Ukrainian Hierarchs on the Tragedy in Odessa
The beautiful Black Sea port city of Odessa, home to several Orthodox monasteries and splendid churches, is still reeling from the utterly horrifying incidents of May2, 2014. A population famous for its diversity and upbeat love of life turned against itself and committed fratricide.
Reports on the incident have been so conflicting that a thorough, non-partisan investigation must ensue to sort out what happened precisely; in particular the Western media have avoided facing up to the callous barbarity of that day.
Judging from the news on the incident printed to date, it is becoming clearer that a group of activists were routed into a building, which was then set on fire. Photos uploaded to the internet (many of them by the perpetrators themselves) of the aftermath show that many of the victims were murdered in various ways by attackers waiting for them inside the building, and that others who managed to escape through windows were assaulted and murdered by opponents waiting outside.
The official death toll is forty-six people with forty-eight missing, but some Kiev government officials believe that there are actually 116 dead. Over a hundred others are injured. The dead and injured include both men and women, young and old. Other sources are citing larger numbers.
Military reinforcements from the current Kiev government now sent to Odessa number up to 4000, and checkpoints have been set up around the city. This does not bode well at all for anti-government activists, because the reinforcements are of the same ilk as those who massacred the people in the Trade Union Building, and the newly appointed police chief shares the murderers’ ideology. Shocked people who have lost their family, friends and neighbors are either planning revenge or are very fearful for their own safety. The situation in this southern city is now so tense that Church leaders have no recourse but to ask all to increase their prayers for the restoration of peace in Odessa and other cities in eastern Ukraine.
We also ask our readers to set aside any pre-conceived ideas of who is right and who is wrong and pray for all, because these are our brothers and sisters in the faith, and they are in danger.
Metropolitan Onuphry: We are praying for everyone.
The Locum Tenens of the Kiev Metropolia, Metropolitan Onuphry of Chernovitsy and Bukovina, has made an announcement concerning the tragic events in the Ukraine.
For several months now, the Ukraine is experiencing difficult trials. The situation in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions remains extremely troubled. Horrifying events took place on May 2 in Odessa, where as the result of the bloody clashes and the fire in the Trade Union building, several dozen people perished, and over a hundred were wounded.
The Ukrainian Orthodox Church expresses its condolences to the family and friends of all those who perished. We pray for peaceful rest of the souls that have departed from us, and for the wounded victims’ speedy recovery. God’s love embraces us all. In the ocean of divine mercy, all our earthly passions and rebellions disappear. Therefore, the Church does not divide its flock along national lines or political preferences. We pray for all, regardless of which side of the barricades they are standing on.
Throughout all the months of the civic and political crisis in the Ukraine our Church has repeatedly called for peace and sought ways to prevent the bloodshed. We turned to both the government authorities and the opposition with pleas to stop the enmity and sit down to the negotiations table. Now the political situation in the country has changed, but the Church’s position remains the same. We call again and again upon the new government and the new opposition to make maximum effort to stop the bloodshed. We turn again and again to you, our dear countrymen, and ask you to stop! Stop the aggression, do not use weapons against your brothers and people of one faith!
We must understand that there is not a single political idea that is worth spilling blood. A fair society cannot be built upon violence, aggression, and conflict. True, there are substantial contradictions between different Ukrainian citizens. We mustn’t close our eyes to this fact. Nevertheless, mutual understanding and compromise cannot be found with a gun in our hands, but rather at the negotiations table. Any violence leads only to new violence. We can break this hellish cycle and not allow the devil to turn our country into fratricidal battleground.
During these difficult times I call upon the clergy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church to balanced and responsible pastoral behavior. We must remember that the Church’s mission consists in spreading the good tidings of peace made between man and God, and God and man. The clergy must make an effort to stop the escalation of conflict.
I call all the faithful of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church to fervent prayer. We will ask our Lord Jesus Christ, through the protection of His Most Pure Mother, to save us from enmity and fratricide. May the peace of Christ and mutual forgiveness come into our hearts!
+Onuphry, Metropolitan of Chernovitsy and Bukovina
Locum Tenens of the Kiev Metropolia
Metropolitan Agathangel: Thou shalt not kill...
On May 3, Metropolitan Agathangel of Odessa and Ismailov also addressed his flock concerning these troubles.
With deep sorrow and grief are we forced to meet these new days of the bright Paschal period. Our hearts and souls, which so joyfully and sincerely called out the words of greeting to the risen Savior, are now filled with tears and confusion caused by the terrible fratricide that has stained our peace-loving land with blood. The streets of our bountiful city, generously caressed by the sun and adorned in springtime splendor, is today covered with soot and made ugly by chaos. The violent death of dozens of the fallen and the suffering of hundreds of the maimed seize our Christian hearts with pain and compassion. On the eve of the celebration of the Holy Myrrh-bearing Women, who brought their love and precious myrrh to Christ’s tomb, we are forced to bring in place of pure joy our tears and prayers for those who fell victim to this mindless violence.
The divine gift of life is the sacred principle that unites us in one family of the children of God. The heavenly Father, Who has blessed each of us to be in this world, has revealed the fullness of His love and grace to each, calling all to perfection in goodness and holiness: Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect (Mt. 5:48). Love for Him and for our brothers and sisters has been pronounced through the ages as the highest degree of man’s self-realization. At the same time, sins against our neighbor comprise the greater part of the Bible’s Ten Commandments. Honor thy father and mother… Thou shalt not kill… Thou shalt not steal… Thou shalt not speak false witness… Thou shalt not covet…”
These commandments are impressed in each of our consciences since our earliest years, and are ever the way-showing orientation on our life’s path. What makes a person, as a bearer of the divine image and likeness [of God], transgress these laws of life? The original sin of the enemy of mankind, the adversary of God and His children, is diabolical pride. This is what destroys the sacred image of the Heavenly Father in the human race. And having lost that image, man ceases to be human; he turns into a terrible and blasphemous being.
The first pages of the book of Genesis tell us of the terrible consequences of such pride: And it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him (Gen. 4:8). However, this murder brought no joy or peace to this proto-murderer; to the contrary, the blood he spilled became his curse, and his punishment was to be cast out of the land that had just before abundantly nourished him.
Today, seeing how in our holy city of Odessa a terrible tragedy has happened similar to that ancient, original murder, let us look attentively into the depths of our hearts: is the image of God destroyed in us? Hasn’t demonic pride ascended the throne of our heart in place of divine love? And if we see even the slightest sprout of this corrosive poison, let us rush with contrition and humility to the Heavenly Father’s embrace, wash with tears and repentance the origin of that sin—which has ended in the horrifying lawlessness that spilled into the peaceful streets of our beloved city.
Sharing in my heart the pain of this irreplaceable loss, I express my deep condolences to the families, relatives, and friends who have perished in this terrible tragedy. We pray for the repose of their souls. Eternal memory to them. With all pastoral responsibility I call all of you, brothers and sisters, regardless of world views and political convictions, through force of will to restore peace and order in our common home. Not through hatred and revenge, but through love and compassion let us treat the terrible wound on the body of our society.
With my blessing, all communities and churches of Odessa and the diocese are already conducting an urgent collection of money for the suffering who need medical care, and support the families of those Odessans who died on May 2.
I call all to prayer for peace and unity; for peace between those at enmity, for the uprooting of pride and anger, and for the confirmation in all our hearts of love and accord—for our strength is in unity.
May grace and peace increase in our hearts.
METROPOLITAN OF ODESSA AND ISMAIL