Volyn Province, Ukraine, March 6, 2020
While the Ukrainian nationalist-schismatics have been very active in forcefully seizing and illegally re-registering churches and proclaiming to the media that 100s of parishes have joined the “Orthodox Church of Ukraine,” the situation on the ground often paints a different picture.
Even the “clergy” who took an active part in the raider seizures of canonical parishes don’t want to serve in these villages, and the public officials who facilitated the seizures and re-registrations are not interested in the religious life of the parishes after they have been transferred to the OCU.
“Their task was to seize these religious buildings and take pictures with representatives of the ‘OCU.’ What happened next, who will serve there—they don’t care,” commented Archpriest Vladimir Matsur, the press secretary of the Vladimir-Volyn Diocese to the Information-Education Department of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
As Fr. Vladimir explained, about 20 parishes in the Vladimir-Volyn Diocese have been illegally re-registered, while most of them have no liturgical life in their new OCU home. This is the general situation in the diocese, but especially in the villages, he said.
“Imagine: some new ‘cleric’ comes and says the minimum payment is $180 (4,500 hryvnia). First, our priests never asked for so much money—where are you going to get such funds in the small villages? Second, the OCU-ers are either generally atheists, non-believers, or they come just to bless water and kulichi… They don’t have an understanding that you have to take care of the church, it needs to be maintained, and so on,” Fr. Vladimir explained.
“So their churches are empty. There’s no one to serve and no one to go to the services.”
Conversely, those who suffered the loss of their churches, along with their priests, lead a full prayer and liturgical life.
“Our priests are serving in houses now in their old vestments. They even joke that things easier for them now—they don’t have to pay more for the lights, the heat… And the people are all like one family now, helping the priest and each other,” Fr. Vladimir said.
Despite losing their church buildings, the services continue in the homes, including with the reading of the Canon in the first week of Lent, the press secretary added.
On February 14, schismatics violently seized another parish in the village of Susval. On February 29, a round table consisting of the local territorial administration and representatives from the Provincial government and the local police decided to legally hand the parish over to the schismatics.
However, now the church has no priest of its own and has been closed practically all of the first week of Lent, while the canonical parishioners have been praying the entire cycle of services in a hut.
In other places, the faithful are forced to pray outside, and in some places they are building new churches.