A skirmish broke out between believers of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine – Kyiv Patriarchate (OCU-KP) and the representatives of the Russian-backed Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP) in the western Ukrainian city of Ivano-Frankivsk on Tuesday, March 28. Tensions came to a head as the first service of the OCU-KP was held in the Church of the Nativity of Christ, which used to belong to the UOC-MP.

Believers of the Russian-backed UOC-MP stood at the entrance to the church and would not let the priests of the Kyiv Patriarchate into the premises. At one point, TSN TV reported, “one of the Moscow cohort sprayed tear gas inside the church.” Additionally, unknown people had welded shut the gate to the temple the day before.

The monks of the OCU-KP offered the priests of the UOC-MP to conduct a joint prayer for the fallen Ukrainian soldiers, but the representatives of the Russia-backed church refused to lead a joint service with a church (the Kyiv Patriarchate) they deemed uncanonical. Despite the conflict and tear gas inside the church, the OCU-KP priests managed to eventually conduct services.

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Believers entered the church through the back door. Once inside, with the tear gas cleared, the priests of the OCU-KP were able to hold a service for peace in Ukraine. Ruslan Martsinkiv, the mayor of Ivano-Frankivsk, called it a historical event.

“This was the last church in Ivano-Frankivsk that belonged to the UOC of the Moscow Patriarchate,” he emphasized. “From now on, this temple is officially the property of the OCU-KP community.”

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