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How the War Divided the Church in Ukraine

AGranite Paul Once a race car mechanic, but in 1993 he found God, left his wife and moved into a monastery called the Pechersk Lavra in central Kiev. The monastery has been a center of the Orthodox faith since the area became Christian in the 10th century, and is famous for its caves, which pilgrims once thought stretched as far as Moscow. Ukraine’s security services also believe it has links to Moscow: They accuse the Ukrainian Orthodox diocese that runs it of spreading Russian propaganda. On March 29, the government ordered the monks to leave. Since then, believers have held daily prayer vigils at the gate of the site. “Monasteries are for monks, not pagans,” the master builder raged. “The devil is trying to scatter us.”

Culture Minister Oleksandr Tkachenko said the government had every right to expel the monks: “The monastery remains state property.” Monks have been allowed to live there since the 1990s and were granted permanent use in 2013. But last year a video emerged featuring a prayer service for Russia. Security forces searched the monastery and found pro-Russian literature, and a government commission found monks were building buildings illegally and allowing other groups to use the grounds. The senior priest Pavel Lebed, known as “Pasha Mercedes” for his penchant for personal luxuries, has been placed under house arrest.

The conflict is part of a years-long struggle between two deeply divided hierarchies with frustratingly similar names: the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Oceania City University). Their argument was not about theology, but about politics.this UOC Formerly an offshoot of the Russian Orthodox Church that operated in Ukraine under the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union. It belongs to the Moscow Patriarchate. But after Ukraine gained independence in 1991, some dioceses broke away from the Moscow-aligned institution.

The conflict intensified after Russia invaded Ukraine and seized Crimea in 2014. The Russian Orthodox Church has been used as an organ of state propaganda since the days of the tsars, and its current leader, Archbishop Kirill of Moscow, is a fervent nationalist. In 2018, then-President Petro Poroshenko initiated a process aimed at forming a unified hierarchy from Ukraine’s individual churches. Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, the most senior clergyman in the Orthodox world, recognized the new group as Ukrainian Orthodox in 2019.Since then UOC and Oceania City University Compete for the loyalty of the parish and the faithful.

The Russian invasion imbued the rivalry with wartime ferocity.Ukrainian security services claim UOC is a tool of the Kremlin, although the evidence they have published is not overwhelming. A search found Russian newspapers with pro-war headlines, like all Russian publications, and a few thousand Russian rubles in cash, which is hard to spend in Ukraine today. Priests have been accused of echoing Kremlin propaganda by declaring Ukraine and Russia to be fraternal states.

To clear its name, UOC Official break with the Moscow Patriarchate in May 2022. But some of these priests appear to be fomenting dissent. On April 5, in Bukovyna, a village in western Ukraine, UOC The church refused (for unknown reasons) to hold a funeral for a Ukrainian soldier. His family and comrades forced their way in and told the priests to pack their bags.The day before, the mayor of Lviv announced that the city would move at least one church UOC arrive Oceania City University. Similar conflicts are playing out across the country.

Russia is by far the worst violator of religious freedom.In the territories it occupies, it forcibly converts churches to UOC And kill or imprison clergy of other faiths. A report by the Institute for War Research, a think tank, found that this religious persecution is part of a campaign of cultural genocide aimed at erasing Ukrainian identity. The Kremlin exploits religion in its propaganda. “They say that the Russian Orthodox Church unites three countries, namely Russia, Ukraine and Belarus,” said religion researcher Dmytro Horevoy. “They even use the symbol of the Holy Trinity.” On Russian talk show, priests oppose deportation of monks from Pechersk monastery, vow to eradicate Oceania City University.

However, although elements UOC Indeed used by the Kremlin, it is a decentralized organization with thousands of priests and over a million followers. Many Ukrainian patriots are sincerely loyal to their faith. “My uncle fought in Bakhmut, was wounded and is in the hospital,” said Nikolai Lishchuk, a young theological student at the Pechersk monastery. “Tell me I support Moscow…that’s disrespectful.”

Worshipers in Ukraine are often unaware of which hierarchy their local church follows.Most of the parishes in the country are still officially affiliated with UOC, mainly because of inertia. But individual believers are another matter: Since the war began, they have quickly turned against the Moscow-linked church.The survey by the International Institute of Sociology in Kiev found that the percentage of Ukrainians who claimed to be members of the group UOC From 18% in June 2021 to only 4% in July 2022, while agreeing Oceania City University From 42% to 54%.

Metropolitan Kliment, head of the Pechersk monastery, categorically denies any disloyalty to his country and says all occupied territories must be returned to Ukraine.He believes that the government’s actions are UOC “Depressed”. Even if the government has legal backing, it needs to proceed with caution. “It’s a very risky game,” said Tornike Metreveli of Harvard University’s Ukraine Institute, who is studying UOC and Oceania City UniversityUkraine is the Americas of Eastern Europe, he says: “No other country has such a vibrant religious market. If they pursue a state church, their pluralism and their efforts to enter a state church will be tough European Union

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