UOC believers pray at a closed temple in homeland of ex-metropolitan Simeon

Believers in the village of Gvardeiskoye gathered for a service at a closed church. Photo: UOJ

Since February of 2019, in Gvardeiskoye village, which is not far from "hierarch" Simeon’s native place, there has been a struggle for the UOC temple.

On August 7, 2019, the community of the UOC of Gvardeiskoye village in the Khmelnitsky region gathered for worship at the closed Holy Assumption temple, which had been illegally transferred to the OCU.

Representatives of the Khmelnitsky Eparchy of the UOC came to support the faithful, including Archpriest Vladimir Zayats, a dean of the Khmelnitsky District, Archpriest Mikhail Varakhoba, a head of the Diocesan Legal Department, as well as members of the Orthodox Brotherhood of Saints Anthony and Theodosius of the Kiev-Pechersk Caves.

The confrontation around the temple in Gvardeiskoye has continued since February of this year, when a meeting of the territorial community was held in the village. Moreover, one of the most active fighters for the OCU turned out to be a local farmer who is Greek Catholic.

“On February 4, the whole village gathered: Catholics, believers, and non-believers who had invited the ATO fighters, nationalists, and the Right Sector,” said an eyewitness to the events. “They held an illegal meeting, announced the transfer of the temple to the OCU, and since then the temple has been closed. A priest is serving near the temple. The keys are with the community but they are afraid to open it in order to avoid a raider seizure.”

After the meeting, thanks to the efforts of the OCU activists, the community split, but most of the believers remained faithful to the canonical Church and at least 70-80 parishioners regularly came to worships at the UOC temple. Representatives of the OCU also serve near the church, including the former clergyman of the Khmelnitsky diocese, Job Vozborsky, who has gone into schism.

The Orthodox Brotherhood of Saints Anthony and Theodosius of the Kiev-Pechersk Caves, whose members regularly come to the village to support the faithful and their rector, Archpriest Nikolai Mordynsky, said that this is the case not only in Gvardeiskoye village.

“This is not the only affected parish in the Khmelnitsky region, there is flagrant lawlessness all over here,” said the members of the Brotherhood in a commentary to the UOJ. “The problem is that Simeon’s homeland is here, he is from the neighboring village of Raikovtsy. There he took away the UOC temple and visits this place very often. So they want to seize everything in the local villages. In this locality the community is strong, stands up against the attacks and asks for help. We come from Khmelnitsky to worship services to support them so that they are not humiliated or offended.”

Now believers of the UOC are engaged in defending their right to the temple in court.

On August 28, the church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Gvardeiskoye village celebrates their St. Patron’s feast. The question whether the believers will be able to pray not outdoors, but in their own temple, on which the OCU sign plate has been already hanged, so far remains open.

As reported by the UOJ, earlier the “hierarch” of the OCU, Simeon (Shostatsky), took part in the ceremony of raising the flags of Ukraine and the Vinnitsa-Bar “diocese” of the OCU next to the Transfiguration Cathedral in Vinnitsa.

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