Eight bishops clad in robes and miters traveled to the offices of the Ukrainian president to prevent the historically Russian-aligned sector of the Orthodox Church from being expelled from its headquarters in Kyiv. However, they could only make it as far as a checkpoint before they were forced to turn around, and their request for a meeting with Pres. Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Monday was not granted.
According to Reuters, the bishops, who comprise the ruling council of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC), appear to have little to no chance of avoiding the church's eviction on Mar. 29 in a dispute against the backdrop of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The UOC has reportedly violated the lease agreements for its ancient site, a vast monastic complex in the hills above central Kyiv known as the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra. The Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra dates back 980 years and features gold-domed churches and chapels. The government of Ukraine has accused this church, which is Ukraine's second-largest, of maintaining relations with the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC), which has been loud in its support of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
In the past year, criminal prosecutions have been initiated against over 50 UOC clerics by Kyiv on grounds including treason and collusion with Moscow. Several of them have been released in exchange for the Ukrainian military captives that Russia was holding.
The UOC previously recognized the ROC as its parent church. Still, in May 2023, the UOC severed all connections with the ROC and asserted that the charges brought against its clergy were politically motivated. According to the statement made by the Minister of Culture of Ukraine, Oleskandr Tkachenko, one of the infractions of the tenancy agreement was the construction of additional buildings on the expansive monastery complex. He also stated that the state has the right to return the land.
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Volodymyr Zelensky, the President of Ukraine, has defended the decision to remove his country's most famous monastery from its Moscow-linked Orthodox Church (UOC) before a new law expected to prohibit the UOC's communities, the Church Times reported.
The message was sent after the Culture Ministry of Ukraine confirmed that it terminated the UOC's lease on Pecherska Lavra, also known as the Monastery of the Caves, in Kyiv. It dates back to the 11th century. The ministry also stated that it would resume complete state control over the complex as of Mar. 29.
However, there were complaints against the order to evacuate the area from the leader of the UOC, Metropolitan Onufriy (Berezovsky). He stated that his church had rebuilt the monastery from a "pile of rubble" after the fall of Communist authority in the country. He urged Orthodox Christians to pray for continuous access to the site, one of several locations in Ukraine that security agents invaded in the fall of last year.
In addition, based on the article from The Tablet, Pope Francis has requested "respect" for holy places in Ukraine, specifically mentioning a monastery with ties to Moscow whose monks are in danger of being expelled by the government of Kyiv. His remarks were made in response to a request made by Patriarch Kirill of Moscow to intervene on behalf of the monastery.
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