On May 20, 2020, the Supreme Court of Ukraine, consisting of a panel of judges of the Cassation Economic Court, decided to return to the UOC the Holy Protection Church seized by activists of the OCU in 2019 in the village of Kovpyta, Chernihiv region. A UOJ correspondent asked Archpriest Igor Pidan, the secretary of the Chernihiv Eparchy, to comment on the court decision and tell him about the situation in the village.
According to the priest, this is the third court decision in favour of the UOC. On February 11, 2003, the Kovpyta village council transferred the former premises of the village council to the UOC by a non-normative act of one-time use (this premises were converted into a church – Ed.). However, on February 22, 2019, the village council decided to annul the transfer decision, although such documents are not subject to cancellation. On March 9, the temple was taken over by representatives of the UOC-KP (later, the OCU).
The Holy Protection community of the UOC of vlg. Kovpyta filed a lawsuit in July 2019, and on September 19, 2019, the Economic Court of the Chernihiv region fully satisfied their lawsuit. Two months later, on November 19, the Chernihiv Eparchy of the OCU (headed by Eustratiy Zoria) filed an appeal. However, on January 20, 2020, the Northern Economic Court of Appeal upheld the previous court decision in favour of the UOC. Then the OCU filed a cassation appeal, but the Supreme Court, consisting of a panel of judges of the Cassation Economic Court, did not satisfy it either on May 14.
The final court decision on the temple in Kovpyta was published in the Unified State Register of Court Decisions.
“The Cassation Court considers that the courts of previous instances correctly recognized the disputed decision of the Kovpyta village council of 02.22.2019 as unlawful as the disputed decision does not meet the requirements of the law and violates the rights and interests of the plaintiff in the case,” they stressed.
The Court stated that since the Kovpyta community of the UOC did not decide to change its jurisdiction, “the decision to transfer the building to other communities than the plaintiff was not made by the local government”.
The text of the court ruling says that “the decision comes into force from the moment of its adoption, is final and not subject to appeal”.
The OCU cleric Eugeny Orda said from the pages of RISU that he has lads who “will not allow the MP (as they call the UOC – Ed.) into the temple”.
The Secretary of the Chernihiv Eparchy of the UOC commented on this statement by the chaplain of the church structure led by Epiphany Dumenko and said that the community of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church intends to continue to act exclusively within the framework of the law.
“The blessing of Bishop Ambrose is to oppose them (OCU – Ed.) only by legal means. The court has an executive service, which must comply with the court’s decision, we will turn to it,” Archpriest Igor said.
According to the secretary of the eparchy, all this time, parishioners of the canonical Church have gathered for prayer in a small house, where they have already celebrated Easter for the second time and keep holding church services now.
The clergyman is grateful to God for the responsive lawyers who, seeing injustice, defended the rights of believers for free. The cleric of the UOC believes that the next step of the OCU activists will be an attempt to register their community. He added that the intense oppression and persecution of the canonical Church even prompted one of his Baptist friends to think about a change of faith.
“An acquaintance of mine, not Orthodox, a Baptist, says:“ I’m thinking more and more about changing my faith. The Gospel says that people will be persecuted for their faith. Your faith is a hundred times more persecuted than others,” the clergyman told the correspondent.
On January 25, 2019, the religious community of the Holy Protection Church in the village of Kovpyta unanimously supported the UOC and its Primate, His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry of Kyiv and All Ukraine. On January 26, 2019, there was a vote of all residents of the territorial community on the transition to the OCU. About 5% of the population of Kovpyta, 65 inhabitants, voted for the “voluntary transfer” of the UOC community and the Holy Protection Church of the village of Kovpyta. The meeting was attended by only 7 real parishioners of the temple, each of them voted against the transfer.