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Sunday, 20 July 2014

The Russian Church criticizes Greek-Catholics - again (Interfax-Religion)

On 26th June, Interfax, the Russian state news service with a particular focus on the works and policy of the Moscow Patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church, carried yet another diatribe from Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk against the supposed sins of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.


We have extensively covered his disinformation before, arguing - we trust respectfully and eirenically - against his statements point by point, writes Fr Mark Woodruff, vice-chairman. (See hereherehere, and here.)


It follows an outburst from Patriarch Kirill himself, accusing the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church of Russophobia and repeating Metropolitan Hilarion's earlier spin. Here is the link to the Intefax/Pravmir report with our point by point answers.


It is still worth, however, contrasting Metropolitan Hilarion's latest repetition of his now familiar, partisan theme with the Truth of the Matter
  1. Metropolitan Hilarion: "The UGCC supported the Euromaidan protests". What Patriarch Sviatoslav, primate of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, supported by his entire Patriarchal Synod, has consistently said from the outset is repeated in a May interview given to Catholic World Report: "We as a church, as the Churches—we did not call the people to protest. We were not those who would encourage such a protest. Yet we followed our people, because we recognized that those people were standing at the Maidan for ... human dignity, rule of law, rejection of violence and corruption—we as a Church have a duty to recognize the moral power of such claims. It is why churches, not just the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, but Orthodox, Protestant, as well as Jewish and Muslim communities, were all present with their people on the Maidan. In some way, the people were leading us. For those three months, we were trying to be with our people and to keep the protest peaceful."
  2. Metropolitan Hilarion: "In conditions of social tensions, instead of urging to reconcile and start political dialogue they urged protesters to take radical steps." In the same interview, Patriarch Sviatoslav repeated what he and his Church have said all along: "Not just the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, but Orthodox, Protestant, as well as Jewish and Muslim communities, were all present with their people on the Maidan ... For those three months, we were trying to be with our people and to keep the protest peaceful. I felt I needed to be a “preacher” of peace in order to reach the goals of the Maidan and emphasize peaceful methods were always more powerful and transformative in society than any other form of demonstration." Contrary to the spurious assertions of Metropolitan Hilarion about the words and actions of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church hierarchy and of its priests, here are the instructions issued by Patriarch Sviatoslav regarding the conduct of the pastoral clergy in the midst of the political situation in Ukraine, in February 2014: The primary task of the priest is to preach the Word of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, to administer the sacraments, and to lead the people in prayer, fasting, and serving the needy... The Church is an active participant of societal and not the political processes. Hence, the priest has no right to be a leader in political actions or deliver political homilies ... The church pulpit should be used only to preach the word of God and Christian morality ... The priest, under all circumstances of life, is to be a peacemaker, and especially in a civil conflict. Therefore, it is strictly forbidden to proclaim calls to violence ... The calling of each priest, in all frightening circumstances – is not to abandon his flock and to be with them.
  3. Metropolitan Hilarion: "After January's events, leaders of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church started blaming the Russian state in all troubles happening in Ukraine. Some Greek-Catholic hierarchs represented Russia in demonic shape in their speeches." What Patriarch Sviatoslav actually believes and has consistently stated is this: "The Maidan was neither a religious nor ethnic protest. It was a “social” protest and almost half of the protesters were Russian-speaking citizens who were faithful of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate. Of course the Greek Catholics were present along with the Orthodox of the “Kyiv Patriarchate” as well as Jews and Muslims. The Maidan was a sort of “mirror” of the Ukrainian society without any aggression toward the 'Russian' nation or 'Russia' as a state." 
  4. Metropolitan Hilarion: "Archbishop Svyatoslav Shevchuk carried out several foreign trips, speaking ... at various international platforms not as a Christian pastor, but rather as a political figure ... often accompanied with attacks on the Russian Orthodox Church." What Patriarch Sviatoslav actually says is this: "Last year, before the Maidan movement, the Ukrainian Council of Churches visited Brussels twice and sent several appeals to Ukrainian society concerning the discussion of European values. As churches, we were involved in promoting that discussion and were trying to be, as a church, part of civil society in order to awaken the people. To help them undertake their responsibility for their own country. No one expected that, when our president suddenly changed his mind, such a large protest would emerge. So we as a church, as the churches—we did not call the people to protest. Yet we followed our people, because we recognized that those people were standing at the Maidan for those values, which we were promoting. If people take a stand for human dignity, rule of law, rejection of violence and corruption—we as a Church have a duty to recognize the moral power of such claims. It is why churches, not just the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, but Orthodox, Protestant, as well as Jewish and Muslim communities, were all present with their people on the Maidan ... For those three months, we were trying to be with our people and to keep the protest peaceful." He also said, "Almost half of the protesters were Russian-speaking citizens who were faithful of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate. Of course the Greek Catholics were present along; with the Orthodox of the “Kyiv Patriarchate” as well as Jews and Muslims. The Maidan was a sort of “mirror” of the Ukrainian society without any aggression toward the 'Russian' nation or 'Russia' as a state. Unfortunately, I have to say that there are no direct and open relations between the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church and the Moscow Patriarchate and it is a pity. For the last three years, my heartfelt desire has been to establish such a direct dialogue. However, we are not able yet. But I am still open and I am praying that one day we can sit at the same table...to start to discuss our disagreements and problems." Furthermore, in an interview given to the distinguished North American author and journalist, George Weigel on May 2, 2014, he specified these two sentiments with respect to Russian and the Russian Orthodox Church: "To the Russian people: We in Ukraine wish to be good neighbours. Do not attack us. We are not your enemies, and we have no aggressive intentions. And to the Russian Orthodox Church: The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church is not an enemy of the Russian Orthodox Church. We are your brothers; we have been born from the same spiritual womb. From the holy city of Kiev, where our peoples were baptized, we are sending you a message of peace. Do not let politicians provoke hatred and bloodshed among us.” Indeed, he had visited the EU Commission President in March to promote peace for Ukraine, but not at the expense of Russia or its Church. This is what he said: "In our country there is no discrimination based on language, nationality or religion. Over the last three months, Ukraine has demonstrated to all our trust in democratic values and our choice for Europe. Our deep and sincere desire is only for the reestablishment and development of our fraternal relations with Russia in friendship and in the spirit of mutual respect."
  5. Metropolitan Hilarion. "The UGCC continues demanding that Rome should officially recognize its status of a patriarchate, which was self-proclaimed in 2002. This ... disguises a pretense of the initially regional Church, [whose] believers live mostly in the Western Ukraine, for a national status and promotion of their mission in those Ukrainian regions where there have never been Greek Catholics. The UGCC actively develops its diocesan structures in south and east of Ukraine. There is information that Greek Catholic clerics are openly involved in Proselytism in these regions." The reason that there are fewer Greco-Catholics in Eastern Ukraine is the same as why there are few in Russia itself or in Belarussia where they once outnumbered Greco-Orthodox: they were oppressed by the Tsardom and then by the Soviets, forcibly converted to Orthodoxy, their property, monasteries and churches expropriated, their clergy, religious and bishops persecuted, exiled and even executed, martyrs. When the Soviet Union annexed Western Ukraine after the Second World War it liquidated the Ukrainian Catholic Church, extending the policy of expropriation, forced conversion and martyrdom. Who was awarded the dioceses, property and faithful of the Catholic Church? The Russian Orthodox Church, which has never once expressed its repentance for even enforced complicity in the midst of its own terrible suffering - a suffering which earned it the love and support of all the Christian world, including the remnant of the Ukrainian Catholic Church despite the injuries it had endured. Russia is supposed to respect freedom of religion, speech and conscience, yet does not allow the Russian Catholic Church to organise in the necessary way to serve its faithful, many of whom were exiled to Siberia and now live under the aegis of the Dioceses of the Roman Catholic Church, also established in the teeth of resentment from the Moscow Patriarchate. (And see here news of the restrictions recently experienced by Catholics and non-Russian Orthodox in Ukraine.) Meanwhile, the Russian Church organises dioceses in Western Ukraine, where it never existed before, other than by 60 years of state imposition, and all across the world in diaspora, despite the canonical rule of the Orthodox Church that this is the responsibility of the Ecumenical Patriarchate alone. This includes Russian dioceses permanently established in the territory of the Latin Church in Europe, and in the territories which are the responsibility of other Orthodox patriarchates. The Ukrainian Catholic Church has a right and a duty to ensure that its faithful are served wherever they may be - in the worldwide diaspora it keeps to the rules of the wider Church, not only for right relations with the Latin Church but also with the other Byzantine Catholic Churches and other Eastern Catholics. In Ukraine, where its faithful are living and working everywhere, it has not only the obligation but the prerogative to ensure the order and sacraments of the Church are in place for the pastoral and sacramental care of the faithful but also, as with every Church which follows the path of Christ, for evangelisation and the constant announcement of His good news. No Christian, no Catholic, worthy of the name undermines the  proclamation of Christ by weakening another part of His Church through proselytism. In evangelisation, even when the churches are in disagreement and our communion is but partial, we are nonetheless partners. And, as Patriarch Sviatoslav's words above show amply and the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church's actions and statements have shown throughout the crisis alongside the leaders of other Churches - including the minority Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate - this harmony, reconciliation and loving collaboration is the Catholic's plain desire and the real truth in this matter.
The Interfax report with His Eminence Hilarion's comments is at the end of this post.

Meanwhile, here is a masterly post from Seraphim, in his blogsite Reeling but Erect, written in response to the Metropolitan's and other's objection to the existence and spiritual life and history of Eastern Catholic Churches, lest there be no ecumenism, and none of the unity on which Christ insisted in his prayer the night before he died.


Prolegomena to Ecumenism, July 28, 2014
The recent and continuing expressions of outrage by the Moscow Patriarchate over "Uniatism", Catholic "proselytization" in Slavic countries, over the Catholic Church's recognition of St. Josaphat of Polotsk and a few other saints, and quite often simply the existence of Eastern Catholics call for the recognition of some much-needed prolegomena to ecumenical discussion. 
Ecumenical discussion must be grounded in mutual respect for each other. It will accomplish nothing and go nowhere if we cannot come to grips with the fact that each other exists, that each other has saints who have suffered at our hands, that we have mistreated each other in the past, and that each communion takes its own ministry seriously and cannot reasonably be expected to shut itself down to avoid offending the other party. 
There will be no ecumenical progress of any sort so long as one group complains about the existence of a minority rite in the other communion. 
There will be no ecumenical progress of any sort so long as one group takes offense at the existence of another jurisdiction and insists that they not be mentioned. 
There will be no ecumenical progress of any sort so long as one patriarch demands that another patriarch suppress an entire jurisdiction (to go where, exactly?), or that any jurisdiction within either the Orthodox or Catholic communion is a "stumbling block" to reunion. 
There will be no ecumenical progress of any sort if one group takes offense at the self-designation used by faithful of the other group. 
There will be no ecumenical progress of any sort if one group demands that the other cease ministering to its faithful or preaching the Gospel, whether universally or in any particular region. 
There will be no ecumenical progress of any sort if one group takes offense at discussion of the other group's saints and martyrs. 
These are a bare minimum needed to talk to each other. If you do not respect the person or church you are talking to, whether you are a layman, priest, or patriarch, you should not be talking at all. 
Source: Reeling but Erect: Prolegomena to Ecumenism







The Russian Church criticizes Greek-Catholics for anti-Russian outbursts and proselytism



Moscow, June 26, Interfax - The Moscow Patriarchate official speaks about strong political involvement of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.



"The UGCC not only supported the Euromaidan protests from the very start, but its parishioners and clerics participated in them. It is no secret that the main moving force of the Kiev events were residents of the Western Ukraine where the major part of Greek Catholics live," head of the Synodal Department for External Church Relations Metropolitan Hilarion told Interfax-Religion in his interview on Thursday.



According to him, in conditions of social tensions, instead of "urging to reconcile and start political dialogue they urged protesters to take radical steps."



"After January events, leaders of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church started blaming the Russian state in all troubles happening in Ukraine. Some Greek-Catholic hierarchs represented Russia in demonic shape in their speeches," the interviewee of the agency said.



He points out that UGCC hierarchs openly urge western countries to take "tough actions" against our country and the UGCC supreme Archbishop Svyatoslav Shevchuk carried out several foreign trips, speaking "at various international platforms not as a Christian pastor, but rather as a political figure." According to the metropolitan, the UGCC head's anti-Russian discourses "are often accompanied with attacks on the Russian Orthodox Church."



The hierarch further said that at the same time the UGCC continues demanding that Rome should officially recognize its status of a patriarchate, which was self-proclaimed in 2002.



"This aspiration disguises pretense of the initially regional Church, which believers live mostly in the Western Ukraine, for a national status and promotion of their mission in those Ukrainian regions where there have never been Greek Catholics. The UGCC actively develops its diocesan structures in south and east of Ukraine. There is information that Greek Catholic clerics are openly involved in Proselytism in these regions," the Russian church official said.



According to the metropolitan, the UGCC leaders maintain close relations with the "Kiev Patriarchate," which is not recognized in the Orthodox world.



"We should confess that all these things don't help establish direct contacts with the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. And recent developments in Ukraine when Greek Catholic hierarchs practiced anti-Russian rhetoric and attacks on the Russian Orthodox Church make a possibility of such contacts even more problematic," Metropolitan Hilarion summed up.






Source: Interfax-Religion
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