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With cassocks - out!

With cassocks - out! © Информационно-просветительский отдел УПЦ
Will the Ukrainian authorities be able to liberate the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra from the UOC-MP?

The situation around the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra is escalating: on March 29, the monks of the UOC-MP must leave the reserved walls of the monastery. The decision to terminate the agreement on the use of the monument by the monastery was allegedly made due to violations of the rules of use. However, judging by the comments of the Minister of Culture and Information Policy of Ukraine Oleksandr Tkachenko, it is not at all necessary for monks to leave the monastery. It will be enough if the monastery "fulfills certain conditions." In particular, the “sanctioned persons” must leave.

The hegumen of the monastery, Metropolitan Pavlo Lebid, one of those “sanctioned persons”, in turn, declares that “they will not go anywhere.” In any case, these people will not just leave quietly. The scandal is growing: the Patriarch of Moscow and all Rus', the Pope, the UN Secretary General, as well as the “lads from the front line” are already involved in it. And there is nothing surprising in this: the situation around the KPL (Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra) is a kind of cross-section of Ukrainian society and politics. It demonstrates both historical layers of problems in state-church politics and the wounds of the present day.


Ruins and Loyalty

From a formal point of view, the state has every reason to break the agreement on use: the construction and reconstruction of the monument monastery on the reserved territory did not really stop from the moment it was transferred to the use of the monastic community. What, by the way, the community is proud of, because it "raised the monastery from the ruins." The attitude towards the "ruins" of the church and the museum has always been the opposite. Although, as a rule, the church won: the monastery continued to be built, and the critics of the museum workers were crushed against Metropolitan Pavlo, who was like a cliff.

So, better late than never? The investigation of illegal construction in the KPL and the decision to demolish the also illegally built temple/kiosk on the foundations of the Church of the Tithes are the right decisions. Correct not because they are “good”, but because they are legal.

Although the question inevitably arises: is this a precedent? Now it is possible to do the same with all the other temples (and not only temples) that were built with violations - in historical and environmental zones, on the site of squares and playgrounds? In addition, this issue affects not only temples. Random illegal construction in our beautiful country is the most common thing. So, now everything must be demolished?

Because if not, then the KPL and the kiosk in place of the Church of the Tithes will become an example not of the triumph of the law - albeit belated, but of selective justice, in which the decisive role is played not so much by the degree of impudence of the developer, but by the degree of loyalty of this individual to the current government.

In the story of the KPL, unfortunately, the answer is obvious: illegal construction on the territory of the reserve is not a reason, but an excuse. The Ministry of Culture and Information Policy actually said this: no one is going to expel the monks and close the monastery. Even despite the fact that the monks from the monastery created a construction lawlessness in the reserved area. The monks can stay in the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra if "the conditions are met." It should be noted that there is nothing new in this, the rules of the game are the same - both construction and the ability to use what was built then and now are bought for the same price, namely loyalty to the current government.


Troubadour of the Apocalypse

What is the expression of loyalty in the case of the monastery? Are the demands feasible and is a compromise possible?

I'm afraid neither the government nor the church has a clear answer to these questions. Experts from all sides offer a variety of solutions: from the Solomonic ones - let the OCU use the Upper Lavra, and the UOC-MP - the Lower Lavra, to radical: suitcase – station – Russia. Interesting proposals include the possible transfer of the monastery under the direct care of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople. Although this will not be an easy decision for the UOC-MP, which, following its Moscow spiritual guide, severed relations with Bartholomew I of Constantinople.

How exactly to proceed, the bishops of the UOC-MP must decide on March 20 at the Holy Synod. However, I would not be too optimistic: the format of the Holy Synod involves, first of all, the protection of the interests not so much of the church as a whole, but of the episcopal corporation. It should be noted that it will protect "its own people" - i.e. bishops - at any cost.

The scandalous hegumen of the Lavra monastery has already set to work: he habitually declares and frightens with the apocalypse, which "will start from Kyiv." Metropolitan Pavlo - known for the fact that he often declares that there will be the terrible doomsday. Although here is a curious fact: when the Russian army was advancing on the capital, Metropolitan Pavlo did not say anything like that - apparently, he was sure that his “apocalypse” would bypass him personally and the occupiers would not touch him. The Ukrainian government is a different matter...

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The hegumen's tactics look outdated, but it doesn't matter: the main thing is that it works. The hegumen of the temple released a video message to the world: he and the second sanctioned Metropolitan Anthony, on behalf of the brethren and laity (present in the frame), ask "not to allow lawlessness to be committed." Since only Metropolitan Pavlo speaks in the frame, and the brethren are silently present, he seems to have dissolved in the collective monastic “we”. Everything turns out to be simple: Metropolitan Pavlo diluted his personal responsibility with a collective one, turned his personal problem with the law into a problem for the entire monastery, and presented the salvation of his own skin as the salvation of Christ's Truth itself. Thus, now for his iniquities and atrocities, everyone or no one at all should be punished.

It was clear that events would unfold in just such a way, that the bishops would take just such an irreconcilable position, it was clear. From the very beginning, as soon as the authorities and law enforcement agencies decided to work with the Augean stables of the UOC-MP, they had to act quickly and decisively in order to prevent the opponent from taking a breath and regrouping. Or not act at all.

Alas, the authorities approached the Gordian knot of church problems with a blunt sword and foggy glasses. They did not complete its decisive attack on the UOC-MP. The end in this case is not labeling the “collaborating church”, not taking away property under a far-fetched pretext, and not leaking a pornographic material into the network, damaging the reputation of a little-known monk. The end in such cases is the trial and sentence of a specific person for a specific offense. Also, the end may mark the liquidation of a church structure that violated the law and undermined national security - which is proven (and the evidence is not classified).

Thus, alas, with respect to the case of the hegumen of the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra, Metropolitan Pavlo, nor with respect to the manager of the Metropolitanate of Kyiv, Metropolitan Anthony, this final full stop was made. Both bishops were sanctioned, but not put on trial. Also, as can be seen, they have not lost the opportunity to influence the church and use it for their own purposes.

Silence of the Lambs

I do not know how to explain the fact that the authorities decided to slow down the offensive on the "spiritual front" just at the moment when it should have entered a decisive phase. Perhaps they hoped for an easy and, most importantly, spectacular victory on the "internal front" because the viewer extremely needs regular victories. In this situation, instead of an easy victory, the government understood what all its predecessors understood: church politics is a very slippery stage for PR. Therefore, now, when the moment is lost, in order to continue the planned policy, it will be necessary to raise the stakes. Now it will be necessary to bring the matter right up to the threat to take away the most precious thing they have from the obstinate priests.

However, the authorities could simply hope that the church would understand their signals and take their own measures. They will show, so to speak, goodwill: they will purge their ranks and, at the same time, their reputation on their own.

Although in this case, the calculation of the Office of the President of Ukraine also turned out to be fundamentally wrong. Instead of a "step towards" the authorities encountered not only the refusal of their demands, but also caused the disappointment of the opponents. The problem is not so much that "Zelenskyy turned out to be no better than Poroshenko," but that he did not turn out to be "worse," namely, just as incapable of completing the matter.

Take at least a problem named Pasha Mercedes. It was noticeable that the "personal persecution" of Metropolitan Pavlo (as well as Anthony) did not provoke protests either from the leadership of the Metropolitanate of Kyiv or from the brethren of the monastery. Moreover, many in the church hoped that they would finally get rid of the odious presumptuous viceroy of the KPL. In addition, whose personality everyone - from the sexton to the Metropolis of Kyiv and all Rus' is tired of. Everyone is sick of him already. Maybe it's childish on the part of the church to expect someone else to take the pain out of their ass. Alas, the church itself cannot do this. Not only because the "pain in their ass" has great connections, but because it would be against the own rules of the UOC-MP.

I want to be wrong, but I'm afraid the "coup in the UOC-MP", which has been much talked about and written about lately, is almost impossible. Of course, there are different people in the UOC-MP, including Ukrainian patriots, but one should not place too much hope on them. In Moscow-style Orthodoxy, a “revolution from below” is impossible. This whole structure is built and supported by the silence of the lambs. “Obedience” at all levels replaces absolutely everything for a believer brought up in the Russian Orthodox tradition, including the mind, honor and conscience of each individual. With very few exceptions.

A "revolution from above", alas, is also unlikely - and, I'm afraid, the meeting of the Synod on March 20, where the bishops must decide on the fate of the Lavra, will confirm this. One might think, why don't they "ask" the two brothers to give in and leave, if in this way one can continue to remain among the "holy walls"? Although not a single bishop will go to such a dangerous precedent. Someone will not be ready to “bend” under the demands of “godless power”, but the majority will not violate the principle of immunity of the “prince of the church”. The tradition of Russian Orthodoxy does not allow this.

The Patriarch of Rome and Russian monks

Everyone who could, from Fox News to the Patriarch of Rome, has already stood up for the rights of the UOC-MP. We heard the point of view even of those people who have already been almost forgotten, namely Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and deacon in exile Vadym Novynskyi. However, their opinions were not presented to the public in order to convince the Ukrainian authorities to take their hands off the property in which (in particular, Novynskyi) invested a lot of his own money. This was done in order to radicalize the situation even more - to irritate not only Bankova Street, but also disturb the tense Ukrainian society as a whole.

Unexpectedly, Patriarch Francis exacerbated the situation even more. With inimitable naivety (I don't know if it was feigned or sincere), he spoke out in defense of the "Russian monks" and noted that worshipers should not be driven out of the monastery, "no matter what confession they belong to." The Holy See actually made it clear that it considers the UOC to be the Russian Church.

Well, no one doubted that the UOC-MP has connections and great opportunities to be heard in the world. The only pity is that it does not use them so that the world hears not only about the "persecution of defenseless monks", but also about the aggression and genocide against Ukrainians. It seems that the leadership of the church, by and large, does not care what will happen to the country and its people. The main thing is to "preserve the shrines" under their control - without it, they would no longer be "shrines". People (unless they are bishops) can be sacrificed. Such an indifferent attitude towards specific human lives and the lives of entire communities is also part of Russian Orthodoxy and, more broadly, of the Russian tradition in general.

"Blood type"

Neither the secular nor the ecclesiastical authorities have so far shown their willingness to compromise. Perhaps it is in the peculiarities of wartime. Perhaps - in the personal qualities of the leaders. All that remains for us is to wait for March 29 and shudder from the exchange of remarks between opponents. Nothing new: on both sides they appeal to the laws, rights and “interests of the people”, and immediately reinforce all this with hints of possible bloodshed.

A People's Deputy from the party in power Poturaev warns that "veterans" can come to the Lavra if anything happens (to help with the eviction of the monks, one might think about this method - if difficulties arise). Sanctioned Metropolitan Anthony replies that if anyone comes, it may turn out that “brothers will meet on the territory of the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra on opposite sides of the confrontation.”

Appeals from both sides to the "lads" cause nausea. To begin with, the participants in the "dialogue" are, in fact, calling on the devil of the civil war. Continuing with the fact that juggling "lads" and "veterans" for the sake of protecting their skin and property or maintaining their rating, both sides do not hide that they are ready to trade in someone else's blood.

Once again: nothing new. "Bloodshed" in this context has always been present, and for the last 25 years - as a purely rhetorical figure. A couple of years ago, appeals to "bloodshed" caused a fit of yawning, but now the conditions have changed. The old rules no longer apply. After a year of full-scale war, bloodshed has become something common for the vast majority of the country's citizens.

Blood is no longer a figure of speech or a taboo. In the case of a forceful scenario for the eviction of the monastery, provocations, which are almost inevitable in such cases, can be very expensive.

The stakes are high and it is not yet clear how far each of the parties is ready to go, what they are ready to risk in order to preserve who is the “holy walls” and who is the image of an “uncompromising fighter”.

Read this article in russian and Ukrainian.

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