Orthodox monks stay in Ukraine monastery


Eastern Europe


Inside the Lavra monastery, the liturgy is going on like always. Photo Twitter

The monks of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) have not left the central monastery Pechersk Lavra in Kyiv. The government has ordered their eviction but is not planning to implement it by force.

Wednesday was the last day for the monks and clerics to leave the world-famous Lavra in the Ukrainian capital. The government announced the end of the lease contract a few weeks ago.

The complex, with numerous buildings, is the property of the Ukrainian state. When the church returned to the location in 1988, during the late Soviet times, it took care of the 11th-century monastery and renovated much of the complex. The Kyiv Pechersk Lavra is one of the holiest places for Orthodox Christians and a Unesco World Heritage site. The Lavra is a prestigious object for the state and the church.

Since the Russian invasion, public opinion has turned against the UOC. The community is seen as the fifth column of the Kremlin. The church is linked to the Moscow Patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) on paper. Patriarch Kirill is in full support of the Russian war against Ukraine. The UOC, however, is against this and has fully supported Ukrainian territorial integrity.

Since 2019, there is also another church in the country: the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU). That is linked with the Patriarchate of Constantinople. This community was born after an active lobby of then President Poroshenko, and it still has the support of the Ukrainian government. It is, therefore, this church that will use the Lavra in the future.

The government wants to use the complex also for other purposes, as Culture Minister Oleksandr Tkachenko said, according to SPZH. The complex would be an ideal place for concerts and cultural expositions, so that “the Lavra really comes to life”, he said.

Gross violation

One of the UOC monks announced on Wednesday to step over to the OCU: Archimandrite Avraamy. By doing so, he could stay in the same building. In return, the head of the OCU, Metropolitan Epiphany, appointed Avraamy as vicar of the monastery.

According to The New Voice of Ukraine, Archimandrite Avraamy addressed the Lavra monks, and urging them to remain at the monastery under its new OCU auspices.

On Thursday morning, it is not clear whether there are more crossovers. The UOC authorities banned Avraamy from performing religious services because of his “schism and gross violation of the oath.”

The government has confirmed that it will not use force to evict the clerics, local media as Radio Free Europe writes. The head of the Ukrainian security services, Oleksiy Danilov, has said this. But on the other hand, he said: “The laws of Ukraine must be followed by everyone.” He added that the monks are expected to leave quietly.

A priest hears the confession during an open-air meeting around the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra on Wednesday. Photo EPA, Sergey Dolzhenko

In November, security agents conducted a “counterintelligence” operation at the Pechersk Lavra and other facilities of the UOC. The security services claim to have found pro-Russian material in several cases.

Danilov said the termination of the lease is in the interest of national security. The work of the UOC cannot be done inside Ukraine “from the point of view of our security” and must be stopped, he said. Also, President Zelensky has said earlier that the UOC is “under the influence of Russian power”.


On social media, there is a video from the present abbot, Metropolitan Pavel, who condemns President Zelensky for his decision to evict the UOC clerics from the monastery. “Our tears won’t fall on the ground but on your head.” He asks President Zelensky how he thinks he can do this. “The Lord will not forgive you or your family for this act.”

He says the government is throwing “220 brethren into the street”. The Culture Minister, who is coordinating this, is “obsessed with rage, anger and hatred”, the monastery’s governor says.

Court case

On Wednesday, many local people came to the monastery for an open-air meeting in support of the UOC clerics that live in the monastery. Photo AFP, Sergei Supinsky

Last week, a lawsuit was filed on the part of the church, demanding that the clerics could stay in the complex. Metropolitan Pavel has said that the church representatives will not leave as long as this case is pending.

On Wednesday, there was a large gathering of people around the Lavra, wrote Religion Pravda. The Kyiv Post reported that “tensions were high”.



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