Smela, Cherkassy Province, Ukraine, March 29, 2022
Video widely circulated on social media yesterday showing a crowd of men quickly dragging a canonical Ukrainian priest out of church. There seems to be a great deal of confusion about what really happened.
For example, the video was posted on YouTube by the Orthodox Church channel, stating that the men are “lawless territorial defense” who kidnapped the priest for commemorating Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia in the Divine service. Some have claimed that the priest’s whereabouts are unknown.
The secretary of the Cherkassy Diocese, Archpriest Vasily Voznyuk, addressed the incident on the diocesan site, explaining the background to what happened, though local parishioners presented a different story to the Union of Orthodox Journalists.
According to Fr. Dimitry, in recent weeks, several priests from Smela have begun to “incite each other and internet readers to schismatic actions.” Unfortunately, they were able to take advantage of the infirmity of the local dean, Archpriest Peter Dmitruk, claiming to be moving under his authority. A few priests eventually repented, and the majority of the clergy and faithful of the Smela Deanery continually turned to the diocese “with tearful requests to curb this discord.”
Thus, Hieromonk Vasily (Miroshnichenka), well loved and respected by all the local priests, was entrusted with the task of calming the brewing storm.
But on Sunday, armed men, unaffiliated with the Church of the Holy Protection in Smela, came to the Sunday Liturgy and, despite the resistance of the parishioners, threw Fr. Vasily out of the church, instigated by one of the rebel priests. Now these same armed men are “on duty” near the church.
The main instigator of the incident, Fr. Nikolai Seredich, has been suspended while the case is being considered by the diocesan court.
And while some have claimed that Fr. Vasily was kidnapped and his whereabouts are unknown, the Cherkassy secretary writes that he is, in fact, “alive and well, and thanks God for the opportunity to suffer a little for his truth. He continues the service of confessing the clergy of the Smela Deanery.”
The official UOC website has reposted the secretary’s statement.
However, Holy Protection parishioners told the Union of Orthodox Journalists that it was, in fact, parishioners who dragged Fr. Vasily out, not the territorial defense unit.
According to them, not long before the incident, the rector, Fr. Peter, and the faithful voted to withdraw from the Moscow Patriarchate. “While the war is going on, we understand that it’s not the time for any further actions. We remain loyal to the UOC, but we’re done with Moscow. Coffins with our brothers and friends are arriving every day,” the faithful said.
According to them, after this meeting, the bishop of Cherkassy sent a new priest, Hieromonk Vasily, who they say began to argue with parishioners and threaten them with excommunication on Sunday. As the parishioners tell it, after Fr. Vasily told them during his sermon that their rector Fr. Peter never taught them anything, they seized him and threw him out.
According to them, the defense representatives had nothing to do with it.