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Saturday, 6 April 2013

Russian Orthodox Metropolitan Hopes that Pope Francis Will Not Support Ukrainian Greek Catholics

A recent TV interview for Rosiya-1, reported on the Russian Orthodox Church's website, Pravoslavie i Mir (Orthodoxy & Peace), by Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, chairman of the Department of External Relations of the Russian Orthodox Church, contains remarks, some of them truly shocking, that appear to stand in contrast to his warm words to Pope Francis in person.

Here is the news item in Russian on PIM. It is not carried in translation on the mirror site in English, Pravmir.com, apart from in a second hand report from CatholicCulture.org. Here, however, is linked the translation carried by the Religious Information Service of Ukraine (text reproduced at the end of this post too):

Russian Orthodox Metropolitan Hopes that Pope Francis Will Not Support Greek Catholics

In answer to the traditional Moscow Patriarchate contention that the Ukrainian Catholic Church is an actively proselytising intruder expanding onto Russian Orthodox territory - which is indefensible from history, motive, deed or fact - it is only fair to point out that the Russian Orthodox Church not only establishes dioceses within Roman patriarchal traditional territory, and thus scarcely has cause for objecting to Catholic dioceses in what it considers to be its exclusive territorial preserve; it is also the case that, through the Russian Orthodox Church outside Russia, Moscow supports in full communion the proselytical, anti-ecumenical and anti-Catholic activities of a so-called Western Rite Orthodoxy aimed at converting Latin Catholics and Anglo-Catholics.

The history of how Byzantine Christians of Ukraine came into permanent communion with the Apostolic See of Rome is complex. The Byzantine Churches in what are now Ukraine, Russia and Belarus share the same 10th century roots in the lands of Kiev, thanks to missions sent under the Church of Constantinople. Throughout the centuries after 1054 (which marks the formal schism between the Churches of Rome and Constantinople) there was a fluid pattern of communion between Rome and various Orthodox jurisdictions, which saw themselves as being in communion with both Rome and Constantinople from time to time and without difficulty.

For instance, this is also part of the history of the Antioch Patriarchate, in which a formal division between those in communion exclusively with Constantinople (ie under the authority structure laid down by the Ottoman government) and those in communion with the Bishop of Rome crystallised only in the 18th century. Likewise, again for instance, the Byzantine Catholics of southern Italy and the Italo-Albanians seem to have been cared for under a pragmatic arrangement between the Roman See and the Ohrid Patriarchate in the Balkans from just before the Great Schism until even after the Council of Trent (the Church of Ohrid's autocephaly finally came to an end in the 18th century, when an Ottoman  decree subjected it to Constantinople, thus definitively implementing within it the 1054 breach of communion with Rome).

In other words, Latin and Byzantine Christians alike had to work within and around the political realities imposed on them. As for the part of the Byzantine Church with its origins in Kievan Rus' that is now known as the Ukrainian Catholic Church, it can hardly be blamed - 500 years on - for finding itself under Catholic rulers and, like its fellow Byzantine Churches to the south,  living in communion with its Latin neighbours. The Union was not an act of Latin or Roman proselytism but, as we would say nowadays, of communion that sought to honour the integrity and legitimate autonomy of a Byzantine Rite Church in its own land. There was also the matter of the same Church ensuring that its rights were protected from the rise of a new Church power, not located in and among the Ukrainians or Ruthenians, let alone Constantinople, but further away to the east in Muscovy. There was no such thing then as a Moscow Patriarchate, let alone a Russian Orthodox Church; so claims that the present day Ukrainian Catholic Church somehow disturbs the history and integrity of the Russian Church and its sense of rootedness in the land of Kiev are somewhat after the fact.

Another consideration was the need for the Eastern Christians of Subcarpathia and Galicia, modern day Western Ukraine, to preserve their Orthodoxy, now that they found themselves in isolation politically and ecclesiastically from their fellow Byzantine Slavs to the East - again, through no fault of their own - from the effects of the Reformation schisms spreading within Western Christianity. The bishops wanted to save their churches and their people from Lutheranism and Calvinism. In the circumstances of the times, this could be ensured by a consolidating Union with the Catholic Church, through communion with the Apostolic See of Rome. Furthermore, the Catholic Church of the Latin West was emerging from the Middle Ages with theological, pastoral and spiritual renewal. The Byzantine bishops knew that there had once been union between Rome and their mother Church of Constantinople, but what they were now seeing was not the Western Church in the Great Schism that they had heard about. Thus they could envisage unity restored for positive reasons too. As has often been remarked, it became a matter of "zeal for God's house".

Just as it is impossible to read back into history the preoccupations of recent history and politics, it is unjust to impose upon the situation and people of today the problems inherited from the past. The reality of the Russian Orthodox Church in its own land, and now as a phenomenon across the world in diaspora, has to be faced; and this is something that the Moscow Patriarchate desires Rome to recognise and that Rome is prepared to work with. By the same token - and no other - Moscow has to face the reality and integrity of a Church - with which it shares deep roots - that has been in communion with Rome for half a millennium, just like the whole of the East was in communion with Rome for the whole first millennium, half a millennium before that.

Besides, Pope Benedict in his famous 1976 Graz speech on Prognoses for the Future of Ecumenism said, "What was possible in the church for a thousand years cannot be impossible today. In other words, Rome must not demand more from the East by way of doctrine on primacy than was known and practiced during the first millennium." In other words, the basis for reunion between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches is expected by both to be on no other basis than that obtaining prior to the Great Schism. Furthermore, the Catholic Church has repeatedly agreed and urged that so-called "Uniatism" belongs to a pre-ecumenical age, has no place in dialogue towards unity between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches and, moreover, is not an apt term to describe the true experience and history of the Eastern Catholic Churches supposed to be concerned. Indeed it is a pejorative term and does no justice to Churches that understand themselves to be completely Orthodox as well as being "Unified" with the See of Peter, and thus the Latin Church too, as is the hope of, and for, the other Orthodox Churches in their respective lands and among their diaspora, just as it is the hope of the Latin Church to be in communion fully once more with the Orthodox Church. As Metropolitan Hilarion himself has said, there is an urgent need for an alliance between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches in the struggle for the soul of Europe.

The sweeping and uncharitable comments on the nature of a Jesuit surely cannot have been made by such a sophisticated and distinguished theological mind, who achieved his doctorate under the supervision of the renowned Syriac scholar Dr Sebastian Brock and theologian Metropolitan Kallistos Ware at Oxford University. Surely, his observations must have been misrepresented by his interpreters. Certainly they are at odds with what he said in audience with Pope Francis after his inauguration, as well as how he has spoken of him subsequently.

For the record and for reference, here is the RISU translation of the PIM news report:

Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev) of Volokolamsk of the Russian Orthodox Church expressed the hope that Pope Francis will continue the policy of rapprochement with the Orthodox Church and will not support, as he calls it, the expansion of the Ukrainian Greek Catholics, the site of Pravoslavie i Mir reports.

“The union is the most painful topic in the Orthodox-Catholic dialogue, in relations between the Orthodox and the Catholics. If the pope will support the union, then, of course, it will bring no good," he said in a program on the channel Rosiya-1.
One of Pope Francis’s teachers was a Ukrainian Greek Catholic priest, and the pope belongs to the Jesuit Order.
Metropolitan Hilarion noted that the Orthodox often had a suspicious attitude toward the Jesuits.
“It is believed that a Jesuit is someone who on the outside is one person, but inside someone else, says one thing, but means something else. This idea has been confirmed in real life by Jesuits and through our experience with such representatives,” said Metropolitan Hilarion.
He also said that the head of the Catholic Church must take care of the whole church and its relations with other churches, not protect the interests of a particular order or region.
“I hope that the positive momentum that we have had in our relations with the Roman Catholic Church under Pope Benedict XVI will continue under Pope Francis,” summed up the hierarch.

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