On March 10, the brotherhood of the Kiev Caves Lavra received notice from the state that it has until March 29 to completely leave the territory of the Lavra.
The holy monastery became state property under the Soviet Union, and Ukraine has continued this practice, with the Lavra considered a national museum. The monastery territory is divided into two sections: the Upper Lavra, from which the Church was already expelled at the end of last year, and the Lower Lavra, from which it is now also being arbitrarily expelled.
Of course, this situation is tragic for all Orthodox faithful in Ukraine. On Sunday, thousands of believers flocked to the Lavra and braved the wintery elements to pray and show their support for their beloved Church.
And a number of hierarchs have made statements on the situation, emphasizing that the Church built, has prayed in, and rebuilt the Lavra, and that the state has no legal grounds to expel the monatics. The hierarchs also consistently call their flock to pray for their Church, their monastery, and their country.
His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev and All Ukraine:
Today, dear brothers and sisters, clouds have gathered over this holy monastery…
We don’t know what will happen next, but we do know one thing—this Lavra was built by the faithful of our Church, by our Church. There was no other church then. Then it fell into disrepair during the Soviet period, when there was militant atheism and we received a pile of ruins in ‘88. Once again, our Church has rebuilt this holy monastery. And we think it’s unfair not to permit us to serve in this holy place…
I ask you, dear brothers and sisters, to pray that the Lord might change the thoughts of those people who want the brethren to leave the holy monastery, that the lamp of prayer might continue to burn here, so that each of you can come here, confess, receive Communion and venerate the holy saints of the Caves…
May the Lord bless our land with peace through the prayers of the holy and Venerable Fathers Anthony and Theodosius and all the wonderworkers of the caves, so that the shots would stop sounding, so that people would be reconciled to each other, so that in their lives they would follow the path that our venerable fathers followed, the path that is called the path of salvation, which leads man to the Kingdom of Heaven.
His Eminence Metropolitan Pavel of Vyshgorod, abbot of the Kiev Caves Lavra:
Today our Church is shaken by sad events. Probably the Apocalypse is beginning with Ukraine, because there are great sacred places here. Kiev is called the second Jerusalem. All of our Holy Rus’, Ukraine, and other cities are protected by the relics of the saints…
There are people who dream of desecrating anything they can… They’ve desecrated the Holy Dormition and Trapeza Cathedrals; people who aren’t ashamed to wear clothes that don’t belong to them; some were even ordained by us and with us, but they went into the council of the ungodly, as the traitor Judas left…
Brothers and sisters, you should not stand aside, because Whosoever therefore shall confess Me before men, him will I confess also before My Father (Mt. 10:32). We elected these deputies and today we have to give an answer: As we chose, we can also remove, as is customary in the democratic world. We must defend our faith, we must not shame the Church. I won’t, even if they shoot me. I’m not afraid of death. We don’t support riots, nor revolutions. Let us pray and pray as we want, as we’ve been taught.
Met. Pavel has also publicly declared that the brotherhood has no intention of obeying the state’s illegal demand that they leave.
His Eminence Metropolitan Anthony of Boryspil, Chancellor of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church:
We are deeply shocked by another attack against the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. It seems that those who commit such lawlessness are faithful followers of the line of the God-fighters of the communist period. The methods have become more sophisticated, but the goal is obviously the same: to eradicate the Church and trample its memory.
For nearly 1,000 years, monastic prayer has been heard within the walls of the Kiev Caves Monastery. Here is the beginning of the monastic life of the Eastern Slavic lands.
The Lavra has always been a model of Christian life for our people; people have sought solace and refuge within its walls. Our ancestors considered it a great honor to make their small contribution to the creation of the monastery, so that prayer in the monastery would not stop.
And is it really necessary to drive a wedge and bring discord into Ukrainian society now, when our people are suffering so much trouble?...
But those who have these designs have forgotten that the Ukrainian Orthodox Church isn’t just an earthly organization. It is the Church of Christ! And, according to God, not only those in power, but even the gates of hell won’t prevail against it.
The God-loving Ukrainian people feel at the genetic level where the truth and grace of God are. The God-loving Ukrainian people love their Church and will not betray it. Yesterday’s [March 12] Sunday Liturgy in honor of the Venerable Fathers of the Caves vividly testified to the whole world. Despite the cold and snow, thousands of believers prayed on the square of the Near Caves for peace in our homeland and begged forgiveness for their offenders.
Meanwhile, the Holy Dormition Cathedral and the Trapeza Church, taken away on the Upper Lavra, can’t gather enough supporters from all over Ukraine for a decent video. I emphasize: for a picture with the appropriate ideological coloration, and not for prayer.
In addition, I would like to ask those who prepared and issued the order to terminate the lease of churches and other Lavra premises for our Church. Gentlemen, how much have you personally donated to the restoration of the Lavra? What moral right do you have to dispose of a national shrine?..
Don’t forget that God is not mocked. You’re encroaching on one of the portions of the Mother of God—the Kiev Caves Lavra. If you’re doing it unconsciously—come to your senses! You’re persecuting those who love their homeland, who pray for Ukraine and its people.
But we have protection! It is the Lord God. As history shows, the fate of the persecutors and their descendants is unenviable and tragic. Therefore, we beg you once again: Come to your senses! Don’t take the sin of persecutors upon your soul and don’t make the whole of society complicit in this iniquity. Because you will have to answer before God for everything.
Metropolitan Kliment of Nezhin, Chairman of the Synodal Department on Information and Education:
The management of the Reserve [Kiev Caves Museum] sent an ultimatum in which, without any explanation, they announced the termination of the lease agreement and demanded that we be evicted from the monastery. Such requirements have nothing to do with the legislation of Ukraine.
The UOC can’t be evicted from the monastery because there are no legal grounds for this.
Moreover, it’s not clear on the basis of what we should transfer those material values and the cultural heritage that was revived and preserved by the monks. On what basis should we transfer this to people who have nothing to do with it? They didn’t create it, they didn’t reconstruct it, but have only destroyed it over the previous years, and now they want to take it away from us.
His Eminence Metropolitan Luke of Zaporozhye:
Looking at what Ukrainian politicians are doing in our country, only one phrase comes to mind: Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do… (Lk. 23:34). On March 10, 1961, under the pretext of “repair and restoration work,” the Kiev Caves Lavra was closed. And a few days later, the Kurenevskaya tragedy happened. On March 10, 2023, the UOC received a notification that it no longer has the right to serve in the Kiev Caves Lavra. The coincidence is not only in the month, but even in the day. An accident? There are no accidents for a believer. In 1961, there was no war in our country, there was just a man in power who sought to destroy the Church of God. But what degree of short-sightedness do current politicians need to have in order to fight so fiercely with God at a time when the country is bleeding, when our citizens are dying, when not only houses, but also the destinies of people and the country are being destroyed? If Khruschev had only atheistic madness in his head, then those who are going against the Church at this time have real Satanism in their hearts!
You don’t have to be an experienced civil servant or diplomat to understand such obvious things. Either enemies and traitors, or people obsessed with evil can divide the people in a country where there’s a war, turn against the authorities those people who defend their homeland, incite religious enmity. But it seems that our country is in the clutches of the enemy of the human race. After all, the churches of the UOC are seized only for one purpose—to stop worship there. There’s no other purpose to this lawlessness.
From Biblical history, we know of one pattern—when the enemy overcomes the state, only repentance before God and a change in the lives of His loyal subjects can save him. Kings and common people sprinkled ashes on their heads, imposed fasting and prolonged prayer on themselves in order to avert God’s wrath from themselves. But only hardened atheists can go against the Lord in times of calamity. What God called an abomination is promoted by our deputies as a generally accepted way of life. They are introducing bills on same-sex marriage, raising the issue of legalizing cannabis again, at a time when husbands are giving their lives at the front to protect their wives and children. The opportunists in cassocks, the agents of the modern NKVD, approve of all this, and the Church, which retains its loyalty to Christ and the Gospel, is also persecuted by them. What will be the result of such a policy? The question is rather rhetorical. The scale of the persecution of the faithful Leninists of Stalin-Khruschev against the Church was negligible compared to what is happening now in our country. It can be assumed that the Kurenevskaya tragedy will be the same in relation to what will follow the current persecution of our Mother Church, which is headed not by the Pope of Istanbul, but by Christ.
His Eminence Metropolitan Barsanuphius of Vinnitsa:
Simply evicting monks within 10 days is lawless. We have to raise the world community so that it stands up for the protection of the monastics…
I entered the seminary 30 years ago. I remember what the Lavra was like. And the way it is now—it was all done for Ukrainians. It’s a holy site for the entire world.
I don’t think our faithful will allow the Minister of Culture Tkachenko to simply evict the monks by his decree. And there are many of them. A large number of people came to the feast of the Fathers of the Kiev Caves, and these people, of course, will support the monks who won’t be evicted from their monastery, because [the authorities] haven’t presented any legal grounds for why the monks should be evicted from the Lavra…
I believe and hope that through the prayers of the Venerable Fathers of the Kiev Caves, the Lord will help this sacred place stay in our canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
His Eminence Archbishop Pimen of Rivne:
We live in a difficult time, when every day of our lives a new history of Ukraine is being created, which we all write together with our work, successes, adversities, sorrows and joys, and our struggle. It’s especially painful to state that we are writing the history of the freedom of the Ukrainian people with the blood of the best sons and daughters of the country, loyal children of our Church…
The Lord, in the words of John the theologian, teaches us love, because He is the source of inexhaustible love. Love doesn’t banish, doesn’t appropriate, love doesn’t mock a loved one, fellow countryman, neighbor, colleague, brother.
Yesterday we learned about another historical event that is sure to be imprinted in the memory of contemporaries and subsequent generations. The Kiev Caves Lavra National Reserve sent an ultimatum to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church insisting on the eviction of UOC monks from the territory of the Lavra by March 29, 2023.
I want to ask the officials who have reached this point: Where were you when the Lavra was raised stone by stone after the Soviet God-fighting power by monks and believers? Where were you when we had to work bitterly and daily restoring churches, buildings, and territories? Where were you when the monks breathed life into the holy place by their ministry, and prayed and gathered people together?
As a former monk of the Kiev Caves Lavra, I can’t accept this injustice without pain, and therefore I ask all Orthodox Christians to stand up for the holy place and raise their voices. No, not by barricades, not by illegal actions—I urge you to talk about lawlessness in the public sphere, in the legal sphere, write letters to Ministers, Deputies, to people who think that they can do anything.
In expelling the monks from the Lavra, the officials, in fact, leave the holy place without prayer, leave hundreds of monks without their homes, leave believers without a place to rush to with their souls, seeking comfort and salvation. Observing the actions of the leaders of the highest ranks of our country in relation to the Church, I clearly trace the sequence of actions that were once launched against the faith and believers by the Soviet leaven fighters.
Realizing that now the state God-fighters have a goal—the destruction of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church—and they are persistently moving towards it, I ask all Orthodox Christians to unite, to defend their faith!
I ask you to support the abbot and the brethren of the Kiev Caves Lavra. They are now in a serious but very salvific condition. We will come to the services, support you with prayer, a kind word, and raise our voice in the public sphere. Let the words sound truthful and loud, and May the Lord help us!