Khmelnitsky, Khmelnitsky Province, Ukraine, May 12, 2023
Last month, the Church of the Kazan Icon of the Mother of God in Khmelnitsky in Western Ukraine was seized and renamed by people with no relation to the parish and re-registered to the schismatic “Orthodox Church of Ukraine.”
And now, the church stands empty.
Video was sent to the Information and Education Department of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church showing that there were no parishioners present at the Liturgy on Sunday, May 7, at the church, now named after the Pochaev Icon of the Mother of God instead of the Kazan Icon, “which is associated with the Russian city of Kazan, the capital of the Republic of Tatarstan.”
The absurdity of this renaming apparently escapes the comprehension of the local officials who renamed it. Both the Pochaev icons and the Kazan icons are symbols of the miraculous protection of Orthodox Christians by the Mother of God from the Tatars. The Kazan icon is revered and venerated all over the world, and not only by Orthodox Christians. Copies of it can be found in Roman Catholic churches, as well as Anglican and Episcopalian churches. And the Monastery of Pochaev, where the Pochaev icon is kept, is also famous as an outpost and fortress of canonical Orthdoxy, it's main saint, Job of Pochaev, having been a staunch defender of Orthodoxy against the Roman Catholic and Uniate aggression in Western Ukraine.
The seizure of the church on April 5 was initiated by local officials and carried out by “people who didn’t attend services and didn’t participate in the building of the church,” the local canonical diocese reported at the time.
“However, neither the expulsion of the UOC parishioners from their holy site, nor the reaming of the church was enough for OCU supporters to attend the Divine services,” the UOC department writes.
The makers of the video note that the church used to feed about 100 needy people every day, and there were 75 children in the Sunday School. Now the rector, Archpriest Pyotr Dyachuk, and the faithful continue their liturgical life in an adapted room.
Other churches in Khmelnitsky are facing the same fate. The Church of St. George, which used to gather 800-1,000 people for its patronal feast day didn’t even have Liturgy for St. George this year.
Only a handful of people showed up for a hierarchical Liturgy at the captured Holy Protection Cathedral on Sunday, while the canonical hierarch served in a crowded church in the small town of Letichiv.