Abbot of Kyiv Lavra sends an open letter to the authorities of Ukraine

28 December 2022 19:08
Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra. Photo: Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra. Photo:

Met. Pavel recalled that the persecution of the Church and desecration of shrines incur trouble on the participants in shameful actions and on the land where it occurs.

The Abbot of the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra, Metropolitan Pavel, and the brethren of the monastery addressed the Ukrainian authorities with an open letter regarding "the violations of the rights of the monastery and its parishioners, which have stepped up recently."

The letter published on the website of the monastery says that “since its founding at the beginning of the 11th century, the Lavra has been and remains the center of spiritual life, a place of prayerful deeds of monks, the pride and decoration of Kyiv, celebrated not only by visitors, but also by international organizations, in particular UNESCO.

Metropolitan Pavel reminded President of Ukraine V. Zelensky, Prime Minister of Ukraine D. Shmygal, and Minister of Culture and Information Policy of Ukraine O. Tkachenko that “during the history of its existence, the Lavra suffered persecution and destruction, but always revived with new vigour, rallying the Orthodox people around itself.

“In the godless times of Soviet power, the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra was closed and turned into a museum for almost 70 years, a significant part of the monks went through prisons and camps or were deprived of their lives,” and the temples and buildings of the Lavra were destroyed and brought to decay. “But after the restoration of Orthodox worship in 1988, the Lavra rose from the ruins with the help and funds of the monastery, brethren, benefactors and parishioners.”

Vladyka noted that “the state, as the owner, did not take and is not taking any significant measures for the restoration and maintenance of churches,” while the funds allocated for this purpose from the state budget were meagre.

“Therefore, the National Reserve still cannot take those improvements as a result of restoration works, which have been carried out over the past 30 years, onto its balance sheet,” Met. Pavel said.

He noted that the monastery had repeatedly appealed to the authorized state authorities demanding the return of the temples and buildings of the Lavra to its rightful owner, the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

“In particular, such appeals were also filed regarding the transfer of the temples of the Upper Lavra, if not into ownership, then into permanent gratuitous use. However, these appeals were left unanswered for political reasons,” the letter says.

“The only thing that the monastery managed to achieve, at the expense and with the help of which the Assumption Cathedral and the Refectory Church were rebuilt and restored, was their transfer to hourly use during worship. Moreover, the Lavra monthly pays significant funds for lighting and heating despite the fact that these churches must be constantly heated at the expense of the state budget,” the Metropolitan writes further.

He said that at present the leadership of the National Reserve refused to extend the contracts for the hourly use of the Assumption Cathedral and the Refectory Church for the next 2023.

“Moreover, shameful searches have recently been carried out in the Lavra and other monasteries and fake ‘news’ fabricated in the so-called media. All this is being done, obviously, with the aim of transferring the temples of the Upper Lavra to the newly created OCU,” the hierarch believes.

In his opinion, "the attitude towards the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in general and towards the Holy Dormition Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra in particular indicates that the State of Ukraine, which has proclaimed its European democratic choice, is far from implementing it in practice."

Vladyka recalled that in 1995 Ukraine undertook "to establish a legal solution to the issue of the return of church property" (subparagraph XI of paragraph 11 of the PACE Conclusion No. 190 (1995) of 26.09.1995). In 2005, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe again called on the Ukrainian authorities to “establish clear rules for the return of church property, as required by subparagraph 11.XI. Conclusion No. 190 (1995)” (PACE Resolution No. 1466 (2005) dated 05.10.2005).

The action plan for the fulfillment of Ukraine's duties and obligations arising from its membership in the Council of Europe "provided to develop and submit for consideration by the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine a draft law 'on improving the rules for the return of church property to religious organizations'."

Also, by the Decree of the President of Ukraine dated January 12, 2011 No. 24/2011, an Action Plan was approved to fulfill the obligations and obligations of Ukraine arising from its membership in the Council of Europe, in which one of the mandatory activities is the development and submission to the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine of the draft Law of Ukraine "on the return of places of worship to religious organizations”.

“However, Ukraine has failed to implement these PACE decisions and obligations,” Metropolitan Pavel stated.

He also drew attention to the fact that “the PACE documents do not speak about the creation of a new division of the Church of Constantinople and the transfer of religious buildings to it, but about the return of church property to those religious organizations from which it was confiscated, in this case we can only talk about the Holy Dormition Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church as the canonical successor of the Lavra founded by St. Anthony and Theodosius of the Caves.

Metropolitan Pavel recalled that, “as history shows, the persecution of the Holy Orthodox Church and desecration of shrines brings misfortune and sorrow not only for the organizers and participants in such shameful actions and their descendants, but also for the land where this happens.”

“We know that if persecution at first turns away those who are weak in faith, then the further, the more the Church of Christ is strengthened, which, according to the commandment of Her Founder, our Lord Jesus Christ, “the gates of hell will not prevail” (Matt. 16:18).

“We have hope and remember the words of Christ: “If they persecuted Me, they will persecute you also…” (John 15:20). Whoever is not persecuted is not with Christ. But we know that the more Christians were persecuted, the more Christianity strengthened and expanded,” wrote the Metropolitan.

He also said that the brethren of the Lavra, being citizens of Ukraine, root for our Fatherland, “for that fragile peace in society that exists and which can be destroyed by short-sighted actions to take away churches from the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church.”

“Having responsibility before God for the souls of people entrusted to us, we ask you to put an end to lawlessness and persecution of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and, in particular, the Holy Dormition Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church,” the document says.

Vladyka assured that the brethren of the Lavra would "defend their rights by intensifying prayer, rallying the flock around the Church, as well as by legal means, including through international organizations."

Earlier, the UOJ wrote that Metropolitan Pavel appealed to the President of Ukraine in view of the termination of the lease agreement for the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra Reserve with the UOC.

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