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EUROPE RENAISSANCE EXCLUSIVE: Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Rus’ addressed the archbishops of the Orthodox churches, Pope Francis, UN Secretary-General António Guterres and other religious leaders and representatives of international organizations with messages in which he called on them to make every possible effort to prevent the expulsion of the monks of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church from the Kyiv-Pechersk Cathedral and the forced closure of the monastery. This was reported on Saturday on the website of the Moscow Patriarchate.
‘It is regrettable that when the state leadership of Ukraine declares its commitment to democratic norms, the European path of development, the observance of human rights and freedoms, these rights and freedoms are trampled today in the most blatant way,’ the patriarch noted.
According to him, the ultimatum of the state authorities to the Kyiv-Pechersky Monastery, published by the Ukrainian media, draws attention to itself the lack of sufficient legal justifications in it. The work of a certain commission to search for violations in the economic activities of the monastery was not transparent, and its repressive goal, the complete expulsion of monastics from the monastery, was not hidden by state officials and representatives of other religious organizations of Ukraine under the influence of secular authorities,’ the patriarch said.
The Primate of the Russian Church warned that the forced closure of the Lavra would violate the rights of millions of Ukrainian believers to freedom of religion, guaranteed by the Constitution of Ukraine, as well as documents such as the UN Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and Discrimination Based on Religion or beliefs, and many other acts of international importance.
In his messages, the patriarch pointed out that the pressure on the monastic community of the Kyiv-Pechersk Cathedral has increased significantly in recent months. He recalled, in particular, the humiliating searches of the monastery buildings and places of residence of the inhabitants organized by the special services of Ukraine, as well as the termination of the contract with the monastery on the use of the two largest temples of the monastery at the end of last year.
Pressure, according to the patriarch, is also a months-long slanderous information campaign directed against the monastery of the UOC, with the participation of state media and TV channels, as well as radical politicians, and religious and public figures.
As specified in the ROC, the appeals were sent, in particular, to the Primates of the Local Orthodox Churches, the Pope of Rome, the Coptic Patriarch Tawadros II, the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, the Secretary General of the World Council of Churches Dr Jerry Pillay, Guterres, the OSCE Secretary General Helga Maria Schmid, Secretary General Council of Europe Maria Pejcinovic-Buric, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk, Director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights Matteo Mecacci.
In his messages, the patriarch dwelled separately on the significance of the Kyiv-Pechersk Cathedral for Russian and world Orthodoxy. He recalled that ‘this is the first monastery of Kievan Rus, which has existed since the 11th century, which is the founder of the common spiritual and monastic tradition of the Russian, Ukrainian and Belarusian peoples.
‘This is the cradle of our civilization and national cultures. Throughout the thousand-year history of the monastery, it has repeatedly suffered from raids, foreign conquests and outright persecution of Christians. But only during the reign of the militant atheistic authorities in the 20th century, the monastics of the Kyiv-Pechersk Cathedral were expelled from the monastery, ‘said the patriarch.
According to him, new generations of monks revived the monastery again and put colossal efforts and great funds into restoring the monastery and recreating in it the old spiritual traditions and full-fledged monastic life. Moreover, all this was done ‘with minimal assistance from the state, or even the absence of it,’ the primate of the Russian Orthodox Church stated.’
In his appeals, it is emphasized that today the Kyiv-Pechersk Cathedral is a shrine of pan-Orthodox significance, the temples of which are visited by thousands of pilgrims. ’The Cathedral remains one of the largest Orthodox monasteries in the world, uniting more than two hundred monks and novices. On its territory is also located the control center of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, hundreds of future clergymen live – students of the Kyiv Theological Academy and Seminary,’ the patriarch said.
On Friday, a warning was published on the website of the monastery. General Director of the Kyiv-Pechersk Cathedral Reserve, according to which the monks of the Holy Dormition Kyiv-Pechersk Cathedral of the UOC must leave the monastery before March 29 due to the termination of the lease agreement. The document clarifies that the working group that established the violation of the terms of the lease agreement was created by decree of the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky on the implementation of the decision of the National Security and Defense Council ‘On Certain Aspects of the Activities of Religious Organizations in Ukraine and the Application of Personal Special Economic and Other Restrictive Measures (sanctions).
The Lower Cathedral, on the territory of which the Kyiv-Pechersk Monastery and the residence of the Metropolitan of the UOC are located, according to a decision made in 2013, has been in the perpetual use of the UOC until now. The Upper Lavra, where the Assumption Cathedral and the Refectory Church are located, is under the jurisdiction of the Kyiv-Pechersk Historical and Cultural Reserve. Until December 31, 2022, the Assumption Cathedral and the Refectory Church were leased by the UOC, which held services there. On December 31, the lease expired, the museum management refused to renew the contract. On January 7, the head of the schismatic Orthodox Church of Ukraine, Epiphanius, held a service in the Assumption Cathedral, where the services of the canonical church had previously taken place. Please share this story on social media.
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