The Russian Orthodox Church slams the "politicised" attitudes of Ukraine’s Greek Catholic leaders following criticism by the archbishop of Kyiv, Sviatoslav Shevchuk, against the all-Ukrainian procession organised in July by the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
Moscow (AsiaNews) – The Moscow Patriarchate is going to put again the issue of the Greek Catholic Church (also known as Uniate Church, UGCC) on the agenda of the dialogue with the Roman Catholic Church, the Synodal Department for External Church Relations (DECR) said in an announcement. This has become “urgent” following last month’s all-Ukrainian procession organised by Orthodox linked to the Moscow Patriarchate.
"Due to the rhetoric of the UGCC Supreme Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk and Cardinal Lubomyr Husar, unprecedented in its aggressiveness towards the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church and the Moscow Patriarchate on the whole, the Department for External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate believes it an emergency task to revisit the issue of canonical and pastoral consequences of Unia at the next plenary session of the Joint Commission for Orthodox-Catholic Dialogue," the DECR statement said.
The aforementioned meeting is scheduled for 15 to 22 September in Chieti, Italy.
The all-Ukrainian procession of the cross was held from 3 to 27 July and brought to Kyiv believers who walked from the East and the West of the country.
The event, which attracted 100,000 people according to Interfax, ended on the eve of the anniversary of the Baptism of Rus (which is celebrated on 28 July), the medieval birthday of modern Russia, Belarus and Ukraine.
Recently, Mgr Shevchuk gave an interview to the Information Department of the Greek Catholic Ukrainian Church in which he hinted that the procession was a pro-Russian political initiative.
The Moscow Patriarchate has often been “used as a tool in the hands of the aggressor,” the archbishop said, referring to the Russian presence in Ukraine’s eastern regions, where fighting between government forces and pro-Russian rebels continue.
Shevchuk compared the procession to “the tactics of human shields,” warning “If the members of this religious procession cry out anti-Ukrainian slogans and arrange provocations, it will be the end of the Moscow Patriarchate in Ukraine.”
For his part, Cardinal Husar described the procession as “cynicism worse than anything imaginable".
"It is evident from these statements breathing hatred that canonical Orthodoxy continues to be a target for embittered attacks by Uniate leaders,” the DECR said.
“For centuries the Uniates tried to avenge themselves on Orthodoxy with the help of the secular authorities when it was possible or with the help of various insinuations, forgeries and deceptions.”
“And today by their politicized statements the Greek Catholic leaders again try to drive a wedge between the Orthodox and the Catholics, to hinder the normalization of inter-church relations and development of dialogue in Ukraine.”
The authors of the document wonder if is it possible to hold talks with the Roman Catholic Church on other theological issues at a time when "the problem of Unia continues to be a bleeding wound while the leaders of Uniatism do not stop their blasphemous and politicized rhetoric aimed against the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church".
Ukraine is one of the most Christian countries in Europe. It follows the tradition of Byzantine Orthodoxy, but it is very fragmented.
The three main Churches follow either Moscow (Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate), Kyiv (canonically unrecognised Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Kyiv Patriarchate), or Constantinople (Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church). There is also a Greek Catholic Ukrainian Church that follows Rome.
Religious differences are also reflected in politics. Since war broke out in the East and relations with Russia soured, there have been insistent calls for the recognition of a single Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church.