A year after seizure: UOC community in homeland of ex-Metropolitan Simeon
OCU members are supported by local Catholics, and UOC parishioners, who lost the church, went to worship in a private house after 8 months of prayers in the open air.
A year has passed since the seizure of the Holy Dormition Church of the UOC by OCU activists in the homeland of the ex-metropolitan of the canonical Church Simeon (Shostatsky) in the village of Gvardeiskoye, Khmelnitsky region. The parishioner of the church Liubov told a UOJ correspondent about the life of the community deprived of the church.
“Until October, we prayed near the temple, and after October 30, we moved to the house of our late villager, Olga. The parishioner gave us a house in which the old deeply religious woman, her relative, used to live. She has been very sick in recent years. And this woman took care of Olga, and for this she got the house. Now she often says: ‘If only Olga knew that a liturgy is now being served in her house! How glad she would be!’” Liubov told the journalist.
According to the parishioner of the Holy Dormition Church, the house has a small convenient extension, however, during the feasts, it is a little cramped.
“On the list, there are around 150 people left in our Church, usually 80-70 people gather at services. Thank God! We are glad! The more the merrier!” said the woman.
She said that the situation in the village was tense, activists of the OCU have repeatedly organized various kinds of provocations; however, believers try not to react and not to engage in disputes.
“They’ve exhausted us so much during this time. They live in lies. There is a lot of unfair information. We wrote to the district newspaper. They keep people lying. And people do not know the truth,” Liubov comments on what is happening in the village. “Our Holy Dormition Church is quite new, large. That's why they want to take it.”
Adherents of the new church structure gather near the closed church, but their meetings are more like rallies rather than divine services.
“They don’t even have a prayer. They chant songs, "Glory to Ukraine!" They hung a flag and the plate "The Orthodox Church of Ukraine" on their side of the temple. In place of the traditional Cross, they have a trident,” said Liubov.
According to her, as early as last year, parishioners of the temple invited supporters of the newly created religious organization to negotiations and tried to find a common language. However, OCU activists refused dialogue. Liubov believes that the reason is that the "hierarch" of the OCU is Metropolitan Simeon from this region.
"They tell us: ‘We will not allow prayers from the aggressor country in our village.’ We try to avoid collisions. They’ve provoked us. And more than once. They themselves even prayed with Catholics. We have a Catholic church in the village, its parishioners support them,” she said. “We find it difficult. But we try not to react. And only in the last month, for some reason, they have calmed down. We live with God's help, try to endure and keep peace. Thank God for everything!"
We recall that for 8 months the UOC parishioners have been forced to pray at the walls of their own church.