‘Woe to you, have fear,’ senior Orthodox bishop tells Zelensky
A senior bishop in the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) has issued a strongly-worded rebuke to President Vladimir Zelensky over his role in a crackdown that is gripping the country’s largest religious denomination.
“I am telling you, Mr President, and your entire pack, that our tears will not fall to the ground, but on your head,” Metropolitan Pavel said in a video address on Wednesday.
“You think today that after taking power on our backs, [based] on our wishes, you can treat us like that. Our Lord will not forgive this action, neither to you nor to your family,” the bishop warned.
Pavel heads the Kiev Pechersk Lavra, the largest Orthodox monastery in the country, established some 970 years ago. The Ukrainian ministry of culture denied the UOC a renewal of tenancy in the property, meaning that some 220 monks living there would be “kicked out to the streets,” as Pavel described it. The eviction deadline comes this week.
The bishop blasted the president for refusing to meet senior UOC clerics to discuss the situation. This was particularly hypocritical, he remarked, considering that, as a presidential candidate, Zelensky had sought and received the blessing to run for office from Metropolitan Onufry, the Church leader.
“You have failed to stop the culture minister, who is possessed by hateful malice and devilish fury. This means he is acting with your permission; Woe to you, have fear,” the bishop said.
The minister, Aleksandr Tkachenko, has said that UOC monks could stay at Lavra if they agreed to defect to the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU), a rival schismatic organization backed by Kiev.
The OCU received recognition as a legitimate church in 2019 from the Constantinople Patriarchate, causing a major schism among the Orthodox faithful of the world. Metropolitan Pavel has also accused Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople of having given impetus to the crackdown with this move.
“Woe and shame on you, so-called patriarch [Bartholomew], because everything done today is done with your ill-fated and evil blessing,” he said.
The bishop also likened the current detractors of the UOC to the Bolshevik and Communist leaders who cracked down on all religions when they were in power. He expressed faith that his church will survive the new period of suppression, just like it did the previous one.
“You’ll disappear like dew in the sun, because all who take up the sword will perish by the sword,” he said, quoting in the same sentence from the Ukrainian national anthem and from the Gospels.