Archbishop of Albania supports persecuted UOC hierarchs

Tirana, Albania, August 14, 2023   

The primate of the Albanian Orthodox Church sent letters of support to persecuted hierarchs of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church last week.

In particular, His Beatitude Archbishop Anastasios of Albania wrote to His Eminence Metropolitan Jonathan of Tulchin, who was recently sentenced to five years in prison with the confiscation of his property.

Met. Anastasios writes:

Your Eminence, brother in Christ,

It is with deep sorrow that we follow the painful trials of Your beloved Eminence and your chosen flock.

We share in your sufferings and, to the best of our ability, share our testimony of the atrocities committed against the righteous Orthodox clergy, pious people, and famous holy sites of Ukraine.

We fraternally pray that God might strengthen you, that you might approv[e yourself] as the ministers of God, in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses, In stripes, in imprisonments (2 Cor. 6:4-5).

Our thoughts and prayers are always with you, so that in joining the choir of the new Martyrs, you might also resist the current absurd persecution by the Holy Spirit, by love unfeigned, By the word of truth, by the power of God… As unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and, behold, we live; as chastened, and not killed (2 Cor. 6:6-9).

With deep respect and sincere love in Christ,

† Anastasios, Archbishop of Tirana, Durrës, and All Albania

The Albanian primate also wrote a similar letter of prayerful support to His Eminence Metropolitan Pavel of Vyshgorod, the abbot of the Kiev Caves Lavra. After several months of house arrest, Met. Pavel was placed in a pre-trial detention center. The faithful of the UOC gathered nearly $1 million for the Metropolitan to be released on bail, though he still must wear an electronic ankle bracelet, and can only leave his residence in a Kiev suburb with prior notification.

Abp. Anastasios wrote to Met. Pavel:   

Despite their ties to Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, Abp. Anastasios and the hierarchs of the Church of Albania have taken an Orthodox stand regarding the schism in Ukraine and Constantinople’s interference there. The Synod has repeatedly refused to recognize the schismatics, and the Archbishop even authored two historical-theological-canonical examinations of the issue.

In March, amidst the persecution against the Kiev Caves Lavra, the Albanian Church again called for a pan-Orthodox council to address the many issues facing the Church today.

Last week, His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia issued a statement about Met. Jonathan, saying: “This lawless decision was preceded by numerous attempts to put pressure on Vladyka Jonathan, who in spite of everything, remained faithful to His Church and fellow believers in Christ.”

The Patriarch writes that even in Soviet times, the authorities tried to pressure Met. Jonathan, then a student at the Leningrad Theological Academy. And now their successors have sentenced, now a seriously ill hierarch, to five years in prison.

The Patriarch again calls on the world community, including religious and political leaders, to be attentive to the plight of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev) of Budapest and All Hungary also addressed Prime Minister Viktor Orban of Hungary last week, entreating him to “do everything possible to draw the attention of the international community to the unprecedented decision of the Vinnitsa city court and to achieve the release of the venerable hierarch—if not for any other reason than for humanitarian reasons. Vladyka is 74 years old, he has severe diabetes, and his imprisonment for 5 years means nothing more than a death sentence.”

Met. Hilarion notes that Met. Jonathan is a noted Church composer who served as abbot of the Kiev Caves Lavra for a time in the late 1980s.

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