Metropolitan Arseniy: Zelenskyy’s Prisoner of Conscience


Save the UOC Editor

The following is the English translation of sermon delivered by Metropolitan Arseniy of the Svyatogorsk Lavra on September 25, 2023, in which he comments on the harassment of his parishioners by the Ukrainian security services on September 23, which was the eve of a holiday celebrating the Cathedral of Svyatogorsk Saints and the 15th anniversary of the canonization. However many worshippers were stopped and prevented from arriving to the Lavra to worship.

Video originally published on Syvatogorsk Lavra’s YouTube page.

Congratulations to all of you, brothers and sisters, on the eve of the holiday. I, brothers and sisters, remember the words of St. Anthony the Great, who says: if a good deed was preceded or a good deed was followed by temptation, then know that the deed is truly good. Because the enemy will always resist or interfere with, or take revenge for, doing a good deed.

 Many of you came as pilgrims to the all-night vigil.

They called and said that there were three more buses waiting and they wouldn’t let them in. And people asked to pray so that they would let us through.

On the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, SBU came to ask us what our plans were for the holiday.

I told them what would happen and how our worship would take place. And they parted peacefully, it seems.

But today there are three checkpoints in Tatyanovka: one on the mountain near Artem, here the post is below, and now near Tatyanovka, at the entrance to the monastery.

They stand, check passports, take photographs, write down passport numbers, taking personal information, email addresses, phone numbers, the mobile phone records of everyone.

But this is a violation of legal rights.

Is this the way they treated 32,000 Hasidim in Uman who came to celebrate the New Year? And if one religious denomination can go on pilgrimage, then other religious denominations should have equal rights.

And if foreign citizens came and celebrated their religious holiday, why are citizens of Ukraine, who, according to their passports, are on their homeland, why are we not allowed to pray to those saints who are revered for their holiness here on the land of Ukraine?

And this is why we came, to entrust it into the hands of God, under the protection of the Mother of God, to pray for the protection of our saints of Sviatohirsk, to protect our families, husbands, and sons who went to the front, we came to pray for them.

We came to pray for our fatherland, for a speedy peace in our fatherland, after all, this is why we have come together.

Therefore, brothers and sisters, people asked to pray that this would somehow be resolved. Well, I ask you all for prayer, because these checkpoints for document verification is only scheduled for two days, today and tomorrow. They didn’t check before, and I think even after lunch tomorrow and they won’t care.

When I first called the SBU, they explained to me: ‘Vladyka, don’t worry, it’s a routine document check, it happens this way or that in the region.’

But I told him, no, this isn’t a routine check. People aren’t being allowed in.

He then told me we must avoid any sort of crowded gatherings. But I say go tell to the crowds at the new post office in Slavyansk, at the Slavyansky Bazaar, and in Uman, why don’t you say the same thing to those crowds?

There were trains and buses and private vehicles carrying 32,000 pilgrims. Are we different from them? Are we not on our own land?

Therefore, brothers and sisters, I ask for holy prayers: there is temptation, of course, but nevertheless there is a holiday, and each of us must remember that this temptation must not be interrupted by any gossip and must not interrupt our prayerful mood.

Have we come to pray? Yes, unfortunately this is the case, but nevertheless, my brothers and sisters, let us pray for those who were turned away and for those who were not able to pass, let us pray for everyone, because that is what the Lord commanded, to pray for everyone.

And we fulfill his holy commandment.And God grant, brothers and sisters, that our prayerful presidency here: leads the service in the Holy Mountains (Svyatogorvsky Monastery) and broadcasts it on social networks, not only you will be present at the service. I am sure that thousands of people will be waiting for news from the Holy Mountains (Svyatogorvsky Monastery): because there are 87,000 views of what is happening there in the Svyatogorvsky Lavra, it’s not just us. Many people in America, Western Europe, and Australia are everywhere watching what is happening in the Holy Mountains. Recently an American delegation came and brought the relics of St. Arseny the Great, everyone knows this. But you, brothers and sisters, do not remain silent. And on social networks, try to watch the services in the Holy Mountains, and whoever was not allowed into the monastery, please also say (to watch) on social networks. By not admitting pilgrims, they are not doing a plus even to our state and the authorities, but the authorities are doing a minus to themselves, to their detriment, showing their undemocratic nature, which is talked about so much today. They also say, we are worried, what if there will be more shelling, and you are gathered here. We were under fire for 3.5 months, no one asked why we were here or how we were here. And no condolences were raised for the lost brothers and sisters. And besides, if they are already so sure that they will be shelled, why didn’t they warn the residents of the city of Svyatogorsk, the residents of Tatyanovka, no one warned us that they knew about the shelling, and they didn’t say a word to us.

They are about those on the mountain, which means they are worried about their well-being, but not about us, so it turns out? And why are they all so perspicacious, so they all sit so that they all know when and what will happen? We don’t know what will happen to us, today and tomorrow, at any moment.

Therefore, brothers and sisters, I ask for prayer. It is, of course, sad and offensive for our Orthodox people that we have become so worse than criminals in our state. Therefore, God forbid, brothers and sisters, we can prayerfully endure all this and pray for our own, for whom we all came to pray on the Holy Mountains here, in a holy place and ask for relief and intercession from the Mother of God, and pray for those who could not get to us. Not for our reasons, our desire is for people to gather here, and all pray to the Queen of Heaven. And I think if they didn’t create all this disgrace, I think there would be no problems.

Because besides, what people do is, as the Monk Paisios of Athos said: I, seeing human burdens, if I didn’t know that everything in the world is controlled by God, and everything is controlled by God in this world, I would go crazy.

So, we, brothers and sisters, need to remember that everything in the world is controlled by God. And, God forbid, that the Lord will hear our sinful prayers, in the name of the Queen of Heaven and our venerable patrons, who stood here in this temple and prayed to God, leaving us this temple as an inheritance, so that we gather and pray in it. It was with their hands that this temple was built, with their waters the walls were saturated with the grace of God. God grant that we do not disgrace our politicism, do not disgrace those who prayed before us, and gave this place the name Holy Mountains, by the holiness of our lives. Amen. God bless everyone!

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