Novozhivotov and Zabolottsi, Ukraine, July 30, 2020
Although conditions have improved for the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church under President Zelensky, with the UOC winning several legal battles against the schismatic “Orthodox Church of Ukraine,” church seizures nevertheless continue.
Two more parishes were seized by schismatic radicals on Sunday, July 26.
That morning, activists captured the Holy Protection Church in the village of Novozhivotov in the Vinnitsa Diocese, witnesses reported to the Union of Orthodox Journalists. They had unsuccessfully attempted to capture the church the night before.
Vinnitsa is one of the stronger areas for the OCU, as the former canonical hierarch there, Simeon Shostatsky, abandoned the canonical Church in order to join the schismatics at the “unification council” in December 2018.
As the rector of the church and 50-60 parishioners were celebrating an akathist and Liturgy, schismatic activists gathered in the church yard, where they set up their own tent and began to pray right in front of the UOC faithful. The police arrived but did nothing as the activists cut the locks and rushed into the church just before the Sacrament of Communion, reports Archpriest Dmitry Tsmokalo, the dean of the Oratov Deanery of the Vinnitsa Diocese.
The police allowed the schismatics to enter the church, but would not allow the canonical faithful, who wanted to take pictures of what was happening. The schismatics then closed the church with their own locks and dispersed.
The rectors and faithful of the church wrote statements to the police about the illegal actions of the schismatics and about the inaction of the policemen who were present.
That same morning, the canonical faithful of Holy Cross Church in the village of Zabolottsi in the Volyn Province arrived for Liturgy, only to find that four clerics of the schismatic OCU were already serving there, Archpriest John Sibria reported to the Union of Orthodox Journalists.
Fr. John also noted that the schismatic clerics broke the locks to the church to get inside.
“Today, for the first time since the opening of the Church in 1906, the Divine Liturgy was not celebrated in it! Services were celebrated during the German occupation, under the godless Soviet government, and during the time under Poland. And today, under the legal democratic government, which ‘ensures that constitutional rights are not violated,’ in particular, the right to freedom of conscience, the Church was sealed and the service was disrupted in an impudent, barbaric way,” Fr. John commented.
The canonical faithful were forced to serve in the church courtyard.
After the schismatics’ service, both communities placed their own locks on the church and signed an agreement stating that no one would enter the church until a final court decision on who owns the building. Authorities reregistered the church to the schismatics in April 2019.