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He returned from Russia and founded the first OCU temple in Nikopol - interview with Abbot Mercuriy

, 22:12, 28.01.2023
Estimated reading time: 8 minutes 216

He spoke in an interview with Suspilny about the development of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine in Nikopol.

Interview with Abbot Mercuriy from Nikopol
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Hegumen Mercuriy (Skorokhod), the chaplain of Nikopol and the region of the OCU, the chaplain of the Nikopol Territorial Defense, together with the believers, organized the first church of the Kyiv Patriarchate in Nikopol - the church of Peter Kalnyshevsky. Prior to that, the clergyman united the Ukrainian community in Russia for more than eight years.

He spoke in an interview with Suspilny about the development of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine in Nikopol, the position of the priests of the Moscow Patriarchate, the difference between Ukrainian Orthodoxy and Russian Orthodoxy.

Father, you served in Russia until 2016, united the Ukrainian community there for more than 8 years, visited Ukrainian prisoners in prison, such as Sushchenko. Tell me about it.

Priests, especially monks, carry out the staff entrusted to them by the Church of Christ. Since 2009, the Lord has blessed me to serve in the Bogorod Diocese (Moscow region - ed.), where our Ukrainian diaspora was spiritually nourished, where I performed divine services. It was the only Ukrainian church in the Russian Federation at that time.

When Russia entered Ukrainian soil: first in Crimea, then in Donetsk region, prisoners of conscience began to appear. Such as journalist Roman Sushchenko, who was accused of espionage. He was put in the Lefortovo pre-trial detention center. He did not want to confess to the priest of the Russian church, because he knew that they were KGBists in cassocks. He wanted the Ukrainian church to feed him spiritually. With the blessing of Bishop Adrian, who ruled the diocese, we did this as much as possible: we celebrated all the holidays, visited the pre-trial detention center, handed out food and prayer books.

How did your Russian believers perceive the beginning of the war in 2014?

A large number of parishioners in the Bogorod diocese condemned Putin's actions. But today, when we have a full-scale war, I have no connections either with the parishioners or with the clergy. Because I believe that today they are betraying God with their silence. There were Ukrainian libraries, schools, and national cultural centers in the Russian Federation, but then it was all closed.

Everything was destroyed: now there is no Ukrainian newspaper, the congress of Ukrainians in Russia was closed, and in the end they closed the only Ukrainian community that existed in the territory of the Moscow region. At the same time, almost 10 million Ukrainians living in Russia are silent today for some reason.

When you returned, you learned that there is no Ukrainian church of the Kyiv Patriarchate in Nikopol. And you participated in the development of modern OCU.

In 2016, with God's blessing, I returned to my native Cossack land of Nikopol, where I was born and grew up. In fact, the Ukrainian Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate began in Nikopol in 1996. But she was in a very difficult situation. The church was in such a catacomb state because we did not have our own premises: these were adapted gardens, wagons, etc.

Interview with Abbot Mercuriy from Nikopol

My predecessor, Reverend Father Nikifor, worked hard and laid the cornerstone for the construction of a Ukrainian church in Nikopol. But he suffered a serious illness. Therefore, personnel changes had to be made. And with the blessing of Bishop Simeon, I was transferred from Russia to Nikopol. Here, together with believers and defenders, we began to raise the question that there should be the first typical Ukrainian church in Nikopol. Not in basements, not in wagons, but the Ukrainian church should rule on its land. First you set up a temple in an ordinary house. And then they rebuilt the temple.

Interview with Abbot Mercuriy from Nikopol

In 2017, we received a room that was converted into a chapel. Now we already have our local national Ukrainian church and a temple in honor of our fallen soldiers - in honor of Petro Kalnyshevskyi. At the entrance to the church, we made plaques with photos of fallen soldiers from the Nikopol district. Of course, not everyone is here. Unfortunately, more boys died. Every day in the temple we perform a service for our soldiers. There is also a Sunday school, a volunteer center and accommodation for priests at the church.

In 2018, the Shevchenko community moved to OCU on its own initiative. This is the first community in the Nikopol district that transferred from the Moscow Patriarchate to the Orthodox Church of Ukraine.

This community is an example for our entire region. In the neighboring village of Shevchenko, I have a parish in honor of Peter and Paul, where I constantly go and perform my pastoral service. And on Easter, the community from Shevchenko came there with a request that they also want a Ukrainian church in their village. But at that time they only had a church of the Moscow Patriarchate. 95% of them left this community and took the position that they want to have their own Ukrainian priest and, accordingly, the church. With the bishop's blessing, we supported this initiative. After The community of the village of Shevchenkive also moved to the OCU. Musiivka, Nikopol district.

In your opinion, has the Ukrainian believer changed during almost a year of full-scale war?

Yes, our believers (even potential ones) are changing their position towards the fact that the Ukrainian church has become the soul of the Ukrainian people, that the Ukrainian church is today together with our soldiers. It forms volunteer hubs, helps through chaplaincy.

Not a single priest of the Russian Patriarchate from Nikopol came, did not honor our fallen soldiers, whom we mourn in the church of Peter Kalnyshevsky. Because these are not their heroes today. The position of Russian priests depends on whose tank is on the next street. If there will be a Ukrainian tank, then they will simply be silent and wait. And if Russian - meet with bread and salt. Therefore, the Russian church today is a cancerous tumor on the body of the Ukrainian people. And she has already metastasized in 30 years.

Fortunately, the state is currently making efforts to legally remove the Moscow Patriarchate from Ukraine and return our shrines, because it sees a public demand for this.

You drive the front since 2016. Perform military service. They say that there are no atheists in war. Is this a myth or the truth?

There are no atheists in the trenches and in war. They are convinced of this themselves. Yesterday, even those who did not want to take the cross, icons, had doubts or were skeptics, today they know for sure - the Lord is with them. Every Friday I go to the positions and consecrate the dugouts. Often it is important just to be close to a person, to listen, to hug. This makes it easier for the fighter. The chaplain is nearby, which means that God is also nearby.

How not to lose hope in God and the church against the background of the tragedies of the war, taking into account the activities of the Russian church?

Monk Paisius Sviatogorets once said these wise words on Mount Athos: "I would have lost my mind a long time ago from the injustice of this earthly world, if I did not know one thing - that God will have the last word." Unfortunately, the Calvary of the 21st century has come to our Ukrainian land today. But without Calvary there is no resurrection. The Lord gives us such a cross that we can bear. No more, no less. So that we reevaluate something, learn to appreciate and love those who are close to us more. This test taught us the most important thing - to be united.

In your opinion, what is the peculiarity of Ukrainian Orthodoxy, in contrast to Russian Orthodoxy?

Ukraine has always been fundamentally of the Greek tradition, because the Baptism of Kyivan Rus happened thanks to the position chosen by Volodymyr the Great, a vector for Byzantium and the civilized world. And Russia, which is used to stealing everything, chose to be such a monkey of God - to distort everything. The spirit of slavery in which the Russian people lives has not changed to this day. But this is their way.

We have a different path, God blesses us with other gains. And we don't want to interfere in their lives. However, we ask that they also allow us to live peacefully, develop and prosper on our God-given land. Maybe now there are those who do not believe in our victory. But it will definitely be behind us, because the Lord is always on the side of truth. If God is with us, who is against us?