Priests in the face of a split: exit from "corporation" or loyalty to God

Priests of the UOC are faced with a choice. Photo: UOJ

The UOC priests are now going through a difficult period. Many are faced with a choice: to take the side of persecutors of the Church or remain faithful to the oath.

The Ukrainian Orthodox Church is now living in the “time of troubles”. Because of the Russian attack, the hatred for the UOC in society has increased many times over. Its believers and priests are exposed to real persecution and physical violence. Starting from May 22, 2022, in Stryi, nationalists splashed brilliant green in the face of the rector of the Resurrection church right during the liturgy. Moreover, this is just one of the episodes.

Local authorities issue illegal orders to ban the activities of the Church in their area. The number of such decisions already goes to dozens. City councils forbid worship and take churches away from communities.

Throughout Ukraine, the authorities and Dumenkovites organize fake “transitions” of communities to the OCU. Meetings like this take place every day. Hundreds of temples have already been grabbed by force. The scheme applied is the same as in the tomos times: under the guise of a church community, residents of settlements who have nothing to do with the Church gather to vote for a transition to the OCU. Here are some showcases.

"Transitions": voluntary-coercive?

In the village of Ozero in Volhynia, supporters of the transition to the OCU gathered on benches near the lake and waited for the service to end in the church. At some point they got bored and demanded to stop the service. It didn't work. Then they voted for the transition, took the church by storm and threw the real community out of the temple.

In Sulymiv, Lviv region, signatures were collected in the village in favor of the transition to the OCU secretly from the Resurrection community of the UOC. On May 20, the authorities re-registered the statute of the community. On May 22, the Right Sector no longer allows believers to enter their church.

In Ivankiv near Kyiv, the authorities simply re-registered the statute of the Transfiguration community in favor of the OCU. There weren't even any meetings. Under the protection of the police, the raiders opened the doors of the church with a grinder.

The village of Rzhishchiv in Volhynia. Those wishing to vote for the transition were registered in the village council. A “priest” of the OCU came from a neighboring village. Under his leadership, the supporters of the transition stormed and drove the real community out of the temple.

In Cherniatyn, Vinnytsia region, the head of the UTC, Vasily Maliarchuk, brought activists directly to the liturgy. With shouts and obscenities, the parishioners were driven out, and a meeting was held. The locks were changed, the temple was seized.

If before such voting took place only in villages, where there was often only one temple, now the authorities have begun to organize similar events in cities.

In Khmelnytsky, two votings for a transition have already been organized – in the microdistricts of Ruzhychne and Leznevo. Both were initiated and conducted by the head of the Khmelnytsky regional administration Alexander Chernievich. In Leznevo, the meeting was held on the playground of the kindergarten. There were no parishioners to participate in voting at all.

Well, the situation around the UOC Cathedral in Shepetivka can be considered the apotheosis of the absurdity of such transitions. There, the “voting” for the transition to the OCU of the cathedral community was held right in front of the community. The mayor of the city, a member of Poroshenko's "Eurosolidarity" Vitaly Buzil, brought state employees and everyone to the square in front of the cathedral. While the parishioners with icons were singing prayers, people unknown to them raised their hands to transfer them to the OCU.

However, one cannot say that absolutely all transitions since the outbreak of the war are fake. There are cases when the majority of the community actually chooses to voluntarily join the schism. And it's hard to judge them. In conditions when the enemy conquers your land and kills your relatives, it is difficult to remember that the Church lives in other realities; that the Church is not "Ukrainian" or "Russian", right or wrong, but is one, the Church of Christ. Leaving the UOC, a person does not leave for another confession, he leaves the Church of Christ, deprives himself of its sacraments.

In this regard I would like to give examples of the priests of the UOC: those who leave the Church, and those who remain faithful to it. Who is right and who is wrong among them?

About those who leave and those who stay

As a rule, those who join the OCU do so in silence. Most often, these are the rectors of the transferred communities, who, under pressure from the authorities and patriots, decide, as they say, "to obey to the opinion of the people." By doing so they retain their parish, favor with the authorities, financial stability.

However, there are those who leave solemnly, coming up with whole concepts. Let's listen to them.

Archimandrite Mikhail Ziubin, an ex-monk of the Zverinets monastery in Kyiv, wrote a whole manifesto, where he stated that he was leaving the UOC, since it is the "Church of the Wicked."

In a letter addressed to His Beatitude, he pointed out that the Russian Church was silent and did not condemn Putin, nor did allegedly the UOC: “For reasons of my Christian conscience, I can no longer be either in the monastery, where I accepted monasticism and priesthood, or in the Church with those who chose the path of Cain."

Ziubin calls the Ukrainian Orthodox Church a "corporation": "I think being honest with God and with yourself is much more important than being loyal to the corporation to which you belong."

Nevertheless, the priests of the UOC have completely different opinions about fidelity.

In the village of Voronchin in Volhynia, where the community was transferred to the OCU, a young priest who practically ended up being on the street does not consider the Church a corporation, but says that he remains faithful to it.

Journalist: "Are you not moving with the community?"

Father Dionisiy: “No, I remain in the bosom of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, headed by His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry.”

Journalist: Why?

Father Dionisiy: "Because I swore an oath to God and people."

Here is the reaction of another UOC priest in the same situation, in the village of Dubyshche. His community was transferred to the OCU; he was asked to move too. But the rector refused.

Father Mikhail Bodak: “I am not a traitor to my faith. I took a prayerful oath of allegiance to God. I won’t do the way people want. I will remain faithful to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. No matter how many are left with me – two, three, four, I will remain a priest and spiritual mentor for them."

Father Alexander Levandiuk: “After my ordination, I made a promise to God to lead the people to Him. I made a promise to God not to leave you. Let them kill me first, but I will not leave any of you, I love you all. Thank you all very much. Glory to God, glory to Ukraine, glory to all who are for peace.”

What does it have to do with Christ?

Whose position is more convincing? The monk’s, who talks about Putin, the war, and says that he took the oath of the corporation, or those priests’ who speak of loyalty to God?

We offer the opinion of another priest, Andrei Nikolaidi: “Why should I personally leave the Church, where I received the grace of the priesthood? What specifically motivates me to join the OCU? (There are many answers: ‘Putin’ – ‘Kirill’ – ‘war’ – ‘pressure from the authorities’ – ‘parishioners’ – ‘children’ – ‘money’ – ‘bishop’ – ‘problems in the family’ – ‘patriotism’ – ‘I can't take this anymore’ – ‘everything is wrong in the church’, etc.).

But then ask yourself: ‘What does it have to do with Christ, to Whom I prayed, trembling with fear at the moment of ordination, Who consoled me in moments of grief and despair, Who performed great miracles when the parishioners asked me to pray, Who lay in my arms in his Holy Mysteries?’ Does it have anything to do with Him?"

 

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Poll

How has your life changed since the outbreak of war?
It hasn't changed in any way
64%
My church has been seized by OCU members
12%
My church has been damaged/destroyed by shelling
8%
I'm going to another church because of displacement
16%
Total votes: 25

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