Ukraine reclaims Kyiv cathedral amid religious controversy


Kyiv, Ukraine — The Ukrainian government has seized the main cathedral of a venerable historic church monastery formerly part of the Moscow Patriarchate and allowed its Ukrainian rival to use it for Orthodox Christmas services.

It comes as long-standing tensions between the two churches have escalated amid Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Ukraine’s Culture Minister Oleksandr Tkachenko said Thursday that the Dormition Cathedral and the 1,000-year-old Pechersk Lavra, also known as the Cave Monastery, in the Ukrainian capital have become state property after being leased to prisoners. The term of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) expired on December 31.

Tkachenko said on Friday that the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU) – the church of the same name – had applied for and received permission to hold services at the cathedral during the Orthodox Christmas celebration on Saturday.

In 2019, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church received the recognition of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople. The Patriarch of Moscow and most other Orthodox Patriarchs refused to accept this appointment, formalizing the split with the Russian Church.

The Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC), loyal to the Moscow Patriarchate since the 17th century, declared independence from the Moscow Patriarchate after Russia invaded Ukraine. The UOC gave Moscow the liturgical cold shoulder by abandoning the commemoration of Patriarch Kirill of Moscow as head of public worship and blessing its own holy oil instead of using Moscow’s supply.

But Ukrainian security agencies said he had close ties to Moscow. They made many raids on the holy places of the church, showing pictures of rubles, Russian passports and leaflets with messages from the Patriarch of Moscow.

Prominent leaders of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church have denied accusations of ties to Moscow, saying they have loyally supported Ukraine since the start of the war and that the government’s move is just a propaganda blow to Russia.

ABC News

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