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A Violent Priest, Wounded Soldier And The Weight Of Russia’s Orthodox Church In Ukraine

KYIV — On the primary Sunday of April, Ukrainian soldier Artur Ananiev determined to go to church. Having lately returned wounded from the frontline, Ananiev had not come to wish — however to talk.

“What number of extra individuals must die so that you can cease following the Moscow Patriarchate?” he declared after strolling into the parish within the metropolis of Khmelnytsky in western Ukraine.

Like others within the nation, the native church’s alternative to stay loyal to the japanese Orthodox patriarch of Moscow — a pal of Vladimir Putin’s — has created rising stress since final yr’s Russian invasion.

Certainly, moments after his provocative query, monks and parishioners surrounded Ananiev, and commenced beating him up. In a video of the scene, one priest could be seen dropping the Gospel earlier than pulling down the soldier and kicking him on the ground.

Whereas native police investigated the incident, which left Ananiev bloodied and with a concussion, residents gathered close to the parish and voted for its switch to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. And now the incident and circulation of the video has reignited the talk throughout Ukraine that is been brewing between Kyiv and Moscow for not solely the previous 13 months — however 300 years.

Ukraine at the moment has two Orthodox church buildings: the Moscow Patriarchate, which reviews to the Russian Orthodox Church and Moscow Patriarch Kirill — aka Vladimir Gundyaev, in workplace since 2009, an previous pal and ardent admirer of Vladimir Putin — and the Kyiv Patriarchate. The latter was legally established in 1992 because of the unification of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church and a part of the church buildings of the Moscow Patriarchate.

For a very long time, the 2 church buildings coexisted with common conflicts and makes an attempt to agree. Nevertheless, as political relations with Russia deteriorated, disputes between the 2 church buildings escalated.

Coincidently, a number of days earlier than soldier Artur Ananiev was kicked out of the church in Khmelnytsky, the Ukrainian authorities ordered the eviction of Orthodox monks accused of being linked to the Russian Orthodox Church from the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra, the capital’s oldest monastery advanced.

In the meantime, the Ukrainian Safety Service put the abbot of the monastery, Metropolitan Pavlo Lebid, below home arrest for 60 days after notifying him that he was suspected of two felony offenses: inciting inter-religious enmity and justifying Russian aggression.

Pavlo, who’s seen because the referent of the Russian Orthodox Church in Ukraine, had additionally printed a video during which he immediately threatened Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky with damnation if the representatives of the Moscow Patriarchate needed to go away Lavra.

Naive Kyiv, grasping Moscow

Escalation between the 2 church buildings started in 2014 after the annexation of Crimea when the Moscow Patriarchate seized all church buildings of the Kyiv Patriarchate on the peninsula. For the reason that full-scale invasion started, the Moscow Patriarchate has remained nearly the final and solely organ of the Russian Federation on Ukrainian territory, apart from the occupied elements.

The monks repeated the identical narratives of the Russian propaganda.

Since in Russia, the church and the state equipment are carefully linked personally, corruptly, and politically, the Moscow Patriarchate on the territory of Ukraine continued its propaganda actions on behalf of the Kremlin.

Even within the coronary heart of the Ukrainian capital, within the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra, a yr after the beginning of the full-scale aggression prayers have been held not simply in Russian but in addition for the well being of the Russian patriarch and the victory of the Russian military. Of their sermons and private conversations with the parishioners, the monks of the Moscow Patriarchate repeated the identical narratives of the Russian propaganda — that Ukraine is Russia, that Russia is at battle with NATO over Donbas, and so forth.

Whereas the Ukrainian authorities was attempting to keep away from non secular scandals, the Moscow Patriarchate was efficiently creating espionage, proof of which was solely lately offered by the Ukrainian Safety Service.

Then, the combat over Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra started. Many Ukrainians are sad that the Moscow Patriarchate has been eliminated solely from the Lavra as two different important monasteries in Ukraine — the Pochaev and Sviatogirsk — are below Russian management, in addition to a whole bunch of different church buildings.

A screenshot from the video reveals the priest throwing the bloodied soldier out of the church.

Whose rights are you frightened about?

The talk over the eviction of the Orthodox monks from the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra has break up the Ukrainian public opinion: some demand their return, whereas others require that their presence within the nation be banned altogether. Because the battle with Russia goes on within the background, the context of the hunt for the Russophile clergy is evident. However are they so harmless?

For 300 years, the Russian church nearly indivisibly dominated Ukraine. Within the seventeenth and 18th century, yearly, the Russian tsars despatched their Metropolitans in Kyiv a golden carriage filled with jewels. Such was the custom — the reward for devoted service to the empire.

A priest yelled at me on the temple grounds as a result of I spoke Ukrainian.

When Ukraine gained its independence in 1991, shedding the most important and thus most worthwhile diocese was unacceptable, and the Moscow Patriarchate continued to exist not solely in Ukraine but in addition in lots of post-Soviet republics, competing with native church buildings and typically supplanting them, because it did in Belarus. It reached the purpose that any monastery or church belonging to the Moscow Patriarchate thought of itself Russian territory, wherever it was situated.

Even earlier than the annexation of Crimea, in 2010, I, together with parishioners of a small Kyiv church of the Kyiv Patriarchate, went on a tour of monasteries within the Chernihiv area — a territory occupied in early 2022 by Russian troops, liberated by Ukraine forces in spring 2022. When an area servant heard that we have been parishioners of the Kyiv Patriarchate, she began screaming, calling for different ministers, and with horrible curses, they kicked us all out on the highway.

In 2018 and 2019, I usually traveled to the Ukrainian-controlled a part of the Donetsk area and individually to Sviatogirsk, the place there’s one other well-known advanced, Sviatogirsk Lavra, a spot of unbelievable magnificence, particularly in winter. There, a priest yelled at me on the temple grounds as a result of I spoke Ukrainian.

Image of Patriarch Kirill (C) of Moscow and all Russia releasing a dove into the sky to mark the feast of Annunciation outside the Annunciation Cathedral of the Moscow Kremlin

Russian Patriarch Kirill releases a dove into the sky to mark the feast of Annunciation outdoors the Annunciation Cathedral of the Moscow Kremlin

Vyacheslav Prokofyev

What’s subsequent

Subsequent, as many Ukrainians hope, Ukraine will return all Orthodox church buildings and their property, each within the territories already liberated and within the areas nonetheless occupied, to the management of the Kyiv Patriarchate. As a multinational and multi-religious nation, Ukraine has all the time completely accommodated and turn out to be a house for individuals of various nationalities and religions.

The eviction of the Moscow patriarchate has simply begun.

Representatives of the Moscow Patriarchate additionally acquired a suggestion to remain as servants of the monastery of Kyiv-Pechersk however below the management of the Kyiv Patriarchate. Some agreed.

So, if we’re speaking about defending the rights of believers, you will need to notice whose believers and believers in what we’re defending.

And suppose Ukrainians need to go to Ukrainian church buildings on Ukrainian territory and pray for the prosperity of Ukraine within the Ukrainian language — who dares to take this straight away from them?

The eviction of the Moscow patriarchate has simply begun and won’t go away with out loud investigations and scandals.

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