Priest Viktor Parandiuk: “Schismatics make a tragic mistake”
When fighter pilot, AFU lieutenant colonel Viktor Parandiuk became a priest, he could not fancy his parish'd be expelled from the church as enemies of the people.
Yes, the church of the Holy Prince Alexander Nevsky at the Vinnitsa Academy of the Police Department is no longer there. But the church community and the priest remained loyal to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and His Beatitude Metropolitan Onufriy.
“We hope to find our church ground”
– What is the situation like now with your religious community?
– On the eve of Christmas, on the basis of the Law of Ukraine No. 5309, para 5, and because of the reluctance of our community to transfer to the OCU, the academy administration drove us out of the temple premises. We were evicted with our property to nowhere. But all the regular parishioners of our church remained loyal to the UOC. We had a small temple, 50-60 people at the Sunday liturgy, not counting the children. Now we are trying to stick together, get together from time to time, discuss pressing issues and plans for the near future.
It is very bitter and painful for everyone. But we live in the hope that, with God's help, somehow everything will be settled, and we are looking for a temporary place for worship. We have already found a small extension with two rooms, rented it, and refurbished it. But then came the correspondents of the local newspaper “Channel 33”, which has been systematically slinging mud at me since I publicly responded to the actions of the former Metropolitan Simeon, who had backslid into schism. They kicked up a row and worked up all the neighbors into that “the Moscow priest wants to set up an underground parish there”. As a result, we cannot serve God in this temporary shelter, either.
We are looking for a land plot to build a temple and we were told there is such close to our former temple. There is also a construction there which is perfect for refitting it into a temple. But for this property its current owners charge 55 thousand dollars, which is a sky-high price for our parish.
Our parishioners, for the most part, are people of retirement age, there are also enough young people, there are a lot of children; however, there are no well-to-do businessmen in our parish. Therefore, we are trying to find an investor who would help us buy this land.
In the meantime, we organize transportation and we carry part of the parishioners, who live near our former church, to services in another district of the city, to the temple of the holy martyr Vladimir, where I’m temporarily serving as a fourth priest. And those parishioners who live in other parts of the city either go there or go to the temples that are closer to their place of residence. We try to be together, we keep in touch, we have created an Internet group and really hope that we will have our own place of worship.
– What is now in place of the church of St. Alexander Nevsky?
– As far as I know, they are now fitting out the temple only for police officers and cadets. It is clear that this will be the temple of the OCU or, as in Mukachevo castle, a sort of multi-confessional church, the temple of all denominations. But I do not see the point in creating such a closed temple "only for insiders”. Our temple was open to everybody – to the military academy staff, students, and for people living in the neighborhood. And for all these years, the police haven’t revealed any special enthusiasm visiting the church – just a few of them attended the services from time to time.
“They want to make us strangers on our native land“
– What is your vision of what is going on around the OCU?
– With grief and pain in my heart I’m looking at all this, but I understand that judging by everything this is Divine Providence. The Lord, so to speak, attended us in order to "dust the rugs." I think we are "ripe" for such a "spring cleaning." General well-being made us relaxed and we began to go sour. And this concerns all Christians, not just the priesthood. We can see what a large-scale information wave has now been raised to make us strangers on our own land for our compatriots. Those, who are doing it, are persistently sowing enmity between the two fraternal peoples – Russians and Ukrainians, making us alien to each other. And now they are turning a canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church into an enemy for our people.
The struggle is not with those people who formally consider they are believers and say they have God in their souls, but with the church people crowding the temples of the UOC. A war is being waged with the Church – and this is obvious theomachism, although it is covered with beguiling phrases and slogans.
Patriotism has become a concept which, unfortunately, is constantly manipulated. Were those who got into the wave of “white emigration” at the beginning of the last century patriotic? I am sure that most of them were. But they were in exile. And how about those who were perishing in the torture chambers of GULAG? Many of them were the best people of their homeland but under the then regime they were considered enemies of the people and kept in prisons and camps.
Patriotism is the love of your Homeland. And it does not mean love for some political system or a circle of people who have come to power.
Patriotism means to love the history of your homeland, its culture, literature and the faith of its people. Upon that such a love of history should not be selective: we accept what we like and reject what we don’t like, putting it on the basket of back burners. Patriotism is the ability to accept the entire history of your homeland, analyze, learn from mistakes, and draw conclusions. And what is called patriotism in our country today is a political tool operating on nationalism and xenophobia, set in motion by evil hands solely to achieve their own goals. If one is keeping abreast with the current government – he or she is a patriot, otherwise – an enemy of the people.
I was placed on the Mirotvorets (Peacemaker) site on January 7, right at Christmas. The day before we were evicted from the temple and I published some information about it in social networks. In the media, there was such a wave of false narratives and swinishness – I’m not afraid of that word. The authorities tried to create the site of the enemies of the people, but such worthy people, including our Beatitude Metropolitan Onufriy, entered there! It’s an honor for me to be with them. You just look and think: how could our compatriots lower themselves to creating a list of enemies from worthy people who think differently but love their homeland no less than them? In my opinion, this is madness, reanimated from the darkest depths of human history. And they dare call this madness as patriotism.
“They are looking for a convenient way of living”
– What do you think about the priests and lay people who have joined the OCU and why did they do this, in your opinion?
– I do not feel hatred or aggression towards those who have joined the OCU. I look on them as people who make a tragic mistake in their lives. I take their step with patience and reasoning, trying to understand what could have prompted them to do this. There are several aspects to be mentioned. There is a very small percentage of those who went there for the sake of a national idea. There are not so many such people, because supporters of the nationalist church had earlier flocked under the banner of schismatic Filaret Denisenko. Christ is completely curtained by the Ukrainian idea there. The greater part of the priests who have passed are servile people, eager to be “hip”, pleasing themselves and people, rather than serving Christ and the Church. In addition, there is a fear of leaving the comfort zone, the search for a convenient way of living.
As regards the lay people who have gone there, they are the category of Christian consumers common in modern times, who attend the church not in search of God but in order to satisfy their spiritual needs. And these needs, alas, are at the level of “putting a candle, ordering a service,” or asking the Lord for something, especially if it’s pressing. And that's it! And today, from the perspective of a full-scale attack on the Church from the very top to the district rags that we are the “Putin church,” enemies and not patriots, these people have found a compromise for themselves: “What difference does it make? We will go to the OCU and in the same way like before put candles and hallow Easter eggs.” Unfortunately, these people do not understand the crux of the matter – they are very superficial.
For the priests who went into schism, their cowardice and servility played a significant role. In some cases it is cowardice and also the fear of losing one’s "bread and butter”.
This is especially true in the villages. The priest and his family often lives in the village not in their own but in the church house; and when the villagers kick up a fuss because of all this propaganda, he has a choice: either he will make a shift and stay in his lived-in place and everything will be calm or move to nowhere. His children go to school, to the kindergarten here – where should he go!? And there is no money for living. No parish. Nothing. So in this situation a priest has to undergo battle testing: whether he chooses Christ or “bread and butter".
“There will be a ‘hip roll’”
– “Nevertheless, most of the village priests remain loyal ...”
– Thank God so far so good! But, I am afraid this is so far... It's only the beginning! It seems to me that everything that is happening now is the creation of a certain “picture” before the main blow is delivered to our Church. A sort of “hip roll”. And I think that it will be held in the legal field. Although our church lawyers rely on the European Court of Justice, the protection of human rights, common sense and judiciary are being stepped over by the newly created structure, as far as we can see.
Most likely, the next step will be the elimination of our Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the legal field. There are reasons why they are drawing the UOC abbreviation over themselves!
And then they will try to take away all our property because we are non-profit organizations. And they will say to the priests: “If you want to stay in the parish, come to us. It will not be even necessary to change anything –you will also remain the UOC according to the documents. ” However, in fact they will automatically transfer the parish to the OCU. And thus we will need to collect two-thirds of the community to come out of the split and re-register. But the authorities will hardly allow us to do that! So how our priests will behave in such a case is unknown. Now we are the majority and stick together and there is hope. And what will happen next – time will tell.
“A person must have a coordinate system, and the Lord gives it to us”
– “But the priests have theological education, many have graduated from theological academies or St. Tikhon’s University.” Do they understand that they are choosing between Christ and the “comfort zone”?
– A lot of knowledge does not bring us closer to God. Now even church canons are used like a deck of cards –they draw out what they find suitable. The point here is not in education. The human soul is so complexly organized that a person himself often subconsciously justifies and convinces himself and others that his choice is correct. At the same time, he tightly closes his eyes to hide from the Truth, calming himself with his “knowledge and righteousness”. I think that many priests who have now backslid to schism are sincerely convinced that they are doing the right thing. They do not care about having a profound insight into the matter –they have found a loophole and justified themselves.
There are those who believe that the division in the Church takes place purely on a political basis: they say, “Some for embroidered Ukrainian shirts, others for Russian-style shirts”. Such a vision of the situation is also a subconscious loophole and a way to justify yourself.
They no longer see that people, in a Christian manner, reflect on honor and duty and refract everything with the help of the Gospel and the words of Christ. And only thanks to this approach it becomes clear what is true and what is false. After all, it is possible to disguise lies under the truth and not to see the truth. A person must have a coordinate system which enables to check reality for truth. And this system of coordinates is given to us by the Lord.
We stand for the Truth. And the Truth is in Christ. Believers understand it with their heart. “Jesus said: I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and opened it to little children; Yes, Father, for such was your gracious will” (Matt. 11, 25-26).
– What is your position in light of a possible scenario?
– Work, patience and prayer. I'm not going to leave Ukraine anywhere. None of us knows, of course, how it’ll turn out. But here I was born, here is my home, here is my homeland. And I remain faithful to the Church in which I myself was baptized and so were my parents, grandfather-great-grandfathers. Even if we imagine that tomorrow, suddenly, by some evil fate, many of our priests will go to the OCU, I will calmly refuse to keep with them "abreast". I am not going to change anything and I consider it a matter of Christian honor to remain faithful to our Church.