Moscow objects to Ukrainian Catholics' criticism


Interfax-Religiia, 2 August 2016


The Moscow patriarchate intends to return the problem of the Unia to the agenda of the dialogue with the Roman Catholic Church in light of recent harsh attacks of Greek Catholics against participants in the All-Ukrainian procession of the cross.


"In view of the unprecedented aggressive rhetoric of the chief archbishop of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGKTs), Sviatoslav Shevchuk, and Cardinal Liubomir Guzar against the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UPTs) and the Moscow patriarchate as a whole, the Department of External Church Relations (OVTsS) of the Moscow patriarchate considers a return to the topic of the canonical and pastoral consequences of the Unia at the next plenary session of the Joint Commission for Orthodox-Catholic Dialogue to be a matter of urgent necessity," a statement of the Communication Service of the OVTsS, that was distributed on Tuesday in Moscow, says.


A session of the Orthodox-Catholic commission is scheduled for 15-22 September in the city of Chieti, Italy.


As reported, the All-Ukrainian procession of the cross for national reconciliation was conducted from 3 to 27 July, starting both in the east and in the west of the country and concluding in Kiev on the eve of the Baptism of Rus Day. In all, up to 100,000 believers participated in the Orthodox march.


Meanwhile, opponents of this peace-making action perceived in it a political tone. In particular, the head of the Ukrainian Uniates, Sviatoslav Shevchuk, compared the procession of the cross with "a human shield of civilians" and warned that "if from amongst the participants of this process there come anti-Ukrainian slogans and provocations, this will be the end of the Moscow patriarchate in Ukraine."


In his turn, the former head of Uniates, Liubomir Guzar, declared that the procession that was organized by the UPTs looks like "a vile trick." "This is cynicism of which worse is something difficult to imagine," he said.


"From these statements, infused with hatred, it is obvious that canonical Orthodoxy remains, as before, the target of harsh attacks for the Uniate leaders. Over the course of centuries, Uniates have tried to dispose of Orthodoxy with the help of secular authorities, when this was possible, or with the help of various insinuations, frauds, and deceit. And today, by their politicized statements, the Greek Catholic leadership has again tried to drive a wedge between Orthodox and Catholics," the statement of the Department of External Church Relations says.


Thus the authors of the document pose the question whether it is possible to conduct a dialogue with the Roman Catholic Church on other theological topics at a time when "the topic of the Unia remains a bleeding wound and the leaders of Uniatism have not ceased their blasphemous and politicized rhetoric directed against the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church."


Thus, the Moscow patriarchate concludes, "dialogue on the issue of the canonical and pastoral consequences of the Unia, whose forceful interruption is the Greek Catholics' fault, should be resumed immediately." (tr. by PDS, posted 2 August 2016)



RISU, 25 July 2016


The head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, His Beatitude Sviatoslav, shared with the Information Department of the UGKTs his impressions of the so-called procession of the cross which is moving into Kiev.


"The procession of the cross organized by the UPTsMP includes very many non-religious elements. I think that believing people nowadays know how to distinguish the religious from the political in Ukraine. Nobody has any objections to the religious contents. . . It is the non-religious aspect of this march that evokes alarm," the first hierarch emphasized.


The head of the UGKTs recalled the tactic of the human shield that was used by the aggressor at the start of the war in the Donbass: "They used old men, women, and even children as a shield for armed criminals. And it is obvious that such conduct is simply the height of cynicism. . . . Many also fear that those participants in the procession will be used as an instrument for some kind of unannounced, undeclared goals, just as this was done in the Donbass in the recent past."


Patriarch Sviatoslav stressed that the Moscow patriarchate has very often been used as an instrument in the hands of an aggressor and the problem still is that the community of the Moscow patriarchate, on the level of many of its spokespersons, has shown itself incapable of dialogue with society. And every time it is more withdrawn into itself, there is no openness to society on the part of the Moscow patriarchate. And society, according to the UGKTs head, awaits some word of explanation of everything that the UPTsMP is initiating.


Yet another problem in the UPTsMP that Patriarch Sviatoslav identified is that the leaders of the Moscow patriarchate in Ukraine do not want to take responsibility for the actions that have been initiated. "The question now arises: it is easy to initiate a march to Kiev of many thousands of people, but will the leaders of this procession and those who initiated it take responsibility for the actions of those people? Or will it be that they come to Kiev and get out of the control of their spiritual leaders? And then the clergy simply throws up its hands and says that it distances itself from their conduct. Here very many internal problems of the Moscow patriarchate arise, where the hierarchy does not lead, is not responsible, and moreover publicly rejects responsibility for the actions of its faithful," the head of the UGKTs says.


Patriarch Sviatoslav advises what to do in this situation: "I would like to appeal individually to those who consider themselves Ukrainian patriots and who publically express the idea of rejection of this procession and even wish to prevent it. I would warn against any attempts to prevent this procession. Because such conduct absolutely plays into the hand of the enemies of Ukraine.


"If from among participants in this procession of the cross there arise anti-Ukrainian slogans and provocations, then this will be the end of the Moscow patriarchate in Ukraine. I think the hierarchy should understand this.


And on our part or on the part of those who consider themselves Ukrainian patriots, one should not surrender to provocations and should not simply act in such a way as to attribute it to general knowledge. I think that this also should be done by the governmental agencies. Among the clergy of the Moscow patriarchate there are very many cases of conduct incompatible with the calling of a citizen of Ukraine. This was stated during the last meeting of the head of the Ukrainian Security Service with the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations. One must speak about this frankly.


I think that transparency in society, the possibility of really distinguishing church affairs from political ones and the capacity to be restrained and to rule our emotions and not surrender to provocation—these are the necessary elements needed for restraining those who wish to exploit the faithful of the Moscow patriarchate as a human shield for their anti-Ukrainian activity, that has failed." (tr. by PDS, posted 2 August 2016)

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