Interview by Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk to the UNIAN-Religion Ukrainian Agency
29.12.2011 · Analitics, DECR Chairman, Inter-Christian relations
Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, chairman of the Department for External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate, spoke of relations with the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in his interview to the UNIAN-Religion.
The head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church Archbishop Sviatoslav (Shevchuk) often speaks of the need for dialogue with the Russian Orthodox Church and a possible meeting with Patriarch Kirill. Who is the initiator of this dialogue? Under what conditions is it possible and what would be its aims?
Immediately after the election of Archbishop Sviatoslav (Shevchuk) as the head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church I sent a letter of congratulations to him and expressed the hope that relations between the Orthodox of the Moscow Patriarchate and Greek Catholics in Ukraine would improve. We were uplifted by certain optimism when Archbishop Sviatoslav responded with the desire to solve jointly the problems which exist between the Moscow Patriarchate and the UGCC.
At the same time we cannot but be concerned by the declaration of the new head of the UGCC that believers belonging to the ‘Kievan Patriarchate’ are the ‘main Orthodox brothers’ of the Ukrainian Greek Catholics. The close contacts and even concelebration of Archbishop Sviatoslav (Shevchuk) with representatives of this schismatic structure, not recognized by any of the other Orthodox Churches, unfortunately demonstrates a willingness to ignore the official position of the Moscow Patriarchate and disrespect for the canonical rules of the Orthodox Church.
I am deeply convinced that genuine mutual understanding and reconciliation between our Churches is impossible to achieve without mutual respect, including respect in the field of canonical order
We have recently received alarming reports of instances of proselytism by Greek Catholics among the Orthodox on the territories of Central and Eastern Ukraine. This type of thing can only make worse the problems that already exist in inter-church relations, while at the same time we would prefer words about the desire for dialogue to be in accord with real deeds.
The appearance of a representative of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church at the enthronement of the new head of the UGCC has been regarded as symbolic. In one of his comments His Holiness Patriarch Kirill noted a ‘recent improvement in relations between the Orthodox and Greek Catholic Churches in Ukraine.’ What did he have in mind?
After the election of the new archbishop of the UGCC official contacts were instituted between the Greek Catholics and the Orthodox of the Moscow Patriarchate for practically the first time. You mentioned the presence of a representative of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church at the enthronement of Archbishop Sviatoslav (Shevchuk). There was then a meeting between His Beatitude Metropolitan Vladimir of Kiev and All Ukraine and the head of the UGCC. This meeting took place in an atmosphere of good will, and during it agreement was reached on co-operation between places of learning of the two Churches. It is these positive events that His Holiness had in mind when he spoke of an ‘improvement in relations between the Orthodox and Greek Catholic Churches in Ukraine’.
The Patriarch’s words, however, do not mean that all the problems in relations between the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church have now been regulated. There still remain unresolved questions concerning the building of Orthodox churches in Western Ukraine, and representatives of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church express concern with regard to the mission of Greek Catholics in Eastern Ukraine.
The UGCC has a strategic goal in Ukraine – to obtain from the Vatican recognition of Patriarchal status for its organizational structure. In November and December of this year the UGCC created in Ukraine three new metropolias: Lvov, Ivano-Frankovsk and Ternopil and Zboriv. Now the UGCC has seven metropolias, including the metropolia of Przemysl and Warsaw in Poland, the metropolia of Philadelphia in the USA and the metropolia of Winnipeg in Canada. Does the strengthening of the position of the UGCC on the canonical territory of the Moscow Patriarchate influence the development of relations between the Russian Orthodox Church and the UGCC?
The transformation of the Greek Catholic dioceses in Western Europe into metropolias is primarily the internal business of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. At the same time this administrative reform has been made with the aim of obtaining form the Vatican recognition for the UGCC the status of patriarchate, as the Greek Catholic bishops themselves openly admit. It is well known that not only the Moscow Patriarchate, but also the other Local Orthodox Churches view negatively the possibility that the UGCC may be recognized as a patriarchate. Such recognition would be an indirect affirmation of Archbishop Sviatoslav’s declaration that the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church is the sole legitimate heir of the ancient Kievan Metropolia.
Moreover, the status of patriarchate would give to the UGCC the character of an all-Ukrainian Church. However, Central and Eastern Ukraine has always traditionally been Orthodox territory where there never have been any Greek Catholic structures. Of course, the Orthodox are alarmed at the UGCC’s aim to spread its mission to the East by creating new dioceses and exarchates there.
At the beginning of November in Kazan there was a joint procession of the cross between believers of the Russian Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church. Educated Orthodox youth are attracted by Catholicism in other countries, while Catholic ecumenists come here. For example, to mark the New Year there will be a youth meeting of Taizé in Berlin attended by a large inter-confessional delegation from Ukraine. Is there not a danger for Orthodox Christians in this type of communion? What sort of communion is permitted and what is not?
Orthodox youth, including that of the Russian Church, for many years now has participated in youth meetings organized by the monastic community of Taizé in various European cities. I am glad that young Christians have the chance to meet and share their experience of life and ministry in the Church as this type of communion can lay the foundations for the building of a more just and human society.
Although between the Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church there is no unity in the faith and communion in the sacraments, nevertheless the Orthodox and Catholics hold positions close to each other on many questions of contemporary life, primarily in the social sphere and sphere of ethics. Orthodox-Catholic co-operation is developing today in various forms. This may be joint cultural projects, public acts, and active mutual engagement at the level of international organizations. Positive examples of such co-operation already exist, and youth meetings are one of them.
Spirit at work in Ukraine’s Ecumenical relations
SOURCE: Christianity Today (click)
by John Newton, ACN
The head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church is “optimistic” about possible unity with Orthodox Christians in his country – because faithful from across the ecumenical divide are demanding it.
Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuck said that his Church, one of the Byzantine rites of the Catholic Church in full communion with Pope Benedict XVI, has “excellent” relations with all the Orthodox Churches in the country.
He said calls from lay Orthodox and Catholics for unity were a driving force in ecumenical relations between the Churches in Ukraine.
Speaking in an interview with Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, Major Archbishop Shevchuck said “We are conscious that without Christian unity, the unity of our society is also impossible and there is an existential demand from our faithful – Orthodox and Catholic – for unity.
“So our faithful, which according to Church tradition have sort of sensus fidelium [sense of the faithful – i.e. believers possessing an innate understanding of religious truth], are asking us hierarchs [bishops and other prelates] for that unity.
“This is why I am so optimistic because I think this is some sort of inspiration of the Holy Spirit in the people of God.”
His optimism comes despite a complicated ecumenical situation in Ukraine, caused by the existence of no less than three separate Ukrainian Orthodox Churches, including one in communion with the Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill.
Major Archbishop Shevchuck said: “As head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church always I am trying to establish normal, regular, friendly human contacts with the Orthodox Bishops but also with the heads of the Ukrainian Orthodox Churches – especially the one in unity with the Moscow Patriarchate – and I would confess that we have excellent relationships.”
The leader of the world’s Ukrainian Greek Catholics described how his installation ceremony last March was a sign of improving relationships between the different Churches.
He told ACN: “Representatives of each Orthodox Church came for the liturgy of my enthronement for the first time in history, because they never would meet each other for a common service.”
He described how one moment, which occurred after the sign of peace, was particularly symbolic.
“I approached each of those representatives with my greeting ‘Christ is among us’ and each of them did respond to me ‘Yes and will be’.
“For the Orthodox Christian the liturgical expression means a lot. It shows that there is at least a willingness for the unity of the faith.”
Although the creation of new Catholic dioceses in Russia caused tensions with the Orthodox, Major Archbishop Shevchuck said no problems had occurred when the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church proclaimed three new metropolitan dioceses in western Ukraine at the end of 2011.
He said: “Before the creation of that new Church structure I visited each of the Orthodox leaders, including His Beatitude Metropolitan Volodymyr Sabodan, the head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church from the Moscow Patriarchate, and nobody expressed himself against the plans.”
The Major Archbishop also paid tribute to the role of the Council of the Churches and Religious Organisations in Ukraine in resolving issues over Church property in the west of the country, which has been a controversial issue in post-communist Ukraine.
He said: “That organisation is a very useful way how to build unity among different Christian denominations and confessions in Ukraine.”
Aid to the Church in Need has helped support the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church with a number of catechetical resources, including a Ukrainian edition of the Child’s Bible with images based on traditional icons.
Many of the Greek Catholic catechetical resources are also used by the Orthodox Church.
The charity has also helped with the formation of the faithful by supporting the Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv.
Major Archbishop Shevchuck expressed his thanks to ACN, adding that the charity understood the needs of the Church in the Ukraine.