Kiev Orthodox patriarchate criticizes pope-patriarch statement


Press Center of the Kiev patriarchate, 15 February 2016




1. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kiev patriarchate has always supported and promoted inter-confessional and inter-religious dialogue. An authentic example of this is the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations, in which 18 members have cooperated fruitfully for 20 years, including the Orthodox Churches of the Kiev and Moscow patriarchates, the Ukrainian Greek Catholic and Roman Catholic Churches, protestant churches and associations of Baptists, Pentecostals, Seventh-Day Adventists, Evangelical Christians, Lutherans, and Reformed, the Armenian Apostolic Church, the Association of Jewish Communities, and the Ecclesiastical Centers of Muslims. Taken together, all these religious centers unite more than 4/5 of the religious communities in Ukraine.


The late Pope John Paul II had the opportunity to become acquainted with the activity of the council when he met with it during his visit to Ukraine in June 2001, as did the personal representative of Pope Francis, Cardinal Christoph Schonborn, Archbishop of Vienna, during a meeting in December 2014.


The All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations is an example of fruitful mutual cooperation of diverse churches and diverse religions that is not formal but real, not on paper but found in specific deeds. This cooperation proceeds both within our country and on the international level. In our opinion, this is that "practical ecumenism" which is especially lacking in our time in Europe and the world. While remaining different, we find a consensus position on matters of relations with the state and society and in defense of traditional moral values and we give a joint answer to contemporary challenges.


2. The Kiev patriarchate rejoices that the idea of changes in emphases in the ecumenical movement, expressed by Patriarch Filaret in his appeal of Pope John Paul II in 2001, is now finding embodiment in joint steps of the Catholic Church and the Moscow patriarchate.


Over the course of decades, Patriarch Filaret was an active participant in many ecumenical events of local and international significance. Based on his experience, he came to the conclusion that in contemporary conditions in relations among churches the emphasis should be moved from searches for unity in understanding doctrines of the faith to modern, practical steps. In matters of doctrine or church structure, Orthodox, Catholics, and protestants have diverse positions. But this should not prevent them now from working together in places where there are no differences: in the sphere of the defense of traditional morality, family values, and dialogue with governments and society in matters of charity and philanthropy.


3. Our church shares the disappointment expressed by many with individual points of the joint declaration of the heads of the Catholic Church and the Moscow patriarchate, signed on 12 February 2016 in Havana, particularly with points 25, 26, and 27 of that document. We join in the critical assessments which have been voiced regarding this by hierarchs, priests, laity, scholars of the Greek Catholic and Roman Catholic Churches, secular observers, and representatives of civil society both in Ukraine and abroad.


The above specified points of the declaration are imbued with the spirit of the worst forms of secular diplomacy, filled with ambiguous hints, biased assessments, and baseless assertions. It is our conviction that in a document which should testify about the position of churches to believers and the world, it would be better not to deal with topics touched on in points 25-27 than to elucidate them in this form.


4. For the Kiev patriarchate, the practice of diplomacy is unacceptable when decisions about Ukraine and Ukrainian ecclesiastical and public affairs are made without representatives of Ukraine, ignoring their opinion and position. The Munich agreement of 1938 and its sad consequences testify that questions about us must not be decided without our participation.


Unfortunately, it is this way with points 25-27 of the declaration. The question of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (point 25) does not take into account the opinion and position of that church. Evaluations of the "conflict in Ukraine" (point 26) completely ignore its main cause—Russian armed, political, economic, and informational aggression against Ukraine and the violation by Russia of international agreements and standards of international law, and the occupation by the Russian federation of Crimea and part of the Donbass. The assessment of the situation in the Orthodox Church in Ukraine (point 27) ignores the fact that it is the violation of canons by the Moscow patriarchate that is the cause of its division.


We hope that in the future, in preparation of documents pertaining to assessments of the situation in Ukraine, Vatican diplomacy, as a subject of international law and inter-state relations with Ukraine, will be a model of better and not worse forms.


5. The church is called to bear witness to the truth. On the issue of the war in Ukraine, the truth is that this is not a civil war, not an internal conflict, and not a confrontation among diverse nations or adherents of diverse religions.


The cause of the war which is dragging on in the east of Ukraine is the armed, political, economic, and informational aggression of Russia against our country. The goal of this aggression is to prevent the European integration of our state and to insist by force that it return to submission to the Kremlin. In essence, there now is occurring in Ukraine what happened in Czechoslovakia in 1938 and 1968, Hungary in 1956, and Afghanistan in 1979.


The formulations and assessments adopted in point 26 of the events in Ukraine are not a testimony of the truth but a watered down repetition of the formulas of Russian propaganda, imposing on the world the idea of an "internal Ukrainian crisis," with which Russia supposedly has nothing to do. We did not expect anything different from the Moscow patriarchate, which depends on the Kremlin. But the signature of the Roman pope under these formulations was for many, principally in Ukraine, a great disappointment.


It is also a pity that in recalling the persecution of Christians in various regions of the world, the authors of the declaration say nothing about the persecution and harassment of believers of various confessions in occupied Crimea and on the territories of the Donbass that are under the control of Kremlin collaborationists.


6.  Regarding the division of the Orthodox Church existing in Ukraine, the Kiev patriarchate considers that its overcoming and the restoration of unity is possible and it is on the canonical standards that it will occur.


The principal cause of the division is the uncanonical assumption by the Moscow patriarchate in 1686 of power over the Kiev metropolinate. The ecumenical patriarchate, to which the Kiev metropolitanate belonged for the preceding seven centuries, also confirmed several times officially that the annexation of the Moscow church in Ukraine did not happen in accord with the prescriptions of canonical rules. And so it is illegal and should be rejected, which was done by our church a quarter of a century ago.


We understand that the Moscow patriarchate is aware of the convergence and irreversibility of the recognition of the Kiev patriarchate as the local Orthodox church. Therefore it seeks for any opportunity to obstruct this, including preventing relations between the UPTsKP and the Catholic Church. It is in this context that we view point 27 of the declaration, although we are sure that this attempt will not succeed.


We are thankful for the Catholic Church of Ukraine of the eastern and the Latin rites. They understand well who and why the Orthodox church in Ukraine was divided and is further divided. We hope that in time this level of understanding will be achieved by both professional diplomats and ecumenists of the Vatican curia. And if in the Vatican they are interested, not in words but in deeds, in helping a united Orthodox Church in Ukraine, we are always open to cooperation.


7. All of what is said above the Kiev patriarchate considers to be yet another proof of the fact that the church in Ukraine should be not the object of politics and agreements of foreign religious centers but the full and equal subject of relations among churches and ecumenical cooperation. The achievement of this is the common task of the still divided church in Ukraine and also of the Ukrainian government and society. Just as the struggle for a European future for Ukraine, resistance to Russian aggression, and defense of statehood have united our people, which is the key to victory, all churches of Vladimir's baptism, along with society and the state, must work for the achievement of a dignified condition and unity of the church in Ukraine.  (tr. by PDS, posted 15 February 2016)

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