Rector of UOC church in Tsvetokha details raider seizure
The raiders cut off 5 locks on the temple doors and broke into the church with shouts "Glory to Ukraine".
The rector of the St. Paraskeva community of the UOC in the village of Tsvetokha of the Shepetivka Eparchy, Archpriest Georgy Kimeichuk, reported the details of the church seizure.
According to the priest, on the morning of April 18, 2021, supporters of the OCU gathered near the temple. To prevent them from getting inside, he, after consulting with the parishioners, decided not to serve the Sunday Liturgy.
“The invaders were aggressive, and we did not provoke a conflict,” the rector explained his decision.
Nevertheless, at about 12 noon the raiders cut off 5 locks on the church doors and rushed inside with shouts "Glory to Ukraine". To back up the OCU followers, about 30 people came from the military base of the Ground Forces of Ukraine, located in Tsvetokha. Also, 30 police officers arrived. The invaders themselves were about 40 people, and they decided the fate of the temple. The military and police were present nearby but did not intervene in the conflict.
The priest noted that the schismatics also seized the cashier's church house near the church, which was registered to a parishioner of the UOC community. She got sick, and the new cashier fell into schism. Now raiders are on watch in this room.
The day before, on April 17, representatives of the OCU community met with the rector and invited him to voluntarily hand over the keys and property of the church to them. He refused.
According to the priest, he was appointed as the head of the community of the St. Paraskeva Church in Tsvetokha a year ago, and he inherited the conflict from the previous rector, Father Nikolai, who served in the parish for more than 20 years. During 2020, meetings, at which the villagers tried to decide the fate of the temple, were held in the village.
“It was a war of signatures,” Father George said. “I personally walked through the courtyards and collected 250 real signatures in support of the canonical UOC. Subsequently, they managed to collect 50 more. Many people do not understand the nature of the conflict, they believe that these are parish quarrels. The OCU supporters asked them what kind of church they were, ‘for Moscow’ or ‘for our, Ukrainian one’? – naturally, many answered that ‘for ours’”.
The cleric said that there are about fifty active supporters of the OCU in the village, up to 40 people attend "services" on church holidays. As for his parishioners on Sundays and holidays, he numbers about 70 people. The “service” for the supporters of the schism is organized by the former cleric of the canonical Church, Nikolai Bochkay, who first shifted for the Filaret structure, and then became a “priest” of the OCU.
“On February 14, 2021, the schismatics, led by activist Nina Tarasova, held another meeting, in which we did not participate. They stated that they had collected 622 signatures from their fellow villagers for going to the OCU. In fact, there were about 120 local people, the rest – from Slavuta and Shepetivka. The names of the towns were on the banners that the visitors held in their hands. At those gatherings, they approved the statute and submitted an application for registration to the authorities,” said the rector.
On April 1, 2021, officials changed the state registration of the community, which was founded by the believers in the village back in 1991, to the OCU.
The UOC believers have sued representatives of the OCU for illegal actions. According to Archpriest George, the activist Tarasova promised him to return the keys and property of the temple if the representatives of the canonical Church won the trial, but he doubts that.
The rector noted that the hierarchy of the Shepetivka Eparchy of the UOC prayerfully supports the community of the seized church, provides the necessary documents for the court and advises on legal issues.
As earlier reported, in the village of Tsvetokha, Khmelnytsky region, OCU representatives, with the help of the servicemen, seized the St. Paraskeva Church, which belongs to the community of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church.