same fate of losing their churches to the vote of the territorial community, regardless of whether those voters were members of the parish or even Orthodox or religious at all.

Saletsky maintained his innocence, claiming that the parish communities wanted to transition to the OCU.