Bronitsa, Ukraine, January 22, 2019
The Church of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist in the village of Bronitsa in the Volyn Province has been a frequent target for nationalist supporters of the Ukrainian schismatic church lately.
Fr. Sergei celebrated the Liturgy on Sunday morning and left the parish at about 12:00 for a while, leaving behind everything necessary for celebrating the services, as he was planning to return soon for a Baptism at 2:00. However, having heard about the appearance of burglars at the church, he returned sooner. When he arrived, four perpetrators attacked him and kicked him off the church territory, tearing his clothes. At that point, the doors were already opened, though the raiders had so carefully entered the church that when the police arrived on the scene they found no damage to the doors.
The priest appealed to the police as the lawful rector of the parish to get the raiders to return the keys to the church to him. People immediately began gathering at the church and singing hymns. A representative from the “Kiev Patriarchate” arrived though the canonical parishioners gathered in the yard did not allow him into the church.
Fr. Sergei was able to gather the Church utensils, antimension, and everything necessary for celebrating the services under police supervision. The doors of the church were then sealed by the police.
The parish community has decided to hold services in one of the parishioner’s houses for the time being. According to the rector, the violence against the canonical Church has only strengthened the support for the Church. If in the first days of the conflict he could gather 100 signatures in favor of remaining with the Church, now the number is easily 300, he says.
The residents of Bronitsa and the nearby Krymne call what is happening to their parish “madness” and are massively withdrawing their signatures from a petition to defect to the schismatic church. Many who had signed are now asking Fr. Sergei to bless their homes following the great feast of Theophany.
About 100 parishioners had gathered a few days again to declare their loyalty to the canonical Church.
Fr. Sergius has said he will appeal to a lawyer to file a suit about the abuse of power by the local authorities.
Meanwhile, in the village of Urvenna, near Rivne, schismatics are collecting signatures from villagers who are not parishioners of the local parish to try to force it to move to the schismatic “Orthodox Church of Ukraine.”
The parishioners are standing strong and asking for prayers for their parish to remain safe and in the canonical Church.
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