"Today the concept of truth is viewed with suspicion, because truth is identified with violence. Over history there have, unfortunately, been episodes when people sought to defend the truth with violence. But they are two contrasting realities. Truth cannot be imposed with means other than itself! Truth can only come with its own light. Yet, we need truth. ... Without truth we are blind in the world, we have no path to follow. The great gift of Christ was that He enabled us to see the face of God".Pope Benedict xvi, February 24th, 2012

The Church is ecumenical, catholic, God-human, ageless, and it is therefore a blasphemy—an unpardonable blasphemy against Christ and against the Holy Ghost—to turn the Church into a national institution, to narrow her down to petty, transient, time-bound aspirations and ways of doing things. Her purpose is beyond nationality, ecumenical, all-embracing: to unite all men in Christ, all without exception to nation or race or social strata. - St Justin Popovitch

Sunday, 18 May 2014


These are different articles from different perspectives and sides.   The first is about the conflict of information, written for theNew York Times; the second is by Russian Orthodox peacemakers; the third is an interview with Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev, representative of the Moscow Patriarch; and, finally, a reply to that interview from a Ukrainian Greek Catholic source, with a short passage about the crisis in Ukrainian Orthodoxy. 


The War on Truth in Ukraine


WASHINGTON — For a moment last week, war seemed imminent. A day after Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, warned Ukraine’s leaders against using force in the crisis there, the Ukrainian military attacked a checkpoint outside the separatist-held town of Slovyansk. Russian forces across the border responded with maneuvers labeled “exercises,” coupled with statements from the Kremlin that amounted to “you were warned.” Russian television made Slovyansk look like Guernica; Ukrainian news media reported that separatist militants were using kindergartners as human shields.
As each side revved up its propaganda, the world got another taste of the confusion, uncertainty and distortion of information that have brought this conflict to the brink. An absence of legitimate authority in eastern Ukraine has left an absence of transparent, agreed-upon facts — a breeding ground for suspicion and manipulative diplomatic games on the margins of the truth that may yet carry the region to war.

Consider the armed “green men” who seize towns and whose photos circulated in the media this month. Do they work for the Russians? The United States has said Russian culpability is beyond “a shadow of a doubt.” The Russians have issued categorical denials. The Ukrainian government’s photo evidence of involvement of Russian special forces has been undermined by apparent errors of location and misidentification, but not before the images were submitted to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, endorsed by the United States State Department and headlined in American news media.

Doubt’s shadow has not left Ukraine. Instead, the failure to agree on facts — to share a basic reality — has become the norm. Who distributed leaflets ordering Jews to register with authorities? Was it the anti-Semitic new “government” of the self-proclaimed Donetsk Republic, as the Ukrainian government claims, or was it a provocation designed to discredit the pro-Russian separatists? And who killed three men at a checkpoint in Slovyansk last week, Russian military intelligence or Ukrainian nationalists?

Even deeper questions, which would have one answer in a healthy body politic with trusted sources of information, have many in Ukraine: Who killed the people on Independence Square in Kiev last winter? Is the current government legitimate, or just another armed group required to vacate public buildings under the Geneva agreement?

It depends on whom you ask — and where. In accounts from western Ukraine, behind every unfortunate event lies a Russian agent. In the east and south, Ukrainian nationalist militants with Western backing are thought to pull the strings.

The elusiveness of truth is a symptom and an accelerant of Ukraine’s descent into uncertainty. Legitimate authority — governmental, factual, legal, moral — is unrelentingly being effaced, and with it the chances of a peaceful outcome.

It is hard to pinpoint when this slide began: In November 2013, when President Viktor F. Yanukovych repressed protests; in January, when repressive laws were answered with protesters’ violence; or in February, when snipers killed more than 100 protesters and police. By the time Mr. Yanukovych was ousted, on Feb. 21, division was clear. His removal from office was hailed in western Ukraine as a revolution, but in the historically pro-Russian regions, it was angrily labeled a coup.

It wasn’t simply that the new government was drawn heavily from the west. For the first time in Ukraine’s post-Soviet history, power had changed hands outside an election. And deviating from a predictable institutional path unleashes forces hard to contain. Thomas Hobbes wrote eloquently about life in the absence of political authority, but he couldn’t foresee the modern fracturing of facts and narratives that accompanies its collapse.
Today, as authority in all its forms is degraded, life becomes not only “nasty, brutish and short”; it becomes so riddled with disinformation and lies that there is no clear path to settlement. And the void in trust invites armed action.

We have seen this world before: in the Balkans and Rwanda in the 1990s; in Bashar al-Assad’s Syria today; and on the eve of virtually every major European pogrom in previous centuries, when the assassination of a czar or the loss of a war allowed cynical leaders to use rumor and propaganda to turn longstanding, often latent, divisions into bright lines and slaughter. That’s what was so unsettling about the (probably faked) anti-Semitic edict circulated in eastern Ukraine.

Healthy political systems have facts to turn to, because they have trusted sources of authority. A president’s birth records can be requested; news media, individuals and experts can validate them. Conflicts get resolved peacefully.

That is what is missing in Ukraine. The fragmentation of consensus about critical events and the degradation of legitimate political authority are like two apocalyptic horsemen riding together.

If there is a hope of escaping this condition, Ukraine must restore legitimacy to its leadership and its facts. It is hard to see how to do this on the brink of civil war, Russian intervention or both.

The O.S.C.E. has observers in Ukraine. But the Kiev government’s forces and the pro-Russian separatists restrict its movements. Russia, the United States, Ukraine and Europe should give it more resources and authority to provide a neutral accounting of facts. Ultimately, though, the ability to restore legitimate authority lies in the Kiev government’s hands. Kiev seems set on doing so through force of arms, but legitimacy does not grow from the barrel of a gun. It comes through fair elections. Elections are scheduled May 25. For them to be seen as fair, Kiev’s leaders must better incorporate the country’s south and east into the government before the voting begins.

If they don’t, Russia might incorporate them first — at the point of its own guns.

Keith A. Darden, an associate professor at American University, is the author of the forthcoming book “Resisting Occupation in Eurasia.” 

* * * 
Thanks to
Jim & Nancy Forest

The following interview with Hieromonk Melchizedeck (Gordenko) and monk Gabriel (Kairasov) appeared in Orthodoxy in Ukraine, a Ukrainian language website on January 30th.

by Lado Gegechkori

Hieromonk Melchizedeck (Gordenko) and monk Gabriel (Kairasov), on the night of February 20th, stood risking their lives on Grushevsky Street in Kiev between the police and the demonstrators, and in this way stopped the bloodshed for entire days.

LG: Tell us, fathers, what made you to go out to the street that day?

Fr. M: Once a long time ago I saw a photograph from Serbia, in which one priest was standing between the police and the demonstrators. I was filled with admiration for him—one man with a cross in his hands was able to stop a thousand people on one side, and a thousand on the other!

Our Desyatina Monastery is located very close to the epicenter of these events—even at night in the church we could hear fireworks, shouting from megaphones, and the noise of crowds. When I heard that on Grushevsky Street explosions were causing people to lose their arms, legs, and eyes, I understood that I should be there, so that I would not later be ashamed of myself. For some reason I remembered the example of a priest in Georgia, who ran out with a bench in his hands to route the gay parade. That man saw lawlessness in the streets and did not try to hide or wait it out in the church, but went out to make his position clear to the laity, and to inspire them by his example.

LG: As far as I understand it, you had agreed upon a plan?

Fr. M: No, we had no sort of plan. Early in the morning, Fr. Ephraim, Fr. Gabriel, and I prayed together, and after asking a blessing, we went out to the Maidan. None of us had even the slightest wavering or doubt. There was no plan. There was a goal—to do at least something to stop the violence.

LG: How did the demonstrators react to the appearance of men in vestments?

Fr. M: We were realistic about the fact that it is no longer possible to stop the police or demonstrators, and therefore we were ready to stand under the flying bullets and stones. But when people saw priests in front of them, standing between them and the police cordon, it was as if they had been dashed with boiling water. They calmed down almost immediately. A moment of something like a blessed reasonableness came over them.

Fr G: The people standing there came up to us and said, “As long as you stand here, we will not throw any stones at the police.” This really inspired us all. We were able to restrain people until nightfall—only then did Molotov cocktails start flying at the police. But even in that moment, many of the demonstrators ran over to the police cordon and shouted to their comrades to cease their aggression. Some of these young fellows even climbed onto the roof of a burnt-out bus in order to pull out the protesters, thus placing themselves in the path of danger.

LG: Did you understand that you were risking your lives? After all, Molotov cocktails and grenades were blowing up around you.

Fr. G: When we were standing between the crowd of protesters and the police behind their shields, and all around us grenades were popping and cocktails were ripping, a hot bottle landed about five meters from me. But it did not explode… Fire was burning all around us, bottles were crashing and machinery was rumbling, but for some reason this cocktail did not explode. It would have scorched me and everyone around me in a moment, but it only hit the ground and fizzled out. Then I felt that the Lord was protecting us.

Later, however, people started using us as human shields—demonstrators walked up to us and threw stones and bottles with flammable mixtures from behind our backs. At that moment I felt a terrible bitterness for these people, whom we were calling to make peace, but who were nevertheless thirsting for blood. I felt that demons were mocking these human souls, inciting them to rage, and dulling their good sense.

LG: At what moment did you understand that it was time for you to leave the demonstration site?

Fr. M: We were not alone there—there were lay people standing next to us, both men and women. We were watching attentively, so that no one would throw stones and bottles at them—after all, we essentially bore responsibility for them at that moment. Therefore, when the situation came to a head, we decided to step back in order to guard those who stood with us shoulder-to-shoulder.

Some have spoken of provocations and aggression from the crowd, others, about the cruelty and brutality of the police. I cannot say anything of the kind. We did not want to find the guilty party; we wanted to make peace between both sides.

LG: Some are inclined to emphasize the cruelty of the police, while others blame the demonstrators for everything. What is your opinion, as eye-witnesses?

Fr. G: At the moment the passions were escalating, a man ran from out of the crowd. Disregarding the cold, he was bare to the waist. The man shouted to the crowd and the police to stop, and then fell to his knees and began to pray fervently. But the police jumped at him, took him by the feet and dragged him to the cars. I tried to stop them, but in vain. I was sincerely sorry for that man—it seemed to me that God’s grace was visiting him at that moment.

It is not right to bet in this situation on one side or the other. We saw cruelty from both camps—each of them was sick in their own way.

LG: At that moment, people of all different religious confessions were gathered in the center of town. Did you have any confrontations with them?

Fr. M: During those hours that we spent at the Maidan, people from all different confessions came there: Greek-Catholics, clergy from the “Kiev Patriarchate” and the Catholic Church; and what is the most amazing of all—Buddhists!

Fr. G: Even a Jew came up to me in his kippah, and standing next to me, started praying. I listened to him amazed: he was praying Orthodox prayers with us!

Fr. M: To me a young man came up, introduced himself as Seryezha, and asked me whether we accept heretics. “Heretics in what sense?” I asked. “I am a Baptist,” Seryezha smiled. “Of course we accept them. Come on over!” This place was the borderline of peace, and there could be no talk of “acceptance” or “non-acceptance.”

LG: That is, the common woe united all those who can’t find a common language during peaceful times?

Fr. G: There was no division between confessions or ideology. This was not the time for that. When a mother sees a tree falling over the sandbox, she won’t only grab her own child—she’ll pick up someone else’s as well, be he the neighbor’s or a street kid. At that moment, we were all related.

And do you know what is most amazing? People started calling us from Kiev and other cities—both lay people and clergy—saying that they wanted to stand with us shoulder-to-shoulder when we go out there again. Literally just a few days ago, a man who had been standing in the barricades at that moment came to our church, and said that he no longer wants to stand there, now he wants to pray.

Many protesters who saw us there said the same thing. They had thought that a stone is the weightiest thing there could possibly be. But when they saw us, they recognized that compared to certain spiritual things, a stone is lighter than a feather.

LG: You risked your lives, standing there in those minutes. Tell us, did you remember the New Martyrs then, and were you inspired by their example?

Fr. G: Do you know, when we went to the Maidan, I began to pray silently. And among all the other saints whom I was asking for help, some of the first who came to mind were the Georgian martyrs Shalva, Bidzina, and Elisbara. These were three princes who stirred an uprising in Georgia against the Islamic oppression. Having gathered two thousand warriors under their banners, they defeated the army of the Persian shah, which numbered 10,000 strong. But when hundreds of women and children were taken captive by the shah, the princes surrendered without a second thought. The captives were released, but the princes were executed. Their martyrdom consisted in their living and fighting for the people’s sake, and they were ready to die in order to save innocent lives.

I also recalled the example of one Russian commander who fought in Chechnya—his name was kept secret, but the mujahedin announced a price on his head. When the Chechens took several peaceful citizens captive, he unhesitatingly gave himself up in exchange for the captives’ freedom. He was brutally murdered, but the captives survived.

Who are the New Martyrs? What can we call the feeling that guides them? I would call it “ordinary patriotism.”

* * *
as published in “In Communion”, the journal of the Orthodox Peace Fellowship, issue 68 February 2014
* * *

The Pan-Orthodox Council, Ukraine Crisis and Christian Unity 
An interview with Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev of Volokolamsk, the chairman of the Russian Orthodox Department of External Church Relations.
 by EDWARD PENTIN 04/03/2014 

Where does the Russian Orthodox Church stand on the crisis in Ukraine? And why is a Pan-Orthodox Council planned for 2016?
To find out answers to these and other questions, the Register interviewed Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev of Volokolamsk, the chairman of the Department of External Church Relations of the Russian Orthodox Church and a permanent member of the Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Moscow.
A noted theologian, Church historian and composer, Metropolitan Hilarion also shared in this April 2 email interview his thoughts on the current status of Catholic-Orthodox relations.

How important for the Orthodox Church is the Pan-Orthodox Council planned for 2016? Is it to be seen as something similar to Vatican II in the history of the Catholic Church?

The Pan-Orthodox Council is important in that, after the era of ecumenical councils, it will be the first council representing all the Orthodox Churches recognized today. For the last 12 centuries, there were councils of various levels attended by representatives of various Churches, but this one will be the first Pan-Orthodox Council to be convened in this period.
This council is a fruit of long work carried out by local Orthodox Churches for over 50 years. It is hardly appropriate to compare it with Vatican II, because their agendas are utterly different. Besides, we do not expect it to introduce any reforms making a substantial impact on the life of Orthodoxy.

Patriarch Kirill said that the Pan-Orthodox Council should deal with such issues as the expulsion of Christians from the Middle East and North Africa, the cult of consumerism, the destruction of the moral foundations and the family, cloning and surrogate motherhood. How important are these issues for you, and would you also like other themes, such as unity with the Catholic Church, included in the council’s agenda?

These statements by His Holiness Patriarch Kirill reflect the position of the Russian Orthodox Church, whereby the Pan-Orthodox Council’s agenda needs to be supplemented with themes topical for today’s society and requiring a response from the world Orthodoxy. Besides, there is a list of 10 themes on which documents have been drafted by the local Orthodox Churches during the many years of preparatory pre-council work. All Orthodox Churches have already reached unanimity on eight of them, and, after some improvement, these documents will be submitted to the council. Among them is also the theme of the Orthodox Church’s attitude to the continuation of dialogue with other Christian confessions, including Catholicism.

 Could you further explain why this council is needed, and why now?

The development of conciliar mechanisms on the pan-Orthodox level is desired by all Orthodox Churches. This desire motivated the Churches from the very beginning to participate together in preparations for the council, which began in 1961, at the Pan-Orthodox Conference on Rhodes Island. Now, as this preparatory work is approaching completion, the council is planned to convene in 2016, if some unforeseen circumstances do not prevent it.

Russia’s policy in Ukraine has provoked serious protests in the West. What is the position of the Orthodox Church? Do you view the West’s policy over this issue as wrong?

The Russian Orthodox Church embraces Russians, Ukrainians, Byelorussians and people of many other nationalities. The spiritual unity of our nations has stood the test of time for centuries. The present political crisis in Ukraine can hardly change anything, in this respect. The position of the Russian Orthodox Church cannot be conditioned by a particular policy: Indeed, the faithful of our Church are adherents of various political views; they are citizens of many states.
The closer we are to God, the closer we are to one another. The faith in Christ and love of Christ unite, not divide, people. We have never divided our flock on national grounds.   What is a tragedy for Ukraine is the blood of many people spilt in February in Kiev. Both divine and human justice demands that this disaster should be put under immediate and comprehensive investigation. However, European politicians have no unity of opinion on this issue, just as on many other issues concerning the further destiny of Ukraine and the Ukrainian people. In this situation, the role of the Church is not to pronounce big words, but to pray and be compassionate.

Some maintain that the Orthodox Church and the Russian state are too close to each other. How true is that, and in what measure do these relations affect the life of the Church and its wholeness (or the opposite), especially in such matters as Ukraine’s sovereignty?

The Russian Orthodox Church and the Russian state maintain mutually respectful relations, based on the principles of cooperation and non-interference in each other’s affairs. But similar relations are maintained by our Church with many other states as well, in whose territory she carries out her mission. The Church is the body of Christ that lives according to God-established laws and follows the spiritual and moral values manifested in Divine Revelation. Her ministry is focused on the care for her flock, protection and promotion of traditional moral principles in private and social life and on religious education.

The Russian Orthodox Church and the state do not interfere in each other’s affairs. It does not mean, however, that the Church can be indifferent to the development of the situation in Ukraine. Kiev is the cradle of Russian Orthodoxy and its original center, since it is the place from which Eastern Christianity began spreading. … The Ukrainian Orthodox Church, while being fully independent administratively, is an integral part of the local Russian Orthodox Church. That is why the pain of the Ukrainian faithful is our own pain. We are deeply disturbed by the manifestations of aggression towards our Ukrainian brothers and sisters perpetrated by extremists. In these days, we lift up prayers that the civic confrontation in Ukraine may be stopped as soon as possible, so that the Ukrainian people may return to peaceful life.

You have done much with regard to the development of Orthodox-Catholic relations. What are your hopes for the future? Could a meeting between the Pope and the Patriarch take place under the present Pope Francis, or was it more probable under Pope Benedict?

True, I had to be engaged a great deal in the dialogue with the Catholic Church both in the years when I headed the Secretariat for Inter-Christian Relations in the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations and when I, in my capacity as bishop of Vienna and Austria, served in a Catholic country, maintaining relations with representatives of the Catholic Church in Austria and Hungary. Now, as head of the Department for External Church Relations, I come to Rome each year, where I met first with Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI and, now, have met twice with Pope Francis. I also regularly meet with leaders of various units of the Roman Curia.
Today, we, as the Orthodox and Catholics, encounter similar problems in the world, and our positions on many issues coincide, to a considerable extent.

The Orthodox-Catholic dialogue has been carried out on various levels: pan-Orthodox in the Joint Commission for Theological Dialogue Between the Roman Catholic Church and Orthodox Churches and in the bilateral format as the Moscow Patriarchate conducts dialogue with Catholic bishops’ conferences in some countries. Theological dialogue has been held for 33 years now, and its achievements are obvious, as is obvious the existence of certain differences in our doctrines.
However, the most important, though not the only, issue dividing the Catholics and the Orthodox concerns the problem of primacy in the universal Church. The difference in its understanding, once, was one of the reasons that led to a division between the Western and Eastern Churches.

In the East, the pope of Rome was recognized as the successor of St. Peter, and the See of Rome occupied the first place among patriarchal thrones, in accordance with ecumenical councils’ actions. However, at the same time, the Eastern Church saw the bishop of Rome as “the first among equals” (primus inter pares) and never ascribed to him special powers, as compared to those of primates of other Churches.

Along with theological differences proper, there is the so-called “non-theological factor of the division.” These are the historical memory of the past controversies and conflicts and a great deal of mutual prejudices, and, unfortunately, some problems which have arisen in the modern period of history.

Still, the Orthodox and the Catholics can work together on many issues. There is a mutual understanding between the Russian Church and the Roman Catholic Church in social and economic ethics, traditional morality and other problems of today’s society. Our position on the family, motherhood, the population crisis, bioethical issues, on problems of euthanasia and many other issues basically coincide.
This agreement makes it possible for our Churches to bear, already now, our common witness to Christ in the face of the secular world. We have a very positive experience of organizing Orthodox-Catholic events, both in the area of the protection of moral values and the area of cultural cooperation.
Today, there is a real interest that both sides show in the fruitful development of bilateral dialogue between the Russian Orthodox and the Roman Catholic Churches. As for a meeting of the primates of our Churches, it is quite possible, but it needs to be carefully prepared. We did not exclude that we could arrange it under Pope Benedict, but we had no time to do it. I do not see why it could not be arranged under Pope Francis.

Already, last autumn, it seemed to me that the sides were ready to begin preparing it. But the events in Ukraine have thrown us much back, first of all, because of the actions of the Greek Catholics, who are seen by the Roman Catholic Church as a “bridge” between East and West, whereas we see them as a serious obstacle to dialogue between Orthodoxy and Catholicism.

It is no secret that the “Uniatism” was and is a special project of the Roman Catholic Church, aimed to convert the Orthodox to Catholicism. With the help of the secular authorities, the “Uniates” have acted for many centuries to the detriment of the Orthodox Church, capturing Orthodox churches and monasteries, converting ordinary people to Catholicism and oppressing 
the Orthodox clergy in all possible ways. This was the case in the Polish Lithuanian Principality after the 1596 Union of Brest, and this was the case at the end of 1980s and the beginning of 1990s in western Ukraine.

In the present civic confrontation, the Greek Catholics have taken one side, entering into active cooperation with the Orthodox schismatic groups. The head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, together with the head of the so-called Kiev Patriarchate, paced the U.S. State Department offices, calling the American authorities to interfere in the situation and to put Ukraine in order. The Greek Catholics have in fact launched a crusade against Orthodoxy.
In the Vatican, we are told that they cannot influence the actions of the Greek Catholics because of their autonomy. But to distance itself from these actions is something the Vatican is reluctant to do. In these circumstances, it became more difficult to speak of a meeting between the Pope and the Patriarch of Moscow in the near future. We need to wait until newly inflicted wounds are healed. 

Nevertheless, we do not lose hope that the relations between the Orthodox and the Catholics will be normalized.

Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent.

Read more: http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/the-pan-orthodox-council-ukraine-crisis-and-christian-unity



A response to metropolitan Hilarion interview to National Catholic Register

Fr Mark Woodruff, Vice Chairman with Fr Athanasius McVay

Society of St John Chrysostom

It always bears repeating that Metropolitan Hilarion is not speaking objectively, or in a spirit of  dialogue. His job consists in: skillfully advancing the interests of the Patriarchal See of Moscow and the Churches over which it presides in the task of prevailing over those which it does not; presenting itself as the de facto leading See of Orthodoxy, in parity with the leading See of Catholicism, namely that of Rome. Thus he characterises Catholicism only as Roman-Latin and characterises Byzantine Christianity as distinctively and essentially Orthodox, rendering Greek-Catholics as unauthentic products of so-called Uniatism.

Unfortunately, his expressions of ecumenism towards the Catholic Church are  neither ecumenical in method or spirit, nor are they based in evidenceable fact. 

First, the term "Uniatism" is offensive to Eastern Catholics. It is an inaccurate description of their integrity, history and ecclesiological principle - union with the See of Rome in good conscience. This has no place in Christian ecumenism. Dialogue begins with respect that is mutual - respect for the Russian Orthodox Church presupposes Russian Orthodoxy's respect for others. Each Church has a right both to describe itself in its own terms and for its profession to be accepted in good faith, even if disagreed with. If this is not starting point, then other avenues of dialogue cannot proceed very far. 

At the 2013 Busan Assembly of the WCC, the Metropolitan arrived prior to and left after his own speech, causing offence among Protestants for allowing no space for exchange over the novel views he expressed, that the purpose of Orthodoxy's involvement in ecumenical bodies is to witness to Orthodoxy and thus to call those in error to "return" to it. As St Francis de Sales, the greatest pastor of reconciliation for those attracted to the Reform, observed of the work of certain aggressive anti-Protestant activists among his fellow Catholics, "The bee achieves more by its honey than by its sting." In this case, what Metropolitan Hilarion does not say, as he portrays Eastern Catholic Ukrainians as a problem erected by the Catholic Church, is that the rest of Orthodoxy accepts the fact of Eastern Catholics and respects the fact that dialogue with the Catholic Church is not confined only to Roman Catholics (as is acceptable to Moscow), but must embrace all. Indeed the International Dialogue between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches fruitfully makes use of the participation of a Greek Catholic bishop and consultants from Eastern Catholic clergy and scholars.

Secondly, the policy and practice of proselytising among Orthodox, with a view to convert them either to Latin or to Eastern Catholicism, under the immediate jurisdiction of the Roman Curia -  has been repeatedly forbidden even if, admittedly, belatedly in some cases, and finally repudiated as a method of proposing ecclesial communion. (cf the Balamand Statement at the Seventh Plenary Session of the Joint International Commission for the Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church in 1993, which set this out as firmly belonging to a damaging and discarded past). The Metropolitan, in all truth, should refer to this being the real position.

Third, successive Popes have legislated for the Universal Catholic Church to protect, enhance and ensure the integrity, rights and prerogatives of Eastern Catholic Churches. This legislation recognized that they are not subject to the Latin Church but canonical self-ruling (sui iuris) Churches in their own right, under their own Heads and Synodal jurisdictions, in mutual communion with each other and the Latin Church, as well as with the Bishop of Rome as universal pastor. This is the true position that Metropolitan Hilarion ought in justice to acknowledge in making his argument.

Fourth, the Moscow Church has - if truth be told - not been above planning to make its own "Uniate" arrangements for embracing within its communion Western Christians of Latin Rite, largely from disaffected Anglican, Old Catholic and Roman Catholic backgrounds.

Fifth, historical fact demands acknowledgment that, for over a thousand years, there have been ample instances of Byzantine Christians being in communion with the See of Rome, sometimes fluidly at the same time as being in communion with those with whom Rome itself was not itself in communion. Examples of these Churches may be found in southern Italy through the Middle Ages and into the modern period, the former Bulgarian patriarchal Church of Ohrid, the patriarchate of Antioch in the 18th century, and across the lands of Middle Europe, among those dependent not on the Russian Church but on the Mother Church in Constantinople.

Sixth, the Union of certain Byzantine Churches, recognised as daughters of Constantinople (eg in modern day Ukraine, Belarus, Hungary and Romania etc) arose not - as alleged - as a result of Latin missionary proselytism but because the territories came under the permanent control of Catholic rulers. Note that in the same period, the Latin patriarch, the Pope, invited Orthodox bishops to ordain clergy and care for the Byzantine population of southern Italy, which is hardly evidence of a Romanisation or Latinisation or Uniatist policy.

Seventh, when the Union of Brest was concluded, there is no historical basis for asserting that the Kyivan Church of the Rus people somehow left the Russian Church. Kyiv was under Constantinople and not the newly-minted Moscow patriarchate. If anything, the Union was a recognition of loss of the bond of communion with Constantinople, not the lands to the East, which only received recognition - from Constantinople - of canonical autocephaly markedly later.

Eighth, historical evidence requires the ecumenist, such as Metropolitan Hilarion, to acknowledge that resentment of the existence of other churches, from which one's own is in breach (or vice versa), in terms of insisting on an ecumenism of return and submission, is hardly conducive to acceptance, compliance, or the supposedly desired unity. In England, for instance, the Church of England has long given up this attitude to the Methodists, Baptists and Reformed. Instead, the evidence is that the Greek Catholic Churches in Middle and Eastern Europe, far from being anomalous, have been highly populous, numbering many hundreds of thousands in modern day Belarus, Romania, across the old Habsburg empire and to this day in Ukraine, as well as in Russia proper - and that the Russian Church and Tsardom actively suppressed and persecuted them across history. This was perpetuated under the Soviet government, which confiscated property from the Greek Catholics and awarded it to the Orthodox, as well as suppressing their monasteries, dioceses and other organisations, while enforcing conversion from Catholic communion to membership of the Russian Orthodox Church on the clergy and faithful against their will under pain of prison or death. For there to be a healing of memories, this truth has to be accepted by the Moscow Patriarchate, if there is to be mutual forgiveness, repentance and reconciliation that can lead to union once more.

And, ninth, the unity that the Russian Orthodox Church desires with the Catholic Church would have to be with the Catholic Church as it is - not the picture that Moscow projects upon it: the Catholic Church is not "Roman" - the use of the Roman Rite is only part of the story, since there are Milanese, Syrian, Chaldean and other parts of the Catholic Church too. And this includes the Greek Catholic Churches which are integral to it.

Tenth, Metropolitan Hilarion speaks of the disadvantage to the Orthodox Church in western Ukraine at the hands of the activities of the Greek Catholic Church there. But prior to the Sovietisation of Ukraine and the post-World War II unification of the West with the starved, murdered, plundered and colonised East, there were NO Orthodox dioceses in Galicia. These were all foundations of Stalin, who instructed the Moscow Patriarchate to proselytize and later absorb all Greek-Catholics into its fold. Greek-Catholic hierarchs were condemned to the gulag by Soviet military tribunals on charges which, surprisingly, included "opposition to the Russian Orthodox Church." With the collapse of the Soviet Union, after 40 years of persecution and oppression, Greek-Catholics reclaimed a portion, but not all, of their own churches. At the present time, the Moscow patriarchate is free to organise and function in the west of Ukraine and has indeed retained not a few of the properties and other infrastructure it came by through expropriation at the hands of atheist enemies of the Cross of Christ. Its persistent resentment at the mere existence of the Ukrainian Catholic Church is inexplicable - this has taken nothing and no one that belongs to any one else; it has coerced no one against his or her conscience.

Eleventh, the true problem for the Moscow Patriarchate in Ukraine is that it does not command the hearts and minds of the Ukrainian Orthodox faithful, any more than its actions have won over the Ukrainian Catholics, whose collective memory is of Russian state oppression and foreign control in religion. For it is a minority Church. Most Ukrainian Orthodox, rather than being controlled by Russians in Moscow, choose to belong to a church with its own patriarch and synod in Kyiv - even at the price of being recognised by no one else. Leaving aside the question of personalities, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church mostly desired its own autocephaly after Ukraine's independence following the collapse of the Soviet Union - and liturgy in the Ukrainian language and Russian, not just Old Church Slavonic - and its Metropolitan was deposed, leading to the present split. The Ecumenical Patriarchate is attempting and hoping for the repair of this division and the highly charged personal animosity between Church leaders in Kyiv and Moscow. But for the Moscow patriarchate to recognise the autocephaly of a reunited Ukrainian Orthodox Church would be to lose almost half of its own adherents and resources.

Twelfth, by their fruits shall ye know them. When Russia annexed Crimea at the end of a gun barrel, Russian Orthodox clergy threatened Ukrainian Orthodox churches, their clergy, bishop and property; and three Ukrainian Catholic priests were arrested, with a lie from Russia that they were proselytising the Orthodox. In fact they were ministering to Catholics living or stationed there. Besides, by no means all Ukrainians profess the Christian faith after decades of state atheism and modern consumerist secularism, so there can be nothing amiss with any mission work among them, a duty laid on all followers of Christ. The truth is that the present crisis has drawn Ukrainian people of faith closely together - Ukrainian Catholics, Roman Catholics, Ukrainian Orthodox, Muslim Tatars, Jews and Protestants (like the acting President, for instance, a Baptist minister) - and, throughout, it has been the Churches together, the people, clergy, monks and bishops of all the Churches, Greek Catholics and Ukrainian Orthodox belonging to the minority Moscow patriarchate included, who have been working and praying for peace to prevail. It is unworthy of the Metropolitan not to tell the whole of this truth and to cast his fellow Christians as though they were agents of discord or dissension, when they are demonstrably vocal ministers of reconciliation.


The larger Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate is an autonomous church that is a subordinate of the Russian Orthodox Church - positioned itself above the Maidan protests, praying for reconciliation and urging dialogue.
But some senior figures were openly critical, with one bishop saying Maidan protesters had "evil in their hearts." The Moscow Patriarch himself has adopted also a more neutral position on the conflict between Ukraine and Russia, issuing generic pleas for peace. The Moscow Patriarchate's Father Georgy Kovalenko says his church is with the people of Ukraine and its focus has been on bringing Ukrainian people together and avoiding the conflicts of the past that gave rise to foundation of the Kyiv Patriarchate. The strategy appears to be failing. The politics of revolution and the conflict between Russia and Ukraine have widened a religious rupture that first emerged during the collapse of the Soviet Union, when Primate Filaret broke with the Russian Orthodox Church. He argued that an independent Ukraine deserved a national church truly independent of Moscow. Now some of the Moscow Patriarch's parishes are rebelling and threatening to defect to the rival Kyiv Patriarch. Archbishop Yevstraty says rebel churches in western Ukraine have dropped from the liturgy a prayer for the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, an ally of Russia's President Vladimir Putin. Of the two Orthodox Churches in Ukraine, the Moscow Patriarchate has more parishes - 12,000 to the Kyiv Patriarchate's 5,000. But buildings don't translate into followers. Before the Maidan protests, polls suggested the Kyiv Patriarch commanded the loyalty of 30 percent of Ukrainians with 20 percent aligning with the Moscow Patriarch. Cultural historian Vladyslava Osmak suspects more of Ukraine's faithful now will switch allegiance to the Kyiv Patriarch. "Because they greatly helped to [the] participants of Maidan campaign, to those people who needed protection and shelter. Priests of this church were always together with people on barricades praying and fighting with them," said Osmak. And she argues a weakening of the Moscow Patriarchate will further reshape the cultural ties between Ukraine and Russia. That would undermine President Putin's claim that Kyiv is "the mother of Russian cities," a description based on the fact that Russian civilization and Orthodoxy were birthed in Ukraine's capital city. "Having no Kyiv makes a lot of difficulties to Russian ideology in general. Kyiv is seen as the root of Russian culture," she said. The city is also at the root of Ukrainian culture and so Kyiv seems destined to remain in dispute for some time. (voice of america)

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