Tovtri, Ukraine, April 2, 2019
Photo: Facebook Drunken activists and “priests” of the schismatic Ukrainian church provoked the attempted seizure of a church in Tovtry in the Chernivtsi Oblast, physically attacking the canonical priest and screaming at him to return to Romania, despite the fact that he is ethnically Ukrainian.
The activists attempted to capture the village’s Holy Dormition Church, which turned into a fight. The faithful called the police and issued a statement about the provocation to law enforcement agencies, reports the Ukrainian Orthodox Church with reference to the press service of the Chernivtsi-Bukhovina Diocese.
The diocesan press service notes that the conflict would not have reached such proportions if not for the participation of representatives from the local deanery of the schismatic-nationalist church.
As eyewitnesses reported, the conflict began immediately after the Sunday Liturgy, as the faithful exited the church. The congregation included visitors from neighboring villages who had come to support the church and its rector Archpriest John after receiving information about the possible seizure of the church that day.
Coming out of the church, the faithful were assaulted with insults and baseless accusations from the schismatic activists who were gathered just outside church territory. They shouted at the parishioners, calling them Moscow-paid mercenary agents and screamed at Fr. John—an ethnic Ukrainian—that he was Romanian and should return to Romania.
Such abuse is especially relevant given the Romanian Orthodox Church’s great concern for the many actual Romanians who live in the area and worship in Romanian-language parishes. At a recent session, the Holy Synod of the Romanian Church announced that it wants the Ukrainian Church to organize a Romanian vicariate, after which “Metropolitan” Epiphany Dumenko, the primate of the schismatic church, announced that his organization was willing to do that, and later that they were preparing to send a delegation to the Romanian Church.
Nevertheless, such conflicts and displays of ethnic enmity call into question the schismatic church’s ability to accommodate the Romanians.
The faithful responded by singing prayers, but the provocateurs, including some who were visibly drunk, only became more aggressive. Eventually, two “priests” of the schismatic church approached the canonical rector Fr. John and demanded to be let on the territory of the church. Fr. John explained that the land was given for the church’s permanent use and thus he had the legal right to refuse their entry.
The fake priests threatened that they would get the legal right to the church, and at the moment the fight began when the activists attacked Fr. John and tried to drag him away from the Church fence. His faithful parishioners stood up for him.
“Unfortunately, this violence occurred with the permission of the OCU ‘clergy’—if not for them, the conflict would not have happened on such a scale,” the diocesan reported stressed.
Fr. John decided not to respond to evil with evil and not to foment hatred between people, calling for the schismatic clergy not to be expelled by force. After provoking the fight, the schismatic dean and his colleagues announced they had to go visit parishioners at their homes to commune them.
They later went to the village of Chernovka and carried out the same scenario.
Four days before the conflict, representatives of the canonical Church and of the schismatic church met, with government officials present, and agreed that the clergy of the schismatic church would not carry out any provocations on the territory of those churches where the land belongs to the religious community. The priests who headed the attack had also been at this meeting.
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