Vaslovovtsi, Ukraine, May 28, 2019
While the faithful of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church were praying and preparing to receive Holy Communion on Sunday, activists of the schismatic-nationalist “Orthodox Church of Ukraine” (OCU) were busy seizing yet another church.
That same evening, the parishioners of the Holy Dormition Church of the village of Vaslovovtsi in the Chernivtsi Province gathered with their rector to record a video appeal to their new president Vladimir Zelensky to help them get their church back.
“Our church has been an unshakable pillar for 140 years; it has never been closed—neither in Soviet times, nor during the war, and now we have been attacked by a misfortune that we cannot cope with,” the faithful say in their video appeal, published by the press service of the Chernivtsi-Bukhovina Diocese of the Ukrainian Church.
“Since our former president brought the tomos from Turkey, we have been in great trouble, and the village is split,” the community says, entreating the head of state’s help for the church where they “have prayed since childhood,” where they were baptized, married, and where their relatives are buried.
The clergy and faithful of the Chernivtsi Diocese appealed to local authorities in January to stop the pressure against the Church. On Thursday, thousands of faithful processed in protest of forced church conversion. The authorities promised to get the situation under control, though seizures have continued. Diocesan Secretary Archimandrite Nikita (Storozhuk) recorded his own video appeal, to acting Chernivtsi Governor Mikhail Pavlyuk, entreating him to uphold his promise and create a commission to deal with the forced re-registration of parishes.
“How can we answer before our parents for the fact that we have no have to give away this church, to be called OCU? They gathered today, brazenly ripped the gate from its hinges and broke into the church. Thank God, the police didn’t let them enter the church. What should we do if the truth is on our side but they have already made documents and prove that it’s already their church?” the parishioners ask.
“We ask—help!” the suffering faithful entreat. The community has been defending its church with a round-the-clock prayer vigil since January 27, when the village community voted to try to force the parish into the schismatic church, despite the fact that a schismatic OCU church (from the “Kiev Patriarchate”) already exists in the village.
“Vladimir Alexandrovich, help our children who never miss a single Sunday, a single feast, and pray as their grandfathers and great grandfathers taught them. Dear President! Hear us, please! Christ is Risen!” the Holy Dormition community cries out with hope.
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