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Ukraine expropriates country’s oldest church over Russia ties

A court has nullified a 2003 decision which allowed the Ukrainian Orthodox Church to take possession of a 12th-century cathedral

The government of Ukraine has seized a historic 12th-century cathedral from the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC), through a court challenge.

The government has been harassing the UOC for years, pushing priests and worshipers to switch their allegiance to the Kiev-approved Orthodox Church of Ukraine. Members of the canonical church have been accused of being Russian collaborators.

The court battle for the Assumption Cathedral in Kanev in Cherkasy Region, around 90km southeast of Kiev, ended with a victory for the government, the office of the prosecutor general announced on Wednesday. Its regional branch secured a ruling in its favor, after arguing that a 2003 decision by city officials which allowed the UOC to take possession of the building was illegal. The church will now be repossessed by the state.

The cathedral was originally built in 1144 on the order of Prince Vsevolod II Olgovich of Kiev, shortly before his death. Named after St. George, it was later rededicated to the assumption of the Virgin Mary.

It is the oldest church in Ukraine, though its present design is the result of a major overhaul in 1833, when it was virtually rebuilt from ruins. In the 1970s, the Soviet government utilized the building for a museum of folk art. In 1990, religious ceremonies were resumed at the church.

The prosecutors gave credit to the Ukrainian security service (SBU) for preparing evidence for the civil trial. The statement estimated the value of the property at over $216,000.

The SBU has been closely involved in the Ukrainian crackdown on the UOC, which has historic ties with the Russian Orthodox Church. Agents have carried out raids on churches and monasteries in search of evidence of purported collusion with Moscow since late 2022.

In a separate blow to the UOC’s Cherkasy Diocese this week, a court dismissed its appeal against the expropriation of the land surrounding the St. Michael Cathedral in Cherkasy. The city council intends to turn it into a park, according to Ukrainian media. The original ruling was issued last September.

March 27, 2024 at 08:57PM

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