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article imageUkraine authorities search home of Moscow-linked cleric in Church split

By AFP     Nov 30, 2018 in World

Ukraine's security forces on Friday searched the home of the head of a major Kiev Orthodox monastery loyal to the Moscow-based church, amid tensions over an historic split in the Orthodox Church.

The SBU security force said it was searching the residence of Metropolitan Pavel, the father-superior of the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra monastery currently used by the Moscow branch of the Orthodox Church.

One of the most revered sites of Orthodox Christianity, it is also known as the Kiev Monastery of the Caves.

SBU official Igor Guskov said at a briefing that the search was part of a criminal probe into fomenting religious hatred by an official.

Metropolitan Pavel, however, told journalists in Kiev that he does not reside at the place where the search was carried out since he lives in the monastery.

He also said that the probe is over his alleged insulting statements about the Constantinople and Ukraine Patriarchs, which he said were not disrespectful but condemned the two for taking actions that have divided the Orthodox Church.

He complained that "today pressure is being put on me from all sides", but vowed never to change his religious allegiance.

In October the Constantinople Patriarchate recognised the independence of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, ending 332 years of religious subordination to Russia and prompting the Russian Orthodox Church to break off relations with Constantinople.

Some Ukrainian believers remained loyal to the Russian-controlled branch of the Orthodox Church in Ukraine, which is still in charge of several large monasteries such as the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra.

The Russian Orthodox Church has repeatedly voiced fears that Ukraine will use legal moves or even use force to take control of the churches and monasteries that it currently controls, and some priests have told their parishioners to be ready to defend them.

"The Ukrainian authorities are beginning active measures to ensure the 'voluntary' unification of Ukrainian Orthodox believers," a senior spokesman for the Russian Orthodox Church, Nikolai Balashov, told Russia's Interfax news agency.

While the Russia-controlled church oversees a larger number of parishes in Ukraine, the Kiev Patriarchate has a larger total number of parishioners, according to surveys.

The searches come as tensions between Ukraine and Russia have risen after Moscow's seizure of three Ukrainian ships off Crimea, with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko warning of the risk of a "full-scale war" with Russia.

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