“If there is no UOC priest here, people are ready to go even to Pochaev for praying”

Two months ago, on May 15, 2017, representatives of the Kiev Patriarchate and the so called “initiative group” of adherents of the UOC KP took over Holy Peter and Paul temple of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the village of Kinakhovtsy of Zbarazh district, Ternopol region. Respectively, parishioners of the canonical Church had to find a different lodging for praying. They managed to find it quickly: the elder of the temple, which had been seized by schismatics, local resident Stepan Tyvoniuk, offered part of his own house.

Therefore, the canonical worship services in Kinakhovtsi continue. Moreover, parishioners of the UOC did not shrink in number and they, as before, come to the Liturgy from several neighboring villages, in which the Kyiv Patriarchate likewise captured the temples. Probably, a large number of faithful people in the district do not like those who need to show a distorted picture of the "mass transition" to the UOC-KP in this area. The target of the attacks, of course, was primarily the priest of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Father Vitaliy Gurev: the schismatics accuse him of "splitting" the village.

– Father Vitaliy, what are the current moods in Kinakhovtsy?

– One can say the villagers hold two views: half are not interested in the conflict around the temple, waiting for what will happen next, and opinions of the other half are really divided after the capture. Earlier, when the Kyiv Patriarchate was only planning to seize our temple, its supporters could quietly come to our canonical divine services; no one interfered with them and reproached them in nothing. After announcing the re-registration of the charter of the community and the seizure of our Holy Peter and Paul church, of course, people did not stay aloof. For example, the backbone of our church choir broke up: two went to the UOC-KP, the three remained with us. The actions of the Kyiv Patriarchate, as always, hurt families, people quarrel because these events are still a fresh wound. But with God's help everything will settle down and there will be peace.

– Usually after the seizure of the temple by the Kyiv Patriarchate, the believers of the UOC depart from the conflict and build a new church. Does the Kinakhovtsy community have a reserve for this recovery?

– In fact, there is no place to build a temple in Kinakhovtsy. This is a small village; close to it are several other settlements, in which the Kyiv Patriarchate even earlier captured the parishes. And from these villages dozens of people came to our temple, who became full members of our community. We will look for opportunities to restore the full-blooded life of our common parish, but for now we will pray in Kinakhovtsy, in the house our elder kindly provided us with. According to the canons, God's service can take place anywhere, there are no restrictions, and for truly believing people it does not matter whether it's a temple, or a room in an apartment building, or an open field. The problem is that, for example, on the holiday of the Trinity, all our parishioners did not fit in the prayer room, and we consecrated flowers and greenery under the open sky.

– So which community deserves more to have a temple?

– We do not care how many people they bring on for raiding. Probably, its initiators are very annoyed that it is necessary to show a mass result, but there isn’t any. Of course, for some time these people will go to church, but then they will quit. It will be quite inconvenient to them if they are not truly faithful. We have never hidden the fact that people from other villages come to our place and always focus on this. Therefore, we have a lot of believers at our services, even now, when we do not have access to the temple.

– Your opponents published photos from the captured temple, arguing that a larger part of the village is on their side. And who is in the photo actually?

"Most of the villagers are not interested in the amount of people who attend the temple. They bring people from other villages, even from cities, and they do not even mention it. It is clear that this cannot last forever. Therefore, they are tough on us, my reputation, as well as those who signed for the change of jurisdiction of the church community. And people literally say to them, "I helped you to change jurisdiction, I signed up, but I do not want to go to your services and will not." This is their right, and no one can force them to do that.

– Are you and your community made guilty?

– People do not understand what the Church of Christ is. They thought they would take over the temple, and the parishioners in it would remain. But believers, who know what the canonical Church is, for whom it is important, have left them, and this is their position. Nobody can convince them, we do not do it. If people agreed to pray in our house, they knew where they were going. Of course, people yearn for their temple. But we will fight for it and for our status as a legal entity in the legal field. However, until our rightness is established by an official judicial decision, the church life should not suffer. Liturgies will be held every Sunday, because people are eager for this. This is a united community of the whole district, and people will go to pray even to Pochaev if there is no UOC priest left here.

– Probably, the initiators of the "transition" will be embarrassed by a dubious result?

– It's their business. I never count how many people have arrived at the worship service. The parishioners themselves are interested in this, and after the service they say: "Father, there were 90 of us today, not counting children." There are a lot of people, because they are believers from several neighboring villages.

– At what stage is the litigation in the case now?

– Now pending is the criminal proceeding, which was opened by the court decision of April 10, 2017, on the fact of fraud in the so-called "parish collection protocol". On the basis of this paper, we re-registered our charter, while officials forgot to remove the previous original statutory documents of the UOC community. All these violations will be considered by the court. In addition, the proceedings were opened upon my application under Article 126, on the incident by the raiding of the temple on May 15, when they blocked me from entering the temple, pushed me down the steps and tore my clothes; and under Article 179 – as a result of the seizure and unlawful retention of the religious shrine. This matter is the most important.

– The initiators of the seizure admit themselves that they did wrong not to allow a person to enter the church. Why are they telling lies about everything else?

– May God judge them.

Press-service of Ternopol service of the UOC

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