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Friday, 28 March 2014

Archbishop Soroka - Religious fault lines underlie Ukraine-Russia tensions - Catholic Philly, Lou Baldwin

March 26th, 2014, By Lou Baldwin

Three archbishops — Roman Catholic, Ukrainian Catholic and Ukrainian Orthodox — joined together in prayers for peace at Philadelphia’s Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception on Sunday, March 16.

This was not unusual, at least for the United States, according to Archbishop Stefan Soroka, who is Metropolitan Archbishop of the Archeparchy (Archdiocese) of Philadelphia and the leader of Ukrainian Catholics in the United States.

He was joined that day by Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, archbishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia and by Archbishop Antony, Metropolitan of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the United States as well as a congregation of 500 mostly Ukrainian-Americans. (See a related story here.)

The prayers were in the wake of the overthrow of the pro-Russian government in Ukraine and the subsequent secession of Crimea from Ukraine and its annexation by Russia. Crimea, a peninsula in south Ukraine, hosts a heavily ethnic Russian population.

The annexation has been widely condemned by most world leaders amid fears that Russia may attempt to annex other areas of Ukraine that have ethnic Russian populations.

“We offer in America something that I know they wonder about (in Ukraine),” Archbishop Soroka said in a March 24 interview with “Our Ukrainian Catholic Church and our Ukrainian Orthodox Church here in America have been meeting for years. We meet every year for two or three days to discuss issues of concern. Our focus is not trying to resolve our differences but to understand one another. The more we come together, the more we realize how little difference there really is.

“When we meet, the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church in Ukraine are champing at the bit for our press release even before it is out. We are an example to them how different churches can come together.”

As a matter of fact, Ukrainian Catholics in the U.S. willingly meet and pray with all denominations, Christian and non-Christian, something that is less likely to happen in Ukraine and Russia, according to Archbishop Soroka.

In Ukraine the majority religion is Orthodox, which by one estimate (Britannica 2014 Year Book) is composed of Ukrainian Orthodox at 19 percent, Russian Orthodox (Ukrainian Church of the Moscow Patriarchy) 9 percent and other Orthodox or unaffiliated Orthodox at 16 percent.

About 6 percent are Ukrainian (Greek) Catholics and about 2 percent are Roman (Latin) Catholics.

Probably as a result of harsh religious persecution under seven decades of communism, about 42 percent of the people are unchurched.

If there seems to be a larger number of Catholic Ukrainians in America than these figures would suggest, there is a reason, according to Archbishop Soroka, who relates the experience of his own family.

Most Catholics in Ukraine live near the western border near Poland, in an area that was occupied by the Nazis during World War II. Many of the people were taken captive and sent to Austria and Germany to slave labor camps. This was the experience of Archbishop Soroka’s parents.

After the war many of these captives, especially religious people, ignored orders to return to Ukraine under communism and instead kept moving west and ultimately migrated to places like France, England, Australia, New Zealand the United States and Canada.

To read the full article, visit Catholic Philly

Religious fault lines underlie Ukraine-Russia tensions - Catholic Philly

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