Moscow patriarchate orthodox church’s lease on Lower Lavra terminated

10 March, 09:15 PM
The Great Bell Tower of the Kyiv Cave Monastery, January 6, 23 (Photo:REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko)

The Great Bell Tower of the Kyiv Cave Monastery, January 6, 23 (Photo:REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko)

The 2013 lease agreement between the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP) and Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra monastery has been terminated, according to a statement published on the monastery’s website on March 10.

Several hours later, the message has been scrubbed from the website, but Ukraine’s Culture Ministry confirmed UOC-MP has to vacate the premises by March 29.

"The Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra National Reserve (hereafter referred to as the Reserve) and the Holy Dormition Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (hereafter referred to as the Monastery) concluded Agreement No. 2 of July 19, 2013, on the free use of religious buildings and other property that is state property by a religious organization (hereafter referred to as the Agreement)," the statement reads.

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According to the message, the reserve (state-owned legal entity which holds ownership of the monastery) warned that the agreement would be terminated on March 29, 2023, based on the conclusions of an interdepartmental working group and a March 9 letter from the Culture Ministry. UOC-MP was urged to vacate the state-owned premises it leases on monastery grounds by March 29.

The leader of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU, which is unaffiliated with the Russian Orthodox Church), Metropolitan Epiphanius, said that the state is reviewing the perpetual lease agreement for the Lower Lavra by UOC-MP, as its transfer was carried out with multiple violations, in addition to documented legal violations over the past 20 years.

UOC-MP, in turn, said the decision to terminate the lease was an “ultimatum from Culture Ministry officials” and claimed it lacked legal justifications.

On Feb. 1, the State Service for Ethnic Policy and Freedom of Conscience concluded that the UOC-MP remains a structural unit of the Russian Orthodox Church, despite a statement of the Church Council on "full autonomy and independence."

On Jan. 19, the Ukrainian government introduced a bill to ban activities of religious organizations in Ukraine that are controlled by the aggressor state.

On Jan. 1, Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra Reserve terminated its agreements with UOC-MP to lease religious buildings on the territory of the Upper Lavra. On Jan. 7, for the first time in history, the head of the OCU, Metropolitan Epiphanius, performed a Christmas service in the Assumption Cathedral of the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra monastery.

On Dec. 2, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy enacted the National Security and Defense Council's decision to impose personal sanctions on representatives of religious organizations with centers of influence in Russia. The list includes 10 people, including former MP and cleric of the UOC-MP Vadym Novynskyi, the abbot of the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra Petro Lebid (Metropolitan Pavlo), and so-called metropolitans and bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church in occupied Crimea.

In 2022, Ukraine’s SBU security service began inspections of religious buildings of the UOC-MP throughout Ukraine. In many cases, the SBU found anti-Ukrainian literature and symbols.

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