Moscow, March 13, 2023
On Saturday, March 11, 2023, His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia addressed the primates of the Local Orthodox Churches and other religious leaders and representatives of international organizations concerning the fate of the Holy Dormition-Kiev Caves Lavra after the Ukrainian government announced its intention to completely expel the Ukrainian Orthodox Church from the holy monastery, where it has prayed for the past 1,000 years.
As the Department of External Church Relations reports, the Patriarch notes that the state’s decision was preceded by a wave of pressure and persecution against the brotherhood, including the state searches of the monastery in November and the expulsion of the Church from the two largest churches of the monastery on December 31. The pressure also includes a libelous campaign from state media, politicians, and radical religious figures.
“The Kiev Caves Lavra of the Caves is the first monastery of Kievan Rus’, which has existed since the 11th century. It’s the founder of the common spiritual and monastic tradition of the Russian, Ukrainian, and Belarusian peoples. It’s the cradle of our civilization and national cultures,” the Patriarch writes.
The monastery has suffered numerous invasions and cases of persecution throughout its history, but it was only under the militantly atheistic government of the 20th century that the monks were driven out of the monastery, the Patriarch emphasizes.
Nevertheless, the new generations of monks exerted tremendous effort and spent considerable funds, with little help from the state, to revive those churches that are now being taken away from them, “but above all to revive the former spiritual traditions and full-fledged monastic life.”
And today, the Lavra is one of the largest Orthodox monasteries in the world, with more than 200 monastics. It is also home to the administration of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and the Kiev Theological Seminary and Academy, which train hundreds of future clergy for the Church, the Patriarch points out.
And referring to the state’s ultimatum to the Church, Pat. Kirill notes that the decision to expel the Church is wholly lacking in “adequate legal substantiation.” The commission that examined the Church’s use of the Lavra didn’t even try to conceal that their sole aim was to drive the monks and others out of their home, he emphasizes.
“It ‘s regrettable that while the Ukrainian state leaders declare their commitment to democratic norms, to the European way of development and adherence to human rights and freedoms, these rights and freedoms are violated in the most glaring way,” the Russian primate writes.
Given all the above, Pat. Kirill calls on religious and secular leaders to do everything possible to prevent the closure of the monastery, which will violate the religious freedom of millions of Ukrainians, in violation of Ukrainian and international law and norms.
The Patriarch sent his appeal to the primates of the Local Orthodox Church, Pope Francis of Rome, Patriarch of the Coptic Church Tawadros II, head of the Anglican Communion Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, General Secretary of the World Council of Churches Dr. Jerry Pillay, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, OSCE General Secretary Helga Maria Schmid, Secretary General of the Council of Europe Marija Pejčinović Burić, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk, Director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights Matteo Mecacci.