HEAD OF UGKTs AND U.S. AMBASSADOR DISCUSS RELIGIOUS AND POLITICAL SITUATION IN UKRAINE
RISU, 25 January 2019
The head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church [Ukrainskaia Greko-Katolicheskaia Tserkov—UGKTs), Patriarch Sviatoslav, conducted a working meeting with Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United State of America to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, during which the parties discussed the situation in the social, political, and religious life of Ukraine. The meeting was held on the initiative of Marie Yovanovitch, the Department of Information of the UGKTs reports.
The ambassador asked about the state of inter-religious and ecumenical dialogue in Ukraine and the positions of the UGKTs. The primate said that, according to the ecumenical concept of the UGKTs, the church tries to be open and to seek dialogue among all churches and religious organizations in Ukraine.
"Of course, we get a different response, but we try to cooperate with everybody: both with the Orthodox Church of Ukraine and with the Moscow patriarchate and with protestant churches, and members of the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations. Since we consider that the maintenance of religious peace in Ukraine is a matter of the general welfare of our state and, in particular, in these circumstances it is an important element of the security of our state," His Beatitude Sviatoslav noted.
The head of the UGKTs described for the representative of the U.S.A. contacts with Metropolitan Epifany. In particular about how Greek Catholics try to be open and they work jointly for the welfare of Ukraine, but do not interfere in internal Orthodox processes or other matters that pertain to their internal life. That is, the UGKTs tries to preserve good relations with everybody.
The parties also discussed the role of the church in society and in particular in the context of the upcoming elections.
The head of the church described for the ambassador how a year ago the UGKTs proclaimed a year of prayer for honest and fair elections in Ukraine. The clergy sent to the Ukrainian people and the faithful of the UGKTs a separate message in which they warned about various kinds of dangers that lie in wait for our society at this time. In particular, about the danger of cheap populism and the use of force as an instrument of the political struggle. The parties also were unanimous with regard to the necessity of adopting new voting legislation in order that Ukrainians will have more trust in the state institutions to which they will elect new representatives. After all, we see that the trust of the people today in state institutions is not high.
This year, according to the primate, the UGKTs will continue to embody its principles in life. In particular, regarding the noninterference of the church in the political process and the prohibition of priests participating in campaign agitation "for" or "against" one candidate or another. "But on the other hand, we encourage our laity, honest Christians, to be active in political life and to defend Christian values of public and family life and to defend the principle of an independent, free, European type of Ukrainian state," the head of the UGKTs noted.
The ambassador asked about pastoral plans of the UGKTs for this year. His Beatitude Sviatoslav described how the UGKTs this year will honor the blessed Emelian Kovcha, who is a symbol characterizing the identity of the UGKTs. "He was a priest and patriot of the Ukrainian people and its national liberation struggle. . . . Because he saved representatives of the Jewish people during the Holocaust, he was killed by nazis in a concentration camp. Thus this individual by himself destroys all the myths that Russian propaganda tries to direct against our church. And it also is our conviction that he is a true personification of a genuine pastor. Therefore our church has proclaimed Father Emelian the patron of the priests of our church," the primate said.
His name will be honored this year at the governmental level, along with such personalities as the blessed Klimenty Sheptitsky and the blessed Iosafat Gordashevsky. "In honoring such persons we wish to show how they are life-giving as an example of the values of life and conduct that are needed today in our country," noted the spiritual leader of Ukrainians.
Madam Ambassador expressed gratitude that the UGKTs has taken a very active, but balanced, part in social and public life. She also expressed gratitude for the fact that the UGKTs is a promoter of ecumenism and by its openness demonstrates a true model of inter-church and inter-religious cooperation. She expressed gratitude also for the clear civic and Christian position with regard to political processes in Ukraine today.
The head of the UGKTs thanked Marie Yovanovitch for the meeting and for her support of genuine democracy and freedom of conscience in Ukraine today. (tr. by PDS, posted 25 January 2019)
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