Uniates advance: if UGCC can claim Pochaev Lavra

21 August 2017 15:24
Uniates advance: if UGCC can claim Pochaev Lavra
The Greek Catholic media are again preparing the ground for the seizure of the Pochaev Lavra. On August 8, the news agency "Za Zbruchem" (Beyond the Zbruch) reported about the 195th anniversary of the consecration of the Assumption Cathedral of the Lavra by the Greek Catholic clergy. The material echoed through a number of sites sympathetic to Uniates. Some of them even declared a "historical sensation": "the main cathedral of the monastery was built by Greek Catholics".

What the sensation is about is not clear, since no one has ever made any secret that the construction of the cathedral was financed by the Roman Catholic family member Vasily Pototsky. We can freely read about the prehistory of the construction on the site of the Pochaev Lavra itself.

It is another matter that these historical facts are submitted in a certain political context in order to justify the claim of modern Uniates to the entire Pochaev Lavra. It turns out that in 1831 "the monastery was seized by the Moscow Patriarchate (ROC), under whose control it has been until now".

According to the publication, "Since then the Pochaev Lavra has became the stronghold of the Кussification of the region". And in the end, it is noted that the Yanukovich government granted a free lease of the Lavra to the UOC until 2052. That is, the hint is clear: you need to take the shrine out of the hands of the Moscow Patriarchate and give it to the "patriotic" Greek Catholics.

Actually, this is not the first time when the Uniates claim their rights to the Pochaev Lavra. In 2012, the monks of the Uniate Order of Basilian, as well as the hegumen of the Buchach Basilian Monastery Ivan Maikovich expressed the opinion that the UGCC can claim the Pochaev Lavra on par with the Orthodox.

"We want to claim before people and the world that this shrine used to belong to us," the Uniate priest said then. According to him, the Pochaev Lavra belonged to the Greek Catholics for more than 100 years, and most of its buildings were built by Catholics of the Eastern Rite. "The Lavra was not returned to us, because it is not so much a question of restoring law and justice but of politics," Ivan Maikovich said.

According to representatives of the UGCC, the Pochaev Lavra should be returned to the Uniates, because it belonged to them for more than 100 years, and its main temple was built by a Roman Catholic, who later became a Uniate.

This manipulative thesis was answered exhaustively by the deputy head of the DECR of the UOC, Protopriest Nikolai Danilevich: "The Pochaev Lavra was founded around 1240 as an Orthodox monastery, and it has been so since then. For more than 770 years of its existence, only 110 years (1721-1831), the Lavra was in the hands of Greek Catholics. However, this in no way is the reason for the Greek Catholics to regard this holy place as their own. Yes, there was such a historical period. But today's Greek-Catholic St. George’s Cathedral in Lviv from 1946 to 1990 belonged to the Orthodox Church, as well."

The flourishing of the monastery in Pochaev did not begin under the Uniates. In 1597, the monastery received as a gift from the Orthodox landlady Anna Goiska sizeable land and the most valuable treasure – the wonder-working icon of the Mother of God  – the very one which the monastery is inextricably associated with. Historical events and miracles that make up the "soul" of the Pochaev Lavra, its sacred history, took place long before the Uniate’s coming.

The monastery was especially developed when monk Ivan, known as Job of Pochaev, became its hegumen (abbot). It was under him that the beginning of active construction in the monastery was started: the monastery walls were erected, the Holy Trinity Cathedral and six other churches were built.

Under Job of Pochaev, the Lavra became famous for its enlightening anti-Uniate activities. He built a printing house and engaged himself in the writing of theological books in defense of Orthodoxy. The most known of his works is "The Book of Job Zhelezo, Hegumen of Pochaev, Written by His Own Hand", which was kept in the Pochaev Lavra. It was published in 1884 under the title "The Bee of Pochaev". Now the memory day of St. Job of Pochaev is one of the main feasts of the monastery.

In this context, the cynicism of Greek Catholics, who argue that Lavra "was seized by the Moscow Patriarchate" in 1831, is striking. In fact, the shrine was returned to the Orthodox, who it belonged by right. If you imagine for a moment that the monastery is given to Greek Catholics, the question arises: what will they do with the relics of Job of Pochaev? Will they throw them out, hide in the basement or offer the Orthodox to take them? The absurdity of such a picture is obvious.

According to the law "On the return of cultural heritage objects to religious organizations", the Pochaev Lavra should be returned to the ownership of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church as the successor to the canonical structure that the monastery belonged to from the 13th to the 20th century, except for the period when the monastery was temporarily taken over by the Uniates.

In 2012, the editor-in-chief of the Uniate resource RISU, Taras Antoshevsky, stated that "the position of the UOC-MP is vulnerable, since it was created only in 1990 and, accordingly, cannot be the successor of the Church, from which the Soviet authorities took temples". Allegedly, apart from the UOC, schismatics can also claim this status. A more strange statement is difficult to come up with. And what Church did the ROC grant the status of "independent in its structure and management" in 1990? According to Antoshevsky's logic, it turns out that before that there was an empty place in Ukraine.

However, until 1990 in Ukraine there was a Ukrainian exarchate, which the monastery in Pochaev belonged to. In 1941, the Cathedral of Bishops was held in the Pochaev Lavra, where Metropolitan Alexy (Gromadsky) was elected as the exarch of Ukraine. In the 1950s and 1980s, it was the Orthodox monks who maintained the monastic life and resisted the attempts of the Soviet authorities to close the monastery.

It was these monks who lived through arrests, beatings and intimidation. It was they who expelled from the Lavra Bishop Yakov Panchuk, who supported schismatic ideas. Thanks to them, the monastery survived during the years of persecution and remained the center of pilgrimage for millions of Ukrainians. Thus, the Lavra has a continuous historical and spiritual connection with the UOC. What the schismatics have to do with it, Antoshevsky does not explain.

The Orthodox Church in Ukraine existed until 1990 and continued to exist after it, receiving another canonical status, namely – complete independence in its structure and management, becoming the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which all Local Orthodox Churches recognized as the sole successor to the Ukrainian exarchate.

On the issue of who owns church property, in 1993 Patriarch Alexy II in his letter to the Minister of Justice of Ukraine clearly explained that the ROC did not claim the property of the UOC. All speculation on the patriotic feelings of Ukrainians in this aspect can only be regarded as inciting inter-faith enmity.

As for the "stronghold of Russification", which Pochaev Lavra allegedly has became since 1831, Greek Catholics should be recalled of their role in the Polonization of Ukrainians, that is, in the planting of the "Polish world" and the struggle against the Orthodox Cossacks.

Unfortunately, Greek Catholics continue their struggle against Orthodoxy today, producing fakes about the propaganda of the "Russian world" in the Pochaev Lavra. All of them have been successfully refuted, but there is a residue left – and the Uniates again try to claim the Lavra under this pretext. However, it is not the first time the UOC has resisted the attacks of the Uniates. And St. Job of Pochaev help it in this.
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