4 Feb 2019 11:29

New church supporters attack senior priest, flock of Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Ternopil region

KYIV. Feb 4 (Interfax) - Supporters of the new church created with the support from Constantinople and Ukraine's administration attacked Archpriest Stefan Balan, who heads the Transfiguration Church in the village of Gnezdychnko, Zbarazhsky district, Ternopil region, on Sunday.

Activists "staged a provocation and disrupted the liturgy" on Sunday morning, the information and education department of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church reported.

Police who came to the scene took the side of the provocateurs, the report said.

"Then some men wearing camouflage uniform with red and black labels came and started battering us. They grabbed me by the head and broke by finger. After that we called for an ambulance. Medical workers registered the battering of my entire body: head, chest and hands," the priest, who was hurt the most, said.

Activists held a meeting in the village on January 13 where some people voted to join the new Ukrainian church; however, the local flock decided to stay in the canonical Church, the report said.

However, the director of a local school, who had instigated the clashes, could not put up with that situation. "The director of the school is pressuring teachers, he is collecting signatures. He threatens to fire people who will attend my services. He has held this position for many years now and he keeps the entire school in fear. People call me, crying, and say 'father, forgive us, we cannot help'," the priest said.

The church is now sealed. The believers left the church after a prayer service.