Kiev, December 27, 2022
Kiev Caves Lavra. Photo: news.church.ua
The abbot of the Holy Dormition-Kiev Caves Lavra, the holiest site in the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, is calling on President Zelensky not to block the Church from using the main monastery churches.
The monastery became a state-owned museum during communist times, and after the fall of the Soviet Union, the Ukrainian state has maintained control over the holy site. The upper part of the Lavra, including the main churches, has been leased to the Church since 1988.
But now, those leases are expiring, and according to His Eminence Metropolitan Pavel of Vyshgorod and Chernobyl, they won’t be renewed.
During the evening services on December 24, the Lavra abbot warned the faithful, saying he’d been informed that beginning on New Year’s Day, the Church would no longer have access to the Holy Dormition Cathedral and the trapeza church.
His Eminence urged the faithful to read the Psalter and akathists to the Mother of God and the Fathers of the Kiev Caves.
The news comes just a month after an invented scandal involving women parishioners singing about the spiritual rebirth of Holy Rus’ in a church of the Lavra kicked off a wave of monastery and church searches throughout Ukraine, beginning with the Lavra.
President Zelensky then ordered that the legality of the UOC’s presence in the Kiev Caves Lavra be examined. Meanwhile, the schismatic “Orthodox Church of Ukraine” managed to legally register its own “Kiev Caves Lavra” just across the street from the real Lavra.
And yesterday, the monastery published a video address of Met. Pavel, in which he announces that, “Today we were informed that the monastery of the Kiev Caves Lavra of the UOC no longer has the opportunity to serve in the churches of the upper territory—the Dormition Cathedral and the trapeza church on the territory of the Reserve.”
“For 30 years, as the abbot of the monastery, I have been constantly here, and together with me 220 brethren who constantly pray for our state, for our army. And not only do we pray—we’re constantly working, trying to help all those in need, all those who ask us for prayerful intercession and help in their earthly life,” the Metropolitan says.
The UOC was told by the director of the Kiev Caves Museum that December 31 is the last time they can serve in the given churches.
“No one informed us in writing at least a month in advance. We have long-term lease agreements,” Met. Pavel says in his appeal, emphasizing that in addition to serving in the churches, the UOC has also been responsible for the physical upkeep of the buildings.
“I know every stone here, every piece of land, because we built everything here with our own hands, with donations from the faithful,” His Eminence continues. Although the state funded some restoration work, it took those funds back in the form of taxes, he notes.
Met. Pavel calls on President Zelensky to compare photos of the monastery in 1988 with the current appearance of the lower section of the Lavra, which does belong to the Church.
“We can’t allow the buildings that were built by our holy ancestors to be destroyed,” His Eminence says, also calling on the President to come and see how many people worship at the Lavra every weekend.
The hierarch urges:
We know you as a just man, but there are people next to you who act unworthily: they seize holy sites, stir up strife, hang locks on churches. They put themselves in the place of Herod, who killed babies, Nero, who killed thousands of Christians. And today these people are destroying faith in order to sow atheism, untruth, and change people’s views on life and tear them away from their true root—the Church of Christ. We appeal to you as a guarantor and ask you to let people pray. It’s enough for us when the enemy strikes, it’s enough for us when people sit without electricity. Do you want to take away their faith as well? Do you want to take away the last hope? Don’t do this.
In conclusion, the Metropolitan calls on Zelensky to issue decrees to allow the UOC to continue to peacefully exist and pray for its country.
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