UOC bishop-abbot faces years in prison for sermon mentioning roadblocks, monastic brotherhood responds

Svyatogorsk, Donetsk Province, Ukraine, April 26, 2024

Photo: svlavra.church.ua Photo: svlavra.church.ua     

The Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) detained His Eminence Metropolitan Arseny of Svyatogorsk, the abbot of the Holy Dormition-Svyatogorsk Lavra, yesterday.

According to a court ruling, he is to be held in a pre-trial detention center for 60 days without the possibility of bail. The SBU announced that he is under official investigation for allegedly revealing the position of Ukrainian soldiers to Russians during a homily. He faces up to 8 years in prison.

The Telegram channel First Cossack published today the video of the relevant homily, from September 23, in which Met. Arseny mentions that pilgrims and volunteers were detained for hours at roadblock checkpoints and thus were unable to reach the monastery for the feast of All Saints of Svyatogorsk.

The hierarch notes that the checkpoints were in the nearby village of Tatyanovka, but does not mention any specific addresses. The video of the sermon was only published two days later, after the feast was already over and the checkpoints were no longer there.

Messages and appeals on behalf of Met. Arseny have already come from several sources.

His Eminence Metropolitan Evlogy of Sumy published an appeal to President Vladimir Zelensky, noting that Met. Arseny is a wise and pious abbot and a Ukrainian patriot. He also recalls his many years of humanitarian activity.

The Svyatogorsk abbot has very illnesses and needs constant medical supervision, thus Met. Evlogy appeals to the president to release Met. Arseny from detention, so he can be properly attended to.

The Church Against Xenophobia and Religious Discrimination human rights organization stated that it considers the arrest of Met. Arseny to be unfounded, illegal, and politically motivated, and also called for his release from detention.

Robert Amsterdam, the lawyer representing the persecuted Ukrainian Orthodox Church pro bono, also made a video statement about the ordeal, stating that Ukraine is trying to remove Church leaders before passing the bill to ban the UOC.

The brotherhood of the Svyatogorsk Lavra issued its own appeal on behalf of its persecuted abbot, emphasizing that the charge against him is far-fetched, as he revealed nothing of a miliary nature during his homily.

The brotherhood writes:

We believe that the application of a pre-trial detention measure, including without the alternative of posting bail, does not correspond to either the circumstances of the alleged offense or the personality of the suspect and demonstrates inhumane treatment of a respected person, who is also in poor health. Metropolitan Arseny suffers from severe illnesses and therefore requires constant medical supervision and treatment, which cannot be provided in pre-trial detention conditions. The arrest of the bishop is a blatant violation of human rights and is aimed at forcibly removing Metropolitan Arseny from his duties as the abbot of the Svyatogorsk Lavra, one of the main spiritual centers of Ukraine, and his isolation.

The brethren of the Svyatogorsk Lavra prayerfully support Metropolitan Arseny, await his earliest release from arrest, and consider the charges against the bishop to be artificial and contrived. Despite the extensive destruction of the monastery, with the support of Metropolitan Arseny, services continue to be held in the Lavra to this day, and the monastery’s brethren continue to carry out their monastic duties daily. Also, the Lavra provides full support to a large number of people who have lost their own homes due to military actions.

Metropolitan Arseny is, as it were, the heart of the Lavra; without him, it is impossible to imagine the Svyatogorsk Monastery. For all of us living in the Lavra, Vladyka Arseniy is an irreplaceable spiritual mentor, administrator, and intercessor. Therefore, the isolation of the bishop is a heavy blow for all of us.

We thank all of you, dear brothers and sisters, for the prayers and words of support that are sent to the Holy Dormition-Svyatogorsk Lavra of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

Follow OrthoChristian on Twitter, Vkontakte, Telegram, WhatsApp, MeWe, and Gab!


to our mailing list

* indicates required