Kiev, July 17, 2023
The abbot of the persecuted Kiev Caves Lavra was moved from round-the-clock house arrest to a pre-trial detention center over the weekend.
His Eminence Metropolitan Pavel of Vyshgorod and Chernobyl was initially banned from his home at the Lavra, sentenced to two months of house arrest in a village near Kiev and forced to wear an ankle bracelet, in early April. The courts later extended his house arrest twice, mostly recently on June 30. As is the case with several other hierarchs, the authorities accuse Met. Pavel of inciting religious enmity and justifying the war, though they have yet to supply evidence.
On Thursday, July 13, the authorities formally informed Met. Pavel of a new case being brought against him and asked for him to be moved from house arrest to a pre-trial detention center, reports the Information-Education Department of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
The Metropolitan’s lawyer, Archpriest Nikita Chekman noted that the Ukrainian Security Services published Met. Pavel’s personal data when announcing the new suspicion, which violates the presumption of innocence.
The new case is about supposedly inciting religious enmity and justifying the war, stemming from private telephone conversations in which the abbot supposedly said things like, “America is fighting with Russian to the last Ukrainian,” and “Idiots in America say they pray for peace, then they flood us with weapons.”
However, His Eminence denies making any such statements.
The next day, the court granted the prosecutors’ petition and ordered Met. Pavel to be taken into custody and placed in a pre-trial detention center until August 14. The judge also set an exorbitant bail of nearly $900,000 (33 million hryvnia). Reportedly, the reason for changing the measure of restraint against him was for communicating with one of the witnesses in his criminal case, which the hierarch denies.
The brethren of the Lavra and other Orthodox faithful came to the court to prayerfully support Met. Pavel, who noted that he does not have such funds to pay his bail. “But I accept it as the will of God,” he said.
“Today we ask the Lord to erect a barrier to evil, to soften the hearts of those who treat us with malice. There’s nothing that can divide us; we should all be united by one desire: to defeat the enemy,” the Metropolitan later said.
Fr. Nikita emphasized that the court’s decision was completely groundless: “Vladyka is actually being tried for the Orthodox faith, because the material of the case has none of the things that the media claims.” He also emphasized that the measure against Met. Pavel is cruel, given his age and health.
His Eminence Metropolitan Theodosy of Cherkassy also commented on the matter, agreeing with Fr. Nikita: “There’s no doubt that everything in his criminal case is fabricated—this is absolutely obvious to any unbiased person watching what is happening in our country with our Church.”
“A red line has been crossed in the persecution against the Ukrainian Orthodox Church,” Met. Theodosy said. But the Church maintains some measure of hope:
We believe that you will return to the Lavra. But, most likely, to another Lavra—dirty, trampled. Those who are now frantically rushing to the buildings built by you, to the churches restored by you, these people do not know how, do not want to and do not like to build and create anything. They only know how to seize and take away from others. And therefore, when they leave the holy monastery, most likely, there will be devastation… But it will still be your beloved Lavra.
His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev and All Ukraine recorded a short message of encouragement for Met. Pavel, before the news of the new measure against him was confirmed, saying:
Dear Vladyka Pavel!
We have heard rumors that you have been locked up in a pre-trial detention center. We received it with sadness and sorrow. But I know that you are a good monk, a good bishop, a good abbot of the Holy Caves Lavra. There must have been some misunderstanding.
I think people will understand that. You do not deserve to be held in a pre-trial detention center. I wish that the Lord may strengthen you, give you strength. And it will end. And you will be free. We will pray and glorify God together again!
God’s help to you! May the Lord preserve you!
The Metropolis of Montenegro of the Serbian Orthodox Church is calling on all its people to pray for the persecuted Met. Pavel.
His Holiness Patriarch Kirill also addressed religious figures and representatives of international organizations about the persecution of the Ukrainian hierarch.
The court’s decision was unjust and obviously dictated by Ukrainian authorities, aimed at the final seizure of the Kiev Caves Lavra and the persecution of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, the Patriarch said.
He also raised concerns about Met. Pavel’s health and called on all his addressees to take all possible measures to protect Met. Pavel from persecution.