A UOC priest in Yasinia – to the active core of OCU: Who is your God?
Archpriest Alexander Gashparovich told how the UOC community in the village of Yasinia managed to defend their property and status from raider attacks by the OCU.
The parishioners of the UOC won not only by a numerical superiority, but also by observing the community’s statute and procedures having preserved the parish, Archpriest Alexander Gashparovich, a rector of the temple of the Nativity of the Most Holy Theotokos in the village of Yasinia, Transcarpathian region, said in a commentary to the Union of Orthodox Journalists.
There were three community meetings in the village, re-affirming the determination of the believers to maintain their jurisdiction.
“There was quite little OCU representation compared to ours. They received neither the temple nor the keys to the temple, nor the originals of the statutory documents, therefore they had no chance at all,” said Father Alexander.
The most impressive gatherings near the temple were held on February 24, 2019. On this day, more than 400 people gathered in the courtyard, simply pushing out the assault group of the PCU, clearly intending to do the same thing here as it was done earlier with the temples far from the center in the villages of Kevelev, Plitovaty and Lopushanka. Recall, from February 3 to 17, the same group of OCU supporters in the Yasinia deanery sequentially grabbed the St. George, Holy Transgiguration and St. Elijah churches of the UOC in the village. Even then, the rector of the fourth temple realized that his parish could be the next target and took the necessary safeguards. The first legitimate parish meeting was held, but it could be spoilt because the official head of the community had gone into schism, appearing in the church literally three or four times a year. Fortunately, he did not have the keys and documents.
On February 24, after a failed attempt to seize the fourth church of the UOC in the district, the “diocese” of the OCU announced that the gatherings near temple of the Nativity of the Most Holy Theotokos had supposedly confirmed the desire to move to the new church structure. At the same time, “vladyka” Barsanuphius presented a fake protocol with an unclear list of signatures, in which they allegedly wrote about 500 participants in the meeting who voted “for the OCU”. However, the whole village knew that more than 400 UOC supporters, who were recorded on video, were defending the church, while the assault group was at least four times smaller, and they were unable to do in the central village church what they did with the other parishes in the outskirts: hence, the parish managed to withstand.
On March 2, as the priest recalls, the church “twenty” gathered in the village council, deciding to wait with the question of changing or maintaining jurisdiction until Easter. On May 19, another community gathering took place, finally deciding to remain in the UOC. At the same time, over the spring, raiders from the OCU would go to Uzhgorod several times trying to re-register this parish. As they could not get the original statutory documents, the RSA sent them back home empty-handed.
At the beginning of its raider campaign, the OCU planned to leave only one UOC shrine out of 10 churches in Yasinia deanery, Rakhov district, since the activists considered the other parishes to be easy prey; upon that, one rector voluntarily joined the OCU. In fact, on February 24, the congregation of Father Alexander rebuffed the raiders for the first time, after which they obviously lost their positions: in the event of the seizure of this temple they would definitely go further. Even now, the deanery does not that the faithful and priests of the canonical Church can breathe freely: with targeted funds, raider attacks might resume.
In a commentary to the UOJ, Fr. Alexander Gashparovich emphasized that Yasinya village, like all Transcarpathia, is extraordinarily rich in terms of the diversity of faiths, and everyone lives peacefully with each other:
“Yasinia is a very multi-confessional town, we have a lot of faiths, there are Orthodox temples of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, there are Catholics, Roman and Greek Catholics, and there are Jehovah's Witnesses, Baptists. Before the granting of the so-called Tomos, there were no problems; somehow we socialized, had respect for each other, and for each other’s beliefs; even between the priests there were no such misunderstandings. Perhaps, we didn’t communicate so closely, but when we met we would say hello and show a friendly attitude, and no one had any problem in this respect,” said the young rector who managed to create a Sunday school and develop his parish within 4 years of his service.
So it was with the few supporters of the UAOC and the UOC-KP – until the issuance of the Tomos in Constantinople. After that, people seemed to become totally different:
“At the moment there’s an interesting situation: those people, who are now affiliated with the newly created OCU, used to say a year ago that God is one and it made no difference what church to go, and they used to respect others – it was such a good morale in our locality. And now for some reason, to be honest, I can’t understand why they consider us enemies. If we take all the other faiths in Yasinia, then we still have such coexistence with others, we do not condemn anyone. Everyone has their own attitude towards God, towards Ukraine, towards the family, and so on, but they (OCU – Ed.) pursue only their own way and make others think the way they do. If we think differently, if our vision of the development of Ukraine, the development of the Church is a little different, then we are enemies to them. And they, unfortunately, not only stopped greeting us, but don’t answer our greeting. When we say hello to them, they turn away. Perhaps, this is what their new faith, their new national God, teaches. To be honest, this is a little offensive, because a year ago these people would come to me for help, ask for my prayers, and there was a completely different attitude. Now everything has changed dramatically. I have already said to some of them that they need to ask themselves a question – what kind of God is this, is it really Jesus Christ?”, wonders the UOC priest.