Sydney, Australia, March 27, 2023
The Ukrainian Orthodox Church is being persecuted by the state, and religious freedoms are being trampled, the Serbian hierarch of Australia and New Zealand informed Australian authorities last week.
Therefore, the authorities must raise their voices in defense of the persecuted Church and the brotherhood of the Kiev Caves Lavra, His Grace Bishop Siluan writes in a letter to Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.
I write to you on behalf of many concerned Orthodox faithful across Australia, concerning the outright persecution and trampling of religious freedoms and human rights that is taking place at the Holy Dormition Kyivo-Pechersk Lavra, otherwise known as the Kyiv Monastery of the Caves in Kyiv, Ukraine.
The monks of this ancient monastery, who have been living in monastic solitude and prayer like their predecessors centuries before them, have been ordered by the Kyiv authorities to leave the Lower Lavra complex by March 29 of this year. The brotherhood, like the rest of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) across Ukraine, is being persecuted by the state for remaining loyal to the canonical order of the Holy Orthodox Church.
The context of this persecution is subject to the UOC not recognising, and refusing to assimilate, become a part of the state imposed nationalist entity known as the ‘Orthodox Church of Ukraine’.
The persecution of the monastics of the aforementioned Lavra, is infact fuelled by nationalist fervour encouraged by the Ukrainian government. The Abbot of the brotherhood, His Eminence Metropolitan Pavel, says: “We came to the Lavra to dedicate our lives to serving God, to prayer, to the people. We pray for our state, and we ask today, in these difficult times, that the Lord preserve it for us. We are citizens of Ukraine, and we ask those in power not to interfere in the affairs of the Church. We do not seek protection, but ask for only one thing: the enforcement of the laws of the state. And once again, we ask, we implore that the monks in the monastery be left alone, to provide them the opportunity of fulfilling their principal mission - prayer.”
The plight of the monastics continues to be covered up by authorities in Kyiv and international governments alike. I appeal to you as the Prime Minister of our democratic and sovereign nation, to do the right thing and demand that the democratic rights of religious freedom and freedom of conscience be respected and upheld in Ukraine, specifically in relation to the monastics at the Kyivo-Pechersk Lavra and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.