Priest who returned from OCU: I knelt before people, they forgave

Father Volodymyr (centre, in a dark vestment) with parishioners of his church. Photo: news.church.ua

The priest who returned from schism and repented told about what happened to him during his time in the OCU.

Archpriest Volodymyr Litvenchuk, the rector of the Annunciation Church in Lutsk, was banned from the priesthood in May 2022 for falling into schism. Having repented and been reinstated, he spoke about his experiences in the OCU. The story was published by the UOC Informational and Educational Department.

According to Fr Volodymyr, the reason for the schism was the expectation of "more decisive steps from the UOC hierarchy", which did not happen. "It seemed to me that the last Synod before the Council did not take the necessary decisions, and this prompted me to take my own steps, which I later regretted very much," Fr Volodymyr admitted. He was also influenced by the fact that in Volyn, OCU members seized churches, in the construction of which the priests had put their whole lives.

When Fr Volodymyr defected to the OCU and Mikhail Zinkevich introduced him to those present, everyone in the church started applauding. According to Fr Volodymyr, "it was even frightening". The priest said that his conscience constantly pricked him, and Zinkevich said, "Don't doubt anything."

The priest quickly realised he had made a mistake. "There were certain things that happened to me during the Liturgy that I just couldn't quite get on with worship," the priest said. He often recalled his wife’s words in response to his intention to defect to the OCU: "Look, father, so that you won't regret it later."

Fr Volodymyr began to avoid the church. "I didn't want anything. I couldn't eat or sleep, every day I asked God not to start the morning," the priest admits. It was also difficult because other clergymen and many friends did not understand his decision.

Having changed his confession, Fr Volodymyr remained to serve in his church, but most of the parishioners did not accept his decision and began to go to another church. His conscience told him that he had left them without a temple and without a pastor, and they called him and wrote on social networks, "Father, come back". Fr Volodymyr believes his return to the canonical Church is the fruit of their prayers.

In total, Fr Volodymyr stayed with the schismatics for just over 20 days. The first week he spent "on emotion", the next two on antidepressants.

The decisions of the Council of May 27 dotted all the "i"s, and the priest made the final decision to return to the UOC. "I was already in a very difficult psychological state. I finally realized that I was in the political structure of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine and not in the Church," he admitted. He was helped to contact the Primate's assistants, and Fr Volodymyr went to see His Beatitude for penance. "His Beatitude brought me back to the path from which I had turned," the priest said.

Returning from Kyiv to Lutsk, Fr Volodymyr immediately announced a service in the church and all the parishioners who had not gone with him to the OCU returned.

"I asked for forgiveness. When I knelt before them, everyone knelt with me. We mutually asked each other for forgiveness, but first and foremost it was my repentance. People forgave. They came to the cross, I blessed everyone, they cried and said that it was just Easter, that today we have Easter," recalled the priest.

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