“He refused to pray for heroes!” Who stands behind the temple raid in Butyn

Saint Archistratigus Michael in village Butyn of Zbarazh district, Ternopol region was seized by the Kiev Patriarchate back in October 2014. In full consistence with the rhetoric of anti-church mass media, the temple raid – architectural landmark – was attached allegedly to the point that patriotically agitated parishioners no longer wanted to see the UOC priests at their parish.

In the third year after tumultuous events it's evident that in fact they had tried out a raiding scheme – with a customary “referendum”, house-to-house voting among the people who have nothing to do with the life of the religious community, and “defile” on the raiding day by outsiders wearing masks and camouflage.

The UOJ correspondent managed to talk to the priest who was running the parish when the conflict was flaring up. At that time father Vitaliy Gurev served at two parishes simulataneously – in Butyn and Kinakhovtsy, however shortly before the illegal seizure took place, another priest was sent to St. Michael temple in Butyn village. What did raiders actually start with?

After the takeover RISU site published a version that father Vitaliy reportedly “did not pray for the heroes” as the parishioners had demanded from the priest in February 2014. Actually, the parishioners did not demand anything, while demonstrative politically biased “prayers” which were growing trendy at that time were initiated by the people being totally remote from the parish life.


What triggered changing of the parish jurisdiction?

- Everything started in February 2014 when our guys had been shot on Maidan. We asked our then priest, father Vitaliy, to hold the lity service for the dead and moleben service for the Maidan activists.

RISU is slightly misleading, as usual?

“How did it begin in Butyn? Here is my story: two brothers from Butyn were going out with two sisters. I was a priest at that time,” tells father Vitaliy. “I had to refuse the other couple to marry them in church since our canons forbid to marry relatives. They even went to the ruling Archbishop. But he also refused. As a result, it caused discontent of the village residents.”

The priest knows who began to encourage “transition”. For instance, the activists of the Kiev Patriarchate community in neighboring village Myshkovtsy, teachers, and what really mattered – representatives of the village council.


“It was namely village chairman Andrey Zhila who came up to me in February 2014 with a proposal “to pray for the killed in Kiev”. It was the Commemoration Saturday when the Church prays for all the dead, anyway. Moreover, on those days there were killed a lot of people not only in Kiev, but also other cities.”

Now the priest understands that prayerful initiatives of local authorities were deliberate. But at that moment it seemed to the priest that it is clear to the chairman of the village council that the Church lives a different life and prays for all its parishioners without any distinction. However, “a point-blank refusal to have a lity for the dead” was disseminated as an “artillery preparation” for the temple seizure.

“At present the UOC has been put under pressure in in our district, in the region, and in the country as a whole,” states father Vitaliy. “Those familiar to the Church are aware of the fact the time has come “when the gates of Hell” have been opened and the Church is persecuted, though such people are just a few. The rest can fall prey to anti-church propaganda having a vague idea what it is all about and where they get involved.”

“Does our temple stand in somebody’s way?”

In order to have a full picture of the developments in this part of Zbarazh district it’s enough to visit this place. Villages Myshkovtsy, Butyn, Kinakhovtsy are really located very close to each other. You can hardly find a big gap between the villages like, for instance, a many-kilometer highway.

The temple in Myshkovtsy village was grabbed back in the 90-s. The UOC parishioners from this village joined the parish in Butyn village. After this temple had been raided, villagers began to attend the temple of Saint Peter and Paul in Kinakhovtsy village having been built in the 90-s by its believers.

“We will have our way!”

It is easier and closer for some “activists”, who want to transfer the last canonical church in Kinakhovtsy under the Kiev Patriarchate’s jurisdiction, to use the already seized UOC KP temples in Butyn and Myshkovtsy villages. However, they feel restless to see 80-100 people gather in the UOC temple from several adjacent villages to enjoy the service held by the UOC priest.

These loyal believers reconstructed the temple from their own pockets when due to the architect’s miscalculations the middle dome had collapsed. To be more precise, their parents did it at their own expense and for their own convenience. In fact, the Kiev Patriarchate does not need this parish and “activists” will hardly agree to ever provide public amenities there.

The UOC community in Butyn village has been registered in favor of the Kiev Patriarchate. A litigation on the complaint filed by the UOC parishioners is unlikely to yield any tangible results. By all accounts, somebody wants to exile the priest who has been fulfilling his duties for 14 years now. In Butyn conflict he was accused of being unpatriotic; in Kinakhovtsy someone broke into the temple and committed sacrilege there.

Given further developments, a raiding mechanism with regard to the parish in Kinakhovtsy has been launched now: “meeting” of parishioners has been organized, and local mass media campaign provided. If the UOC community in Kinakhovtsy shares the same fate that befell the other villages, parishioners will be compelled to pray right on the street: there aren’t any temporary premises in the village.
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