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Saturday, 27 February 2016

On the Declaration of the Pope and Patriarch Kirill

A week on for the encounter between the Pope and the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, there have been several telling responses from Ukrainian Catholics from Ukraine itself, and North America.

We have posted these on our website as important, indeed urgent, first assessments of the historic Joint Declaration, what it represents and what it will result in.

These are, for ease of reference:

Already Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev has lamentably abandoned the tone of the Joint Declaration by observing, "The Unia brought so much suffering to the Orthodox in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and the Union continues to be an open wound on the skin of Christianity." This despite it being the Tsarist Empire that not only brought suffering to the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, but abolished it. This statement cited widely online has proved difficult to source since. But these three other interview-statements from His Eminence at around the time address the same theme:

Here is a link to an interview with Metropolitan Hilarion prior to the meeting on Mospat.ru, dated February 5th 2016,in which he warms to his usual theme, attacking the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church with scant regard to history, charity or the truth. For the record let us state again:
- The Metropolitanate of Kiev/Kyiv restored its earlier unity with the See of Rome in the sixteenth century when (a) it was isolated both from its mother Church of Constantinople under the Ottomans and also fellow Orthodox in Muscovy under a hostile ruler attacking the Polish-Lithuanian commonwealth of which Ukraine was part, and (b) there was no such thing at the time as a distinct "Russian Orthodox Church"  (the state was Muscovy before it only later took exclusive use of the name "Russia" from Rus', the land and people round Kiev/Kyiv, and its mother Church was Constantinople at the time, just the same as Kiev/Kyiv), nor did the only recently founded Moscow patriarchate have canonical patriarchal jurisdiction over the Metropolitanate of Kyiv/Kiev, which was explicitly not part of its so-called "territory". The Ecumenical Patriarchate's recognition of a patriarchate for Moscow in the 16th century concerned only the territory of Muscovy and did not include the Metropolitanate of Kiev/Kyiv. The renaming of Muscovy and its conquests as Russia dates from the later time of Czar Peter the Great, as does the history of the forced conversion of Greek Catholics in what are now western Russia, Belarus, Ukraine and elsewhere in Poland and the Baltics where the Russian Empire took control.
- There were no Moscow dioceses in western Ukraine, previously part of Poland-Lithuania and later the Habsburg Empire, until the Ukrainian Catholic Church was suppressed by Stalin and its remaining assets were given as a reward to the Moscow patriarchate for its support in the Second World War - receiving and using huge amounts of property and resources that did not belong to it, during the sore oppression and persecution by the Soviet atheists of the Catholic faithful, and the martyrdom of its religious, priests and bishops.
- The accusation that representatives of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church took part in anti-Russian and Russophobic action in the "Maidan" events of 2014-15, which cannot be substantiated and evidence to the directly opposite is abundant - including public statements from His Beatitude Sviatoslav and other bishops, together with photographic evidence of respectful relations between Catholic and Orthodox leaders as well as their clergy serving alongside each other in aid of the people under attack from the forces of the former regime - is known to be untrue by His Eminence Hilarion.
- The resentment at the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church conducting its life and mission in the south and east of Ukraine, and restoring its primatial see to Kiev/Kyiv from the centre in which it was exiled in Lviv, as these are supposed to be on Russian Orthodox canonical territories, seems to be an admission that western Ukraine is not, yet where the Moscow patriarchate feels itself justified in conducting its own life and mission, just as it does throughout the world, even on the traditional territory of other Orthodox Churches, and especially in the Latin west without restriction or objection from the Catholic hierarchies. This is a complete double-standard. Surely in charity people are free to follow their own religion and the Churches recognised each other's right and duty to serve their faithful wherever they are.
- The objection to Ukrainian Greek Catholics supporting schismatics is another double-standard. In practice the Orthodox adhering to the Moscow Patriarchate in Ukraine conduct relations with the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kievan Patriarchate and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church, even to the exchange of gifts and greetings, and contacts in relation to the civil sphere and government. The Ukrainian Catholic Church is no different in conducting such relations, in the hope of future reconciliation and restoring Christian unity on the basis of mutual respect and integrity. Instead of a continual barrage of attack upon the Catholic Church on account of schisms within Orthodoxy that have arisen for whatever reason, this  distinguished representative of the Moscow Patriarchate ought surely to be concerned with mending its own fences with its neighbours and pursuing reconciliation in mutual charity, trust, forgiveness and desire for recovered unity, rather than blaming those who never caused the division in the first place.

Here, from 18th February, Metropolitan Hilarion returns to his baseless and untrue attacks on the Ukrainian Catholic Church, as well as the fantasy that it can be "brought to reason" by a joint Commission of the (sic) Roman Catholic Church and the Russian Church. The question from Alexey Sosedov of Interfax, was, "What joint steps are needed now to bring Uniates to reason?" His Eminence replied "The way that the Pope and the Patriarch offer, is a way of cooperation in the areas in which it is possible. It is a way of rejection of competition and of establishment of brotherly relations. The Greek Catholics do not need that at all. Their rhetoric is aggressive, hostile, cheeky, and it stands in a sharp contrast not only to the declaration’s content, but even to its style, to its pastoral message, to the reconciling spirit that emanates from it." See here what His Beatitude Sviatoslav actually said about the Pope-Patriarch meeting in Cuba. Metropolitan Hilarion asserted that in the 1990s there had been a quadripartite commission towards Catholic-Orthodox coexistence in Ukraine (Ukrainian Greek Catholic, the Latin Roman Catholics (including the Vatican), the Moscow Patriarchate and the local Ukrainian Orthodox hierarchs) and that the Greek Catholic Church had walked out of it unilaterally. What he failed to mention were the repeated personal attacks, untruthful assertions of aggression and dissimulation, none of which could be substantiated, the failure to recognise the part played by the Orthodox Church in expropriation and oppression of the Catholic Church for nearly five decades on the part of the Moscow Patriarchate Orthodox Church, and the insistence of the Russian Orthodox Church on treating the Greek Catholic Church, only recently allowed to resume its life and freedom of religion after half a century of enforced conformity to Russian Orthodoxy, not as a Church but as a subject of the Vatican.

Here, from an interview with Russia-24 TV on 13th February, Metropolitan Hilarion, opines: "I can note that the Primates have to a large extent similar views on the situation in Ukraine, as well as on the measures that should be taken to stop the fratricidal confrontation. Both the Pope and the Patriarch called on the faithful of the Orthodox and the Catholic Churches to exert every effort to restore peace in the Ukrainian land. Of course, the declaration also focused on the unia, which remains a problem dividing our Churches. While preparing the meeting, we would often say that the problem of “uniatism” and of the Uniates’ actions in Western Ukraine is what divides our Churches. Regrettably, this problem has not been solved, and Greek Catholics go on saying very unpleasant and unjust things about the Russian Orthodox Church and continue to stir up the inter-confessional strife." Again, the reality of what the leaders and representatives of the the Ukrainian Catholic Church has consistently said of the Russian Orthodox Church is not as the Metropolitan states and he never substantiates his assertions. Again, the so-called "unia" was never against the Orthodox Church - there was neither a Russian Orthodox Church nor did the see of Moscow have any canonical jurisdiction in the Kyiv/Kiev Metropolitanate of the patriarchate of Constantinople when it came into effect. His Eminence goes on to say, "there are no plans regarding the unification of the two Churches". Since he is actively involved in the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church, and seeing that our Lord prayed "that they all may be one", this is a bold thing to say. There must always be in hand a plan towards unification of Churches and the reintegration of all Christians.

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