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Friday, 21 February 2014

His Holiness Patriarch Kirill Appeals to the Entirety of the Russian Orthodox Church on Current Events in Ukraine / OrthoChristian.Com

The Patriarch of Moscow has today called for peace in Ukraine and prayers for its people. His statement follows, and to some extent counters, the urgent appeal for peace issued earlier in the week by His All-Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, given his care and jurisdiction among Ukrainians in the diaspora (particularly in the Americas), which conveyed his solidarity with the Orthodox of Ukraine and indeed all Christians as "Ecumenical" Patriarchate. Patriarch Kirill was no less insistent in calling for peace and a spiritual resolution to Ukraine's crisis; but see the end of this post for three reflections on the points he made favouring the pre-eminent role of the Russian Church - and the modern Patriarchate of Moscow - as the Church of Ukraine.

Honourable Archpastors and Pastors, Dear Brothers and Sisters, Children of the Church:

It is with anxiety, pain and alarm that I continue to follow ongoing events in Kiev and other cities of Ukraine. Kiev is the birthplace of a great Orthodox civilization which united the peoples of Holy Rus. Kiev is the city of the One Font of the Baptism, the 1025th anniversary of which we only recently celebrated together with all the Local Orthodox Churches. For me, Kiev is a special, dear city, a city I have often visited, it is a city I love and know well. It is unbearably painful to hear the news of the many casualties in this holy place, of the hundreds of wounded, of the unrest in various regions of Ukraine.
Our entire multi-national Church fervently prays for peace in the Ukrainian land, for the end of civil strife. Our brothers and sisters in Ukraine are suffering one of the most dramatic moments in its history. The future fate of the Ukrainian people depends on what is now happening. So far, thank God, the spectre of civil war has been averted. But this scenario may still become manifest. This will occur if the Lord allows people to abandon Divine moral commandments and reject the Christian legacy of Ukraine, if the residents of Ukraine deny respect for self, for each other and for the law.
I would like to thank the representatives of the Ukrainian episcopate and clergy who, amidst the shouted appeals and slogans of every possible persuasion, have found the inner strength to coherently call the opponents to peace and brotherly love; those who stand firmly for the right of Ukrainians to live in concord with their faith and piety, for the preservation of traditional Ukrainian moral and religious values, the wellspring of which is the Kievan Baptismal Font, which determined the civilized development of Holy Rus.
With tears of grief from all my heart for the dead, in empathy with their loved ones, suffering together with the wounded, I beseech the pastors and flock of the Russian Orthodox Church to lift up their prayers to the Lord Jesus Christ and His Most-Pure Mother. Let us pray for the repose of our dead brothers and sisters, for the healing of the injured and sick, for the pacification of hardened hearts, for the end of the strife and unrest in Ukraine, that the Lord sends down upon us all the spirit of love, peace, forgiveness and brotherly love in Christ!

22 / 02 / 2014

His Holiness Patriarch Kirill. His Holiness Patriarch Kirill Appeals to the Entirety of the Russian Orthodox Church on Current Events in Ukraine / OrthoChristian.Com

There are three points to mark in Patriarch Kirill's appeal:

  1. He speaks of Kiev (the Church Slavonic name for the city, the same as in modern Russian; the Ukrainian name is Kyiv) as the birthplace of an Orthodox civilisation. But when Prince Volodymyr the Great was baptised in 988 there was no "Orthodox Church" - East and West were one and that part of it which evangelised what is now Ukraine, coming from the imperial centre at Constantinople, followed the Byzantine rite. Union between Eastern Byzantines and Western Latins, although intermittent, has been a factor in the Church's history in the region throughout its history, and the present day Catholic Byzantine Churches of Ukraine, Belarus, Slovakia, and elsewhere, are the heir and manifestation of that reality. They are as much a part of the original Christian civilisation derived from the "Baptism of Kievan Rus" as the Russian Orthodox Church which, rebased from Kiev in Moscow, subsequently claimed its independence of Constantinople as an autocephalous in 1589. Peter the Great abolished the Patriarchate in 1721, it was no revived until after the Russian Revolution and did not regain its independence from state control until the 1990s. The claim of the Russian Church and the Moscow Patriarchate to lead and preside over all the other heirs of Kievan Rus has no basis in realities much beyond 20 years ago
  2. He speaks of  "a great civilisation which united the people of Holy Rus". Rus is a word that gives us Ruthenian, Belorussian and Rusyn as well as Russian. It is like saying "Germanic", or "Nordic" or "Romance" - there are common bonds of history, society and religion, and there are political , cultural and linguistic relations. But there are differences and separate identities and languages too. They can be harmonious and communicate with one another; but they are not to be rolled up into one. The region has never been one other than by force of arms - notably Russian Imperial and then Soviet; and likewise force of arms have torn it in different directions - Austrian, Polish, Lithuanian, Ottoman. Memories between closely related people run deep and stay alive. It is well said that good fences make good neighbours; hence the modern development of defined borders between sovereign nation states. While Patriarch Kirill speaks of unity in the Orthodox Christian faith within the Russian Orthodox Church whose presence lies across the region in numerous countries once belonging to the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union, it could be said that lesser men than he use the term "Holy Rus" to justify not a spiritual communion but a political entity, led by the Russian state centred in Moscow to which Belarus, Ukraine (included Kiev) would be tributary as in the past and satellite countries like Georgia, Moldova and the Baltic nations would be buffer states. It is important to recall that a month ago the Moscow-aligned Yanukovych regime in Kiev threatened the dissolution of the Ukrainian Catholic Church - as happened the last time Ukraine was subject to Russia and all its assets, goods and people forcibly aggregated to the Moscow patriarchate. The latter said in 2013 that it has no objection to the Ukrainian Catholic Church now - as long as it confines its operation to the West of Ukraine. By the same token, the Russian Church does not confine its activities either to the East of Ukraine - said to represent almost half its strength overall - or indeed within the boundaries of the Russian Federation. Yet, ominously, in 2014, officials of the Moscow Patriarchate and the Putin government have both blamed the protests throughout Ukraine (which are less to do with East-West struggles than with a young population, Russian and Ukrainian alike, resisting corruption and oppression by a government that has in the end turned armed force upon its people) on certain far right clergy in Western Ukraine (ie Catholic priests). Thus the Russian state perpetuates the libel that Western Ukraine's Byzantine Catholic Church, and the nation that resists rule by foreigners, is an agent of "fascism", its code for the godless evil of national socialism.
  3. His Holiness says that "our entire multi-national Church fervently prays for peace in the Ukrainian land". He also refers to his Church as a "local Orthodox Church" and calls to "the pastors and flock of the Russian Orthodox Church". Which is it - a Church for Russians, the Orthodox Church local to the Russian Federation, or a Church across boundaries of nation, ethnicity, land or nation, running across the world and run from Moscow and Russia?

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