Ukraine cancels citizenship, deports bishop as he returns from speaking to US Congress about persecution in Ukraine

His Grace Bishop Gideon (Kharon) of Makarov, the abbot of the persecuted Monastery of the Tithes in Kiev, has been deported to America, his Ukrainian citizenship canceled.

Meeting with US Congressmen

Bp. Gideon was, in fact, just returning from a trip to America where he spoke to members of Congress about the persecutions the Ukrainian hierarchy, clergy, and faithful are experiencing now at the hands of schismatics and nationalists. His Grace also holds US citizenship.

He was also scheduled to be involved in two court cases involving state persecution in Ukraine, one to be held today.

On February 5, Bp. Gideon briefed a group of US Congressmen on the facts of the discrimination of facing the canonical Ukrainian Church now at the hands of the Ukrainian state. He also spoke about how representatives of the schismatic church flagrantly violate international law and the Ukrainian constitution and about the violent activities of Ukraine’s various radical organizations. He also gave Secretary of State Mike Pompeo an official appeal from the Ukrainian Church asking the US to consider the many cases of the violation of the rights and freedoms of the faithful. US authorities promised to investigate the situation.

Following his meeting with Pompeo, His Grace was asked by journalists whether the Ukrainian authorities would increase pressure on the Church and on him personally because of his speech to Congress. He replied that anything can happen.

Detainment and deportation

Among the claims levied against Bp. Gideon upon his return is that he is engaged in “anti-Ukrainian activity.” Schismatic-nationalists have been trying for a year to have his monastery not only closed, but destroyed, claiming it acts as a Russian agent and was built illegally. A court case on the matter is scheduled for February 21.

The Ukrainian Security Service detained Bp. Gideon at Boryspil Airport in Kiev. News of his detainment was first published on Facebook by Vladyka’s secretary Protodeacon Anthony.

“We don’t know where they’re deporting him to,” the protodeacon initially said. “He is a citizen of Ukraine. He was born in Ukraine. At the moment he is deprived of citizenship, and where they’re deporting him to is unknown.”

While in detainment, the bishop began to feel ill but the agents made it extremely difficult to get medicine to him. Lawyers and Parliamentary Deputies also were not allowed to see him, reports the Union of Orthodox Journalists with reference to Bp. Gideon’s Facebook page.

Vladyka also notes that his detention is supposedly based “simply on the fact that my passport was allegedly lost,” though his secretary stated that his passport was, in fact, seized by the Ukrainian Security Service. Furthermore, a lost passport is not cause for cancelation of citizenship and deportation.

“They didn’t let me into Ukraine, arguing that my citizenship has been canceled, that it’s invalid, although just 15 days ago I flew out without any problems or any kind of court decision,” the bishop said in one of his video messages. Bp. Gideon also experienced no problems passing through passport control in America, despite Ukrainian officials’ claims that he has no passport.

“It’s just such religious and political pressure and lawlessness that’s happening in Ukraine today,” Bp. Gideon said.

Meanwhile, the press secretary for the head of the State Border Service Oleg Slobodyan writes that the border guards were fulfilling the order of the Security Service and seized his passport “since this person has citizenship in several countries.” Moreover, Slobodyan writes: “In talking further, it turned out that this citizen is engaged in anti-Ukrainian propaganda and is an active adept of the ‘Russian world.’”

Thus, a Ukrainian citizen has been deprived of his citizenship and homeland based on his views, without regard to the Ukrainian constitution or law.

“Dear brother and sisters! I thank you all for your support! I entreat your prayers, that the Lord would strengthen us all for future work for the glory of our Lord and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church,” Bp. Gideon wrote today after being deported.

Court cases

As the Information Center of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church reports, Bp. Gideon’s detainment came on the eve of the Supreme Court session on the claim to invalidate the April appeal of the Ukrainian Parliament to Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople for a tomos of autocephaly.

Several lawsuits were filed with the Supreme Court in 2018 to declare the Rada’s appeal for a tomos of autocephaly unlawful and to overturn it, including from Bp. Gideon, the Gorodnitsky-St. George’s male Monastery in the Zhytomyr Province, and the Church of St. Nicholas in the Berdiansk Diocese. 47 Parliamentary Deputies made the same appeal in December.

The Supreme Court combined the claims of Bp. Gideon and the St. Nicholas Church into one in November. The session, in which Bp. Gideon was to act as plaintiff, was to take place today.

Furthermore, the court date concerning the Kiev Monastery of the Nativity of the Most Holy Theotokos “of the Tithes,” of which Bp. Gideon is the abbot, is scheduled for a week from today, February 21. The original Church of the Tithes was built in 989, just after the Baptism of Rus’, and thus it is one of the most important sites in Ukrainian Orthodoxy.

The monastery has been under constant attack, both physically and legally, in previous years. On January 25 of last year, two men set fire to the monastery’s Sts. Vladimir and Olga Church, causing damage to the door. Their $77,000 bail was quickly paid by Ukrainian Deputies. The men said the setting of the fire was not a mere act of arson, but a demonstration meant to draw attention to the church’s supposed illegal status.

Even before the fire, a petition had circulated calling for the church’s destruction, under the pretense that as a monastery of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church, the brothers must be “Russian agents,” and that the Sts. Vladimir and Olga Church illegally stands on the territory of the National History Museum, which is being debated in court.

Thousands have come out to protect the monastery against further attacks on multiple occasions, and as of early March, 20,000 people had signed a petition in support of the monastery, noting that the church is, in fact, legally registered and that the monastery is in possession of all the necessary documents.

The suit, brought by People’s Deputy Igor Lutsenko against the state registrar for the registration of three small architectural real estate objects was first heard on May 29, and involves the monastery community, the museum, and the Ministry of Culture as third parties.

Bp. Gideon

His Grace was born on June 10, 1960 in Odessa. He became a conscious Orthodox Christian in his youth and was baptized at the age of 15. He was a novice at Holy Dormition Monastery in Odessa but later served in the army from 1979 to 1982. Moving back to Odessa and later to Kursk after demobilization, he was tonsured as a monk on October 7, 1987, and was ordained as a hierodeacon the next day. He was ordained as a hieromonk in 1989 and appointed as the abbot of the revived Znamenny Monastery in Abalak, Ukraine.

In 1991, he was transferred to the clergy of the Orthodox Church in America, where he served at the Russian women’s House of Mercy with the Church of the Holy Protection in San Francisco, the Church of St. Vladimir in Santa Barbarba, and the Monastery of St. John of Shanghai when it was still in Point Reyes Station. He received American citizenship and served as a chaplain on a naval ship.

He later returned to the Moscow Patriarchate and has been a cleric of the Kiev Diocese since 1999. In 2005 he was appointed the rector of the Tithes Church and the abbot of the newly-formed monastery since 2009.

He was elected as Bishop of Makarov on May 25, 2018, and consecrated on June 18.

Find out more about Bp. Gideon and the Tithes Monastery in the interview “The Much-Suffering Monastery,” and the article “The Glorification and Miracles of the Tithes Icon of the Mother of God.”

Source: Orthochristian