Prešov, Slovakia, April 4, 2023
Another hierarch of the Orthodox Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia is speaking out against the ongoing persecution of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and the brotherhood of the Kiev Caves Lavra—this time its primate, His Beatitude Metropolitan Rastislav of Prešov.
During the fifth week of Great Lent this year, when the culmination of the spiritual repentance of Orthodox Christians takes place, we’re also seeing the culmination of the unjust and unforgivable harassment of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church by the Ukrainian state authorities. This persecution, which has been going on for several decades and aims to replace the canonical Church with schismatic structures, has increased significantly since the beginning of the military conflict between Ukraine and Russia, and in recent days has become an attempt to eliminate it.
The Ukrainian Orthodox Church, headed by His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev and All Ukraine, has always declared and proved its apolitical and national character with its statements. Despite this, it has remained the target of countless attacks and attempts to discredit it. The campaign of hatred against representatives and the faithful of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church culminated recently with an order to evict the monastic brethren of the Kiev Caves Lavra from the monastery.
The Apostle James once asked his contemporaries: Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter? Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? either a vine, figs? (Jas. 3:11). Regarding the actions that the state systematically commits against the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, the relevant question is: “Is intimidation and harassment, violation of civil rights and restriction of religious freedom permissible in a free and democratic society?”
Neither God nor history will forget the modern Golgotha of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church—the persecution of its clergy and the mockery of the faithful. Human words of support and sympathy on the part of the Orthodox sister Churches can’t eliminate all the harm, wrongs and wounds inflicted so far. Therefore, I appeal to God with the words of prayer from the anaphora of St. Basil the Great: “Remember, O Lord, all civil authorities and our armed forces; grant them a secure and lasting peace; speak good things unto their hearts concerning Thy Church and all Thy people, that we in their tranquility may lead a calm and peaceful life in all reverence and godliness.”
Last February, after the war began in Ukraine, the Holy Synod of the Czech-Slovak Church called on its clergy and faithful to fast and pray for peace.