Kiev orders monks to vacate iconic monastery
Some 200 monks of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) currently residing in the iconic Kiev-Pechersk Lavra monastery have been ordered to remove themselves from the premises, according to an announcement made by Ukraine’s Minister of Culture and Information Policy.
Alexander Tkachenko wrote on his Telegram channel on Tuesday that the ministry’s special commission had completed work on officially transferring the monastery, which he described as state property, for use by the Kiev-Pechersk Historical-Cultural Preserve.
He stated that all UOC representatives must now immediately terminate all activity in the monastery, vacate its premises and return the property to the preserve, and must do so within three working days.
Tkachenko noted that if the UOC refuses to comply, the ministry will file a lawsuit in order to “remove obstacles to the use of the property by the preserve.” Tkachenko later added that representatives of the monastery had refused to accept the act on the transfer of state property.
“This is a truly historic decision and a difficult task – but the Lavra must be Ukrainian, and it [will return] to the state,” the minister concluded.
Established in 1051, the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra is one of the first monasteries on the territory of ancient Rus and the oldest monastery in modern Ukraine. It is considered one of the chief Eastern Orthodox shrines. However, the site has become the center of a major religious dispute as two entities claiming to be Ukraine’s true orthodox church have battled over its legal status.
Technically, the monastery belongs to the Ukrainian government as a historical preserve, but was granted to the UOC to use under a 2013 agreement. However, Kiev announced earlier this year that it had unilaterally terminated the lease agreement, accusing the UOC of unspecified violations, of being pro-Russian, and of being a threat to the security and spirituality of the country. The church had already formally severed its ties to Moscow and officially condemned Russia’s military operation in Ukraine.
Kiev now reportedly intends on transferring use of the Lavra to the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU), which was established with the support of the Ukrainian government In 2018. The OCU remains largely unrecognized and is considered by the Russian Orthodox Church to be schismatic.
Russia, meanwhile, has repeatedly protested against Kiev’s persecution of Orthodox Christians in Ukraine. A third of Ukraine’s regions have recently outlawed the UOC and either seized its churches and properties or turned them over to the OCU.