09/22/2014, 00.00
RUSSIA - UKRAINE

Moscow Patriarchate tells Vatican that Uniate "problem" should be at the centre of ecumenical dialogue

Nina Achmatova
Metropolitan Hilarion again attacks the "project" of the Catholic Church to proselytise in Ukraine, says theological issues should be put aside to address and solve instead the Greek Catholic "problem".

Moscow (AsiaNews) - The Moscow Patriarchate has attacked once again Ukraine's Greek Catholics, warning the Vatican that the "problems" involving the so-called Uniates might have a negative impact on the ecumenical dialogue and relations between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Santa See.

Metropolitan Hilarion, number two in the Patriarchate and head of the Department for External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate, made this point recently on television.

Hilarion sharply criticised Ukrainian Greek Catholics on the programme Church and World reiterating his accusations that the "Uniates" (a term for Catholics that follow the Orthodox rite that has a derogatory connotation) are a special project of the Catholic Church to proselytise.

In his view, at "present" as at other historical times, Greek Catholics have exploited "the support of the Ukrainian authorities of the time" at the expense of the Orthodox.

According to the Orthodox official, despite complaints from the Moscow Patriarchate about the "problem", the Vatican continues to claim to have no influence over the Ukrainian Catholic community because of its autonomous status, and yet it continues to confirm the appointments of all its spiritual leaders.

For Hilarion, "there is something improper in the project itself". Speaking directly to the Catholic hierarchy, he proposed a provocative idea to Catholics.

"It may be that you and we should now discuss in the theological dialogue not such theoretical questions as primacy and conciliarity in the Church but return to the topic of the unia(te) in order to understand why this wound bleeds all the time and why we cannot do anything to repair and heal it," he said.

Reading in-between the lines, he wants the two Churches to draft some kind of code of conduct for the Greek Orthodox and Catholics in the territories where they live.

Against the backdrop of the crisis in Ukraine, the top leaders in the Moscow Patriarchate have already attacked the positions of the Greek Catholics on several occasions. For Russian Orthodox religious leaders, Greek Catholics are guilty for their support of the protests in Kyiv's Maidan Square and for promoting anti-Russian sentiments.

By contrast, the Major Archbishop of Kyiv, Sviatoslav Shevchuk, issued an appeal for reconciliation this summer through AsiaNews. In it, he called on Moscow to recognise the dignity of the Ukrainian people and open a sincere dialogue based on truth. At the same time, he urged people not to believe in the "propaganda" coming out of Russia.

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