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Russian Patriarch not welcome in Ukraine, says government minister

Catholic World News - June 20, 2014

Ukraine’s culture minister has announced that a visit to his country by Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill would be “undesirable, provocative, and designed for political ends.”

Volodymyr Yushkevych made his announcement on June 19, as the Synod of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church- Moscow patriarchate was gathered in Kiev, amid speculation that the Orthodox prelates would issue an invitation for the Russian patriarch to visit. Patriarch Kirill has traveled to Kiev each year since he became the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church in 2009, to celebrate the feast of St. Vladimir—revered for bringing the faith to Russian and Ukraine--at the Monastery of the Caves in Kiev.

Yushkevych, the culture minister, said that a visit by Patriarch Kirill “during ongoing Russian military aggression against Ukraine” would be inappropriate. He said that he was making a statement while the Ukrainian Orthodox Synod met “under pressure from external forces,” and vowed that the government would “do everything within available law and legislation” to prevent a visit by the Russian prelate, fearing that such a visit under today’s circumstances “can only provoke a wave of inter-confessional conflict.”

A spokesman for the Ukrainian Orthodox Church- Moscow patriarchate expressed regret over the culture minister’s statement, saying that it represented “an attempt to pressure and interfere in the internal affairs of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.” Perhaps feeling pressure from both directions, the Synod did not issue any comment on the prospect of a visit by Patriarch Kirill.

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