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Yesterday, Jozef Fejsak, the priest at the Orthodox Church of St. Wenceslas in Brno, locked himself inside the church in protest at the takeover of the church by Bishop Isaiah of Šumperk. Members of the Brno parish are unhappy that the new Bishop was appointed without consulting the local community. Photo Credit: Credit: Radler59 via Wikimedia Commons, CC-BY-SA-4.0.

Brno, Aug 31 (BD) – On Monday afternoon, police were called to the Orthodox Church of St. Wenceslas in Brno, due to a dispute inside the church. Priest Jozef Fejsak locked himself inside the building in protest at the church’s new Bishop, Isaiah of Šumperk, who had arrived to take over the church, as reported by Czech news server Ceske Noviny. The church was surrounded by local supporters of Fejsak, who called out messages of support, while Bishop Isaiah, whose appointment is opposed by many in the church congregation, told the gathered crowds that Fejsak was a “forbidden priest” and “angry at the church.” 

Throughout the day, the police tried to mediate an agreement between the two sides. The situation eventually calmed down after around five hours, as locksmiths arrived to replace the locks and Fejsak emerged from the building. Keys to the building have been left in the care of the secretary of the Brno-střed district, and the church will remain closed until the situation is resolved by the church synod, who are expected to meet  in mid-September.

The secretary of the Brno-střed town hall, Petr Štika, confirmed that he had taken over the keys to the church. “We have written a record of the receipt of the keys and we will keep them in custody until the decision of the Holy Synod,” said Štika. He added that the meeting at the town hall ended after 6pm.

Yesterday, a message appeared on the website of the Orthodox Church community that “Father Jozef needs help” and that the church and the parish were in danger. In response, several dozen people gathered around the church, mostly Russian- or Ukrainian-speaking members of the church community. Many tried to discuss with the police, protesting that decisions over the church should be decided by the local church community, not the bishop. They feared that the parish would be left without a priest and the church would be closed.

The situation around the Brno Orthodox community has been tense for some time. Last year, Fejsak was removed from the position of spiritual administrator and appointed only as an auxiliary clergyman. Bishop Isaiah of Šumperk, real name Igor Slaninka, was appointed spiritual administrator, but his appointment is strongly opposed by the local parish community. “It was not done in accordance with the constitution of the Orthodox Church,” Michal Dvořáček, a member of the parish council and secretary of the clergy, told reporters. “The administration should remain in the hands of our long-term spiritual father and administrator of the parish.” Bishop Isaiah declined to comment.

“Anyone who has been watching the situation, and the more than eight months of agony of the dedicated and loving believers and friends of our parish for the return of the spiritual administrator of the Brno parish, Father Jozef Fejsak, to the position he has honestly held for almost 40 years, will quickly understand what the current leadership of our eparchy is all about,” read a statement on the website of the church community.

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