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Thousands Attend Service at Kiev-Pechersk Lavra as Monks Brace for Eviction by Zelensky Regime

© Photo : Ukrainian Orthodox ChurchUkrainian Orthodox Church parishioners and priests gather for service at the Kiev-Perchersk Lavra, one of the holiest shrines of Orthodoxy.
Ukrainian Orthodox Church parishioners and priests gather for service at the Kiev-Perchersk Lavra, one of the holiest shrines of Orthodoxy. - Sputnik International, 1920, 26.03.2023
Earlier this month, authorities ordered monks from the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra, one of the oldest, largest and historically most significant Orthodox Christian shrines in the world, to leave its grounds by March 29. The Russian Orthodox Church, the World Council of Churches and Ukrainian opposition leaders slammed the Zelensky government over the move.
Thousands of Orthodox believers gathered at the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra for prayers on Sunday.
"A powerful prayer resounds in the Holy Monastery. The world lives not by talk, but by prayer. I call on you, brothers and sisters, to pray for our brethren so that they may perform their service here and offer their prayers in the future," Metropolitan Onufriy, primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) said during the service.
Onufriy and others held special prayers for peace, both for the Lavra and for Ukraine.
Sunday’s service could be the last one held there by Ukrainian Orthodox Church priests ahead of the deadline for monks to leave the monastery by Wednesday. The National Kiev-Pechersk Historical and Cultural Preserve, the state-owned museum complex subordinate to Ukraine’s Ministry of Culture, ordered monks out of the monastery’s buildings and facilities earlier this month, citing an alleged breach of contract on their use.
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The Kiev-Pechersk Lavra is one of the most significant if not the most significant holy grounds of Eastern Orthodoxy, and was founded in the 11th century. The remains of revered Orthodox saints, as well as famous historical figures, are buried here. In 1990, the religious complex was added to UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites.
The Lavra has for centuries been in use by and associated with the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate. The church came under growing pressure ever since the violent coup in Kiev in February 2014, which overthrew the country’s government and ultimately gave rise to the present crisis.
In 2018, the Ukrainian government created a state-backed rival to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, in an attempt to sever centuries of links between Russian and Ukrainian churches and believers.
After the escalation of the crisis in the Donbass into a full-blown conflict between Russia and Ukraine backed by NATO last year, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church came under immense pressure from the Zelensky regime over its alleged 'pro-Russian' links and attitudes. In November, Ukrainian lawmakers introduced a bill calling for the Church to be banned outright, calling it a "threat to national security" and accusing it of "anti-Ukrainian and subversive activities." President Zelensky signed a decree in December imposing sanctions against clergy of any religious organization with ties to Russia.
The Church's leaders have sought to maintain neutrality, with Onufriy characterizing the conflict between the Russian and Ukrainian peoples as "a repetition of the sin of Cain" and calling for peace.
The crackdown on the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra has drawn criticism from Moscow, Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Orthodox Church and the World Council of Churches.
Prof. Jerry Pillay, just elected as the next WCC Secretar--General on 17 June 2022 - Sputnik International, 1920, 17.03.2023
World Council of Churches Concerned About Oppression of Monks in Kiev-Pechersk Lavra
Former Ukrainian opposition leader Viktor Medvedchuk characterized authorities' ultimatum for monks to vacate the monastery as a sacrilegious "gangster-style takeover," saying that "even during the Nazi occupation, the parishes of the canonical Orthodox Church were not closed" as Kiev authorities are threatening to do today.
Some church officials have expressed defiance, with Monastery Abbot Metropolitan Pavel saying in a recent video addressed to President Zelensky that monks would not leave the monastery by the deadline because they were allowed to settle there by the Supreme Council and government of Ukraine.
More than 70 percent of Ukrainians consider themselves Orthodox Christians, with the Moscow Patriarchate accounting for about half of them, and the Church maintaining the largest number of religious buildings in Ukraine – over 11,000 parishes, 53 dioceses, 262 monasteries, attended to by more than 4,600 monks and over 12,500 clergymen.
A lamp containing the Holy Fire delivered from Jerusalem to the Holy Resurrection Church near the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra. File photo. - Sputnik International, 1920, 11.03.2023
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