Statement by the Press Centre of the Kyivan Patriarchate
1. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyivan Patriarchate has always supported and encouraged inter-confessional and inter-church dialogue. A current example of this is the Ukrainian National Council of Churches and Religious Organizations (VRTsRO). For twenty years its eighteen members have cooperated effectively—including the Orthodox Churches of the Kyivan and Moscow patriarchates, the Ukrainian Greek Catholic and Roman Catholic Churches, and protestant churches and communities (Baptists, Pentecostals, Seventh-Day Adventists, Evangelicals, Lutherans and Calvinists), as well as the Armenian Apostolic Church, Jewish community alliances, and Muslim spiritual centres. Together, these religious organizations encompass over four-fifths of all the religious communities in Ukraine.
The activities of this Council were known to the late Pope John Paul II, who met with it during his visit to Ukraine in June 2001, and also Pope Francis’ personal representative, Cardinal Christoph Schonborn, during his visit as Archbishop of Vienna in December 2014.
The VRTsRO is an example of not merely declarative, on paper, but genuine fruitful interaction between various Churches and various religions, manifested in concrete matters. This interaction takes place both internally in our country and at an international level. In our opinion, it is this kind of “practical ecumenism” that is especially lacking in our times in Europe and in the world. While remaining distinct, we are able to find consensus positions on questions of relations with the state and the public, of defending traditional moral values, and we provide joint responses to current challenges.
2. The Kyivan Patriarchate rejoices that the ideas about changing the focus in the ecumenical movement expressed by Patriarch Filaret in his presentation to Pope John Paul II in 2001 are today being implemented in the common steps being taken by the Catholic Church and the Moscow Patriarchate.
For decades, Patriarch Filaret was an active participant in many ecumenical measures of local and international significance. Based on his experience, he came to the conclusion that under current conditions, the focus in inter-Church relations must change from a seeking common understanding of the dogmas of the faith to common practical steps. The Orthodox, Catholics, and Protestants have differing positions on issues of dogma or Church. But this should not hinder them from already working jointly in areas where there is no disagreement: on protecting traditional morals and family values, in dialogue with the state and with the public, and on issues of mercy and charity.
3. Our Church shares the disappointment expressed by many concerning certain points of the joint Declaration of the heads of the Catholic Church and the Moscow Patriarchate, signed on 12 February 2016 in Havana—in particular, paragraphs 25, 26, and 27 of this document. We concur with the negative opinions that have been aired in this regard by hierarchs, priests, laypeople, and scholars of the Greek Catholic and Roman Catholic Churches, as well as secular observers and representatives of civil society in both Ukraine and abroad.
The abovementioned paragraphs of the Declaration are seized by a spirit from the worst examples of secular diplomacy, full of equivocal connotations, biased opinions, and groundless assertions. We are convinced that the topics in paragraphs 25–27 would better have been altogether left out of a document intending to declare the position of the Churches to the faithful and the world, rather than broached in such a form.
4. For the Kyivan Patriarchate, it is unacceptable to practice the kind of diplomacy where decisions about Ukraine and Ukrainian ecclesiastical and public affairs are adopted without representatives of Ukraine, ignoring their thoughts and positions. The Munich Pact of 1938 and its bitter legacy testify that issues concerning us cannot be resolved without our participation.
Unfortunately, paragraphs 25–27 of the Declaration presume to do so. An issue that concerns the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (par. 25) fails to take into account the thoughts and position of the Church in question. The assessment of the “conflict in Ukraine” (par. 26) completely ignores the main reasons for it—Russian armed, political, economic, and informational aggression against Ukraine, violation by Russia of international agreements and norms of international law, and occupation of Crimea and parts of the Donbas by the Russian Federation. The assessment of the situation in the Orthodox Church in Ukraine (par. 27) ignores the fact that canon violations by the Moscow Patriarchate are the reason it is divided.
In the future, when documents are being prepared that concern the situation in Ukraine, we expect that Vatican diplomats, as subjects of international law and international relations with Ukraine, will look to best practices rather than worst ones as examples for themselves.
5. The Church is called on to bear witness to the truth. As regards the war in Ukraine, the truth is that it is not a civil war, not an internal conflict, and not a clash between different minorities or followers of different religions.
The reason for the war being waged in Eastern Ukraine is armed, political, economic, and informational aggression by Russia against our country. This aggression is aimed at hindering the European integration of our state, at forcing it by violent means to return to subordination by the Kremlin. Essentially, Ukrainian is undergoing the same as what happened in Czechoslovakia in 1938 and 1968, Hungary in 1956, and Afghanistan in 1979.
The formulations and assessments of events in Ukraine set forth in par. 26 do not witness the truth; rather, they are a muted repetition of formulaic Russian propaganda, which imposes the idea of an “internal Ukrainian crisis” on the world, having nothing to do with Russia. We did not expect anything different from the Moscow Patriarch, who is dependent on the Kremlin. But for the Pope of Rome to sign these formulations was for many a great disappointment, especially in Ukraine.
While they do mention the persecution of Christians in various regions of the world, it is also a shame that the authors of the Declaration do not say anything about the persecution and infringements visited upon the faithful of various confessions in occupied Crimea and in territories of the Donbas that are controlled by Kremlin collaborators.
6. As concerns the division of the Orthodox Church in Ukraine, the Kyivan Patriarchate believes that it can be overcome, and unity renewed, and that this will take place according to canonical norms.
The main reason for the division is the uncanonical usurpation of the Kyivan Metropoly by the Moscow Patriarchate in 1686. Even the Ecumenical Patriarchate, which the Kyivan Metropoly was a part of for the previous seven hundred years, officially declared several times that Moscow’s annexation of the Church in Ukraine did not follow the principles of canonical rule. Therefore, it is illegal and must be rejected—which our Church did a quarter-century ago.
We understand that the Moscow Patriarchate is aware of the impending and inevitable recognition of the Kievan Patriarchate as a Sovereign (Autocephalous) Orthodox Church. And so it is seeking any opportunity to hinder this, including by blocking relations between the UOC(KP) and the Catholic Church. We see par. 27 of the Declaration in this context; however, we are convinced that the ruse will not be successful.
We are grateful to both the Byzantine- and Latin-rite Catholic Churches of Ukraine for their clear understanding of who divided, and continues to divide, the Orthodox Church in Ukraine, and why. We hope that in time, such a level of understanding will come also to the professional diplomats and ecumenists in the Vatican Curia. When the Vatican is truly interested in helping to unite the Orthodox Church in Ukraine—not in word, but in deed—we will always be willing to cooperate.
7. All that has been set forth above shall testify that the Kyivan Patriarchate believes that the Church in Ukraine must not be an object of politics and collusion between foreign religious entities, but a fully fledged and legitimate stakeholder in inter-Church relations and ecumenical cooperation. Achieving this is the common objective of the temporarily divided Churches in Ukraine, and also of the Ukrainian state and its society. The struggle for Ukraine’s European future and against Russian aggression, in defense of our independence, united our nation—and ensures its success. In the same way, all the Churches stemming from the Christianization in the time of Volodymyr the Great must work together with society and the state to achieve a proper status and unity for the Church in Ukraine.
15 February 2016, Press Centre of the Kyivan Patriarchate