Ukrainian Uniates note contradictory treatment by Orthodox


RISU, 28 March 2016


On 26 March 2016 the Department of Information of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGKTs) published a collective appeal of a group of Ukrainian Greek Catholics in response to a statement of famous Orthodox Christians of the world, in which they acknowledged the violent character of the unification of the UGKTs to the Russian church in 1946 and called "the contemporary church hierarchy in Russia, Ukraine, and others to acknowledge the tragic decisions of the Lvov council to be invalid." Among the signatories of the appeal are the head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, His Beatitude Sviatoslav, and bishops Bogdan and Vasily, well-known clergy, and scholars.


The signatories to the "Message to Orthodox brothers and sisters who signed the statement on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the so-called Lvov council of 1946" expressed thanks to the Orthodox for their appeal, noting not only those whose signatures are under the present joint statement but also all Orthodox who in the course of the last decades acknowledged the truth about the tragic events of 1946.


On their part, the Greek Catholics suggest to the Orthodox to reject a polemical model of mutual relations and to begin a dialogue regarding the events of the past that should "proceed in a calm, friendly atmosphere of mutual search for objective truth, on the basis of academic methodology and academic honesty and accountability."


At the same time, the Greek Catholics note that a dialogue on history would be slight, and it is necessary also to conduct a dialogue about the unity of the church. The UGKTs proposes to abandon false concepts of unity in which one side interprets the other "not as a communion of brothers and sisters in Christ but as an opponent and sometimes even as an enemy." In the opinion of Greek Catholics, "unity" should not be understood as "joining" or "reunification," since such models are "actually nothing other than an infamous 'Uniatism,' which both Catholics and Orthodox have condemned as an improper means of church unification."


The UGKTs notes that the Greek Catholic and Orthodox sides have gone along their own unique path of development and their experience might serve for mutual spiritual enrichment.


Anatoly Babinsky, one of the signatories of the collective message and chief editor of the magazine Patriarkhat, noted in a commentary for RISU: "The statement of our Orthodox brothers was a very valuable testimony that resounded in the days when we are recalling the tragic events of 1946. It gave hope that we really are beginning a process of departure from the polemic of the past and are opening a new page of cooperation. His Beatitude Sviatoslav said that for Greek Catholics, this statement is weightier than the Havana declaration. One may be convinced of this one's self. The dubious points of the aforementioned declaration only provoked disputes over Catholic-Orthodox relations not only in Ukraine, but also beyond its borders. On the contrary, in the situation of the exchange of letters between Orthodox and Greek Catholics regarding the events of 1946 we see an attempt to get to a new level of cooperation through sincere conversation, without the use of diplomatic tricks, which as a rule produce no results."


The declaration on the part of the UGKTs was made public in the name of participants of the international academic conference "The power of faith against the violence of government: Greek Catholics of Central and Eastern Europe in conditions of persecution by totalitarian regimes after World War II," which was held in the T.G. Shevchenko Kiev National University on 17 March 2016. (tr. by PDS, posted 28 March 2016)





We, Greek Catholic bishops, representatives of the clergy and laity, and scholars and researchers from various countries, express to you our sincere thanks and recognition for your appeal in which you justly call this meeting a "false council."


You call the Orthodox hierarchy in Russia and Ukraine to recognize "its tragic decision to be invalid" and you affirm the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in its solidarity and prayer "for all innocent victims of this church who, with the connivance of the Moscow patriarchate, were imprisoned, tortured, deported, and killed by the soviet regime."


The Lord is a God of peace, and he allows us to feel an earthly peace that is a clear foretaste of the heavenly kingdom. When we are reconciled, it is as if it were a confirmation of Christ's exhortation: "When you bring your gift to the altar and there you recall that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar; Go, be reconciled with your brother, and then come and bring your gift" (Mt.5.23-24). This year your paschal gift will be sweet to the Lord. We hope that he will give us also his mercy.


We are sincerely amazed at your courage; after all it is difficult to be the first and yet more difficult to remain alone. It is always possible to stumble on suspicion and distrust on the part of the other side and misunderstanding and lack of support from one's own. We are convinced that your declaration reflects the sincere opinion and conviction of many Orthodox in the whole world. Therefore today we recall with thanksgiving all those whose rare voices of sympathy, understanding, and solidarity with the church that was condemned to silence were raised in the course of all the preceding decades and continue to resound today. Almost simultaneously with you, the press center of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kiev patriarchate declared that they "share the grief of the Ukrainian Greek Catholics for those sufferings and losses that they had to endure as the result of soviet repressions." Both of these initiatives appeared against the background of searches for Eucharistic unity between Orthodox and Greek Catholics that were begun last year upon the suggestion of the council of the Kharkov-Poltava diocese of the UAPTs.


Our response can best of all be put into words: "Farewell and we ask for forgiveness," with which exactly 50 years ago the Polish bishops addressed the German bishops and which from that time have been the chief formula of the European culture of understanding. In the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, this formula was sounded for the first time in 1987 from the lips of the then head of the church, Miroslav (Ivan Cardinal Liubachivsky), and confirmed at various possible times by its more recent primates.


Of course, it is difficult not to notice that the official position of that church that was the instrument of persecution of Greek Catholics in the hands of the atheistic totalitarian regime, has remained to the present a position of denial of evident historical reality and of a frank lack of desire to acknowledge facts. The history of the persecution of the UGKTs has also been subsequently falsified in accordance with stalinist guidelines and has become the instrument of neo-imperial ideological propaganda and even the hybrid war unleashed on the territory of Ukraine by those who are building their own so-called "Russian World" by assigning to themselves the monopoly of the single representative of "Orthodox civilization." The world of a genuine civilization, however, cannot be built on hatred, violence, and distortion of historical truth; such a pseudo-civilization, such a pseudo-world, does not have a future. May all who artificially tried to replace internal truth with external force recall this.


However, we know that "God's mills grind slowly," and thus we believe that false ideological constructions will fall sooner or later. After all Christ's own strength was not that he had the support of governmental authorities or political influences but that he sowed the Word of Eternal Life and he testified to the truth. Inspired by the example of our Savior, we hope and believe that your declaration will become that gospel mustard seed that will give great fruit. It opens the possibility in the near future for Orthodox and Greek Catholics to realize that for which we pray every year in the hymns of the paschal liturgy: "Day of resurrection, we are enlightened with victory; and we embrace one another and we say: Brothers. . . ."


However we will not be able to advance forward with our heads turned toward the rear. Our relations are marked by centuries of sharp confessional disputes, and also by fresh conflicts of recent decades, conflicts which divided our communities and also individual families. Today we must, once and for all, reject such a style and form of explaining our relations, leaving the past to its researchers and to Almighty God, who is the best healer of our minds and hearts. Conversation about the past must proceed in a calm, friendly atmosphere of mutual search for objective truth, on the basis of methodology and academic honesty and accountability. Yet the ultimate goal of such dialogue must be not just the explanation of historical truth. We are called to a greater goal—the unity of the church of Christ.


In the past, each of the sides sinned in trying not so much for genuine unity in love as for joining the other side to itself, which is interpreted not as a community of brothers and sisters in Christ but as opponents and sometimes even enemies. Often such unification was masked under "reunification," which actually was nothing other than sad "Uniatism," which both Catholics and Orthodox have condemned as a violation of the way to church unification. Our communities have gone along their own historical path and have different experience of church life. Until now this has been the cause of our rivalry. However in reality it may become the basis for our mutual enrichment. Let this also be a pledge of our brotherly love and unity, which Christ bequeathed to us. It is by observance of this unity that we certify to the world the essence of our faith and fidelity to our common tradition.


Orthodox brothers and sisters, your letter helped us to go beyond the limits of our pain and to experience this sad anniversary of the false council with a feeling of hope. We hope that our mutual appeals, in which others of our fellow believers will be able to join, will become the foundation for our subsequent joint labor. May the Holy Spirit heal our historical wounds and lead us on the path of forgiveness, reconciliation, and genuine unity in Christ, who by his resurrection has overcome death and given us hope for life eternal.


Kiev, 17 March in the year of our Lord 2016

(tr. by PDS, posted 28 March 2016)


Ukrainian original posted on website of Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, 26 March 2016

Background article:
Orthodox figures ask Uniates for forgiveness
March 7, 2016

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