Parishioners of the UOC-MP attempted to seize a disputed church in Vinnytsia

20.11.2021, 14:54
Parishioners of the UOC-MP attempted to seize a disputed church in Vinnytsia - фото 1
Representatives of the UOC-MP wanted to occupy the church, on Thursday, November 18, in the village of Bakhtyn, Vinnytsia region. The church remained sealed for a few years, at the request of the Moscow Patriarchate. While everyone was waiting for the Economic Court’s verdict, members of the UOC-MP decided to occupy the church. The police prevented church seizure and avoided a conflict.

According to Religiyna Pravda, the details of the incident were told by the priest of the OCU, Father Oleksandr.

It all started in 2019 when a meeting of the religious community took place. All documents and fees were filed, and voting took place according to the protocol. The majority of parishioners, about 110 faithful, chose to be with the OCU. The community then submitted the documents for registration, but after more than 2.5 years, the parish is still waiting for confirmation of the registration.

As the courts began deliberating, the Moscow Patriarchate did not want to give up property or the church, even when the majority of parishioners asked for a transfer to the OCU. A minority, some 23 parishioners, opposed joining the OCU. The appeals reached the Supreme Court of Ukraine, but the matter was handed down to the lower court, the Economic Court of Vinnytsa, for consideration.

"There are no documents, so they cannot take this church from us," explains the priest of the OCU, Father Oleksandr. He is familiar with this type of transaction because he is the deacon for the Mohyliv-Podilskyi district. Prior to Ukraine receiving autonomy (TOMOS), he served for 25 years as a priest of the UOC-MP in Donetsk.

Immediately after the transition to the OCU, representatives of the Moscow Patriarchate enlisted the support of the village head. They sealed the church so that no one could celebrate the Liturgy. For the third year now, the OCU community has been forced to pray in an adapted facility. The church remains empty, according to the OCU, because of the aggressive actions of representatives of the Russian Church.

The OCU offered to celebrate the liturgy on alternate Sundays, but the Moscow Patriarchate refused to accept such a peaceful solution. "They do not want peace. I told them, let's take turns because the church is falling apart. No, because you are ‘schismatics’”, said the priest of the OCU.

The OCU community wants to do everything according to the law of God and the state, so they do not hold services in the church, although they have the keys.

The paradox lies therein, explains the priest of the OCU, that two years ago the representatives of the UOC-MP sealed the church themselves. Two years later, the documentation did not change anything, thus UOC representatives decided to seize the church.

“Based on these documents, the church is either opened or closed? That can’t be. The court must decide. Period. But strangers have been brought to the village. The chief of police said to be certain there are no people from other villages. This is your internal issue. Although ATO (Defenders Brotherhood) and others wanted to help me, I refused. We do not bring people from other villages and gather only with parishioners from this church. They came with a dozen priests and each brought 5-6 people from their parishes. We wanted to enter our church. But on what basis can you go to someone else's church? The chief of police said, that no one should enter the church, only parishioners should take part in the investigation. And we came to deliberate the matter. We asked ROCinU: “Show us the court’s decision, allowing you to enter the church. If that is the case, then, please, enter”- explained father Oleksandr of the OCU.

He added that representatives of the Moscow Patriarchate, not only did not show the court’s decision but instead accused the police, who were forced to calm them down.

The priest of the OCU thanked the police for siding with the law and justice and there was no fight. Now members of the OCU are waiting for the Economic Court’s decision. They hope that the decision will be reached within a month and before the New Year.

Father Oleksandr said that the local eparchy of Vinnytsia inflates such conflicts. It also provides instructions to its clergy for “participation”.

“They came to us, not the reverse. As long as the courts are deliberating, let them wait. We have not captured any church. I helped transfer the parishes of Morozivky and Dolyniany to OCU. I gathered the community, we voted and filed documents," says the priest of the OCU.