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How the Moscow Patriarchate is creating a separatist Lavra “republic” in Kyiv

How the Moscow Patriarchate is creating a separatist Lavra “republic” in Kyiv
Article by: Serhiy Chyrkov
Translated by: Anna Mostovych

On April 23, 2016, Petro Poroshenko invited representatives from the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations to his office. He chose an auspicious moment — just before Easter. And he spoke about vital matters. However, it is doubtful the meeting will have the expected outcome.

“Under the conditions of hybrid war, when Ukraine is resisting the armed aggression of the neighboring state, our enemies are attempting to take advantage of the religious factor for their own interests,” Poroshenko said. ” The enemy seeks to split our country and undermine it from within.”

The president urged church leaders to pay attention to the desire of Orthodox citizens of Ukraine to have “a single national autocephalous church,” as do most Orthodox countries.

“A church united through the Eucharist and prayer and administratively independent from other states,” he added.

These statements are accurate and urgent. However, in all likelihood, they will ring out again like clamorous voices in the wilderness. The main recipients of the presidential message — the leaders of the Ukrainian branch of the Moscow Patriarchate — after two years still have not learned to hear the new leadership that appeared in Ukraine after the Revolution of Dignity. Gundayev’s representatives of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) of the Moscow Patriarchate [reference to Vladimir Gundayev, given name of Russian Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Orthodox Church — Ed.] demonstrate contempt not only for the new leaders and government efforts. They even refuse to take part in the joint prayers for peace in Ukraine, in which the representatives of all the denominations in the country participate.

The personification of this arrogance is Bishop Pavlo (Petro Lebid) the governor of the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra (Monastery of the Caves).

Bishop Pavlo (Petro Lebid)

We won’t peek behind the near 3-meter (9-foot) fence of his luxury estate near Kyiv, nor assess the executive class Mercedes that costs 2.3 million UAH, in which he travels even on monastery property. We will ignore the celebrations of the previous anniversary, for which father Paul reserved three banquet halls of the Premier Hotel Rus in Kyiv, and the current anniversary with its multi-day celebrations during Lent that were expanded, according to tradition, to the scale of a church-wide holiday. Besides, this desire for luxury coupled with a lifestyle hardly suitable for a priest of the Lavra’s current head is his personal sin before the Lord.

The danger lies elsewhere. The Bishop Pavlo has created a virtual “republic” on the territory of the holy monastery, which sometimes resembles the territorial creations of the Muscovites in the Donbas. A “republic” under the control of one person, where Ukrainian laws are reduced to the minimum. People can vanish here, secret poisonings can take place, assassination attempts on disobedient leaders, which the late Metropolitan Volodymyr became in recent years. There, at the command of the Lavra head or even with his direct participation, hands of journalists are broken, TV equipment is damaged, “satanic” records are removed. From here the all-powerful Pavlo broadcasts throughout Ukraine previously recorded video threats to personal enemies. When authorized government officials point to violations of the country’s laws, he answers: “I broke the law? Well, glory be to God,” and closes the gate of his own “republic” behind him.

Patriarch Kirill and Putin (political cartoon)
This political cartoon by an anonymous Russian artist accurately represents Russia of Putin’s rule. It is a post-communist “prison of nations” which replaced the cult of the Party with the cult of Putin and uses the Russian Orthodox church as a major propaganda and manipulation tool and a convenient cover for Russian spy services abroad.

It is also distressing that the position of this church hierarch, who publicly declares his desire to see an independent Ukraine “in a coffin in white slippers” [Russian curse – Ed.], is officially supported by the head of the UOC-Moscow Patriarchate, Metropolitan Onufriy. That is exactly how one can view the granting to the sinful Paul on his 55th birthday the right to wear two Panagias [medallions with icons worn around the neck by Orthodox bishops – Ed.].

Bishop Pavlo is the most odious of the servants of the Moscow Patriarchate, but he is not alone in his views. And his independent Lavra “republic” is the largest but not the only organization that follows instructions from Moscow. And very soon all these territorial enclaves will begin to see reinforcements from Moscow. On April 16, Gundayev’s Synod decided to dispatch 1450 Russian priests and 700 seminarians to the churches and monasteries of Ukraine.

To help Bishop Pavlo and his followers more than two thousand trained and prepared “little black men” will arrive.

Putin’s armed soldiers will be reinforced by Gundayev’s soldiers and new waves of hybrid war will roll over Ukraine.

Church and state should be separate — that is true. However, the state not only has the right but the obligation to respond to the anti-state statements and appeals that issue from the mouths of the clergy installed by Moscow. Our government also needs to control the church visits from an enemy country — especially when they arrive in waves.

Translated by: Anna Mostovych
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