“Benz cassocks” or folk Archpriests: who in fact leads the UOC?

Three UOC Metropolitans in Pochaev Lavra after the cross procession Kamenets-Pochaev: Metropolitan Theodore of Kamenets-Podolsky and Gorodok, Metropolitan Sergius of Ternopol and Kremenets and Viceroy of Pochaev Lavra Metropolitan Vladimir of Pochaev

On August 26 a six-day procession from Kamenets to Pochaev ended. In the midst of people, without pomp and pathos, two UOC Metropolitans humbly walked in the procession.

The religious procession was led by two bishops of the UOC – Metropolitan Theodore of Kamenets-Podolsky and Gorodok and Metropolitan Sergius of Ternopol and Kremenets. Met. Theodore walked with the procession from the first to the last day, while Met. Sergius joined the column already on the territory of the Ternopol eparchy, entrusted to him.

The Archpriests led several tens of thousands of pilgrims. In Pochaev they were joined by the Abbot of the monastery Metropolitan Vladimir of Pochaev. Upon entering the Lavra, the Vladykas with their flock offered prayers down on their knees.

What a sweet and touching picture: tens of thousands of people, together with their pastors, endure the heat and bad weather, praying for the salvation of their souls and ours and for peace in a long-suffering Ukraine! This true church unity is the unity of faith, prayer, and love. One may refer to the cross processions of the recent past, which bore witness to the same spiritual unity of the believers of Ukraine.

I involuntarily recall a large-scale attack on the Church by the Ukrainian media when priests and bishops of the UOC are intentionally portrayed only as greedy and dishonest proponents of the "Russian world", hostile "priests on Mercedes".

But if once man comes out of this media mud, walks in this procession for a few days – a completely different picture appears before him: along with the pilgrims not only priests but also archpriests are going in rank and file, sharing all the burdens and difficulties of the procession! Without Mercedes cars, suites and luxury, which journalists of the central channels try to attribute to archpriests. Instead, shoulder to shoulder with their flock, they look like ordinary pilgrims wearing just one dusty cassock and a wooden pastoral staff.

The bishops, beloved by their people, covered the entire distance of the procession together with their flock. Here are pastors, here is a flock, here is their communion with all the other Local Churches. There is a Church in Ukraine! And if someone tries to create "something else" – this "something" will not be the Church because the Church can only be one.

Metropolitan Theodore of Kamenets-Podolsky and Gorodok and Metropolitan Sergius of Ternopol and Kremenets during the procession from Kamenets to Pochaev, 2018

Such religious processions show that only the Church of Christ gives a real opportunity to unite the citizens of Ukraine – on top of that, to unite not around hatred towards imaginary enemies but around genuine, eternal values. Only canonical Orthodoxy is able to give real meanings and ideas and return our citizens to a peaceful life in a peaceful country.

Orthodoxy has born and nurtured the Ukrainian people, and through Orthodoxy we can expect its revival. Truly insane are those who, for the sake of building their own model of Ukraine, wrestle with the Church and threaten it. By doing so these people threaten Christ because the Church is the Body of Christ.

It is in such religious processions that the Church declares itself, or rather, Christ reminds about Himself through His Church. He reminds all those who, with Satan's perseverance, go against His Beatitude Onufry and his flock. Via cross processions in Ukraine, Christ warns those who try to stigmatize the Church in the media, forbid Her through legislative acts, frighten Her with force of arms, utter threats to deprive Her of temples. God still makes warnings to the enemies of His Church, while commanding His faithful to endure injustice and offer prayers.

Such cross processions show that the UOC embraces hundreds of thousands of citizens of Ukraine, who are ready to testify about their faith and stand for it. The state will have to reckon with them. They are not going to hide, remain silent, and watch indifferently their temples being taken away and their faith being scoffed. For their weapons are not Molotov gun and cocktail but prayer. In fact, there is nothing more powerful than the weapon of prayer.

The persecutors of the Church and trouble-mongers should come to their senses while they still have time. They do not even guess what a "potent protection" those grandmothers have, who knelt before the Assumption Cathedral of Pochaev. So far the Lord allows you to persecute the Church. But this will not last forever. "The sinner will be killed by his evil, and those who hate the righteous will perish" (Ps. 33:22). "Will not God defend His chosen ones, crying to Him day and night, though He hesitates to protect them?" (Lk. 18: 7). However, we also pray for you, persecutors of the Church of Christ, since the Lord commanded to pray for persecutors.

The main idea of a cross procession is to pass from one shrine to another, praying to God for the salvation of the soul and for temporary needs. After praying for the salvation of our souls, the main prayer of the Church today concerns peace in Ukraine. We do not need any "victory" over anyone and anything, except the devil and sin. We want peace in the country, not the continuation of the war. May God give time those, whom it depends on, to wake up to the reality. Let's hope that the cross procession to Pochaev will help this happen thanks to the prayer of the faithful.

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