Kiev Legalised the Racketeering of Bartholomew: Phanar Lays Claim to Dozens of Temples Across Ukraine

Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard


“Vesti” obtained the list of temples and monasteries that Ukraine agreed to transfer to the Ecumenical Patriarchate. According to our source, they were included in a contract that was signed by Petro Poroshenko and the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in Istanbul on November 3rd – this probably still concerns the annex to the contract (according to some other interlocutors, the document had a declarative character and was quite short).

The question of the Kiev-Pechersk and Pochayev Lavras is stipulated separately. The head of the department for religions and nationalities of the Ministry of Culture Andrey Yurash described the question of Lavras as follows: “They are state property. Such objects of national value aren’t transferred to anybody’s possession – the lower part of the Kiev-Pechersk and Pochayev Lavras were leased to the UOC-MP for 50 years. If it becomes clear that during the transfer of the Lavra to rent there were violations, it can serve as the grounds for revising the contract”.

According to a source of “Vesti”, the list of temples and monasteries that may be transferred to Constantinople is as follows:

  • Kievo-Bratsky Epiphany Monastery (in the Kievo-Mogila academy). The cathedral was established in the 16th century as a patriarchal stauropegic monastery by the Patriarch of Constantinople Jeremias. It was destroyed by the Bolsheviks in 1919 – now on its territory there is one of the buildings of a university. In 2007 the Svyato-Dukh academic temple (UOC KP) was restored. We are talking about claims to its territories of 1648; its library has special value.
  • Svyato-Voznesensky Frolovsky convent in Kiev (the Kiev diocese of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church). The complex of churches (Voznesenskaya of 1732, Voskresenskaya of 1824, belltower of 1821, Church of the Kazan Mother of God).
  • Mezhigorsky Spaso-Preobrazhensky Monastery in the village of Novo-Petrovtsi of the Kiev region. The first monastery since the time of princess Olga, which was finally destroyed in 1933. It has a valuable territory of 72 hectares, in which Viktor Yanukovych’s Mezhigorye residence is located.
  • Uspenskaya Church (stauropegic Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary) in Lvov, which is under the jurisdiction of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church. It was constructed in 1591-1629 by the Dormition Brotherhood. Now it is one of the main monuments of architecture in the style of Italian Renaissance.
  • Manyavsky monastery (Manyavsky Kresto-Vozdvizhensky men’s monastery) in the village of Manyava, Ivano-Frankovsk region, under the jurisdiction of the UOC KP. It was founded in 1611 – but the operating monastery was opened only in the 1990’s. The monastery is known for its “blessed stone” – according to legends, place of prayer and spiritual purification (actually, it is a space in a rock 10×3 meters in size where monks lived in ancient times).
  • Svyato-Troitsky Koretsky stauropegic convent in the city of Korets in the Rovno region. It is in the jurisdiction of the Russian Orthodox Church. It is known for its shrines: The Koretsky icon of the Mother of God “Surety of sinners” (it was brought by the Koretsky prince from Rome), the Shroud of Assumption of the Mother of God written on a cypress, Christ Redeemer’s Shroud, the manuscript of the Pochaev Icon of the Mother of God, the icon of the Mother of God of “Skoroposlushnitsa”, “Gerontissa”, etc., and also a cross with a particle of the Lord’s Cross and particles of sacred relics.
  • Spaso-Preobrazhensky Monastery – the orthodox men’s monastery in Novgorod-Seversk. It is in the jurisdiction of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church. Allegedly, it was constructed in the 16th-18th centuries, and according to legends it is one of the most ancient in Kievan Rus’. It was restored and renovated in the 1990’s. The main shrine is a wonder-working icon of the Mother of God “The Rescuer of the Drowning” (“Lenkovskaya”).
  • Molchensky Rozhdestvo-Bogoroditsky convent, in the city of Glukhov in the Sumy Region, now under the authority of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church. It was constructed in the 17th-19th centuries, the main shrine is the Molchensky icon of the Mother of God.
  • Glinskaya desert Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the village of Sosnovka of the Sumy region. It is under the jurisdiction of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church. The stauropegic men’s monastery is a couple of kilometers away from the border with the Russian Federation. Historically it developed so that its monks live on the hierarchy of ranks of the Athos mountain.
  • Kresto-Vozdvizhensky convent in Poltava, which is under the jurisdiction of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church. It was founded in 1650, and in May of 1709 it was Karl XII’s residence. On the belltower, imitating the Lavra in Kiev, there was a mural wonder-working icon of the Grieving Mother of God “Hope in all corners of the Earth”.
  • Svyato-Ilyinsky men’s monastery in Odessa, in the jurisdiction of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church. It was founded in 1884 for the purpose of assisting pilgrims through Odessa to Athos and to Palestine (help with obtaining international passports, shelter, etc.). Its main shrines are the wonder-working icon of the Mother of God “Nursing Madonna”, a cross-shaped part of a tree of the Lord’s Life-giving Cross, and the left foot of the Saint Apostle Andrew the First-Called.
  • Svyato-Panteleymonovsky men’s monastery in Odessa, which is under the jurisdiction of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church. It was founded as the Athos Representation Church in 1876 also to help pilgrims to Athos and to Palestine (the hotel for pilgrims works even today). It’s shrines are an icon and relics of the Holy great martyr Pantaleon and an image of the Mother of God of Czestochowa.
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According to the sources of “Vesti”, the question of transfer is under the control of the former deputy head of the Presidential Administration and adviser to the president Rostislav Pavlenko. “He edits this list taking into account the interests and wishes of Bartholomew and his exarchs,” reported our interlocutor. “Andrey Yurash, the head of the department of the Ministry of Culture, was sent to the western regions to find out the situation and to learn who hesitates”.

From a legal point of view the question of transferring temples/monasteries to Constantinople – i.e. to a foreign resident – looks dubious. “It contradicts the Constitution of Ukraine. I am sure that soon after this information is published deputies will submit an appeal to the Constitutional Court to cancel it. But the state in principle has no right to interfere with Church affairs – the ban is directly stated in the Law on religion, a number of conventions, and international declarations on rights and freedoms,” said Rostislav Kravets, the senior partner of the lawyer firm “Kravets and Partners” to “Vesti”. “From a legal point of view, a document about the transfer of something to the Ecumenical Patriarchate isn’t worth the paper it is written on”.

The Ukrainian Orthodox Church [Moscow Patriarchate – ed] explained to “Vesti”: the majority of the objects mentioned in the list are the property of the state and were transferred to the use of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church [Moscow Patriarchate – ed]. “This is the Frolovsky monastery, Glinskaya desert, and the monasteries in Odessa. There are also monasteries that are in the property of the church. Anyway, for the deprivation of property rights or the cancellation of contracts on the right of use/rent there have to be grounds – Law No. 5309 (On renaming of church) can serve as that,” said Archpriest Aleksandr Bakhov, the head of the legal department of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church [Moscow Patriarchate – ed], to “Vesti”.

According to his assumption, the mechanism of seizing temples/monasteries can be as follows: communities will face the fact that they need to change their name. The Rada will sign the additional statutory act that will raise the question of renewing the contract after renaming. “Perhaps, an additional agreement may be needed, which simply won’t be signed: they will tell you that, as representatives of the aggressor country, we lost the right to renew the lease contract,” concluded Archpriest Aleksandr Bakhov.

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The reaction of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church [Moscow Patriarchate – ed] to the emergence of such a list is unambiguous: temples and monasteries can’t be appropriated. “It is simply not Christian. After all, it is not just material property: these are religious shrines, places that the lives of our believers are connected to. Many of them are revived shrines, many renounced the world to spend their lives in prayer there – and any kind of information about such methods and decisions causes concern: even in the dashing 90’s the most terrible racketeers and bandits didn’t try to seize temples and monasteries. Today the morals level of society allows for the possibility of even such extreme measures,” said Archbishop Kliment of Nezhinsky and Priluksky to “Vesti”.

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