Russian Orthodox leader and staunch Kremlin ally Patriarch Kirill on Thursday denounced the impending expulsion of monks from a monastery in Kyiv over its ties to Russia.
Ukraine last week announced it was terminating a lease that allowed the church to occupy part of the 11th-century Pechersky Monastery for free, but the monks said they would not move.
“The ultimatum of the state in relation to the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra is a monstrous act,” Kirill said in a video message.
Ukrainian media reported that the monks were given a March 29 deadline for eviction.
The ancient golden-domed cult complex on the banks of the Dnieper is the most significant Orthodox monastery in the country, inhabited by monks who until recently were under the jurisdiction of Moscow.
A branch of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church has announced it is severing ties with the Russian Orthodox Church after its leader, Patriarch Kirill, backed Moscow’s offensive last year.
The Kiev government does not believe that the Church has completely severed relations with the Moscow Patriarchate and conducted searches in buildings last year.
Cyril urged people to “make every effort to prevent the forced closure of the monastery.”
According to him, this step “will lead to a violation of the rights of millions of Ukrainian believers to freedom of religion, guaranteed by the Constitution of Ukraine.”