Kiev, March 13, 2023
According to the head of the Ukrainian Ministry of Culture, the hundreds of relics that repose in the Near and Far Caves of the Kiev Caves Lavra are “museum exhibits.”
Conversely, the faithful of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church understand the relics as sacred items, and they come by the thousands to pray before them, seeking spiritual strength and consolation.
However, the Lavra has been under state control since Soviet times, and having declared the Ukrainian Orthodox Church a part of the Moscow Patriarchate, blatantly ignoring the council in May at which the UOC separated itself from the Patriarchate, the state is now intent on expelling the Church from the monastery.
The territory of the monastery is divided into the Upper and Lower Lavra. The Church’s lease for use of the Upper Lavra and its churches expired on December 31, and the state refused to renew it. And although the lease with the Lower Lavra is still active, the state is simply terminating it. The Ministry of Culture informed the brotherhood of the Lavra last week that they have until March 29 to entirely vacate the monastery.
Now the state is threatening the Church with criminal liability if it’s not satisfied with the “museum exhibits” in the Lavra.
Speaking in a telethon over the weekend, Minister of Culture Alexander Tkachenko said:
I would like to emphasize, just in case, that in addition to real estate, there are also museum exhibits, more than 800, including the relics of saints, which were transferred to the monks for use, and there will be a separate audit of how much they are preserved there.
I would like to warn … if the movable property, the actually museum exhibits, including relics, are somehow moved somewhere. The last review was in 2018, and all this was recorded, all objects are on the list. Any step that representatives of the UOC-MP can take regarding movable property, actually museum exhibits, will be recorded, and they will have criminal liability.
The Minister also said the monks know what they need to do to be able to stay in the Lavra, and then mentioned how he knows priests who have moved from the [canonical] UOC to the [schismatic] OCU.