In the village of Mykhalcha, Chernivtsi region, after the local parish voted to convert to the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, the community cannot get to its own church.
In February 2019, a total of 243 parishioners voted to join the OCU. After that, a few supporters of the Moscow Patriarchate intensified their efforts to prevent the transfer, shutting the church down, not letting any OCU believers in.
The village church has been closed for more than two years already, although the OCU parish has all the necessary documents proving ownership of the church building and the land plot, because after the transfer the property shall belong to the respective community. A protection agreement has also been signed with the OCU to preserve the cult building as an architectural monument of local significance.
As the OCU parishioners of Mykhalcha told the Spiritual Front of Ukraine, the police are obstructing the faithful’s efforts to regain control of the church. The OCU community is worried about the property stored in their church, which is being blocked by the ROCinU. To prevent the assets from being stolen, OCU parishioners sough to catalog all property available, but the police prevented their attempt, apparently siding with the Moscow Patriarchate.
“Having all legal grounds, we are unable to use our property and pray in our church. We decided to do an inventory because there is an assumption that a lot of objects are missing from the temple. We don’t know what’s happening there as we have no keys, but the ROCinU does. At the same time, the police don’t allow our audit team to catalog our property,” the OCU parishioners said in a comment.
It is yet to be cleared which regulation the police are guided with when obstructing the audit team’s work because it is a legal right of OCU parishioners to appoint one as they are the true owners of the church, which is testified by the relevant paperwork..
“The police are deliberately hindering access to our property. And this has happened multiple times,” said the OCU parishioners.
On December 14, 2020, police officers broke a church gate and made a corridor for parishioners of the Moscow Patriarchate, applying force to the church’s legal owners – OCU believers.
Now the ROCinU eparchy has filed a lawsuit to overturn the decision to transfer the church to the OCU and re-register the community as part of the OCU. At the same time, the Russian Church understands how strategically important it is for them to delay the process of transition to the OCU and therefore does everything so that only the Moscow Patriarchate could use the temples after the transition. The church in Mykhalcha is especially important for them, because the propaganda media of the Russian Orthodox Church wrote a lot about it as “seized.” The ROCinU is convinced that all legal transitions to the OCU are nothing but “persecution” or seizure, and that their church has never been called “Moscow Patriarchate.” Now, once the OCU is able to perform services in Mykhalcha, this will be another blow to the ROCinU, debunk the lies of the Moscow Patriarchate.
The OCU parishioners are also convinced of this. They say: “If OCU believers pray in the church, other parishes will also start moving to the ICU, first of all, in the neighboring villages of Dubovo and Spaska.” To prevent this from happening, supporters of the Moscow Patriarchate even offered to build a separate church for the OCU community at their own expense, only to make sure that the OCU doesn’t pray in the old wooden temple.
It is worth noting that after the parishioners voted to join the PCU, the Moscow Patriarchate held its “meeting” where they say they collected a number of signatures against transition. However, they officially refuse to show the list. According to the OCU, there are solid grounds for ROCinU’s unwillingness to publish the list as many of the “signatories” are in fact newborns whose names were used. Also, there are names of the people who do not reside in the village and those who on the day of the meeting were out of Ukraine.