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Message dated 25 September 2023 from the Holy Synod of the UOC

Message of the Holy Synod of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church

to the bishops, clergy, monastics, and all faithful children

of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church

dated 25 September 2023

Your Eminences and Graces!

All-honourable fathers! Dear brothers and sisters!

In the times of turbulent trials for the Ukrainian people, our Church, like a loving mother, embraces all its children with its prayer and mercy. And just like a mother loves all her children, regardless of the fact that some of them listen to her instructions, and some defiantly neglect their mother’s care, our Ukrainian Orthodox Church never divides its flock on the basis of political and social preferences and never divides the Ukrainian society into those who are faithful to it and those who have forgotten the place of their baptism and the place of the baptism of their parents and ancestors and who now allow themselves to blaspheme against the Church of God and disregard the pastors with whose priestly hands those people themselves were once immersed into the font of Baptism to be born into Eternal Life.

The Church prays for the whole Ukrainian state, encourages to respect its laws and every day performs social and volunteer service for everyone who needs it, not only for those who are loyal to it. For the Lord Himself teaches us to do so, saying: ‘If ye love them which love you, what reward have ye?’ (Matt. 5, 46).

When we say ‘Church’, we mean by this word, of course, the entire people of God — not only the clergy and monastics but also all believers, who, together with their spiritual pastors, share the burden of trials of the contemporary period in the being of Ukrainian Orthodoxy. Some try to poison that people of God with anti-Church propaganda, intimidation, and temptations without any remorse. But joint prayers and divine services, which unite thousands of believers of our Church around Orthodox shrines, attest that coercion and slander cannot divert the people of God from the path determined by its religious convictions. It becomes especially clear when we see that churches which have been seized, that is, taken away from the faithful of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, remain empty even on great feasts. In particular, such is the situation in the majestic cathedrals of the Holy Dormition Kyiv Caves Lavra and in other shrines. Holy places, where fervent prayer for the Ukrainian state, its authorities, army, and people sounded every day, have been locked with large barn locks after the so-called change of the denominational jurisdiction.

‘Except the LORD keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain’ (Ps. 126, 1) — we read in the divinely inspired Book of Psalms. In the times of Ukraine’s sufferings from the full-fledged Russian aggression, those words from the Bible expose the criminal actions of the initiators of the church discord, as a result of which, for the first time since the downfall of the atheistic regime, the celebration of the Divine Liturgy has stopped in churches where prayers were offered up for ages. Prayers for defenders of Ukraine, for wounded and captured warriors, for the dead, and for all who suffer, whose tears only God can wipe away, has also stopped there. Instead, the desecration of churches done by people who mercilessly crush windows and doors, mutilate holy chancels, and beat up Christians during the forceful seizures not only does not invoke God’s blessing but also defies God. It is clear to everybody that those who tacitly condone the impunity of the so-called activists, who turn a blind eye to overt sacrilege, which is imposed upon the Ukrainian society as a norm, will also be faced with the consequences of that challenge to God by those activists. A spade should be called a spade: the initiators and principal offenders of the church raiding are outright spiritual enemies of the Ukrainian state, whose actions only worsen the destructive consequences of the Russian aggression. For ‘God is not mocked’ (Gal. 6, 7).

The situation around the Holy Dormition Kyiv Caves Lavra is no less a shame. It has been created entirely by the Ministry of Culture and Information Policy of Ukraine and has shocked Christians from different parts of the globe. The faithful are not allowed to enter the territory of the Lower Lavra in order to pray near the incorrupt and wonderworking relics of the Monastic Fathers of the Kyiv Caves. Presently, not only Kyivans but also pilgrims from other cities and countries, for whom it is a must to visit the Lavra for prayer in these hard times and who try to do it, cannot get to the shrine.

A situation has arisen in which only Orthodox Christians find themselves limited in their right to perform a prayerful veneration near the world-revered objects of worship, whereas pilgrimages of followers of other denominations and religions are ensured by using administrative resource. It should also be noted that believing people will never agree to the demeaning treatment of relics as ‘museum exhibits’, which is exactly how those objects of worship were called by state officials more than once. The actions of officials of the Ministry of Culture and Information Policy of Ukraine on the territory of the Lower Lavra are striking with the lawlessness in the legal and moral areas towards the monks of the Lavra, students and lecturers of the Kyiv Theological Schools, as well as believers and pilgrims. In such a situation, we put all our hope on God, who, ever since the times of Venerable Anthony of the Kyiv Caves, the founder of the Lavra, has more than once and in a marvellous way restrained the plans of oppressors of the monastery and protected its inhabitants.

The hierarchs who are being subjected to criminal prosecution and who are forcibly restricted in communication with their flock need special prayerful support today. As lawyers note, the charges brought against them do not have convincing confirmation in the materials of the court cases, and the process of obtaining evidence and the trial themselves are accompanied by the brazen violation of the laws of Ukraine. The Holy Synod of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church is grateful to all who, to the best of their ability, help the persecuted hierarchs. We particularly thank the Primates and members of the episcopate of the Local Orthodox Churches and religious figures from various countries of the world who have shown their support.

Dear brothers and sisters! The Lord has blessed us to live in a time which especially demands living faith, full of love. Against the background of large-scale violations of the state legislation and international rules concerning the human rights and freedoms — the rights and freedoms of the faithful of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church — the question often arises: how should Orthodox Christians respond to these challenges? Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself has given us the answer: ‘Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you’ (Matt. 5, 44). Entrusting his church life to God, a Christian should ‘not in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth’ (1 John 3, 18) show love and kindness to others in the circumstances of a total lack of those qualities. In difficult historical periods of the church history, Christian love and kindness in response to all forms of evil changed the world and elevated the Church to new levels of its blossom. So, now, too, in our concern for the future of the Church, every one of us should focus not on noisily confronting people who are hostile towards us, but on bearing witness of Christ and His Church with our deeds, reflecting God Himself, who is Love, in our words and deeds.

May the Lord, by His grace, bless the Ukrainian state and its people with life in peace, protecting them from every enemy and adversary, for unto Him alone is blessing, and honour, and glory, and power for ever and ever (Rev. 5, 13).

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