Patriarch of Georgia appeals to Patriarch Bartholomew on behalf of persecuted Ukrainian Orthodox Church

Tbilisi, March 27, 2023

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As the persecution of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church and the brotherhood of the Kiev Caves Lavra continues to intensify, hierarchs, clergy, and international organizations from around the world have begun speaking out in defense of the Church.

On Friday, His Holiness Patriarch-Catholicos Ilia, the primate of the Georgian Orthodox Church, appealed to Patriarch Bartholomew to intercede on behalf of the Church and the monastery.

Of note, Pat. Ilia—perhaps the most beloved and authoritative primate of all the Orthodox Churches—affirms that the clergy and parishioners of the UOC are loyal to their country, and that the UOC separated itself from the Moscow Patriarchate.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian authorities and the schismatics whom enjoy the support of Pat. Bartholomew continue to belligerently refer to the UOC as the Moscow Patriarchate in Ukraine, thus intentionally contributing to the religious enmity against and persecution of the Church.

Pat. Ilia’s letter reads:

I greet you with fraternal love in Christ and address you regarding the following issue: First of all, we would like to once again express our deep heartache caused by the Russia-Ukraine war, which is taking the lives of soldiers who defend their homeland and the lives of thousands of innocent people. We have gone through these processes and we understand the severity of the situation there.

Apart from the aforementioned, we are concerned about the current circumstances in the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

It is also clear to us that the government of Ukraine, being at war, has its own position towards it, and does not consider religious depth. That is why I am addressing you, Your Holiness.

As it is known, the largest part of the priests, clergy and parishioners of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church exhibited loyalty to their country in this war, and their unanimity as well led them to the strength of Ukraine.

Of course, there would have been those holding a different position; however, this does not change the overall picture.

The fact that, according to the synodal decision, His Beatitude Onuphry separated from the Russian Church and also took some steps for negotiations is extremely important. It is also important that the commitment of this Church to any of the ecclesiastical issues is conditioned by the observance of the spiritual way of life, which has been recognized for centuries, and does not necessarily mean unconditional obedience to another Church.

Hitherto, Metropolitan Onuphry is deprived of the Kiev Caves Lavra, there are problems with other churches and monasteries, which are under his jurisdiction, as well. It is a fact that the Ukrainian Orthodox Church has found itself in a very difficult situation from many sides.

Your All Holiness, everyone remembers numerous steps you have taken with the mission of peace and therefore we presume that in this case also, if it is possible, you might help ease the tension, which, in our opinion, implies the creation of conditions for peaceful coexistence at the first stage, and then, a peaceful move towards mutual rapprochement.

At present, the Orthodox world faces a number of serious challenges and every positive step against this background will be of great value.

I would like to end this letter with the words of Saint Paul the Apostle: “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Eph. 4.3) May God grant peace to Ukraine and to the entire world.

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