An Orthodox interviews a Melchite Catholic priest.
(Thanks to the Religious Information Service of the Ukraine)
18 Jule 2011, 13:03 | Interview | | 3 | | Code for Blog | |
During the first three months of his rule, the new head of the UGCC gave more than a dozen interviews on various issues of church life. For leaders the first 100 days is a time for reflection, a period for making conclusions. On this occasion, RISU journalists and the periodical Patriarchate met with Patriarch Sviatoslav to hear his evaluation of the first one hundred days in power and his views on other important church issues.
— The first one hundred days have passed since your enthronement (March 27, 2011), which is a traditional time for secular leaders to summarize their accomplishments. How were the first 100 days as head of church?
— These first one hundred days were very busy. There were two important synods: the Metropolitan Synod of Bishops of Kyiv-Halych Metropolitanate of the church and the permanent synod, held in Rome, where I first presided as head of the church. The meeting of the permanent synod, which actually helps the head of the church in the intersynodal period, was devoted to preparing for the Patriarchal Synod, which is to be held this fall in Brazil. So these first one hundred days were a time to make some very interesting administrative, synodal steps.
In addition, during this time I made a pastoral visit to Argentina and Italy. In Italy I also met with the president of the Italian Episcopal Conference of Italian Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco and Vicar of Rome Cardinal Vallini. Since the enthronement, I have been in permanent contact with Pope Benedict XVI and with the Apostolic Capital. In fact, there have already been three such trips, three meetings.
In these one hundred days I consecrated a church – a newly built church in the Vinnytsia region – and founded a new monastery. Just yesterday we laid the cornerstone for the construction of the Holy Family Sisters Convent, here in Kyiv near our cathedral.
An important part of my pastoral activity was constant communication with journalists. I thank God that there is interest in our church. I was very pleased to discover the Ukrainian media space and thus be able to speak to very many people who are unable to communicate directly with me. Through the media I was able to come closer to them.
I wrote several pastoral epistles: to the youth, to the priests, as well as responses to questions posed by the Ukrainian public. Also, I am pleased to begin systematic work with the youth: in Kyiv there was an interesting meeting at the Kyiv Mohyla Academy; in Lviv I had the opportunity to meet with those responsible for pastoral care of youth from all eparchies. And much, much more.
— Culture experts say there is no question more difficult than the question of identity. Greek Catholics hear many definitions of their church, for example, that we are Eastern rite Catholics, or Eastern Catholics, or Orthodox in communion with Rome, or maybe even other formulations. Which wording do you think is the most accurate?
– By the way, I am currently reading a book by Ivan Dziuba "Injection of Darkness." There are very interesting thoughts about the issue of identity, which is complicated, multifaceted, and very dynamic. Speaking of our identity, I want to stress two points.
First, our identity is the identity of Kyivan Christianity during Volodymyr's baptism, when the newly established church on the lands of Kyivan Rus’ was a subsidiary of the Church of the Patriarchate of Constantinople and, on the other hand, in communion with the Apostolic See. Our identity is a testimony of the church when Christianity was not divided. Though after all the dramatic events, this identity of our church faced various dangers throughout history and sometimes was not even recognized as a church.
Today, in the third millennium, we also strive to live this identity. So, on the one hand, we strive to further discover and learn about the roots of the church, which was born from St. Volodymyr’s baptism, which is a national church, which is a church of the Eastern tradition according to not only its rites but also its spirituality, canonical and theological heritage. But on the other hand, it is a church that cherishes its communion with the Roman Apostolic See.
Second, identity is something very multifaceted, constantly evolving, transforming. Our identity in the present historical period is experiencing a period of development and transformation; that is, on the one hand, we want to the church to be open. Open not only to all who live in Ukraine today, but also to various nations, nationalities, even different religions. But, on the other hand, we also want to be open to interchurch and interethnic dialogue, because we understand that Kyivan Christianity from the very beginning strived to be a powerful center of Christianity on par with Rome, Constantinople, and later Moscow.
So I think that today our development faces some challenges also for the interchurch dialogue. I think that today the Lord God himself will call us to show just how important and relevant Volodymyr's baptism is for ecumenical Christianity.
— For many church and community events you wear a white klobuk (cowl). His Beatitude Lubomyr did not wear it, but Patriarch Josyf Slipyj did. What does the white klobuk mean for the primate of the UGCC?
— I was expecting this question because I read some discussions about this on social networks. The answer is quite simple. I had difficulty wearing the white cowl because I did not quite understand whether or not it was a tradition for our church. For example, the Greek patriarchs do not wear white klobuks. After the Electoral Synod we had an informal meeting with our metropolitans. And all the metropolitans were unanimously in favor of my wearing a white cowl to continue the tradition that was started by Patriarch Josyf Slipyj. I consulted with the Liturgical Commission Church. And Bishop Hlib Lonchyna, who is its chairman, said that not only can I but that I should wear a white klobuk because it emphasizes our Slavic identity and Kyivan Eastern tradition.
You may have noticed that during my first visits to the Vatican, I did not wear it for de facto I did not have it. I, frankly, was not in a rush. The first time we gathered after the synod with our bishops, on May 7 in Drohobych to celebrate the anniversary of Bishop Julian Voronovskyi, in the presence of all the bishops Bishop Volodymyr Viytyshyn pulled out a white klobuk and placed it on my head. And so I realized that this was the will of the church.
— What initiatives started by your predecessors for building the patriarchal order will be continued, and what do you want to start yourself? And what have been your first steps, and what others will there be? What is important to start and continue?
– My first steps were made many years ago, before I was elected head of the church. In 2004-2005, Patriarch Lubomyr asked me to be his personal secretary and head of the Patriarchal Curia in Lviv. This is what the position was called at the time. Actually, my direct task as head of the curia was to make it the sole center of our church, which would serve to unite all our eparchies, which are scattered throughout the world. The Patriarchal Curia is a very important step in the development of the patriarchate. I have said repeatedly that His Beatitude Lubomyr did not demand a patriarchate, but he built it. Then I was called to cooperate with him on this matter.
To date, our patriarchal structures are still being built. During those 10 years of building our church under the leadership of His Beatitude Lubomyr our entire church, all of our bishops, realized that such a center is necessary. Moreover, they began to support it and now the center is more efficient and serving our bishops all around the world. I felt it as a bishop in Argentina. I felt just how important the structure of the Patriarchal Curia is for maintaining a connection with the mother church in Ukraine.
Thus I will continue to build the patriarchate. This includes the following specific steps: building the Patriarchal Curia, improving its efficiency, preparing cadres who could effectively serve in our structures, improving our service to our eparchies and similarly to each of our believers. We know that because of immigration Ukrainians are scattered throughout the world. We will know that we have a patriarchate when each Greek Catholic, wherever he may be on earth, feels that he has a father in Ukraine, who is the head of our church. My development of the patriarchate will move primarily in the pastoral and evangelistic directions so that church could effectively act as one single unit and provide pastoral care for our faithful, wherever they may be.
— When you first went to Rome many people wondered about the patriarchate and whether you would raise this issue during your meeting with the Holy Father. This time it did not happen. Is there a plan when this will be discussed? Not to demand it, but to express our desire. The question is what does the Holy Father think about this?
— Discussion about the patriarchate is always on the agenda. It is not a media sensation because it is simply the life of our church. We act as the Patriarchal Church and we are developing as the Patriarchal Church. One of the very important steps of this, maybe, everyday life but our practical communication and development is, for example, the recent proclamation of the Catechism of the church. This is the highest act of the church’s religious teaching when the church gives the Catechism, a collection of religious, as well as moral and ascetic, teachings of the church to the hands of the faithful. And of course we did this with the understanding and even support of the Apostolic See.
— We often hear such comments from our priests and the faithful: “But why?” Isn’t it enough to be a major archiepiscopal church? Have we fully used the potential found in this form of organization? Many people ask what these excessive efforts are for.
—There are several dimensions of this issue. A patriarchate can be understood as an honorary title. There are many such honorary patriarchs in the Catholic Church, like the Patriarch of Venice, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, and so on. This is an honorary title, but it has no foundation for a national church. In our case, it is the opposite: we have a foundation for a national church but no title. I think this title will come sooner or later, though the mechanism for granting the title of patriarch in the Orthodox world as well as in the Catholic world is not fully understood.
I agree that while heading toward patriarchal dignity we must use all the opportunities that are provided by our status of a major archiepiscopal church. In fact, the difference between a patriarchal and archiepiscopal church is very small, and perhaps at this stage we need to use these potentials we have to the fullest.
But, on the other hand, it is no secret that the title “archiepiscopal church” is a half-step. And the entire meaning of this title is not clear. So if to look at how I am called in the media, then the word “supreme” is not often used, rather they say the Archbishop of Kyiv-Halych, because there is no understanding of it. Second, such a title does not exist in the Eastern Churches of the Slavic tradition. This title exists in the Greek Church, which has a different canonical structure, so the title has another meaning. If we use the Greek Church as an example, there is an Archbishop of Athens, who is helped by a lot of metropolitans. In Slavic canonical lexicon, these terms have completely different connotations, and therefore, who the Supreme Archbishop is for the Slavic world is not quite clear.
We still must strive to take this path to the end, and then obtain the name of the Patriarchal Church; then our identity will be clear to all. Patriarch Josyf said that we must strive for a Patriarchal Church so that our communities, our parishes, eparchies in emigration don’t assimilate. So, the patriarchate is a structure that to a certain extent will protect our church from dissolving into the huge sea of ??the Catholic world. All our bishops across the world are part of the local Latin episcopal conferences. And if we do not have an internal forum, then we can not exist as a single national church.
By the way, before our church received the title of Major Archbishopric, it had no right to conduct synods. And now the synod is one of the most significant components of the identity of our church. We are a synodal church. The title Major Archiepiscopal Church has given us this opportunity. We can see that it really helps us in our building.
— You were one of the bishops who were actively involved in building strategies for the church. Now the third team is working. And when will this strategy start being implemented? From what step will it begin? And if you would have known in advance that you would be head of the church, how would this implementation be managed, how would this work begin?
– First of all, development of a strategy is a task of the Synod of Bishops. And this strategy can be applied only when the synod accepts and blesses it. So far this strategy is being worked on as a proposal for our synod. We hope to be able to present it at the next synod, which will be held in Brazil.
I was elected to the second team, which had the task of formulating a vision for our church for 2020. And I worked on this team, and I together with all the bishops of the UGCC worked on putting this strategy into practice. I was a specific ruling bishop, in this case in Latin America so, of course, I realized that I would put this task not only before the synod, the head of the church, but also myself. Through this prism, I participated in this work. In particular, on my request the idea of enculturation was introduced, because I realized how important the mission of our church was in the diaspora. For example, enculturating the Eastern Christian tradition in Latin American culture is a very special challenge. So a strategy is being developed, which the synod, I hope, will accept, and then every ruling bishops will be responsible for putting it into practice in his eparchy.
— In one interview you said you want to follow Metropolitan Sheptytsky’s example and visit every parish. Is there at least a rough plan for these visits? And where will the focus be: in eastern Ukraine, central Ukraine, Galicia, or foreign metropolitanates?
– There is a certain logic, but so for no clear plan. First of all, I would like to visit all our eparchies. After visiting the eparchies, I would like to visit all our monasteries, and then parishes. As for the plan, it will be sent by the Lord God.
I would like to begin my visits in eastern Ukraine. I had planned for the first visit to be to the Odesa-Crimea Exarchate in early December. But it so happened that due to various events I have already visited the Lviv Archeparchy, the Stryi Eparchy, and on the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul I visited the Sokal and Zhovkva Eparchy. In mid-August I will visit the Eparchy of Przemysl, then the Sambir and Drohobych Eparchy. In late August I will visit Argentina, which will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the arrival of the first bishop, and I will present them to the new Apostolic Administrator; in early August I will visit England, where I will present the new exarch; in late September I will visit the Chicago Eparchy, which will celebrate the 50th anniversary of its founding; in November I will visit the Philadelphia Eparchy, and then Stamford. So that's a very intensive plan, but it is based around important events and anniversaries that I have been invited to. I try to answer them promptly.
— Are you planning any structural or personnel changes?
— I'm still trying to study the structures and meet with everyone who works in them. And of course I will work to improve their effectiveness. If I need to change the structures and workers to make them more effective, then that is what I will do, but it will be in a gradual manner.
— To date, since the Second Vatican Council the Catholic Church sees itself as a community of communities. Such community movements exist in the church, but they are very situational and there is no clear plan on how they should be created, how they should exist. We have such evangelistic programs as the Alpha courses, which have been started already in the Orthodox Church; we have charismatic communities, but they are also very small. Neo-Catechumenal movements have appeared. What do you think of this and how do think our church can enculturate these movements? Do we need to establish your own? Although “establish” is probably not the word because they are difficult to introduce from above. What communities do you think can exist in our church?
— Twenty years of church development since legalization has shown us that we are ever deeper realizing that the church is a community, that it is not a structure or geopolitical project. The church is a community of believers. We say that this is a community of communicants who receive communion from the one Body and one Blood of Jesus Christ. But this community has its own structure – it is not some amorphous unit. And this community has its own dynamics. It is a large community, but also has smaller communities such as the parish communities and communities of consecrated persons – our monasteries. Similarly, there are different communities that gather people around something even more specific, for example, youth communities, communities of young married couples, and so on.
When it comes to movements, communities or other movements, it is clear that such movements cannot be established by some command. This is a sign of the essence of the Holy Spirit, a living church, which lives and develops. And these are signs of its life. Many communities have been established in our church. There are many communities that came from other churches but which then acquired a very interesting identity, for example, the Mother’s Prayer Movement. Although it came from England, it acquired a very Ukrainian, Eastern Christian dimension. Similarly, other movements that originated in the Catholic or Protestant Church have come to us.
All these movements are very interesting and very useful and very important, but they will thrive and serve the church only if they are integrated into the wider community of the church. If the communities will not isolate themselves, create elite groups, but instead assist people in entering the church, then these communities and movements will be very useful and will have good future. Today our task is to skillfully and properly integrate into the community the new movements that come into our church.
— Will the seminary be reformed, and will married men and men thirty years or older be able to realize their callings?
— We are not talking about reforming the seminary because the seminary has a clear goal that cannot be reformed. We are talking about improving the structure of the seminary and are looking for better ways to achieve the seminary’s goals.
As for the so-called late vocations or men who are now married and cannot in general terms enter the seminary, we are considering establishing for them a separate preparatory program for priesthood. But we see no need to change the educational process, which is now in our seminaries.
— The UGCC has many problems in acquiring land for building churches in eastern and southern Ukraine. How do you evaluate this situation and how do you intend to act in this situation?
– I handle this situation very calmly. It is not necessary to ideologize, but to work clearly and effectively. Maybe our church is not well known in these regions, and when a request to allocate land is denied, maybe the decision is made ??out of ignorance or misunderstanding by people who wonder who the Greek Catholics are, why they are here and what they will do.
First we must make ourselves known to the administrative bodies. This question concerns not only our church but all churches, because it concerns the issue of equal treatment of all faiths in Ukraine, which His Beatitude Lubomyr and the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations have said repeatedly.
We need to work very calmly, methodically and professionally, in accordance with the legislation. All churches and religious organizations should cooperate to improve this legislation so that it promotes, not hinders, our ultimate goal: to serve the people of Ukraine and make them more Christian.
— Let’s move from the issue of the east to the issue of the west. After the See of the patriarch was transferred to Kyiv, Lviv felt that it lost a certain status. How can Lviv avoid this provincialization in the context of the UGCC?
— Once Father Dr. Ivan Muzychka said that the Ukrainian Rome became a province when the head of church moved from the city. Can you imagine Rome as a province? Perhaps such feelings are now in Lviv, as being the center of the church gives another tone, or perhaps another quality of the church life. I try to be in constant contact with Bishop Ihor Vozniak, Archbishop of Lviv, and I visit Lviv frequently. In addition, part of the structure of the Patriarchal Curia operates in Lviv. We cannot move the entire curia to Kyiv, and there is no need for it. We will strive to further mobilize our social and religious life in Lviv so that Lviv remains an important spiritual, religious center of our church.
— How can we develop our cooperation with the Mukachevo Eparchy? What ways can we further develop our coexistence within one state? Say recently in Transcarpathia an association was formed that seeks to promote the idea that within the Ukrainian state there should be one Catholic Church. They do not try to fight aggressively but are engaged in education. We also know that the Mukachevo Eparchy has its own interesting traditions, with which they can enrich us and we can somehow enrich them. But people still consider the relationship to be a bit strange. How do you see the situation now and in the future?
– I would like to move this issue from a purely ideological issue to an issue of the church. Today we try to foster constructive contacts with Bishop Milan, the ruling bishop of Mukachevo Eparchy, and thus cooperate with the eparchy at all levels. For his part, Bishop Milan is a member of the Synod of Bishops of the Kyiv-Halych Metropolitanate, and he is actively involved in the discussion of pastoral care, and moreover is also involved in its implementation. As such the lives of our eparchies are being synchronized.
On our part, we try to participate in the life of Mukachevo Eparchy. For example, recently we celebrated the anniversary of the arrival Pope John Paul II to Ukraine, and although I could not go to Zakarpattia for the celebration of the 10th anniversary of the beatification of Blessed Theodore Romzha of Mukachevo because there were very important events in Lviv, on our behalf the archbishop of Lviv – the second most respected person in our church – took part.
So we try to nurture the relationship between the UGCC and the Mukachevo Eparchy and to develop it. It is obvious that the very development of our church over time will lead to a stronger unity. Unity de jure always comes after unity de facto. This is very important to us. I think that is the direction in which we need to continue moving.
— This month, Kirill will again be in Ukraine. Are there any steps being taken to organize a meeting? And the second question, will you participate in the celebrations of the anniversary of the Baptism of Rus’?
– Of course we will celebrate, but in our own way. We haven’t been invited to celebrate with the Orthodox Church. There is no invitation to any meeting with Patriarch Kirill, though I have repeatedly expressed my eagerness to hold such a meeting. Nevertheless, we don’t want to bother anyone with our presence.
— When you talk about a strategic partnership with the branches of Ukrainian Orthodoxy, what exactly do you mean? What is your vision of the churches of the Kyivan tradition for the future? And what are the possible steps for realizing this vision?
– I think that today, to talk about strategic cooperation, we must set before ourselves realistic goals and objectives. If we set a goal to unite our churches by 2020, it would not be very realistic. On the contrary, it would probably harm our strategic partnership.
I think that we must now look for forms of such a partnership. For example, I recall the recent academic seminar about the Kyivan Church where historians examined the church from different angles. And all are interested in this type of research. After all, the views of all the churches that consider themselves heirs to the Kyivan tradition were presented objectively.
Maybe it would be interesting to study the inheritance of Kyiv Christianity, and I will encourage everyone to so. In my opinion, the deeper and more fully we will discover the deep roots of Kyivan Christianity, the closer we will be to each other. We'll then realize that we have much more in common than what divides us, as said the Blessed Pope John XXIII. This strategy will be to some degree a convergence in actions, one that no one will spurn, as it will help everyone find their own identity.
For the next question, I think we should reflect on and actively implement the strategy outlined by His Beatitude Lubomyr in his programmatic sermon: “One people of God on the land of the hills of Kyiv.” I have repeatedly quoted this for it touched me as a theologian and an academic. When His Beatitude Lubomyr was preparing to transfer the See to Kyiv, in one speech he outlined a path that we must take. And this is the task that is set forth before our church. This is the way from denominational opposition to the primacy of love, from church exclusivism to communion. I will not look for something else now. I would really like to realize His Beatitude’s vision.
— What are the large, maybe interdenominational projects with Protestants? How do you plan to continue and establish cooperation with the Protestant churches?
– I don’t know whether this can be called very ambitious, but our cooperation is in the following two key points. We actively cooperate with Protestants in the context of the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches, and we see that especially when it comes to various social or sociopolitical positions in Ukraine which Christians have or should have, we actually find oneness with Protestants.
It is interesting that Protestants – perhaps because they don’t have specific ideological schemes, which weigh heavily over them – are truly Ukrainian patriots and protect Ukrainian statehood and Ukrainian identity very well. I would say they are very powerful and serious allies. For example, on June 22 at a joint memorial service for the victims of the war, one of the Protestant pastors repeated the statement from our call to prayer that both Stalin and Hitler's regimes were human-hating regimes and ideologies. I was very interested to hear from the mouth of the Protestant leader the same understanding of these historical phenomena.
The next such project is collaboration in the context of the Ukrainian Bible Society. It is about promoting the Holy Scriptures, its study, the organization of various conferences involving representatives of various faiths who read and reflect upon God's word. Better Ukrainian translations of the Scripture into Ukrainian are being prepared. In everything we do in the context of the Biblical Apostolate is to encourage our faithful to read and love the Scriptures; in this the Protestants are like-minded and we work very well together.
— What are your priorities in dealing with the state government?
– One of the first priorities is to establish a constructive dialogue. The question of the government is quite difficult because it often changes. And the state government is always personified in certain political leaders who hold this power in Ukraine at one time or another. Of course, the dialogue is different depending on the people in power. But I hope that today we have begun a constructive dialogue, including with the president of Ukraine after the meeting he had with the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches on April 21. And we felt that it was the first contact and it will evolve.
On our part, we try to be communities that nurture active and socially conscious citizens who do not evade their social responsibility. This is a basic guide. Though the church’s service in the society is very multifaceted, especially in one such as ours.
— Soon there will be new parliamentary elections and of course all politicians will want to gain the support of a certain church. What mechanisms do you have to stop the church from being manipulated?
– I think that I don’t have to come up with a new mechanism, one that hasn’t already been created and tested. On the one hand, we try to communicate with everyone; on the other hand, we keep some distance from certain political parties so that we aren’t absorbed into their campaigns. This is very important for us so that we may preserve political freedom in order to be able to tell the truth.
On the other hand, and this was said repeatedly by His Beatitude Lubomyr, we try to educate community leaders and socially active citizens so they understand that in a democratic society the responsibility for power lies also in the voters. And of course we are trying to teach which values are worth implementing in the life of the citizens of Ukraine, in particular when it comes to certain candidates for the positions of power.
— There is another dimension of political freedom – in Galicia there are conscious attempts to put an equal sign between the church and nationalist movements, such as the association Svoboda. Svoboda’s pamphlets are distributed in our parishes. Svoboda uses UGCC subjects, including the enthronement or the visit of the Holy Father in their ads. Does this situation suit the church? If not, what is being done at the leadership level of the church?
– There are no attempts to identify ourselves with this political force or to oppose it. We just express our position, which does not entirely reflect the views of Svoboda. Also I have repeatedly explained how I understand the idea of ??Ukrainian nationalism, or even the Ukrainian national idea, the idea of ??Ukrainian patriotism, and how it does not fully coincide with those ideas being expressing by the leaders of Svoboda. I think that we will treat this political force as we would any other party or political force. We'll try to dialogize, cooperate for the benefit of Ukraine and the Ukrainian state, but we do not want to be used as party propaganda.
— What does being the patriarch, the head of the UGCC mean to you?
– I can probably only answer this question in ten years. Today I am just beginning to comprehend myself in this vocation, in this task. At the moment, I just know that I am the face, the representative of a great and powerful church. And today, all these signs of attention or respect that are expressed I feel are not directed at me personally – Sviatoslav Shevchuk. No, it’s to the head of the church, this huge Body, which I represent. So today this is how I can answer this question. I’ll see, perhaps in ten years my understanding and my conscience will be slightly deeper.
– How do you plan to continue your research and teaching? The plan and scheduled trips for the rest of the year does not include any academic work.
– I want to say that I will continue my academic activity. So I try not to put down books. I'm interested in new scholarly publications. Perhaps, as I have often said, when I put my life and certain issues in order, I can return to teaching. We'll see how possible this will be. For now everyone is interested in me, everyone wants to invite me everywhere. This interest will die down a little in a year, and then I will have the opportunity to engage in academic activity. But now I must write a lot, not academic publications but various letters, messages, proclamations, sermons, and so on. In these undertakings, I still try to work intellectually. I would really like to not lose my identity as an academic, as a teacher.
Interviewers were Mariana Karapinka and Anatolii Babynskyi,
Kyiv, July 4, 2011