Kiev, September 26, 2023
The Holy Synod of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church gathered yesterday under the chairmanship of His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev and All Ukraine.
The Synod had to meet in the St. Panteleimon Monastery in Kiev because as the state no longer allows the Church to have access to its own Kiev Caves Lavra.
The hierarchs made a number of administrative and personnel decisions, and also issued a statement to the hierarchs, clergy, monastics, and faithful of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church about the extremely trying times the UOC is facing today.
In its epistle, the Synod emphasizes that the UOC never divides its flock or Ukrainian society based on politics. Moreover, the Church always helps everyone, even those who don’t support the Church.
Despite the persecution, the Church remains strong, and coercion and slander cannot divert the faithful Ukrainian people from the true Orthodox path. Meanwhile, the violent seizure of churches only prevent prayers from being offered for Ukraine, but those who perpetrate such terrible acts will face the consequences, because God is not mocked, the hierarchs write.
In particular, the situation around the Kiev Caves Lavra is especially shameful, but the hierarchs place all their hope in God, Who has always protected the holy monastery.
The Synod calls for fervent prayer especially for those bishops who are facing personal persecution from the state by way of falsified criminal trials. And in conclusion, the hierarchs encourage their flock to remember in these trying times that Christians are called to love and bless their enemies and ever bear witness to the love of Christ.
Read the Synod’s full statement:
Your Eminences and Eminences!
Honorable fathers! Dear brothers and sisters!
During the turbulent trials for the Ukrainian people, our Church, as a loving mother, embraces all her children with her prayer and mercy. And just as a mother loves all her children, despite the fact that some of them listen to her instructions and some defiantly neglect her maternal care, so the Ukrainian Orthodox Church never divides its flock based on political or social preferences; or Ukrainian society into those who those who are faithful to it, and those who have forgotten the place of their Baptism, the place of Baptism of their parents and ancestors, and who now consider it possible to blaspheme the Church of God and despise the pastors, by whose priestly hands these people themselves were once immersed in the Baptismal font for birth into eternal life.
The Church prays for the entire Ukrainian state, calls to honor its laws, carries out daily social and volunteer service for everyone who needs it, and not only for those who are supportive of it. After all, the Lord Himself teaches this, saying: For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? (Mt. 5:46).
When we say “Church,” of course we mean the whole people of God—not only the clergy and monastics, but also all believers, together with their spiritual pastors, sharing the burden of the trials of the modern period in the life of Ukrainian Orthodoxy. They are trying to poison this people of God without the slightest pity with anti-Church propaganda, intimidation, and temptations. But joint prayers and Divine services uniting thousands of believers of our Church around Orthodox holy sites testify that coercion and slander cannot to divert the people of God from the path determined by their religious beliefs. This is especially clear when we see that the churches that were seized, that is, taken away from the faithful of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, stand empty even on major feasts. In particular, such is the situation in the majestic cathedrals of the Kiev Caves Lavra and other holy sites. The holy places, where fervent prayer for the Ukrainian state, its authorities, the army, and the people were lifted up daily, are now shut up with padlocks after the so-called change of confessional affiliation.
Except the LORD build the house, in vain do they labour that build it (Ps. 126:1), we read in the Divinely inspired book of Psalms. In a time when Ukraine is suffering from full-scale Russian aggression, these words of the Bible expose the criminal actions of the initiators of ecclesiastical discord, as a result of which, for the first time since the fall of the atheistic regime, the celebration of the Divine Liturgy has stopped in churches that were filled with prayer for centuries; prayers for the defenders of Ukraine, for the wounded and captured soldiers, for the deceased and all the suffering, whose tears only God can wipe away, have also stopped. Instead, the blasphemies that people commit over altars, ruthlessly smashing doors and windows during violent seizures, defiling holy altars and beating Christians, not only does not call for God’s blessing, but also challenges God. It is clear to everyone that the consequences of this challenge by the so-called activists will be paid by those who, by tacit consent, condone their impunity, who turn a blind eye to the outright sacrilege being imposed on Ukrainian society as the norm. We must call things as they are: The initiators and perpetrators of church raiding are outright spiritual enemies of the Ukrainian state, whose actions only aggravate the destructive consequences of Russian aggression. After all, God is not mocked (Gal. 6:7).
The situation around the Holy Dormition-Kiev Caves Lavra, entirely created by the Ministry of Culture and Information Policy of Ukraine, is no less shameful. It has shocked Christians from around the world. Believers are not allowed to enter the territory of the Lower Lavra to pray at the incorrupt and wonderworking relics of the venerable fathers of the Caves. Today, not only the people of Kiev, but also pilgrims from other cities and countries, who must by all means visit the Lavra to pray during such difficult times, are prevented from reaching the holy site.
A situation has arisen where only Orthodox Christians are limited in their right to prayerfully worship at holy sites that are revered throughout the whole world, while pilgrimages for people of other faiths and religions are provided with administrative resources. It should also be noted that the faithful will never accept the humiliating attitude to the relics as “museum exhibits,” which is exactly what these sacred treasures have been repeatedly called by government officials. The actions of representatives of the Ministry of Culture and Information Policy of Ukraine on the territory of the Lower Lavra are striking in their legal and moral lawlessness towards the monks of the Lavra, students and teachers of Kiev theological schools, as well as believers and pilgrims. In such a situation, we place all our hope in God, Who, since the time of the founder of the Lavra, the Venerable Anthony of the Caves, has repeatedly and wondrously restrained the plans of the oppressors of the monastery and guarded its inhabitants.
The hierarchs who are being subjected to criminal prosecution and who are forcibly restricted in communication with their flock need special prayerful support today. According to their lawyers, the materials of the court cases show no convincing evidence for the charges brought against them, and the process of obtaining evidence and the court cases themselves are accompanied by a blatant violation of Ukrainian legislation. The Holy Synod of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church is grateful to everyone who, to the best of their abilities, help the persecuted bishops. We especially thank the primates and members of the episcopate of the Local Orthodox Churches and religious figures from around the world who testified their support.
Dear brothers and sisters! The Lord has blessed us to live in a time that especially requires a living faith, full of love. Against the background of large-scale violations of state legislation and international norms concerning the human rights and freedoms of the faithful of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, the question often arises: How should Orthodox Christians respond to these challenges? Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself gives us the answer: Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you (Mt. 5:44). Entrusting his church life to God, a Christian must not in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth (1 Jn. 3:18) show love and kindness to others, when these qualities are so severely lacking. In difficult historical periods of Church history, Christian love and kindness in response to all forms of evil changed the world and lifted the Church to new heights. Therefore, even now, in caring for the future of the Church, each of us should focus not on noisy confrontations with people who are hostile to us, but on bearing witness to Christ and His Church, reflecting God Himself, Who is Love, in our words and deeds.
May the Lord, by His grace, bless the Ukrainian state and its people with life in peace, protecting them from every enemy and foe, for unto Him are due all blessing and honor, and glory and power forever and ever (cf. Rev. 5:13).
Follow OrthoChristian on Twitter, Vkontakte, Telegram, WhatsApp, MeWe, and Gab!