Archpriest Serafim Gan says order for Ukrainian Orthodox Church monks to leave iconic Kiev Monastery is a "Flagrant Violation"
WASHINGTON, March 14 (Sputnik) – The requirement of the Ukrainian authorities for the monks of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) to leave the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra, one of the most revered sites in Orthodox Christianity, represents a brazen violation of their rights and freedoms, the chancellor of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad (ROCOR) Synod of Bishops told Sputnik.
On Friday, the National Kiev-Pechersk Historical and Cultural Preserve ordered the monks of the UOC to leave the site by March 29 after an interdepartmental commission registered an alleged violation of the terms of the agreement on the use of state property by the monastery. Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia addressed religious and international leaders with a message about the situation surrounding the 11th-century monastery. The patriarch called the decision by Ukrainian officials repressive.
"Of course, this is a flagrant violation of the rights and freedoms of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. Seizures of cathedrals, threats and all kinds of persecution have been going on now for years," archpriest Serafim Gan told Sputnik.
Founded in 1051, Kiev-Pechersk Lavra is one of the first Russian Orthodox monasteries and among the holiest sites in Orthodox Christianity, housing many architectural and holy relics. Until the end of 2022, jurisdiction over the Lavra had been divided between Ukraine's National Kiev-Pechersk Historical and Cultural Preserve and the UOC.
Gan underscored that politicians cannot intervene in church affairs. "They can provide help, they can even express their thoughts and their opinion on different issues, or share their desires. However, they cannot dictate the Church on how it should do in its internal life," he added.
The Church has its own legislation – the sacred canons and rules. "The UOC is acting in accordance with these rules," the archpriest stated.
Since the beginning of Russia's special military operation, the Ukrainian authorities have intensified their crackdown on the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. In January this year, the Ukrainian government submitted a bill with the parliament to ban the activities of "Russia-affiliated" religious organizations in the country.
The ROCOR clergy and the flock are praying for the UOC and for peace to be restored, Gan also said.
“We hope that Great Lent and our penitential feat during these Holy days will help to incline the mercy of God to the UOC and to all of us. We especially pray for the brethren of the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra, for the students of the Kiev theological schools, for the inhabitants of the Lavra who are forced to leave its borders,” he added.
Gan pointed out that despite the difficult situation the UOC finds itself in, it nevertheless continues to provide more humanitarian aid to refugees and to members of the Ukrainian military forces than any other religious organization in the country.
In Chernivtsi region's Banchen monastery alone, the brotherhood of the Holy Ascension has supported more than 5,000 refugees, while other convents and churches are also are helping people in need, Gan said.
“That is why, such an attitude on the part of the government toward the UOC is more than unfair,” Gan added.