A church under surveillance by a man in a Toyota

_105155644_kneeling976Source: BBC News

Officially the Orthodox Church of Ukraine is now fully independent of Moscow, but many parishes remain loyal to the Russian patriarch – leading in some cases to local tensions. The BBC’s Nick Sturdee witnessed this in a town in the nationalist west of the country.

The sun is streaming through the lofty windows of the Church of the Holy Trinity in Bohorodchany. The divine floodlight illuminates icons and families before them, and the tear-like streaks of condensation on the frescoes thought miraculous by those who attend here. The congregation chants, many brandishing their candles as though ready for battle.

Father Volodymyr faces them all, bearded, crucifix clasped in both hands. Today’s sermon is on the persecution of Orthodox saints through the ages, and moves inexorably and seamlessly to the present – in fact, to the events in this very church just a few days earlier. “There were 40 of them. They broke down the doors,” he announces. “They forced us to the ground. They hit our sexton on the head. They called us KGB agents and said we should switch church. Change our confession. All in a very nice, democratic way – of course.”

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