Zelensky Evicts Monks from Legendary Kiev Monastery in Ongoing Assault on Christianity

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Culture Ministry refers to holy relics as “museum exhibits,” threatens criminal proceedings if they are moved.

In one of the biggest, if not the biggest event in the Orthodox world this week, the Ukrainian Zelensky regime announced the expulsion of the monks of the  Kiev Pechersk Lavra, who belong to the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) from their monastery before 29 March. 

This has prompted an outpouring of support and outrage throughout the Russian and Ukrainian faithful. On 11 March Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia addressed heads of other Orthodox jurisdictions, as well as international organizations such as the World Council of Churches, the UN Secretary-General, and the Council of Europe, among others. The Patriarch explained that this latest abuse had come at the end of a pattern of increasing abuse and violence against the UOC by the Ukrainian government, referring to searches of the monastery grounds and libelous attacks from the Ukrainian popular media, state officials, and those who stand to gain from the UOC’s loss, which will primarily be the schismatics. 


Patriarch Kirill has not been silent about the Crisis concerning the Caves.


The Patriarch stated the importance of the Lavra to not just Russian and Ukrainain but world Orthodoxy:

 “The Kiev Caves Lavra of the Caves is the first monastery of Kievan Rus’, which has existed since the 11th century. It’s the founder of the common spiritual and monastic tradition of the Russian, Ukrainian, and Belarusian peoples. It’s the cradle of our civilization and national cultures.”

Although this cycle of persecution is something that the monastery has endured now and then over 1000 years of its history, it was only under the savage, militantly atheist government of the Soviet Union that the monks were completely driven out of the Lavra before. 

Calling attention to Ukraine’s apparent devotion to democratic and European values of freedom, the Patriarch continued, “It ‘s regrettable that while the Ukrainian state leaders declare their commitment to democratic norms, to the European way of development and adherence to human rights and freedoms, these rights and freedoms are violated in the most glaring way.”



Vladimir Legoyda, head of the Synodal Department of the Moscow Patriarchate for Church-Society and Media Relations, had stronger words for the ongoing persecution. Legoyda wrote in his Telegram channel:

The expulsion of the Canonical Church from the Kiev Pechersk Lavra will forever be inscribed in the history of anti-church persecutions, and this ruthless act of persecution will be remembered by believers all over the world. We are in prayer and heart with those who are being expelled from the great sanctuary. But God is never mocked, but the fate of the God-fighters and persecutors of the Church of Christ is well known to us from recent history.

He also stated that, in recent years, "lawlessness has been created against millions of Ukrainian believers." He proceeds to cite instances of state violence against the UOC: "Cases of seizures, arson attacks and desecrations of churches, attacks on clergy became more frequent, and numerous threats were made." Ultimately, Legoyda declares the expulsion of monks from the Kiev Pechersk Lavra, "the apogee of lawlessness." 

The Lavra itself, facing this existential threat, was shown an outpouring of love and support by the faithful this past Sunday, the Sunday of St. Gregory Palamas, when all the saints of the Lavra are also celebrated. Throngs of ordinary Orthodox Ukrainians flooded the Lavra, overflowing into the courtyard in a show of love, support, and solidarity



After the Gospel reading, Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev and All Ukraine, head of the canonical UOC, gave a short homily addressing the state aggression against the Lavra’s monks:

Today, dear brothers and sisters, clouds have gathered over this holy monastery… 
We don’t know what will happen next, but we do know one thing—this Lavra was built by the faithful of our Church, by our Church. There was no other church then. Then it fell into disrepair during the Soviet period, when there was militant atheism and we received a pile of ruins in ‘88. Once again, our Church has rebuilt this holy monastery. And we think it’s unfair not to permit us to serve in this holy place. 
… I ask you, dear brothers and sisters, to pray that the Lord might change the thoughts of those people who want the brethren to leave the holy monastery, that the lamp of prayer might continue to burn here, so that each of you can come here, confess, receive Communion and venerate the holy saints of the Caves. 
… May the Lord bless our land with peace through the prayers of the holy and Venerable Fathers Anthony and Theodosius and all the wonderworkers of the caves, so that the shots would stop sounding, so that people would be reconciled to each other, so that in their lives they would follow the path that our venerable fathers followed, the path that is called the path of salvation, which leads man to the Kingdom of Heaven.


Thousands thronged the Lavra showing support.


As for the Ukrainian government, they hold the property rights to both the Upper and Lower Lavra, which are the two divisions of the  Kiev Pechersk Lavra. There are also caves full of relics of saints who have struggled at the monastery. 

The government holding the property rights has been the case since Soviet times, and was never properly rectified, which has made the monks at the Lavra subject to the whims of the political class. Thus, the Ukrainian government, essentially declaring the UOC an agent of Moscow, in the case of the Upper Lavra simply refused to renew the UOC’s lease, which expired on 31 December last year, and in the case of the Lower Lavra, has unilaterally decided to annul the lease, based on a declaration by Zelensky. 

The Government of Ukraine refers to the holy relics of the caves as “museum exhibits,” and has warned the monks about trying to transfer any of them when and if they are forced to move. 


Reverencing holy relics.


Ukrainian Minister of Culture Alexander Tkachenko said on the matter,

I would like to emphasize, just in case, that in addition to real estate, there are also museum exhibits, more than 800, including the relics of saints, which were transferred to the monks for use, and there will be a separate audit of how much they are preserved there. 
I would like to warn … if the movable property, the actually museum exhibits, including relics, are somehow moved somewhere. The last review was in 2018, and all this was recorded, all objects are on the list. Any step that representatives of the UOC-MP can take regarding movable property, actually museum exhibits, will be recorded, and they will have criminal liability.


The minister then suggested the monks “knew what to do” to be able to stay in the Lavra, before mentioning priests that have moved to the schismatic Orthodox Church of Ukraine. Thus it would suggest pressure is being applied to cause the monks to enter into the schism. 

As the deadline looms, there is no simple solution in sight as to what will happen if or when the Ukrainian government attempts to evict the 100 or so monks from the complex.

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