Metropolitan Longin faces arrest: what will happen to his 400 children?

23 May 2023 14:59
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Metropolitan Longin with his children. Photo: news.church.ua Metropolitan Longin with his children. Photo: news.church.ua

The SBU has handed over suspicion to Metropolitan Longin of Bancheni. The bishop could be put on trial. What will happen to those hundreds of children who call him dad?

On May 22, 2023, Metropolitan Longin (Zhar) of Bancheni was summoned for questioning to the Chernivtsi Police Department. During the interrogation, the bishop was handed a suspicion which said that a criminal case under Article 161 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine – for incitement of interfaith hatred – was opened against him. At the moment, the court is deciding on a preventive measure for him. However, the situation with Metropolitan Longin is more complicated than with any other bishop or even just a citizen of Ukraine.

"Tatika"

The fact is that Metropolitan Longin is the father of four hundred children. Many years ago, in 1992, while he was still a priest-monk in the Chernivtsi Eparchy of the UOC, Father Longin (Zhar) brought to the Ascension Monastery founded by him (there was only one church on its territory then) a boy, Ivan by name. Vanechka was a very weak and sickly boy with cerebral palsy from the Chernivtsi orphanage. Fr Longin adopted him. Then he adopted another child, and then another. In 1994, he became the father of 29 more children. Later, when he ran out of pages in his passport that contained information about adopted children, Fr Longin formalized his formal guardianship. At first, the retreat for all these children, who called the father "tatika" ("daddie" in Moldovian), was located on the territory of the monastery. But later it was decided to build separate buildings for the children. This is how the children's home in the village of Molnitsa came into being.

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And it must be said that it is not just an orphanage, but a real fairytale town. The children live in excellent conditions and are looked after by a huge staff of over 100, including nuns, highly qualified teachers and doctors. The children are provided with everything they need, from beautiful and spacious rooms to computer classes and playgrounds. Moreover, since Bishop Longin is the father of these children, he continues to support them even after they must leave the orphanage due to age. Vladyka literally cares for them as if they were his own children, sends them to school, supports them financially, takes care of their homes and even has them married. In other words, he does everything that good parents should do.

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But... Many children cannot leave the orphanage. Among Vladyka's sons and daughters, there are those who have no arms and legs, who have HIV or serious forms of cerebral palsy. These children need constant, around-the-clock qualified care. And Metropolitan Longin, together with his helpers, provides this care for them. What would happen to these children if, God forbid, something should happen to Vladyka?

What will happen to the bishop's children?

It is not difficult to guess. Now the Ukrainian authorities are trying to create a situation in which the UOC will be physically unable to exist in the country. It means that churches and monasteries will be simply taken away either in favour of the OCU or the state, having turned them into museums or provision warehouses. Actually, even if these churches fall into the hands of Dumenko's supporters, they will most likely cease to function normally. The maximum they can have is the "divine service", and even that sometimes. As for all humanitarian, missionary, or charitable projects, their fate is sad and predetermined: they will be closed. This is not an exaggeration; this is real stuff.

For example, in the city of Khmelnytskyi, the OCU reps, with the support of the authorities, took away several churches from the UOC community. What was the first thing the "priests" of the Dumenko structure did? They sang the anthem of Ukraine and closed the charity canteens at the churches.

Here is what one of the local residents writes, addressing Mayor Simchyshyn: "I understand that you have a good salary, and with such a large salary you may not know that there are many thousands of people in Khmelnytskyi – pensioners, refugees, migrants, the disabled, who have lost their homes and their health! Many of them came to UOC churches just to pray and eat! Before your seizure of temples in our city, there were free canteens at St. George’s Church, the Intercession Church and the Church of the Kazan icon of the Mother of God! After the change of owners from the UOC to the OCU, all the canteens were closed!"

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Other examples could be given. But it is clear that the OCU, for various reasons (lack of desire, parishioners, funds and help from God) will not engage in charity on such a scale as the UOC.

Then what will happen to Vladyka’s children? Where will they go if their "Tatika", their "daddy" is imprisoned? The state does not need them, let alone the Orthodox Church. Keeping them means a lot of money, which, even if found, will be pocketed. Because the father of these children is Met. Longin, and no one can take his place. So, the prison for the bishop is... We don't want to write what it is for his children. It's no good.

What next?

Metropolitan Longin is not just a monk but a person who has tremendous authority among ordinary believers. People, on learning that the Bishop had been summoned for questioning, came to support him. Several hundred people prayerfully empathized with their archpastor, standing in the street and waiting for the father to come out and tell them what was going on. They truly and sincerely love him. Because they see him as a shepherd, a Christian and a bishop of the Church of Christ, who shows his faithfulness to the Gospel not in words, but in deeds. Therefore, there is no need to call people for his defence – they will come on their own because they "hear the voice" of their shepherd. We do not know what will happen if they decide to try him and, God forbid, arrest him.

But we know for sure that the people will not abandon him or turn their backs on him. If hundreds came for questioning, then thousands, even tens of thousands, will come to the trial. In addition, the Bishop Longin сase already has an international resonance and causes bewilderment, indignation and resentment from, for example, Romania and Moldova. It goes not only about simple believers but also about politicians. Does Ukraine need internal conflict and international scandal? No, of course, not.

Therefore, we hope that our authorities will be reasonable enough not to take any further steps in relation to Metropolitan Longin. We hope that he will be able to continue praying in peace and bring up his children. Otherwise, the authorities will not only condemn the bishop to imprisonment but will also condemn his 400 children to different misadventures. Remember that to offend a child is to offend God Himself. And for such offences, one always has to be accountable.

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