Galuzintsi, Ukraine, August 12, 2019
Several people, including a priest, women, and police officers, were injured by right-wing Ukrainian radicals in an attempt to seize a church of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the village of Galuzintsi in the Khmelnitsi Province yesterday.
The Church of St. Michael was earlier illegally re-registered by schismatic supporters of Constantinople’s “Orthodox Church of Ukraine” (OCU), reports the Union of Orthodox Journalists.
The Orthodox faithful of the village became aware on Saturday of the fact that members of the radical group Phoenix from the regional center, as well as some local villagers were planning forcefully seize St. Michael’s.
Photo: spzh.news The faithful gathered around the church for prayer at 7 AM, and around 9, during the reading of an akathist, supporters of the OCU began to gather near the church. 5 members of the radical group Phoenix later arrived and immediately started a conflict with those who believe in Christ.
Phoenix is a paramilitary, nationalist organization, funded by local politicians, a local source told the Union of Orthodox Journalists.
One of the members struck the priest in the face, after which a fight began, leaving several women and police officers also injured.
The radicals came armed with knives and attempted to cut the locks from the church, but were stopped by several faithful women and representatives from the Orthodox Brotherhood of Sts. Anthony and Theodosius of the Kiev Caves, who came to support the community. The radicals were being so violent that the police had to warn them that they were ready to use their weapons.
Eyewitnesses testify that the police behaved commendably, defending the community—a welcome change from their behavior under the Poroshenko regime that actively persecuted the Church.
The canonical faithful were initially seriously outnumbered, though more eventually arrived from neighboring villages and the radicals retreated.
The formal reason for the attempted seizure was its illegal re-registration to the OCU, despite the fact that the parish community of about 800 people, led by the rector Fr. Alexander Goncharuk, voted to remain with Christ in the canonical Church on February 11.
However, the common scenario with the schismatics played out here as well—the territorial community held meetings later in February and decided to force the parish into the OCU, despite the fact that most who voted have no connection with the parish. A source told the Union of Orthodox Journalists that the main instigators were two Catholic women holding government positions.
Schismatic radicals previously attempted to disturb services on the feast of the Meeting of the Lord, though the faithful were able to defend their holy church. The faithful also legally challenged the results of the territorial community meeting, and it was decided to seal the church in the meantime. However, the parish community later learned that it had already been re-registered.
As OrthoChristian previously reported, Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky met with Patriarch Bartholomew in Istanbul last week, where he expressed his conviction that the government should not interfere in religious affairs.