Kiev, May 24, 2022
The Holy Dormition-Kiev Caves Lavra, which has been home to hundreds of saints over the past millennium, is the spiritual heart of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, and the entire Moscow Patriarchate.
The monastery has unfortunately been under state ownership since Soviet times, but has been leased in part to the use of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church since 1988.
Declaring that the Lavra is “non-canonically subordinated” to the Ukrainian Church, an autonomous body within the Moscow Patriarchate, the Synod of Bishops of the schismatic “Orthodox Church of Ukraine” (OCU) decided yesterday to create its own “Holy Dormition-Kiev Caves Lavra” association.
The OCU statement reads:
Given the special significance of the Holy Dormition-Kiev Caves Lavra as a shrine of all-Ukrainian and world significance, in order to overcome the consequences of non-canonical subordination of this monastery to the authorities of the Moscow Patriarchate, at the suggestion of His Beatitude Metropolitan Epiphany of Kiev and All Ukraine, the Synod decided to form as part of the Religious Association of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Orthodox Church of Ukraine) the religious organization “Holy Dormition-Kiev Caves Lavra (monastery) of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Orthodox Church of Ukraine),” approved its charter, and determined that it is directly subordinate to the primate of the Orthodox Church, as its Sacred Archimandrite (abbot).
The Synod also called upon “Metropolitan” Epiphany to appeal to the Cabinet of Ministers to transfer one of the churches of the Upper Lavra for his OCU to serve in and “conduct monastic activities.”
The canonical Ukrainian Church’s Legal Department issued a statement on the matter today, noting, first of all, that the OCU has duplicated the legal name of the Kiev Caves Lavra that has long operated within the canonical Church—a practice that “was introduced in the time of Philaret (Denisenko) for the purpose of the raider seizure of the property of religious communities.”
“This decision also confirms the aggressive policy of church looting at the level of the Holy Synod of the OCU, which was introduced at the beginning of the Russian military aggression against Ukraine, and which consists in the illegal seizure of churches and religious organizations belonging to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church,” the statement reads.
It has long been the dream of Ukrainian schismatic groups to take control of the Kiev Caves Lavra, but the UOC Legal Department notes that church statistics show there is no need for another monastery in the schismatic OCU:
According to statistics from the State Service of Ukraine for Ethnopolitics and Freedom of Conscience, as of January 1, 2021, the network of monasteries of the “OCU” consists of 79 monasteries, which include 233 monks, which is 2.9 people per monastery in total. This information indicates that today the “OCU” doesn’t need to form additional monasteries, since there are practically no people willing to live a monastic life in the “OCU,” and the vast majority of “OCU” monasteries exist only nominally on paper.
On the other hand, the large Kiev Caves brotherhood of the canonical Church has restored churches, cells, and the liturgical life of the monastery since the 1990s.
Thus, the Legal Department concludes that the OCU decision to create a parallel Lavra “is another attempt to form an artificial monastery, which doesn’t aim to organize monastic life, but creates a potential threat of hostility on religious grounds.”