Kolašin, Montenegro, August 21, 2019
On the great feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord, His Grace Bishop Viktor of Baryshevka of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church concelebrated the Divine Liturgy in the Transfiguration Church of the Monastery of Sts. Cyril and Methodius near the village of Kolašin by invitation of the local ruling hierarch, His Eminence Metropolitan Amfilohije of Montenegro and with the blessing of His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev and All Ukraine.
The festive service was attended by pilgrims from the surrounding areas. Following the Liturgy, a procession was held around the church and the fruits of the new harvest were blessed, reports the Information-Education Department of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
Greeting all those present with the joy of the feast, Met. Amfilohije said in particular: “May God grant strength to our brother Onuphry and to his bishops who belong to the Orthodox Church of Christ and who remain faithful to the holy Equal-to-the-Apostles Vladimir, who baptized the Orthodox people of Rus’ and all the peoples that arose from it.”
The Serbian and Ukrainian peoples are united by their Slavic blood, and more importantly, by their Orthodox faith; their Churches are close and representatives frequently concelebrate with one another. Unfortunately, the brotherly peoples are also united in their shared experience of persecution for their faith. The Serbian Church has rejected the Ukrainian schismatics who persecute the canonical Church and who seek to take its territory and the Ukrainian faithful also stand with their Serbian brethren who are persecuted, including in Kosovo and Montenegro.
As in Ukraine under Petro Poroshenko, the Montenegrin authorities have the dream of creating an autocephalous church, which manifests itself as persecution against the majority canonical Church which desires to remain united with the Orthodox Church via the Serbian Orthodox Church.
Following Met. Amfilohije’s greetings, Bp. Viktor read out a letter from Met. Onuphry in which the archpastor noted that reports of the deteriorating situation for the Serbian Church in Montenegro bring them great sorrow in Ukraine.
His Beatitude’s letter reads in full:
Venerable Vladyka Amfilohije!
It is with deep sorrow that we in Ukraine receive reports of the deterioration of the situation of the Orthodox Church on the territory of Montenegro. The news that reaches us speaks of the threat of the forcible removal of holy sites and the destruction of specific places of prayerful worship, and much else that cannot but disturb our hearts and souls.
We are also aware of the recent draft law promulgated by the state authorities of Montenegro with a view to adopting a number of discriminatory measures against the Montenegro-Littoral Metropolis of the Serbian Orthodox Church in the question of Church property. Unfortunately, all of this is happening on a wave of support by politicians and other interested parties of nationalistic sentiments that are alien to the nature of the Church, to divide Orthodoxy in Montenegro from the ancient tradition of the Serbian people.
These trials of the Montenegrin faithful are especially acutely experienced by us in Ukraine where persecution against holy Orthodoxy from individual representatives of our Ukrainian state also has not ceased. The clergy and laity of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church are still experiencing a similar situation, when some politicians, for the sake of the immediate interests of this world, continue to divide the Body of Christ in the Church and introduce a spirit of secularism within the Church’s enclosure. Therefore, our hearts beat in union in prayer for one another today.
In the words of Holy Scripture, if one member of the body suffers, all the members suffer with it; whether one member is glorified, all the members rejoiced with it (cf. 1 Cor. 12:26). In these evangelical words we find joy and comfort, and our sorrow is translated into joy.
On behalf of the episcopate, clergy, and laity of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, I express fraternal prayerful support to you, dear Vladyka Amfilohije, as well as to the flock entrusted to your care, and I wish you God’s unceasing help in standing firm for the purity of the Orthodox faith and the steadfastness of the unity of the Church of Christ our God, which is the pillar and ground of truth (1 Tim. 3:15).
With brotherly love in Christ,
Metropolitan of Kiev and All Ukraine,
Primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church
The Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church issued a similar statement at its July session at Valaam Monastery.
On the eve of the feast, Met. Amfilohije and Bp. Viktor had a long discussion regarding the situation of the Orthodox Church in Ukraine and in Montenegro and possibilities for joint participation on the international level with the aim of protecting the rights and freedoms of the Orthodox faithful in the two countries. Bp. Viktor serves as the head of the UOC’s representation to European international organizations.
OrthoChristian reported in April about financial assistance given to the persecuted Ternopil Diocese of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church from persecuted Orthodox Christians in Montenegro.