Let me start with some private remarks, since it could be legitimate for readers to boost these points.
Sure, I’m an Orthodox believer who has — twice — worshipped with the monks of the Monastery of the Kiev Caves. I’ve walked its matrix of underground sanctuaries, tombs and monastic cells. It’s onerous for me to think about one thing extra horrifying than troopers with machine weapons contained in the Lavra, passing the our bodies of quite a few saints. I confess that, for a decade, I’ve prayed that we might not see a army takeover of this sacred website by forces on both facet of the divides inside Ukraine.
Sure, I noticed the New York Occasions report with this headline: “Ukraine Raids Holy Site Amid Suspicion of Orthodox Church Tied to Moscow.” I’ve learn a dozen or so different mainstream media accounts of the rising tensions in regards to the present Ukrainian administration contemplating some form of Lavra takeover.
All of those experiences are primarily based on info from authorities officers and the leaders of the brand new Orthodox Church of Ukraine, which was — relying on the sources cited —created by Western Ukrainian leaders, the U.S. State Division (underneath the administrations of Donald Trump and Joe Biden), the federal government of Turkey and/or the first-among-equals Ecumenical Patriarch who leads the tiny Orthodox physique that is still primarily based in Istanbul.
These experiences proceed to disregard or downplay the statements and actions of the historic Ukrainian Orthodox Church, led by Metropolitan Onuphry, which has — since the day of the Russian invasion — burdened its whole opposition to this motion of the Vladimir Putin authorities in Moscow. This church, the canonical church of Ukraine for a lot of generations, has taken steps to chop its ties to Orthodox leaders in Moscow, whilst its leaders have acknowledged they don’t have the clear authority to take action. They look like pleading for the broader world of Orthodoxy (as in patriarches of a number of historical church buildings, not simply Istanbul) to intervene, by some means, on this disaster.
As a rule, mainstream journalists have expressed little curiosity within the precise Orthodox traditions and legal guidelines linked to this tragedy. Specifically, the press has ignored the worldwide voices of the Orthodox who oppose Putin, however assist Metropolitan Onuphry and, thus, the monks of the Lavra.
Frankly, my head is spinning as I attempt to cope with the myriad journalism points concerned in overlaying this huge story. I’m conscious that almost all journalists are restricted in what they’ll cowl, as a consequence of language points and the problem of on-site work within the midst of this battle. I wish to take a look at two points on this Occasions report as a result of — it is a optimistic — it consists of some remarks from an precise monk from the Kievan Caves. Corresponding to:
Father Hieromonk Ioan, a member of the Kyiv monastery, stated that the clergy there weren’t loyal to Moscow however didn’t draw back from the shut historic ties with Russia. “We’ve sure relations with Russia and it’s painful for us what’s going on now,” he stated in an interview outdoors the monastery. …
Father Hieromonk Ioan stated that the clergy there merely needed to hope in peace. “Crucial is that the warfare is over — we’re praying for that,” he stated. “For the responsible to be punished and for us to stay in peace and to not be afraid of tomorrow.”
With that as a backdrop, right here is the overture to the Times report:
KYIV, Ukraine — The Ukrainian safety companies … raided one of many holiest websites for Orthodox Christians, saying they have been scouring a 1,000-year-old monastery within the coronary heart of Kyiv for Russian saboteurs among the many clerics and weapons amid the relics, whilst pilgrims prayed within the caves beneath.
The hunt for Russian spies on the sprawling Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra, or Monastery of the Caves, was a vivid demonstration of the depth of mistrust in Ukraine towards a department of the Japanese Orthodox Church that till this 12 months adopted leaders in Moscow, and has been suspected by many Ukrainians of being a Kremlin-aligned fifth column. Thousands and thousands of Ukrainians belong to a different department unbiased of Moscow.
As of final month, officers have stated, 33 monks had been arrested for aiding Russia because it invaded in February, most of them charged with gathering intelligence and feeding it to Moscow’s forces.
It was unclear if any arrests have been made or criminal activity found on Tuesday, however the safety companies warned that church buildings made an ideal hiding place for these seeking to tear Ukraine other than inside.
I’ve contacted journalists who’re studying on-the-ground experiences and paperwork. Here’s a query price pursuing: Have monks been arrested or have they merely been served papers by the Ukrainian Safety Service saying that they’re being investigated?
Clearly, there are a whole lot of monks serving within the historic Ukrainian Orthodox Church. It’s completely potential that some are sympathetic to the Russian invasion, whilst their leaders have opposed it and have actively labored with Orthodox believers serving within the Ukrainian army, with refugees and with these caught up within the bloodshed brought on by the invasion.
My journalism query: At this level, is there any approach for journalists to independently confirm any of this factual info? Does the historic Ukrainian Orthodox Church nonetheless have a functioning press workplace or has this, in impact, been shut down by the federal government?
The Occasions report additionally features a reference to an incident linked to a worship service contained in the Lavra — however not DURING the service. It helps to know that many voters are allowed to enter the large monastery advanced and participate in companies of the Divine Liturgy, vespers, and so on. It could be unimaginable to display screen the a whole lot, even 1000’s, of people that do that throughout a typical week. Like I stated, I took half in companies throughout my two visits to Ukraine, though I don’t communicate Ukrainian and I had a restricted means to observe rites in old-church Slavonic (the liturgical language of the church).
I can’t stress how vital social-media experiences about this incident have been within the firestorm surrounding the Lavra. Right here is the naked bones of the Occasions reference:
The raid got here a number of days after a priest, Mykhailo Omelyan, launched a video that he stated was taken by a graduate pupil exhibiting folks at a chapel on the monastery cheering for Russia. “Motherland is waking up — Russia,” folks might be heard singing within the video.
The Ukrainian authorities stated they’d launch an investigation to find out its authenticity.
“Those that, within the situations of a full-scale warfare unleashed by Russia towards Ukraine, are ready for the ‘awakening of Mom Russia’ ought to perceive that this harms the safety and pursuits of Ukraine and our residents,” stated Vasyl Malyuk, head of the Ukrainian safety service. “And we won’t tolerate such manifestations.”
First, who’s Father Mykhailo Omelyan? A number of on-line searches would recommend that — no shock — he’s a frontrunner in media and educational buildings of the brand new Orthodox Church of Ukraine, the physique that’s making an attempt to realize management of the Lavra. This does NOT imply info from this supply needs to be ignored. It does imply that it needs to be considered with the identical form of skepticism that mainstream reporters would apply to voices within the church beforehand tied to Moscow.
On-line, there are debates about whether or not the the video is quite previous or from a latest service. Is it new audio blended with a special video, maybe inserting singing from outdoors the Lavra at a brand new location? It’s onerous to inform (click here to watch the clip).
However let’s think about whether or not some worshippers from outdoors the Lavra are “cheering for Russia.” What’s the music on the coronary heart of this controversy (see the YouTube video at the top of this post).
To begin with, it is a fashionable music primarily based on a poem written in 2004 by the trendy Russian poet Nina Borodai. It isn’t an Orthodox liturgical textual content. It’s a prayer glorifying St, Mary, the Mom of God (Theotokos).
The music affords thanksgiving for the autumn of the Soviet Union and the rebuilding of Orthodox church buildings and monasteries within the years thereafter. There are references to particular areas and even particular icons. Right here is one translation to English, however I’ve seen variations. It is a lengthy poem, however listed below are some vital sections:
Mom of God, Mom of God,
Mom of sunshine, love and kindness,
You’re my hope, Mom of God,
And it’s time for fantastic insights. …
Mom of God, Mom of God,
A picturesque supply of miracles,
All Holy Russia prays to you,
And valleys and mountains and forests.
Throughout Muscovy, Ryazan,
On the Saratov facet, Throughout the
Urals, Siberia and Bryansk
Consecrate all of the church buildings to you.
Domes, domes within the sky are blue,
I can not depend the bells,
The ringing floats, floats over Russia,
Mom Russia is awakening.
Clearly, it’s essential that the references to “Mom Russia” are to not the trendy Russian authorities and even the present Russian Orthodox Church.
As soon as once more, we’re speaking in regards to the “Rus,” as within the broader world of Slavic Orthodoxy. Here’s a lengthy passage from a 2018 column I wrote about this topic:
The good prince Vladimir had an issue within the 12 months 986, whereas striving to construct unity within the Kievan Rus, his community of Japanese Slavic and Finnic tribes.
The previous pagan gods and goddesses weren’t sufficient. So the prince dispatched ambassadors to research Islam, Judaism, Catholicism and the Orthodox religion of the Christian East.
After they returned to Kiev, their report included this passage about Byzantium: “We went into the Greek lands, and we have been led into a spot the place they serve their God, and we didn’t know the place we have been, in heaven or on earth. … All we all know is that God lives there with folks and their service is best than in another nation. … We can’t stay any extra in paganism.”
So Vladimir surrendered his concubines and was baptized in 988, whereas commanding his folks to transform. Orthodoxy got here to the lands of the Rus.
This early chronicle was, in keeping with church custom, written by St. Nestor of the good Kiev-Pechersk Monastery, based in 1051. Pilgrims proceed to flock to the Monastery of the Kiev Caves to see its lovely church buildings, hovering bell tower, the labyrinthine underground tunnels and the incorrupt our bodies of many saints.
As I put this, in a Facebook post written just after the Russian invasion, noting info from my visits to Ukraine:
Here’s what I heard, by way of ideas that European-Ukrainians and Russian-Eukrainians may agree on.
* Soviets handled Ukraine horribly. Bloody reminiscences that stay vivid.
* Soviets crushed two completely different cultures into one nation, guaranteeing strife — frequent Soviet tactic (assume Yugoslavia) to focus tensions away from Moscow.
* USA-Europe needed NATO in Ukraine. Russia opposed this. Interval. All the time.
* Kiev is final landmine problem. Why? Due to essential function Kiev performs in Russian thoughts. St. Petersburg is tradition, Moscow is energy, Kiev is non secular roots of Rus/Motherland.
Abstract: EU-USA was smug sufficient to assume they might – with cash, tradition and army tech – flip Japanese-Russian Ukrainians into Europeans. Will Putin be smug sufficient to assume he can, with blood, flip Western-European Ukrainians into Russians?
As soon as once more: “St. Petersburg is tradition, Moscow is energy, Kiev is non secular roots of Rus. …”
The underside line: Putin didn’t create the idea of the Rus, which is the picture on the coronary heart of “The Song of the Most Holy Theotokos.” Celebrating the rebirth of Slavic Orthodox church buildings after the autumn of the Soviet Union just isn’t the identical factor as “cheering” for the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Sure, the “Rus” is an idea that Putin has twisted to assist his political and army objectives. That doesn’t erase the significance of occasions in 988 and the symbolism of the baptismal font of Kiev.
You will need to be aware that Metropolitan Onuphry has burdened the significance of this historical past whereas additionally rejecting Putin’s phrases and deeds within the current. Think about these phrases instantly after the invasion, quoted in one of my “On Religion” columns:
“Defending the sovereignty and integrity of Ukraine, we enchantment to the President of Russia and ask him to right away cease the fratricidal warfare,” said Metropolitan Onuphry, primate of Kiev and all Ukraine. “The Ukrainian and Russian peoples got here out of the Dnieper Baptismal font, and the warfare between these peoples is a repetition of the sin of Cain, who killed his personal brother out of envy. Such a warfare has no justification both from God or from folks.”
Metropolitan Onuphry, a local of Western Ukraine, added: “I name you, above all, to intensified penitential prayer for Ukraine, for our military, and our folks, and I entreat you to put apart mutual strife and misunderstandings and unite in love for God and our motherland.”
The synod of the historic Ukrainian church urged Patriarch Kirill of Moscow to personally search “cessation of fratricidal bloodshed on Ukrainian land, and to name on the management of the Russian Federation to right away cease the army actions which might be already threatening to show right into a world warfare.”
Maybe this new assertion from the synod can be related, and worthy of quoting (translation of the full text here) by mainstream reporters?
For greater than 270 days, a full-scale warfare of the Russian Federation towards Ukraine has been occurring. From the primary day of the invasion of Russian troops, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church has condemned this warfare and has constantly advocated the preservation of the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Ukraine. Our believers, with God’s assist and the prayers of their fellow believers, courageously defend their Motherland within the ranks of the Armed Forces of Ukraine and different army formations. We rejoice on the victories of our army, watching how life is being restored within the liberated cities and villages. On the identical time, with deep ache, we proceed to obtain information of the deaths of our defenders and civilians. Everlasting reminiscence to all of the victims of this horrible warfare! …
We’re involved that in lots of areas of Ukraine the unlawful follow of re-registration of parishes and seizure of church buildings of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church continues. In our opinion, it’s a nice disgrace that undisguised raiding, usually accompanied by abuse and fights, happens not solely with the consent, however even on the initiative of representatives of native authorities. It’s unlucky that some civil servants enable themselves to make provocative statements brazenly directed towards our Church. We’ve already famous that such actions cut up society, and this, underneath martial regulation, is a very critical crime.
The circumstance that searches have not too long ago been carried out in some monasteries and clergymen of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church can’t however trigger concern. Sadly, some folks have already confronted critical costs. On this regard, we insist on the objectivity of the actions of regulation enforcement officers. The investigation should be neutral and never be accompanied by unsubstantiated accusations. As soon as once more, we urge to not kindle an inside warfare, however for everybody to unite in an effort to survive and defeat the evil going through us. Solely our frequent work with out inside strife can cease the bloodshed.
The Ukrainian Orthodox Church, not solely in phrase but in addition in deed, helps our defenders, provides shelter to internally displaced individuals, helps all those that have been disadvantaged of probably the most mandatory issues for all times by the warfare. We’re deeply satisfied that by doing deeds of kindness and mercy, the clergy, monastics and laity make a major contribution to making sure that our Motherland survives in occasions of extreme trials. Virtually day by day we obtain numerous requests from army personnel who’re parishioners of our Church about the potential for performing varied sacred rites at their place of residence, particularly Confession and Holy Communion.
That’s all for now. I’ll hold searching for paperwork from teams inside this battle.
I’ll say, as soon as once more: Pray for a ceasefire and for peace talks. And pray that Orthodox bishops world wide will, utilizing their mixed authority in Orthodox custom, be allowed to hunt therapeutic for the schism inside Ukraine.
FIRST IMAGE: Screenshot from a documentary on the history of the Kiev Pechersk Lavra.