Moscow (AsiaNews) – A group of separatists were barred entry to the Donetsk cathedral of, in eastern Ukraine. The group wanted to carry an ancient icon from Russia to the cathedral, according to Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper, the miraculous icon of the Blessed Mother of God of Tikhvin. The separatists, who have been fighting the Kiev army for months, had carried the icon in procession to the Cathedral of the Transfiguration, where, however, the Orthodox clergy refused to come out to meet them and banned them from entering the church.
One of the organizers of the icon’s transfer to Donetsk, the deputy director of the New Martyrs charity fund, Maria Bavykina, says that Metropolitan Hilarion of Donetsk and Mariupol has prohibited local priests to have any relations with the militia or to give them their blessing.
Some believers insisted that the icon should be brought into the cathedral, but it was thought this could only aggravate the situation. The procession was held around the city and then stopped for a few hours with the sacred image near the headquarters of the self-proclaimed People’s Republic of Dontesk, where many went to pray.
The icon arrived in Donetsk earlier this summer from the Russian monastery of the Assumption, in the town of Tikhvin, Leningrad. The icon is also called “militia” because it accompanied a Russian military division during the Crimean War (1855-1856) against Napoleon in 1812, and with the same image of the Mother of God, Minin and Pozharsky liberated Moscow from the Poles, in 1612.
In August, the Board of Bishops of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church distanced itself from the pro-Russian militia and called on “all those who illegally took up arms to lay them aside and seek a peaceful solution to the conflict.” In the Diocese of Lugansk, also, clergy was banned from participating in any “political activity, especially in acts of violence involving the use of arms.”