Ukrainian chronicle: This is a religious war

11:55 03.04.2023 • Vladimir Kozin , Corresponding Member of the Russian Academy of Military Sciences

Metropolitan Pavel, Senior Ukrainian Orthodox bishop, is under arrest

Metropolitan Pavel, Abbot of the Kiev Pechersk Lavra, and the leader of Ukraine’s largest Orthodox Christian monastery has said he is under house arrest, marking the latest twist in Kiev’s religious crackdown. The cleric, who has served as abbot of the Kiev Pechersk Lavra since 1994, told reporters about his arrest on April 1, Saturday, in a video released by the Ukrainian TV news network Vesti. His artificial ‘criminal case’ will be examined by the Ukrainian court on April 3.

Meanwhile tensions soar in Kiev over iconic Christian monastery.

The standoff between the Ukrainian government, the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC), and the rival schismatic Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU), continues over Kiev Pechersk Lavra, the largest Orthodox monastery in the country.

On March 29, the UOC failed to meet the deadline to vacate the monastery, rolled out by the government earlier this month. Having accused the church of violating the 2013 deal to administer the property, which is designated a national cultural preserve, Kiev ordered the monks at UOC to leave it. However, no specific violations were cited in the order. Later on, Ukrainian culture minister Aleksandr Tkachenko has said that UOC monks can stay at Lavra, but they would need to defect from the church and join the OCU, a rival schismatic church set up by the state in 2015.

The UOC has urged Orthodox Christians to come to the monastery to protect it and the monks from the looming eviction. Thousands of faithful responded to the call, gathering at the monastery and praying in its courtyard.

The Ukrainian president is responsible for a religious crackdown in his country, Metropolitan of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church Pavel has said.

A senior bishop in the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) has issued a strongly-worded rebuke to President Vladimir Zelensky over his role in a crackdown that the country’s largest religious denomination is currently facing.

“I am telling you, Mr President [Zelensky], and your entire pack, that our tears will not fall to the ground, but on your head,” Metropolitan Pavel said in a video address. “You think today that after taking power on our backs, [based] on our wishes, you can treat us like that. Our Lord will not forgive this action, neither to you nor to your family,” the Bishop warned.

The bishop blasted the president for refusing to meet senior UOC clerics to discuss the situation. This was particularly hypocritical, he remarked, considering that, as a presidential candidate, Zelensky had sought and received the blessing to run for office from Metropolitan Onufry, the Church leader.

“You have failed to stop the culture minister, who is possessed by hateful malice and devilish fury. This means he is acting with your permission. Woe to you, have fear,” the Bishop said.

The OCU received recognition as a legitimate church in 2019 from the Constantinople Patriarchate, causing a major schism among the Orthodox faithful of the world. Metropolitan Pavel has also accused Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople of having given impetus to the crackdown with this move.

“Woe and shame on you, so-called patriarch [Bartholomew], because everything done today is done with your ill-fated and evil blessing,” he said. “You’ll disappear like dew in the sun, because all who take up the sword will perish by the sword,” he said, quoting in the same sentence from the Gospels.

The Federation Council, the upper house of the Russian Parliament, strongly condemned the facts of gross violations of the rights of believers in Ukraine, which are a consequence of the policy of religious intolerance pursued by the Kiev regime. This is stated in a special Statement of the Russian Senators, which was unanimously adopted at the plenary session of the House of Regions.

The text of the document stated that the Ukrainian authorities "are actually trying to impose on the people of Ukraine as an official church a near-political structure created with Western support that calls itself the 'Orthodox Church of Ukraine. "At the same time, the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church is being persecuted: its churches are being seized, communities are being illegally liquidated, clergymen are being deprived of their citizenship and repressed. The recent decision of the Ukrainian authorities to deprive the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of one of its main sanctuaries – the Kiev Pechersk Lavra – has become outrageous," the Council of Federation said in a statement.

The Senators also called the outrageous act of desecration of the Quran, a book sacred to Muslims around the world. "This act of vandalism is a direct consequence of official Kiev's policy of discrimination against members of ethnic and religious communities living in Ukraine," the document stresses.

The Federation Council pointed out that this policy of the Ukrainian authorities grossly violates the right of every person to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion, guaranteed by the fundamental international documents of the UN. "What is happening causes anger and rejection among all citizens of the Russian Federation," the statement has read.

The Ukrainian state may be discriminating against the nation’s largest religious denomination, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC), the UN’s human rights watchdog said in a report published at the end of March. The government of President Vladimir Zelensky is currently in the process of kicking UOC monks out of their homes.

The apparent mistreatment of the church, which has historic links to the Russian Orthodox Church, was highlighted in a report released by the UN’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). It cited several draft laws submitted to the Ukrainian parliament as well as the actions of the SBU, Ukraine’s domestic security agency, against the clergy.

The UN body is “concerned that the State’s activities targeting the UOC could be discriminatory,” it said. The report cited “vague legal terminology and the absence of sufficient justification” in proposed legislation, explaining why it drew the OHCHR’s negative attention.

Pope Francis is willing to serve as a conduit for talks between the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) and the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU) in the dispute over the Kiev Pechersk Lavra, a personal friend told Russian media on March 28. “He said he is ready to mediate,” Leonid Sevastyanov, the head of the World Union of Old Believers, told TASS. The pontiff said he could help the UOC and OCU establish contact and maybe aid the UOC in defending its position, Sevastyanov added.

“In the case of the Lavra, he has called for respecting the sanctity of the place and stopping the current actions, but he has no legal mechanism to intervene,” Sevastyanov explained. “He can only call for peace, dialogue and negotiations.”

The US should stop “fanning the flames” of the conflict in Ukraine instead of making accusations against Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin has said. “The US side claims that China's stance isn’t impartial. But is it impartial to continuously supply weapons to the battlefield? Is it impartial to constantly escalate the conflict? Is it impartial to allow the effects of the crisis to spill over globally?” Wang said, referring to the Biden administration’s policies.


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