Ukrainian Catholics disappointed in pope-patriarch statement


RISU, 14 February 2016


In this way the head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church [UGKTs] commented on the joint declaration signed on 12 February in Havana by Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill: "They talked about us, without us, without giving us a voice. . . ." The head of UGKTs added that it is possible "the apostolic nuncio in Ukraine will be able to help us understand the 'dark places' of this text and explain the Vatican's position at places where it, in our view, is not quite clearly formulated."


Patriarch Sviatoslav emphasizes that undoubtedly "this text evoked deep disappointment among many of the faithful of our church and simply concerned citizens of Ukraine. Today many have turned to me on this matter and said that they feel betrayed by the Vatican, disappointed by the half-heartedness of the truth in this document and even indirect support on the part of the Apostolic See for Russia's aggression against Ukraine. I certainly understand these feelings. However I urge our faithful not to dramatize this declaration and not to exaggerate its significance for church life. We have experienced several such declarations and we will survive this one too."


"It was officially announced that this document is the result of the work of Metropolitan Ilarion on the Orthodox side and Cardinal Kurt Koch and the Pontifical Council for Issues of United among Christians on the Catholic side. For a document that was supposed to be not theological but actually socio-political, it is hard to imagine a weaker team for its composition. The said pontifical council is competent in theological questions with respect to various Christian churches and communities, but not in any way in matters of international politics, especially in delicate matters of the Russian aggression in Ukraine. Therefore the indicated character of the document did not give it force. The Department of External Church Relations of the RPTs, which is an instrument of diplomacy and foreign policy of the Moscow patriarchate as nobody else is, took advantage of this," Patriarch Sviatoslav emphasizes.


"Point 26 of this declaration is most controversial. It gives the impression that the Moscow patriarchate either stubbornly does not admit that it is a side in the conflict, that is, it openly supports Russia's aggression against Ukraine (as, incidentally it sanctifies Russia's armed actions in Syria as a 'holy war'), or it appeals first of all to its own conscience and calls itself to judgment, social solidarity, and active construction of peace. I do not know. . . . It is the word 'conflict' here that is obscure and more likely inclines the reader to think that we have a 'civil conflict' and not external aggression by a neighbor state. Today it is generally known that if its troops had not come from Russia onto Ukrainian land and delivered heavy weaponry and if the RPTs had not sanctified the idea of the 'Russian World' but given Ukraine control over its own borders, then there would not have been the annexation of Crimea nor this war at all. It is such social solidarity with the Ukrainian people and active construction of peace that we expect from the signatories of this document," the head of UGKTs commented.


"The UGKTs has never supported nor promoted war. On the contrary, we have always supported and will support the people of Ukraine," His Beatitude Sviatoslav declared. "We never were on the side of the aggressor; on the contrary we were with our people on the Maidan when the bearers of the 'Russian World' killed them. Our priests never took weapons into their hands, in contrast to what happened with the other side. Our chaplains, as peacemakers, freeze along with our soldiers at the front and carry with their own hands the wounded from the field of battle and wipe away the tears of mothers who mourn their dead children. We care for the wounded and victims of the consequences of military actions, regardless of their national origin and religious or political convictions. Today, as some times now, circumstances are developing in such a way so that our people do not have another defense and salvation besides their church. It is the pastoral conscience that summons us to be the voice of this nation and to awaken the conscience of the world Christian community, even at a time when this voice is not understood or heeded by the religious leaders of contemporary churches."


For more details about how Ukrainian Greek Catholics perceived the meeting of the pope and patriarch and what is their reaction to the joint declaration in the parts that pertain to Ukraine and the UGKTs, read the interview of Father Igor Yatsiv with UGKTs Patriarch Sviatoslav, "The meeting that did not happen." The head of the UGKTs said that what is positive in the document is that the declaration "touched on questions that are common for Catholics and Orthodox and opens new horizons for cooperation." (tr. by PDS, posted 15 February 2016)


from Holy See Press Office, 12 February 2016

excerpts pertaining to Ukrainian Greek Orthodox Church

. . . 25. It is our hope that our meeting may also contribute to reconciliation wherever tensions exist between Greek Catholics and Orthodox. It is today clear that the past method of “uniatism”, understood as the union of one community to the other, separating it from its Church, is not the way to re–establish unity. Nonetheless, the ecclesial communities which emerged in these historical circumstances have the right to exist and to undertake all that is necessary to meet the spiritual needs of their faithful, while seeking to live in peace with their neighbours. Orthodox and Greek Catholics are in need of reconciliation and of mutually acceptable forms of co–existence.

26. We deplore the hostility in Ukraine that has already caused many victims, inflicted innumerable wounds on peaceful inhabitants and thrown society into a deep economic and humanitarian crisis. We invite all the parts involved in the conflict to prudence, to social solidarity and to action aimed at constructing peace. We invite our Churches in Ukraine to work towards social harmony, to refrain from taking part in the confrontation, and to not support any further development of the conflict.

27. It is our hope that the schism between the Orthodox faithful in Ukraine may be overcome through existing canonical norms, that all the Orthodox Christians of Ukraine may live in peace and harmony, and that the Catholic communities in the country may contribute to this, in such a way that our Christian brotherhood may become increasingly evident. . . .


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