Representatives for the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church confirmed on their website that Pope Francis has formally stripped nine Ukrainian monks of their monastic status for performing unauthorized exorcisms. The Pope's decision was based on the recommendations of a special commission called by Ukrainian church authorities following reports that the monks had been acting under the orders of a self-proclaimed "prophetess", Sister Maria Baran.
Since 2004, Sister Baran has been claiming to "hear the voice of God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, Sacred Virgin Mary, and some saints." She has since gained followers at monasteries in Kolodiivka and Velyki Borky, including the nine monks who have been censured. According to the commission investigating Baran and her followers, the monks ignored repeated warnings and continued to conduct exorcisms without seeking formal permission from the local bishop. Under normal circumstances, a special permit would need to be issued before an exorcism could be carried out though no details have been given concerning how many exorcisms have been conducted.
In their summation, the commission noted that "those who spread the orders of the 'prophetess' manipulate the notions of the obedience and spiritual guidance." Under the decrees approved by the Pope, the monks are no longer allowed to wear monastic clothes or call themselves monks. They have also been banned from conducting any religious rites in or outside the temple. This decision is deemed to be final and cannot be appealed.
While the monasteries involved are being reorganized, some of the monks who have been censured are refusing to accept the decision and have illegally settled in a nearby village where they are continuing to offer monastic services. No word is given on whether Sister Baran is still leading them.