Odesa has been under constant night attacks for several days, which have already destroyed buildings in the port area.

However, the Russian attack in the early morning hours on July 23 was aimed at the Odesa historic center and hit its religious heart, the Orthodox Cathedral of the Transfiguration. A high explosive missile hit the roof of the city’s most important religious building and destroyed the sanctuary inside, the part of the church in the area reserved for priests.

By daylight, a crowd of Odesa residents gathered around the cathedral to see the wound inflicted on the city. Among them, people who don’t normally go to church during religious holidays, but who still feel the cathedral to be an integral part of the city.

Workers cleared rubble along with soldiers, priests, nuns and many women who brought brooms from home, cleaning the ground and the surrounding meadows from fragments of glass and debris.

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On the same day, an Italian delegation from the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Chamber of Deputies came from Kyiv, accompanied by the Italian ambassador Pierfrancesco Zazo. They visited the disaster site, together with the Mayor Gennadiy Trukhanov and the Governor Oleh Kiper.

Italy’s Prime Minister, Giorgia Meloni, announced her country’s readiness to aid in the restoration of the Transfiguration Cathedral in Odesa.

“We are deeply saddened by the attacks in Odesa, the loss of innocent lives, and the destruction of the Transfiguration Cathedral,” the Italian Premier said.

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The cathedral is a monument that marks the historical changes in Odessa. After the Russian Revolution in 1936, it was completely demolished by the Soviets. With the independence of Ukraine, it was rebuilt between 1999 and 2003 and reconsecrated in 2010, by none other than Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, who has publicly supported Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The cathedral is still nominally dependent on the Moscow Patriarchate, as opposed to the independent Orthodox Church of Ukraine, which gained canonical recognition in the Orthodox world in 2019.

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Representatives of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP) appealed to the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, after the rocket attack.

TSN news reported that Oleksandr Klymenko, archpriest of the UOC-MP, had published the official address of the Vicar of the Odesa Diocese, Archbishop Victor Artsyzki, on his Telegram channel.

“More than once, in your sermons, you talk about the unity of ‘Holy Russia,’ which you are completely destroying with your blessing and deeds,” he said, directly addressing Kirill.

“I also ask you to pay attention to what, precisely with your personal blessing, the army of the Russian Federation is doing today: waging open war on the sovereign territory of the Ukrainian State. In my opinion, you have forgotten that, just as in Russia, in Ukraine there are (were) your children, whom you consider to be such, and you blessed those who are killing them today,” Archbishop Artsyzky continued.

“The rocket of the Russian Federation ‘blessed’ by you flew directly into the altar of the church on the feast of saints, and I realized that there has been nothing in common with your understanding in the Ukrainian Orthodox Church for a long time. Because of your personal ambitions, you have lost the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and other churches in the countries of ‘Holy Russia’! Because of death and murder!”

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The UOC-MP emphasized that they condemn the “insane aggression of Russia” against independent Ukraine.

“We demand that we step back from our Church, from our bishops and our Primate! We have our own way, chosen by the Council of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. I sincerely ask you to stop. Every rocket that flies into the territory of Ukraine today is perceived by its residents as your blessing to their children.”

 

Although the statement claims that the UOC-MP broke away from the Moscow Patriarchate on May 27, 2022, both the government of Ukraine and the independent Orthodox Church of Ukraine contend that ties with Moscow remain.

Russia’s attacks on Odesa in the past four days – reminiscent of the Bolsheviks of the 1930s, destroying churches and starving the population – may have definitively severed the religious umbilical cord between Odesa and Moscow.

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