Conflicts in Ukraine over church affiliation


Union of Orthodox Journalists, 3 May 2019


Reports in a number of news media to the effect that a priest of a church that was attacked by supporters of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (PTsU) beat a person during a confrontation turned out to be a lie.


The rector of the UPTs Holy Transfiguration church of the village of Chetvertnia, Father Serafim Simonivh, denied reports that in a confrontation of residents of the village in the night of 1 May on church territory a clergyman supposedly beat someone, the press service of the UPTs Volyn diocese reports.


We recall that on 29 April 2019, the UPTs parish in Chetvertnia held a parish meeting and decided not to transfer into the PTsU. A day later, activists of the PTsU held their own meeting in a local club and subsequently declared that, first 240, then 248, and finally 257 residents of the village voted. In their opinion, this meets the requirements of the law regarding transfers of religious parishes, where advocates of a transfer must constitute two-thirds.


"None of us has yet seen the minutes," says Father Serafim, the rector. In the end it turns out that the raiders forged statistics about the transfer into the PTsU. The rector of the church added that the UPTs parish expects that this weekend provocations on the part of PTsU activists will again occur against it.


"In the night of 1 May, people happened to notice that one of the initiators of the 'transfer' was driving toward the church. According to the priest, after he learned about this, he told his parishioners, and they also arrived at the church territory. There they saw two PTsU supporters, who evidently intended to enter the church. When they stopped them, they began acting aggressively toward their fellow villagers, and thus a scuffle occurred. The UPTs believers immediately called the police to the site of the incident. The law enforcement personnel composed a report about this event and left the village," the press service of the Volyn diocese writes.


The next day, false reports appeared in a number of biased news media that supposedly the believers attacked the supporters of the PTsU. In addition, it was reported, the UPTs priest allegedly beat a person during the altercation.


"Father Bogdan came along with me to the site of the incident, but that he supposedly beat someone, this is blatant nonsense and thus there are witnesses," Father Serafim commented.


As a local parishioner, Peter, explained in a commentary for the press service of the UPTs Volyn diocese, two unidentified persons were armed with bats and were sitting near the church building. "One of these two persons began beating another parishioner, who had come with me. In the end, people came running so those two men had to give in. Then the police arrived and everything calmed down," he explained.


Therefore, he said, it was the supporters of the transfer into the PTsU who were aggressive. But nobody used force on them and certainly nobody caused them severe bodily injuries.


In his turn, the priest also came to the church, but this happened after the incident. "Afterward I got dressed and went to the church," the batiushka explains. The priest maintains that he merely wanted to find out from the two men what they were doing, and in the end he was extremely surprised by the articles in the news media about the alleged use of "severe brutality" with regard to the PTsU supporters.


"I am a meek person; I am a priest. But my honor and dignity have been offended by accusing me of something I did not do. I never laid a finger on anybody. And it is unpleasant when on the Internet and in news media they begin to spread such a lie about me. I simply approached these people and asked why they had come to the church. Why had they not been at the services, when, for example, on Good Friday the holy shroud was carried? Why had they not been in the church and had not worshiped? the priest asks.


Earlier, the PTsU "honorary patriarch," Filaret Denisenko, declared that there have been no seizures of UPTs churches.


At the same time, the United Nations summit urged strengthening the defense of the rights of believers of the UPTs. (tr. by PDS, posted 3 May 2019)

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