First, let's talk about what is causing this conflict and why.
The Church of the Nativity of the Virgin Mary in Cherkasy is in all tourist guides for both pilgrims and secular travelers.
First of all, because of the legend that the consecration of the very first church of the Nativity of the Virgin Mary, which stood here, coincided with the liberation of Cherkasy from the Tatar Mongols. It is located in the old district of Cherkasy, on Blahovisna Street. It is said that the street is named so because of the location of three Orthodox and one Protestant churches. The Church of the Nativity of the Virgin Mary is also known for the fact that it was open even during the Soviet Union.
A peripheral but interesting fact. Bishop Yakiv Panchuk, who after the collapse of the Soviet Union was the abbot of the Pochayiv Monastery, began to serve here, supported Patriarch Filaret, and even tried to transfer the monastery to the Kyiv Patriarchate. This failed because of Russian agents who staged a riot: the monks sent here from Russia in a hurry simply drove the hierarch out. Neither the young Ukrainian state nor the then young and unrecognized Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate could equally counteract the KGB, especially in its "monastic" version. However, this detail about the Church of the Nativity of the Virgin Mary having Ukrainian autocephalous roots is a long time coming.
The church in Cherkasy was finally restored about 25 years ago.
Today, the media resources of the Russian Orthodox Church and the Moscow Patriarchate in Ukraine claim that it is a men's monastery. However, there is no monastery here and never has been.
Neither the state registration authorities nor resources such as youcontrol or opendatabot have confirmed to Ukrinform the existence of a monastery at 374 Blahovisna Street. Moreover, we made an official request to the Cherkasy Diocese of the Moscow Patriarchate to confirm legally that there is a monastery there. Unfortunately, the representatives of the Moscow Patriarchate in Cherkasy did not respond to either a phone call or a request to show us documents about the monastery registered there.
A little more history. It is known that the parish of the Nativity of the Virgin Mary has existed in Cherkasy since 1944. Ukrinform has certificates from the state archive of Cherkasy that a "religious society of the Nativity of the Virgin Mary of the Russian Orthodox Church" is registered here (in the original language). There is also a certificate that in 1989 the Cherkasy City Council gave permission for the completion of the church. There is also the first charter of the community of the Nativity of the Virgin Mary since independence.
The community of the Nativity of the Virgin Mary, which, together with priest Joseph Zasansky, left the Moscow Patriarchate in August 2023 and joined the OCU.
In fact, the transitions to the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU) in the Cherkasy region were going on at a fairly brisk pace, but then slowed down. And there is an explanation for this.
HOW THEY TRIED TO KEEP THE PRO-UKRAINIAN DIOCESE IN MOSCOW'S STABLE
For many years, the Cherkasy diocese of the UOC-MP was led by a bishop who was considered pro-Ukrainian, Metropolitan Sofroniy. He dreamed of autocephaly and was supposed to take part in the Unification Council, and, according to the current head of the Pechersk Lavra (OCU monastery), Father Abraham, who served under him at the time, the pro-Moscow lobby simply locked the bishop in his home and did not allow him to go to Kyiv. However, Bishop Sofroniy went online at the council in St. Sophia of Kyiv with wishes for its successful holding. Why is this important? The opinion of the bishop in the vertical of the MP church authorities is incredibly important. He sets the vector for the mood of the clergy (and therefore the faithful), he determines the degree of freedom (and this cannot be overestimated for a pastoral sermon). In other words, the Orthodox Cherkasy region, including the communities of the Moscow Patriarchate, was what it was historically (pro-Ukrainian), and Bishop Sofroniy, who died a year after the Tomos, contributed to and fostered this.
Thirty percent of the MP communities moved to the OCU.
And this, believe me, is a remarkable pace that could have been even more active if not for Sofroniy's successor. Moscow monitors the mood and personnel movements in the church field, choosing those who suit it. After Sofroniy, obviously, at the suggestion of Moscow's "comrades in cassocks and uniforms," the diocese was headed by Theodosius Snegirev. A distilled example of the "Russian world". Currently, Metropolitan Theodosius of Cherkasy is suspected under two articles of the Criminal Code, one of which is denying Russian aggression.
Law enforcers claim that in his communication with parishioners and his friends, Theodosius praised the top military and political leadership of the Russian Federation and the Kremlin leader personally, heroized Kadyrov and justified the war crimes of the Nazis.
The author has listened to Metropolitan Theodosius' sermons and easily believes this. Because his every word breathes hatred for the Orthodox Church of Ukraine. He calls for going underground "until the persecutors disappear from the face of the earth."
We have described the worldview and practice of the Cherkasy church leader in such detail so that you can understand how much control was exercised in the region over all parishes joining the OCU.
However, the parish of the Church of the Nativity of the Virgin Mary did transfer to the OCU in August 2023. For several months they were waiting for re-registration, which was completed in November.
On November 2, the Sixth Administrative Court of Appeal issued a ruling that upheld the decision of the court of first instance, confirming that the Kyiv Metropolis of the UOC (in our own words) is part of the ROC, is guided by the decisions of the ROC governing bodies, and must indicate its affiliation in its name. Specifically, within the framework of this lawsuit filed by the Moscow Patriarchate against the Ministry of Culture and Information Policy, there were restrictions on registration actions.
That is, all the grounds that made it impossible to register a parish that had transferred to the OCU disappeared. After November 5, the parish of the Church of the Nativity of the Virgin Mary was registered, as the faithful wanted, with the OCU.
That is, now the parishioners had everything they needed to legally serve in their church. Documents. The rector, Father Joseph, who moved with the community. Moreover, according to our data, the vicar [i.e., without a see] Bishop John lived in a separate apartment on the territory of the church, with whom, according to our sources, such a transition was agreed and who is also on the side of the OCU. That is, the faithful were ready for the transition to take place peacefully.
One more thing. Here, on the territory of the church, in a renovated house, several nuns lived. What this has to do with a "male monastery" is again unclear. However, the nuns were not in danger, as the transfer of the parish to the OCU was agreed with the bishop who ordained them.
THE ANATOMY OF PROVOCATION
On November 16, the believers came to the church with the assets and documents. But they were asked to wait for a lawyer to arrive, and then, according to Father Nazariy Zasansky, the rector's son, a power group of the Moscow Patriarchate showed up. The titushky beat the believers, locked themselves in the church, and held a new "vote" on the alleged "non-accession of the OCU."
Is this illegal? Is it violence? Yes, of course it is. But in fact, nothing new has happened. The Moscow Patriarchate has always done this everywhere. This is one of the models of slowing down the OCU: to bring clergy from other churches, seminarians under guard, and arrange everything as Moscow needs.
But this time it was not so in Cherkasy. On November 20, the OCU believers came to the church again, but this time there were more of them and among them were the military. The military, who are able to open the doors of their own church. And they had to open them by force.
Because the truth must be persistent and not powerless. Each time the Moscow Patriarchate came to the territory of a conquered state or territory after the Russian army. Each time, the ROC has personified loyalty to the Russian state and its course, no matter how criminal it may be. Each time, Moscow priests were loyal servants of looters and rapists. And the Cherkasy case only confirms that the goal of the ROC MP in Ukraine is not to preach the faith of Christ, but to try to keep the structures and churches of the MP in case the occupier returns, in order to fight for it together.
And the clash on November 20 between the brothers and brothers-in-arms, in which the former imitated believers and the latter were believers, was used by the structures of the Moscow Patriarchate as loud proof of "persecution for faith in Ukraine." It was such a convenient visualization of this "persecution".
Eventually, the faithful of the OCU entered the church and over the next two days, liturgical life there was restored. But the UOC-MP of the Cherkasy region is still enjoying the saga of "persecution and seizure of the monastery." Bishop Theodosius, in between online sermons about "Kyiv authorities and schismatics of the OCU," visited his "power wing" in the hospital. "Some of them. We don't know whether these church "wagners" were sick or imitating some kind of weakness, but they left the hospital just after the "suspected bishop" visited them.
This story seems to be just one of a number of stories that Moscow is preparing for us. For the events in the international arena look like a kind of counteroffensive by Moscow against the Orthodox Church of Ukraine. The scandalous "seizure" of their own church by their own believers is just one "argument" for the attackers. Let's see how this looks in a series of events.
In the West, Vadim Novinsky, a well-known ex-oligarch and leader of Moscow's church policy in Ukraine, hired the Amsterdam & Partners company, which publishes slander against the OCU. Recently, Novinsky's contract with the company was made public, which states that the services for the protection of the Moscow Patriarchate (including articles about the viciousness and criminality of the OCU) cost 1400 euros per hour. Details of the contract are available here.
There is no doubt that Russian money pays for the tour of former Fox News journalist Tucker Carlson, who spreads Russian narratives at public lectures and has now discovered a new "specialty" - "persecution of the UOC-MP."
The Kremlin regime is constantly complaining to the UN about the "oppression of religious freedoms" by the "Kyiv regime.»
Two days before the "exemplary raider seizure," Moscow again convened the UN Security Council, where it spoke about the oppression of Russian Orthodoxy in Ukraine.
Of course, this is a hypothesis, but knowing the style of the Russians, I fully assume that the "seizure of the monastery" in Cherkasy was ordered by the "Moscow comrades" to reinforce, so to speak, the effect of complaints to the UN.
Meanwhile, inside Ukraine, in the Verkhovna Rada, Russia is activating retired OPZZh-ists with their henchmen to block the final adoption of the law on the possibility of banning certain MP parishes. They are now demanding that the bill passed in the first reading be sent to the Venice Commission, which is known to mean many months of delay.
Moreover, the media resources of the Moscow Patriarchate also seem to be highly paid, trying to discredit the OCU every day with every publication.
When this article was being written, the author was sent a new work by Russian theologians - special services [they are often "two in one"], a book about how "the United States opposes Orthodoxy against the background of the Ukrainian crisis." The book is published in Russian and its goal is to strengthen the fifth column in Ukraine, to make the deceived fundamentalists stand "in the faith."
Undoubtedly, the goal of this activity is to destroy Ukrainian autocephaly. As much as the Tomos is a Ukrainian victory, it is a defeat for the delusional Russian mentality.
Russians may have different goals and methods. For example, to bring people and officials to the OCU who will destroy it from within. To do this, for example, they could hold another pseudo-unification "council" to legitimize the Russian Orthodox Church in Ukraine.
And also to simply bash the Ukrainian Church on all platforms inside and outside the country, destroying its authority.
In this story, we have only two choices: either to enter the church, as in Cherkasy, or to wait for months, as in Poltava (Ukrinform recently wrote about the situation there).
In the history of the world, there are hardly any examples of church conflicts being resolved in any other way than in the first case. Ukraine also has its own, not so long-standing memory of such things. Let's recall the conflicts that went on for 20-35 years in the western regions between Orthodox and Greek Catholics over the right to worship in churches. And what happened? Everything settled down and healed. It will be the same now, we just need to reliably block Moscow's claims to spiritual power over Ukraine.
But whatever we do, the main thing is to believe in our Church, to strengthen it with prayer, love, donations, and good deeds. And no lobbyist or FSB agent will do anything, they will be powerless before us. Because no matter how global Moscow's influence is, no matter how big Moscow's money is, the Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the Church is much higher.
Lana Samokhvalova, Kyiv
The first photo: Suspilne Cherkasy