‘Pro-Moscow’ monks resist Zelensky’s expulsion from Ukraine monastery

Monks have refused orders to leave a monastery in Kiev after being accused of having ties to Russia, whose invasion of Ukraine has strained religious ties between warring neighbors.

After the large-scale invasion of Russia in February 2022, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) officially severed ties with the Moscow Patriarchate, whose primate, Patriarch Kirill, has been accused of condoning the war triggered by Vladimir Putin.

However, Kiev believes the UOC is de facto dependent on Moscow and has terminated the lease that allowed monks to stay in the caves of the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra Monastery, which overlooks the Dnipro River and plays a key role in Ukrainian history. and Russian.

The Ukrainian government had given an eviction deadline of Wednesday to the monks of the old cave monastery. But Metropolitan Kliment, the head of the UOC’s information and education department, told reporters the monks would not leave.

Protesters hold placards reading ‘Moscow Shaman – get out of the Holy Lavra!’, left and ‘Moscow Priests – get out of Ukraine!’, right, at the entrance to Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra in Kyiv on March 28, 2023. The Ukrainian government said the monks, members of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, must leave the site.

“There is no document that obliges us to leave the monastery today,” he said, according to a translation by Liga.net media. “There are documents which show that the contract is due to expire on the 29th, but it is not written that it ends on the 29th.”

Metropolitan Pavlo, director of the Lavra, last week called on the faithful to “defend this holy place with us”.

Archimandrite Nikon, a high-ranking ecclesiastical figure, told Agence France Presse on Wednesday that the Ukrainian government’s request was “unfair” and “wrong” for both monks and Ukrainian citizens.

Newsweek sent an email to the Ukrainian Ministry of Internal Affairs for comments.

The Ukrainian government claims the UOC broke leases and constructed buildings illegally, which the church denies. More broadly, kyiv also accuses the UOC of maintaining ties with the Russian Orthodox Church, which supported Moscow’s invasion of its neighbor.

Its leader, Patriarch Kirill, has been widely condemned internationally. Three days after Moscow launched its full-scale invasion on February 24, 2022, he described Ukrainians defending their country as “forces of evil” in a position that has caused a split in the Orthodox faith around the world.

Onufriy, the Metropolitan of Kyiv, has issued a last-minute plea to Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky to back down as he rejects claims that Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra worshipers are on the payroll of Moscow.

“If there are cases of corruption, we don’t support it,” Onufriy said. The Times of London.

Last week, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights expressed concern that “state actions against the UOC” could prove “discriminatory” and called for a “fair trial” for people facing criminal charges.

The latest development adds to rancor within the Orthodox faith, which has grown steadily since the start of the conflict in Ukraine’s Donbass region in 2014.

In comments to Newsweek to coincide with the first anniversary of Putin’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine, the Orthodox Public Affairs Committee (OPAC) has renewed its condemnation of Patriarch Cyril and his “unChristian support” for the war effort of Putin.

OPAC, a US-based global Orthodox church advocate, called on church leaders, clergy and followers of the Moscow Patriarchate “to resist Kirill’s slavish submission to Putin’s regime.” .

“The complicity of the leaders of the Patriarchate of Moscow in the war crimes committed in Ukraine remains incomprehensible,” the OPAC statement said last month. “It is clear that these so-called ‘men of God’ are under the control of Putin and his henchmen.”

The OPAC also called for unification talks between the UOC under Metropolitan Onufriy and the Autocephalous Orthodox Church of Ukraine – another major Orthodox Church in Ukraine – under Metropolitan Epiphanius.

This would establish “a unified national identity for the Orthodox Church in Ukraine”, and also give the UOC canonical status, since its separation from the Moscow Patriarchate in May 2022, the OPAC added.


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