Church in vlg. Mashcha sealed for the time of church dispute settlement

A round table in the Kostopil DSA. Photo: spzh.news

The Kostopil DSA decided to seal the church until an official response from the Ministry of Justice of Ukraine.

On December 16, 2019, a round table was held at the Kostopil DSA with the participation of the top officials of the district, representatives of the police and two religious communities of vlg. Mashcha of the Kostopil district, Rivne region. The participants discussed the church conflict around the local church which started almost a year ago. Over the past month, the situation has become particularly aggravated, reports a UOJ correspondent.

Two communities of different denominations, which used to be parishioners of one Church before the bestowal of the Tomos, came to the meeting with documents that seem to confirm the rights of each community to own a religious building.

“The religious community of the UOC has all the rights to own a church and the territory, but the community of the OCU, in my opinion, was able to make documents to this church in some strange way, too,” commented Archpriest Viktor Zemlianoy, the head of the Department for Interfaith Settlement at the Sarny Eparchy of the UOC. “A meeting of the Supreme Court of Ukraine, which is due to take place soon, will consider on what basis the OCU community received ownership of the temple if it officially belongs to the parishioners of the UOC of the village of Mashcha.”

The discussion was initiated by the head of the Kostopil DSA Alexander Koval. According to him, he has one motivation – to achieve reconciliation of both religious communities.

“It is not my responsibility to understand the documents that you have provided, so I will hand them over to the Ministry of Justice of Ukraine for consultation,” Mr. Koval said during the round table. “When the official answers come, then the fate of the temple in the village of Mashcha will become clear."

Until the court decides, the issue of the church conflict in the village of Mashcha remains open. Therefore, the head of the district proposed to negotiate a truce, to seal the church so that neither community enters the temple.

“I confirm my static position on both religious communities and personally instruct the chief of the district police department present here to guard the church,” said Alexander Koval.

Both the UOC believers and the newly created community of the UOC were dissatisfied with the result of the discussion but promised to follow the agreements made.

As reported earlier, on December 15, the police blocked the entrance to the St. John the Theological Church of the village of Mashcha, which was returned to the UOC after a two-week seizure by the dissenters.

On November 9, 2019, the OCU supporters cut off locks and took over the St. John the Theologian Church in the village of Mashcha. According to eyewitnesses, about 20 non-locals, who introduced themselves as activists of the Volunteer Ukrainian Corps “Right Sector”, took part in the seizure. However, when the believers of the UOC called the leader of this grouping, he denied the participation of the “Right Sector” in the takeover of the temple. A few hours later, due to the involvement of the head of the Department for Interfaith Settlement at the Rivne and Sarny Eparchies of the UOC, Archpriest Viktor Zemlianoy, the activists holding the church managed to persuade the intruders to resolve the conflict in court. As a result, the temple was closed, and both communities, the UOC and the OCU, put their locks on the doors. But already on November 29, supporters of the OCU returned to the church with a grinder and again seized the St. John the Theologian Church.

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