Moscow Church expulsion from the Lavra – BBC scenarios

March 14,2023 556
Moscow Church expulsion from the Lavra – BBC scenarios

As BBC News Ukraine reported on Tuesday, a few days after the government’s decision to terminate the lease agreement for the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra with the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP), the main scenarios for how the situation may develop further have become clearer.

While not ruling out the possibility of confrontation, the government hopes for a peaceful exit of pro-Moscow church representatives, although litigation may delay the situation. The last day the UOC-MP can legally stay in the Lavra is March 29.

As hinted at by the Minister of Culture of Ukraine, Oleksandr Tkachenko, the most acceptable scenario is for the monks to move from the UOC-MP to the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU). In this case, they could stay in the Lavra or officially the National Kyiv-Pechersk Historical Cultural Reserve.

“After the audit of the [special interdepartmental] commission is completed, no one says that the life of the monks in the Lavra will stop, but this is a reason for the monks to decide on ways they can stay in the Lavra,” Tkachenko said during the telethon. He added that there are options to stay: “Undoubtedly, they [the monks] are well aware of this. I spoke today, among other things, with priests who had moved from the UOC-MP to the OCU.”

Later, Tkachenko clarified on ICTV that the situation would change fundamentally when the UOC-MP Chancellor, Metropolitan Anthony, and the Lavra’s abbot, Metropolitan Pavlo, leave the monastery. Both had been whom sanctioned by the President of Ukraine at the end of last year on suspicion of Russian influence.

Several knowledgeable interlocutors have also mentioned there are lists of those wishing to join the OCU and remain in the Lavra.

In a conversation with BBC News Ukraine, one of the bishops of the UOC-MP predicted that the church representatives could leave the Lavra without conflict, and the church itself is considering this option.

However, he did not rule out the option of a violent confrontation if the head of the UOC-MP, Metropolitan Onufriy, calls for resisting the state’s demands to the bitter end. According to the bishop, Metropolitan Pavlo has nothing to lose, so he will try to “keep fighting.”

Another scenario that could postpone the resolution of the situation for a long time is litigation. As a source in the government told the BBC, nothing may happen on March 29 because the UOC-MP may appeal the reserve’s decision regarding the contract, which will delay the issue resolution.

On March 10, the state, represented by the Lavra reserve, informed the UOC-MP that March 29 was the last day of the lease agreement for the premises of the so-called Lower Lavra.

As Lavra explained to the BBC, the matter concerns 79 buildings that the UOC-MP received for indefinite use in 2013. The special interdepartmental commission has found that the UOC-MP violated the contract terms.

The same day, in a conversation with the BBC, Metropolitan Klyment, head of the UOC-MP’s information and education department, called the authorities’ actions a provocation.

On Sunday, the UOC-MP gathered thousands of believers at the Lavra for a service conducted by its Primate, Metropolitan Onufriy. There, he commented on the situation for the first time and prayed for the authorities to change their minds.

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