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28 June, 2013 12:11   ▪  

Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra to be privatized

Kyiv City State Administration supports draft amendments to the law regulating the return of places of worship to religious communities describing them as “timely and important”. The draft amendments entail privatization of the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra, reports Batkivshchyna’s MP Oleksandr Bryhynets as his press service reports

“Kyiv authorities have never yet dared to agree to this despite numerous attempts from the Party of Regions. Apparently, there have been some significant changes in the government structure. I have the approval of the draft law on amendments from V. Korzh, Deputy Head of the Kyiv City State Administration. Obviously, he could not have approved this without the respective resolution from above. Although, in this case, the conclusion of the Kyiv City State Administration as a unit of the Cabinet of Ministers and not a local self-government authority has no meaning, in my opinion. This signals that one of the Cabinet of Ministers’ structures supported the draft law in the interests of the Cabinet itself,” Bryhynets stated.

According to him, these draft amendments will abolish the right of local authorities to approve the transfer of places of worship of local and national categories to religious communities. From now on, the decisions to transfer places of worship to religious communities will be taken not only the local authorities, but the Cabinet of Ministers as well. The latter’s decision will be a priority.

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“Nobody will now ask local communities whether they want to transfer a religious object on their territory to a religious community. The Cabinet will decide this,” Bryhynets claims. In his opinion, religious communities will now have the right to, intentionally or unintentionally, reconstruct churches and other religious sites. Until the amendments are approved, the government has at least some room to control the process.

“Even the wooden churches that have recently joined the UNESCO cultural heritage list need serious renovations because religious communities have changed them as they saw fit and destroyed elements of their authenticity. Only the state can return authenticity, and it has no influence on an object under the law if it is private or owned by a certain community,” Bryhynets explained. 

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According to him, the first law to protect cultural heritage appeared in the Russian Empire after the “renovators” of the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra stirred protests of historians, artists and intelligentsia with what they had done to the monastery in the mid-19th century. As a result, the Tsar limited the rights of religious communities to renovate and reconstruct historical places of worship.

“Unfortunately, the current pro-government coalition and its puppeteers seem to be unable to realize what the corrupt Russian Empire had once realized,” Bryhynets concluded. 

On January 18, the pro-government MPs registered the Draft Law on Returning Places of Worship That Are Cultural Heritage of Religious Organizations that entails the return of buildings to the church. This essentially means privatization of the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra, Pochaiv Lavra, Kremenets Monastery and more.

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Opposition politicians claimed that the intention was to transfer these objects to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Moscow Patriarchate. According to Patriarch Filaret, the leader of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Kyiv Patriarchate, the Kyiv-Pechersk and  Pochaiv Lavras may eventually end up in the Russian Orthodox Church if the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Moscow Patriarchate becomes their owner. Patriarch Sviatoslav Shevchuk, the leader of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church, said that he sees the practice of transferring the places of worship to just one church to own as unacceptable.

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