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Priest says persecution of Ukrainian Orthodox Church now worse than in Soviet times

The abbot of the Holy Ascension Monastery, Archimandrite John, expressed the opinion that Kyiv's attempts to unite the UOC and the OCU and create a "single Ukrainian church" will not be successful

MOSCOW, January 31. /TASS/. The current persecution of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) is even more sophisticated than the persecution of the church in Soviet times, so it can be very difficult for Ukrainian believers to make the right choice, Archimandrite Ioann (Sukhina), vicar of the Holy Ascension Monastery (of the Lugansk and Alchevsk UOC diocese), told TASS.

"I think that the current persecution of the church is probably even worse than the persecution that took place during the Soviet period, because then the position [of the authorities] regarding the faith was expressed concretely and the church was persecuted, but people could understand <…> [why]. But today there is a substitution of notions, that is, they are trying to replace the canonical church by a church, which is not actually a church, but a sect, which is illegal and non-canonical. And in this world, when there is a big information war going on, it is very hard for people to make the right choice - and it turns out that people are at a crossroads," the churchman said.

As an example, he cited the situation in the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra, where instead of the UOC clerics representatives of the schismatic Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU) began to serve, who outwardly looked like ordinary priests, but in fact were not. "Here, of course, there is a substitution, and it is much more complicated, it is a stronger war against the church than the persecution of the Soviet period," the vicar pointed out.

The churchman opined that Kiev's attempts to unite the UOC and the PCU and create a "united Ukrainian church" would not succeed.

"They will try to do it under pressure from the authorities, but I think that our church will resist. We have a church of martyrs from the time of Christ, which is upheld by the blood of martyrs, one might say, and our martyrs are the pillars of faith, and now it is also the time of martyrdom for our church, when shrines are taken away, and our priests are subjected to terrible repression. However, I believe that our church will withstand," the archimandrite said.

Recently, the Ukrainian authorities have waged a campaign against the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church. UOC churches across the country are regularly raided, priests are charged with subversion and treason, and Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky has imposed sanctions against church representatives and ordered a law to ban religious organizations "affiliated with centers of influence in the Russian Federation." On January 7, the head of the schismatic Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU), Epiphanius (Dumenko), held his first service at the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra.