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Friday, 5 February 2016

Ukrainian Patriarch Remains Hopeful about Havana Meeting between the Pope and the Moscow Patriarch

The UGCC Media Department has released the following reaction of Patriarch Sviatoslav Shevchuk to the announcement of the upcoming meeting of Pope Francis with Patriarch Kiril of Moscow, in Havana, Cuba:

I do not expect Pope Francis' meeting with Patriarch Kirill, scheduled for February 12, will bring about specific changes. But it is good that the meeting is happening, and I am glad that, finally, the Russian Orthodox Church has come to understand that it is necessary to have the meeting. 

Patriarch Sviatoslav said that, over the years, the Russian Orthodox Church has refused this meeting and called the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church an obstacle to dialogue. "The meeting is not an end in itself but rather a tool, a necessary means for honest and open dialogue. We are very glad that we [UGCC] were no longer considered an obstacle and we are no longer cited as the reason for their reluctance to engage in such dialogue,"  said the patriarch.

He stressed that the meeting of two primates, which is actually being held on the eve of the 70th anniversary of the Lviv pseudo-synod, which forcibly suppressed the UGCC [in Ukraine]. "The Russian Orthodox Church, unfortunately, has yet to condemn the conduct of that violent act that the Soviets carried out. We hope that the meeting of the Pope and Patriarch create a new context for the movement towards historical justice"- said the patriarch.

The Head of the UGCC is hopeful that the very fact of the meeting will change some of the radical rhetoric coming from the Russian Orthodox, who do not recognize the Catholic Church as valid, re-baptize Catholics and entice them to become Orthodox, do not participate in common prayers, and even called the whole process of seeking church unity "the heresy of ecumenism." We saw an example of such intolerance last week in Donetsk when, during a rally staged outside the Greek Catholic parish, we were referred to as "a sect."

"It is likely that, during the meeting, the Pope and the Patriarch will discuss the current situation in Ukraine. I hope that the Pope Francis, who always raises his voice in defense of the weak, becomes the voice of Ukrainians leading their struggle for cohesion and unity of their country. God grant that Patriarch Kirill will, as a result of the meeting, give the necessary instructions to the Russian Orthodox Church and the Russian authorities, to quickly end the war against Ukraine and arrive at a just peace"- the patriarch concluded.

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