Analysis of the situation around the barring of Moscow Theological Academy rector to enter Ukraine on November 7, 2018.
November 8, 2018. As was published earlier, his Eminence Archbishop Ambrose of Verey, the rector of the Moscow Theological Academy1, was denied entry to Ukraine on the 7th November, 2018. Pursuant to OrthoChristian, he had arrived in Kyiv at the Zhuliany Airport to visit the Kyiv Caves Lavra and the theological seminary and academy located there to participate in the celebrations for the day of St. Nestor the Chronicler—the Academy’s patron saint.
However, Vladyka Ambrose was detained and interrogated at the airport, eventually being denied entry onto the territory of Ukraine, reports the press service of the Moscow Theological Academy.
The official reason given for denying the archbishop’s entry was “cannot confirm the purpose of the planned stay in Ukraine”—an obvious farce, given that Abp. Ambrose had his invitation from the rector of the Kyiv Academy, His Grace Bishop Sylvester of Belgorod, on his person at the time, which also explained that he would be staying at the Kyiv Caves Lavra with the other guests. Showing this documentation, the Moscow rector asked how to understand the border guards’ decision—they didn’t answer.
Responding to the incident on the Moscow Academy’s Telegram channel, Abp. Ambrose writes that just an hour before his arrival in Kyiv, people pushing for the “Autocephalous Church of Ukraine” learned of his plans and called for him to be barred from the country, practically charging him with cooperation with the KGB.
Recall that the KGB has not existed since 1991.
Abp. Ambrose would have participated in the All-Night Vigil and Divine Liturgy in honor of St. Nestor and also in the academy’s traditional assembly day.
As the Moscow Academy’s press service writes: “This incident, in the context of the growing tension in Ukraine, eloquently illustrates the consequences of the decisions made by Patriarch Bartholomew, and is one of the many violations of the rights of believers provoked by the Ukrainian authorities headed by Poroshenko.”
Vladyka himself wrote on Telegram, “For me, this situation is an illustration of the ‘love’ that Patriarch Bartholomew has been talking so much about lately, placing it as a counterweight to the actions of the ‘norther brothers,’ that is, the clergy of the Russian Orthodox Church.”
The Academy also notes that Abp. Ambrose was barred on the same day that Poroshenko declared that priests of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC) and the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) have “nothing to do” in Ukraine, calling on them to leave the country.
In a video posted on his personal Facebook page, Poroshenko said “Representatives of the ROC” should leave the country and “return” to Russia, since, in his view, “the ROC is an element of the Russian political system.”
Recall that the push for an autocephalous Church in Ukraine began precisely with the Ukrainian state, and with Poroshenko in particular, and that Poroshenko has continually expressed his view that an autocephalous Church is needed as a political defense against Russia, to help Ukraine become a stable nation.
“My dears, you have nothing to do here. Your Church has nothing to do, your armed forces have nothing to do, your weapons have nothing to do. Go home, to Russia,” the President said, addressing “representatives of the ROC in Ukraine.”
The hierarchs and clergy of the UOC of the Moscow Patriarchate who live and labor in Ukraine are, by and large, Ukrainians, such as His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry of Kyiv and All Ukraine, thus a call for them to “return” to Russia is nonsensical, though it fits with Poroshenko’s desire to rename the “UOC” to the “ROC in Ukraine” and thus legally classify it as a wing of an aggressor state.
Likewise, the ROC has responded that it has no representatives in Ukraine, as the UOC is ministered to by Ukrainians.
“The multi-million strong UOC that Mr. Poroshenko wants to expel from the country consists practically entirely of Ukrainian citizens,” commented Archpriest Igor Yakimchuk of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations.
“Ukraine is their home, and none of them are going to leave it of their own will. That means the President’s wish can only be fulfilled by coercion,” Fr. Igor said, noting that Poroshenko’s words “obviously contradict his own assurances that the creation of the so-called unified Local Church will provide for the right of every believer to choose, and that no one will be forced to transfer to it by force.”
Moreover, Abp. Ambrose has now been added to the database of the infamous Ukrainian government-backed Mirotvorets (“Peacemaker”) website that compiles and publishes personal information on those it dubs enemies of Ukraine, reports the Union of Orthodox Journalists.
The sites writes that the Russian hierarch is an “enemy of the independence of Ukrainian Orthodoxy from under the control of Russia (an aggressor state) ROC.”
As OrthoChristian has previously reported, a number of hierarchs from the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, and from other canonical Orthodox Churches, have been added to the website, including His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry of Kyiv, His Eminence Metropolitan Paul of Vyshogorod and Chernobyl, the abbot of the Kyiv Caves Lavra, His Eminence Metropolitan Vladimir of Pochaev, the abbot of the Pochaev Lavra, and even His Holiness Patriarch Irinej of Serbia.
While the site declares itself to be an independent NGO, there are in fact many links to the Ukrainian government. The site was launched in December 2014 by politician and activist George Tuka, as he announced on his Facebook page. Tuka served as the governor of the Lugansk Province from 2015-2016, and has served as Deputy Minister for the Ukrainian Ministry of Temporarily Occupied Territories and Internally Displaced Persons since April 2016.
The Mirotvorets Center is led by Roman Zaitsev, a former employee of the Lugansk branch of the Security Service of Ukraine, and the site is curated by the Security Service of Ukraine itself, and promoted by Anton Gerashchenko, an MP and aide to the Interior Minister, according to the International Business Times.
The head of the uncanonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate congratulated and blessed the team behind the site on Counter-Intelligence Day, December 27, 2017, bestowing a medal “For the sacrifice and love for Ukraine” upon them.
The Russian Orthodox Church has commented that the inclusion of Abp. Ambrose in the database is just an attempt to justify the fact that the Ukrainian Security Service barred him from the country.