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New Ukrainian Catholic leader wants meeting with Moscow patriarch to ease tensions

April 05, 2011

The new head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church has said that he would like to meet with Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill, in a bid to resolve tensions between the Moscow patriarchate and the Byzantine Catholics of Ukraine.

“I am convinced that in peacefully and openly communicating with each other, we can relieve any tension,” said Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, who was enthroned last week as Major Archbishop of Kyiv.

The Ukrainian prelate said “we should heal the wounds rather than irritate and deepen them.” The Ukrainian Catholic Church--which was brutally persecuted during the Stalin era and emerged vigorously after the fall of the Communist regime—has been the frequent focus of criticism from Moscow. The Russian Orthodox Church views Ukraine as part of its “canonical territory,” and resents the presence of a Byzantine Church in communion with Rome. Archbishop Shevchuk recalled that his predecessors have sought to restore amicable relations with the Russian Orthodox Church:

. I remember how Patriarch Ivan Lubachivsky, who ordained me, after he moved to Ukraine, said: 'We forgive and ask for forgiveness.' It was a very deep call to reconciliation on his part. It was in the 1990s, at the time of the strongest confrontation, particularly in western Ukraine. There was the will for reconciliation on our part. Later, His Beatitude Lubomyr confirmed and repeated the same in the presence of Pope John Paul II who visited Ukraine.

(Although the Vatican has to date resisted appeals for recognition of a Ukrainian Catholic patriarchate, the faithful in Ukraine routinely refer to their leader as “Patriarch.”)


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