Father Mercedes and the others The Ukrainians and the espionage

“Father Mercedes” and the others: The Ukrainians and the espionage hunt of the Orthodox

by Marta Serafini, our correspondent in Kyiv

30 traitors identified among the clergy. An archpriest linked to the Russian Patriarchate was stabbed

The hunt for spies in the Ukrainian Orthodox Churches does not stop. Yesterday, a few days before Orthodox Christmas, which will be celebrated on January 7, Archpriest Anthony Kovtonyuk of the Moscow Patriarchate-affiliated church was stabbed in the throat by an unidentified person in Vinnytsia, central Ukraine. Kovtonyuk is not dead but in serious condition. And he was wounded right in front of the altar of his church, that of Our Lady’s Intercession.

Vinnytsya is just the latest episode in a long line of poison, revenge and hatred that has rocked the Ukrainian Orthodox Church since February 24. When the SBU, Ukraine’s secret service, raided the Pechersk Lavra in Kyiv, one of Ukraine’s most famous shrines, on November 25, the rift was revealed in full force. After the raid, agents arrested or identified as suspects more than 30 clergymen and nuns from the pro-Russian Ukrainian Orthodox Church and accused them of high treason. In May, the Moscow-affiliated Church of Ukraine proclaimed “complete independence” from the Russian Orthodox Church, stating that it “condemns the war” and disagrees with the position of Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, the same Kirill who was appointed by the government of Kyiv is accused of being one of the main sponsors of the invasion and of having provided a theological justification for Vladimir Putin’s aggression with his sermons.

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For skeptics, the proclamations of the Moscow-based Ukrainian Orthodox Church are just a ploy to appease spirits: it is no coincidence that the Ukrainian branch has not declared “autocephaly,” an Orthodox term used to denote true independence designate and what would imply its merger with the Independent Orthodox Church of Ukraine, an operation Moscow opposes. And the reason is only one: the pro-Russian Ukrainian Orthodox Church is still pro-Russian.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy tabled a motion to lift the sanctions imposed on representatives of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. According to those directly affected, these measures have “blocked the activities of entire dioceses,” including aid to the war-affected population and military aid. The Moscow-affiliated church also called on Zelensky to block the passage of four bills restricting the church’s rights, calling them “unconstitutional” and “discriminatory.” Requests to which Ukraine’s president responded on December 2 with a decree approving the National Security and Defense Council’s proposal and banning the pro-Russian Church of Ukraine.

Former pro-Russian opposition bloc MP Vadym Novynsky appears on Zelenskyy’s blacklist; Rotyslav Shvets, bishop who “annexed” his Crimean diocese to the Russian Orthodox Church in June as a sign of his absolute loyalty to Putin. And above all is Pavlo Lebid, pastor of the Cave Monastery in Kyiv since 1994 and former deputy of the pro-Russian Party of Regions. Lebid, a.k.a. “Pascha Mercedes” — so nicknamed by his critics because he only drives luxury cars — is a controversial figure. Against the Ukrainian operations in Donbass since 2014, opponents of the Euromaidan movement and the students involved in it, sworn enemy of the Mayor of Kiev Vitaly Klitschko and journalists in general (he attacked them several times, breaking their limbs and insulting them in all kinds), im In 2021, he said he did not turn a serial killer who killed 52 people over to the police, ready to turn himself in after a confession. In 2019, Lebid publicly stated that Crimea is not part of Ukraine. It’s easy to understand why “Pascha-Mercedes” isn’t enjoying a lot of sympathy in the capital at the moment.

But not only Kyiv is involved in the scandal. During searches in November, SBU agents found a Russian passport. It was from Patriarch Meletiy of Chernihiv and Bukovyna Eparchy, who had fled to Moldova just hours earlier to avoid arrest. According to the Ukrainian press, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which is loyal to Moscow, has also been accused of pedophilia. One episode in particular: on the day of the raid, the secretary of the Chernihiv Diocese, Archimandrite Nikita, was found in bed with a boy from the local choir. Ukrainian journalists have published a photo showing him in his underwear next to the young man, who is said to be 17 years old, according to BBC Ukraine. Nikita denied the allegations, claiming that during the searches SBU agents forced him to undress and only then took the photos.

In the shadow of the golden domes of the Ukrainian Orthodox monasteries, poisons and twists are stirred up that seem to have no end. Then there was the attempted murder of Father Kovtonyuk yesterday in Vinnytsia.

January 3, 2023 (change January 3, 2023 | 07:44)