For the first time in 191 years, a service of the independent Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU) was held in the Ukrainian language at the Pochaiv Lavra in the Ternopil region.

The Ukrainian-language service was held at the monastery complex’s St. Nicholas Cathedral on Dec. 6, the same day that in 1832 it had been transferred from the Ukrainian Greek Catholic to the Russian Orthodox Church.

The liturgy on St. Nicholas Day was led by Metropolitan Nestor of Ternopil and Kremenets of the OCU, according to the Suspilne news outlet. The service began with the performance of the Ukrainian anthem.

“For the first time in 191 years, Ukrainian prayer is heard in St. Nicholas Cathedral in Kremenets! It is today, on Dec. 6, 1832, that St. Nicholas Cathedral was annexed by the Muscovites and today, on Dec. 6, 2023, the first Ukrainian service on the feast of St. Nicholas is held and a prayer for Ukrainian soldiers is heard on the Day of the Armed Forces of Ukraine!” said Vasyl Ilchyshyn, acting director of the Kremenets-Pochaiv State Historical and Architectural Reserve.

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On Feb. 12, 2023, the agreement on the free use of the premises of St. Nicholas Cathedral by the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP) expired. On Dec. 5, the Supreme Court upheld the decision that the UOC-MP should transfer the cathedral to the Kremenets-Pochaiv Reserve.

The Pochaiv Monastery Complex is Ukraine’s second most important religious center, after the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra. The Pochaiv site, has recently been a contested focal point between the Moscow-backed UOC-MP, seen by the Ukrainian government as a fifth column spreading Kremlin propaganda, and the independent OCU, the church in Ukraine with the greatest number of adherents.

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