IN MOST Western democracies, including those like Denmark and England which for historical reasons have a state church, the fortunes of this or that form of faith are mainly treated as a matter for the religion’s own adherents. In a context of religious freedom, rival creeds ebb and flow as they offer their spiritual wares and vie for souls. But the further east you travel in Europe, and the further you go into lands where state-sponsored atheism once prevailed, the more likely it becomes that religion will be treated as a matter of high politics.
Over the weekend, as a gathering of bishops in Kiev formally proclaimed an independent Ukrainian church, one striking feature of the proceedings was the omnipresence of President Petro Poroshenko (pictured, above left). He has tied his political fortunes to the successful establishment of a national Orthodox church, a body to which most Ukrainian citizens can comfortably adhere. And as the bishops chose one of their number, a 39-year-old prelate called Epifany Dumenko (pictured, above centre), as their primate, the Ukrainian head of state hailed the election as a landmark in national history: a moment at which Ukrainians stood up to Russia’s worldly leader Vladimir Putin and its spiritual leader Patriarch Kirill of Moscow.
He declared:“This is a church without Putin, this is a church without Kirill, a church without prayers for the Russian state or Russian forces, because Russian [state] power and Russian troops are killing killing Ukrainians. But it is a church with [the presence of] God….”
The further east you travel in Europe, the more likely it is that religion will be treated as a matter of high politics https://t.co/z5vi9PnJHi
— The Economist (@TheEconomist) December 18, 2018