From the Union of Orthodox Journalists:
Your Eminences and Your Graces!
Most honorable fathers! Dear brothers and sisters!
During turbulent trials for the Ukrainian people, our Church, like a loving mother, embraces all Her children with its prayers and mercy. Just as a mother loves all her children, regardless of whether some of them heed her guidance, while others audaciously disregard their mother’s care, our Ukrainian Orthodox Church never divides Her flock based on political and social preferences. Nor does She divide the Ukrainian society into those who are faithful to Her and those who have forgotten the place of their baptism, the place where their parents and ancestors were baptized, and who now dare to blaspheme the Church of God and scorn the pastors whose priestly hands once immersed these people into the baptismal font for their birth into Eternal Life.
The Church prays for the entire Ukrainian state, urging everyone to respect its laws, and daily engages in social and volunteer service for all those in need, not just those who are favorably disposed to it. For the Lord Himself teaches us to do so, saying: “For if you love those who love you, what reward have you?” (Matt. 5:46).
When we speak of the ‘Church’, we, of course, understand under this term the entire people of God — not only the clergy and monastics but all the believers who, together with their spiritual pastors, bear the burden of trials of the contemporary period in the life of Ukrainian Orthodoxy. This people of God is ruthlessly subjected to anti-Church propaganda, intimidation, and temptations. However, joint prayers and worship services, uniting thousands of believers of our Church around the Orthodox shrines, testify that the people of God cannot be swayed from the path defined by their religious convictions through coercion and slander. This becomes particularly clear when we see that the churches, which were seized or taken away from the faithful of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, remain empty even on major holidays. In particular, such a situation has arisen in the magnificent cathedrals of the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra and other holy places. The sacred sites where fervent prayers were offered daily for the Ukrainian state, its authorities, the military, and the people, have been locked behind massive locks following the so-called change in confessional affiliation.
"If the Lord does not guard the city, the watchman stays awake in vain" (Psalm 127:1) — we read in the inspired book of Psalms. These words from the Bible, during Ukraine's suffering from full-scale Russian aggression, expose the criminal actions of the initiators of church discord, which have, for the first time since the fall of the atheistic regime, halted the celebration of the Divine Liturgy in centuries-old churches and put an end to prayers for the defenders of Ukraine, the wounded and captured soldiers, the departed, and all those in distress, whose tears can be wiped away only by God. Instead, the sacrileges committed by people who violently seize altars, mercilessly break doors and windows, deface holy altars, and assault Christians not only do not invoke God's blessings but also challenge God. It is clear to all that the consequences of this challenge by so-called activists will be borne by those who silently tolerate their impunity, who turn a blind eye to the blatant sacrilege imposed on Ukrainian society as a norm. We must call things by their proper names: the initiators and executors of church raiding are outright spiritual enemies of the Ukrainian state, and their actions only exacerbate the destructive consequences of Russian aggression. After all, "God is not mocked" (Galatians 6:7).
No less disgraceful and shocking to Christians from various parts of the world has been the situation surrounding the Holy Dormition Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra, entirely created by the Ministry of Culture and Information Policy of Ukraine. Believers are not allowed onto the territory of the Lower Lavra to pray before the incorrupt and wonderworking relics of the Saint Fathers of the Kyiv Caves. At present, not only Kyiv residents but also pilgrims from other cities and countries, who invariably seek to visit the Lavra for prayer in such difficult times, have no opportunity to reach the holy shrine.
The situation has arisen where only Orthodox Christians find themselves restricted in their right to perform their devotional acts near world-revered sanctuaries, while pilgrimages of representatives of other denominations and religions are facilitated by administrative resources. It is worth noting that devout individuals will never accept the demeaning attitude toward relics as "museum exhibits," as they have been repeatedly referred to by state officials. The actions of the officials of the Ministry of Culture and Information Policy of Ukraine on the territory of the Lower Lavra are marked by legal and moral iniquities toward the Lavra's monastics, students and teachers of Kyiv Theological Schools, as well as believers and pilgrims. In the situation at hand, we place all our hope in God, Who, since the time of the Lavra's founder, St. Anthony of the Caves, has repeatedly and remarkably thwarted the plans of those seeking to harm the monastery and protected its inhabitants.
Today, the hierarchs who are subjected to criminal prosecutions and forcibly limited in their communication with their flocks are in particular need of prayerful support. As lawyers have pointed out, the charges brought against them lack compelling evidence in the materials of the court cases, and the process of gathering evidence and conducting judicial proceedings is accompanied by blatant violations of Ukrainian legislation. The Holy Synod of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church is grateful to all those who, to the best of their ability, provide assistance to the persecuted hierarchs. Special thanks go to the Primates and representatives of the hierarchies of Local Orthodox Churches and religious actors from various countries of the world who have expressed their support.
Dear brothers and sisters! The Lord has blessed us to live in a time that particularly demands living faith filled with love. Against the backdrop of extensive violations of state legislation and international norms concerning the rights and freedoms of human beings—believers of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church—we often wonder how Orthodox Christians should respond to these challenges. The answer was given to us by our Lord Jesus Christ Himself: "Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you" (Matthew 5:44). Entrusting their church life to God, a Christian should demonstrate love and kindness towards others "not in word or tongue, but in deed and in truth" (1 John 3:18) amid a constant shortage of these virtues. In challenging historical periods of church history, Christian love and kindness in response to all forms of evil have transformed the world and elevated the Church to new heights of prosperity. Therefore, even now, in our concerns for the future of the Church, each of us should focus not on noisy confrontation with people who are hostile towards us, but on effective testimony to Christ and His Church, reflecting in our words and deeds the very God Who is Love.
May the Lord, by His grace, bless the Ukrainian state and its people with a life of peace, guarding them against every enemy and adversary, for to Him alone belongs blessing, honor, glory, and dominion unto ages of ages (Revelation 5:13).