Pochaev, Ternopil Province, Ukraine, March 28, 2023
Not content to completely seize the Holy Dormition-Kiev Caves Lavra from the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and kick the monks and theological students out onto the streets, authorities have also been blocking pilgrims from reaching the Holy Dormition-Pochaev Lavra in Western Ukraine.
The Kiev monastery is the most important holy site in Ukraine, while the Pochaev monastery is the second most important. The state intends to drive the monks out of the former tomorrow, and there are already moves to do the same with the monks inhabiting the latter.
On Saturday, March 25, the police stopped two buses from Chernivsti en route to the Pochav Lavra, claiming the pilgrimage constituted a rally, which is prohibited during martial law, reports the Chernivstsi Diocese.
The police then began handing out summons to the military registration and enlistment office to the pilgrims. An argument ensued, and the drivers, women, and children were kicked off the buses and not allowed to continue their pilgrimage.
The incident came just two days after the Ternopil Provincial Council voted to appeal to federal authorities to evict Orthodoxy from the Pochaev Lavra, as it is doing in Kiev.
His Grace Bishop Nikita of the Diocese of Ivano and Frankivsk arrived to the scene after the people had been stopped for more than two hours already.
“There’s no religious freedom in Ukraine now. There is terror in Ukraine! There’s some kind of special religious organization that’s supported by the state, and there’s some not special one that needs to be oppressed in every possible way,” he commented.
Eventually, just 9 out of the 90 pilgrims were able to find a way to the Lavra. Among them was the mother of a soldier who is currently serving in the Ukrainian armed forces, who wanted to go to the monastery to pray for her son.
Meanwhile, the rest of the pilgrims made a video appeal. “We are humiliated, we’re pulled off the buses by force with small children, like criminals in the middle of the night,” they say. “We’re forbidden to pray for our relatives, we’re not allowed to move around our homeland, the police bring our children to tears.”
And the next day, Saturday, March 25, the authorities set up roadblocks on all routes to the Pochaev Lavra. All the faithful who wanted to attend the All-Night Vigil had to undergo a thorough check.
Additionally, another group of pilgrims were kicked off their bus, which was taken away for some kind of inspection.
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