As of Mar. 21, monks and members of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC -MP) congregation have been banned from entering the caves of the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra. According to a press release from UOC -MP on Tuesday, the reason for the ban is so that a Commission of the Ministry of Culture can conduct an assessment of how best to preserve the cultural items within the caves.
The UOC-MP reports that on Mar. 20, it received a letter from the leadership of the national reserve "Kyiv Pechersk Lavra" informing them that access to the Near and Far Caves will be prevented to enable the Commission to conduct its work to preserve items of "cultural value" (which include relics of monks and other shrines).
Similarly, access to the churches on the territory of the national reserve is currently restricted, which the UOC-MP claims prevents prayer at the sites. It is not yet known how long the Commission will need to complete its work but worshippers will not. Be able to access religious relics until it is finished.
The letter from an official of the Ministry of Culture states that "access to objects (including shrines and caves) will be limited" due to the creation of a Commission that will determine the "availability, preservation, and the condition of items of cultural value."
The UOC – MP claimed that "the closure of the caves without warning is an unwarranted restriction on the rights of Ukrainian believers, large numbers of whom are coming from the regions to pray in hope at the Kyiv Pechersk shrines."
On Mar. 10, the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra, also known as the Monastery of the Caves, notified UOC-MP that the agreement allowing for their free use of religious buildings and state-owned property would be terminated on Mar. 29.
“We will not allow the terrorist state to have any opportunity to manipulate the spirituality of our people, to destroy Ukrainian shrines – our Lavras – or to steal any valuables from them,” the President emphasized.
With the eviction of the UOC-MP, more of the holy site will be occupied by the Orthodox Church of Ukraine – Kyiv Patriarchate (OCU-KP). The OCU-KP was formed in 2019 out of two churches that the Russian Orthodox Church had always deemed illegitimate.
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