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Ukraine's Request to Monks to Vacate Kiev-Pechersk Lavra is ‘Criminal Act’: Bishop

© Sputnik / StringerA general view shows the Uspensky Cathedral of the Kiev Pechersk Lavra monastery in Kiev
A general view shows the Uspensky Cathedral of the Kiev Pechersk Lavra monastery in Kiev - Sputnik International, 1920, 28.03.2023
WASHINGTON (Sputnik) - The request of the government of Ukraine to the monastics of the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra to vacate the monastery by March 29 is a criminal act and the direct invasion to the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC), Russian Church Abroad (ROCOR) Bishop of Seattle Theodosy told Sputnik.
"It is a criminal act," the bishop said about an attempt to evict the monks from the monastery.
He urged the people to understand that it is not just a "routine" step, but an action against the church and made by people who have no fear of God.
"As long as such petty immoral persons are in power there will always be anger, resentment and hate towards the Holiness that dwells in the legitimate Orthodox Church," he said.
The Ukrainian-born bishop was among the first people who began rebuilding the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra - one of the major convents of the Orthodox world after decades of the Soviets in power. He was tonsured a monk there in 1988, when the Russian Orthodox Church celebrated the 1,000-years anniversary of the Kievan Rus baptism.
On March 10, the National Kiev-Pechersk Historical and Cultural Preserve in Ukraine ordered the monks based in the monastery to leave it by March 29 after an interdepartmental Ukrainian commission accused the UOC of violating the terms of an agreement on the use of state property. Ukrainian Culture Minister Oleksandr Tkachenko said the monks could stay in the Lavra if they joined the schismatic Orthodox Church of Ukraine, a decision that might be "stimulated through the joint work of specialists and law enforcement officers."
Bishop Theodosy described the behavior of the Ukrainian authorities as an "invasion" into the ecclesiastical life of the Church. He also accused the Constantinople Patriarchate of creating a schismatic so-called Orthodox Church of Ukraine, as well as directing the secular government in Kiev in its campaign against the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
"Clergy and monastics who are not in agreeance with the OCU are intimidated by governmental officials and 'private' parties, are persecuted with unlawful police searches, sanctions, and threats of revocation of their citizenship. It is hard to believe that, in the 'civilized' 21st century, such abhorrent acts are condoned by the Western Powers and an Orthodox Patriarchate," he said.
Almost all countries created after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 returned temples, churches and monasteries to their religious organizations. However, Ukraine became one of the very few former-Soviet republics where the government continues to control religious property and rents it to the church.
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World Council of Churches Concerned About Oppression of Monks in Kiev-Pechersk Lavra
Bishop Theodosy reminded that it was the UOC that practically re-built or renovated many churches in the country, including in the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra, despite the fact that it was not an owner of this property.
"Churches and monasteries that suffered from neglect or that were destroyed, such as the Cathedral of the Dormition in the Kievan Caves Lavra, were rebuilt and refurbished under the UOC, and in many cases with little to no help from the government," he said.
Without the UOC’s help the Lavra would remain not a monastery but just a "museum" where the relics are used as exhibits, he added.
Bishop Theodosy called on government officials to remember that they will bear responsibility not just before courts or voters, but before God.
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