Catholic World News

Russian patriarch: Ukrainian Catholics want to ‘eradicate Orthodoxy’

August 19, 2014

The head of the Russian Orthodox Church has again alleged that the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church has undertaken a campaign of hatred against Orthodoxy-- prompting a sharp official response from the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.

The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church is the largest of the Eastern Catholic churches, which are in full communion with the Holy See.

“As far back as last autumn when the present political crisis in Ukraine just began, representatives of the Greek Catholic Church and schismatic communities, who appeared in the Kiev Maidan, openly preached hatred towards the Orthodox Church, calling to seize Orthodox shrines and to eradicate Orthodoxy from the territory of Ukraine,” Patriarch Kirill of Moscow wrote in a letter to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople, according to an Interfax news agency report.

“With the beginning of hostilities, the Uniates and schismatics, having been given arms, under the pretext of antiterrorist operation, began an outright aggression against the clergy of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the east of the country,” he continued.

In its official statement of response, the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church denounced “any violence towards the peaceful residents of Ukraine, especially its clergy, regardless of the fact to which confession, religious or ethnic group they may belong.”

The Church’s efforts for peace do “not contradict the right and obligation of Ukrainian citizens to protect their freedom and independence,” the statement added.

The statement continued:

Attempts to claim that … the Orthodox faithful of the Moscow Patriarchate are the only ones who suffer is a dangerous intention to set off the whole Ukrainian society against one confession. Intolerable is the evil attempt to label the realization of the natural right of the Ukrainian people for freedom and independence of their country, into the interconfessional area, which provokes new tensions and new sadness in Ukrainian society-- this time in the activities of interconfessional relations. Today Ukraine needs from its churchmen not a provocation of violence, but a construction of peace.

In a related development, a spokesman for the Ukrainian Orthodox Church- Moscow Patriarchate issued a statement that seemed directly contradictory to Patriarch Kirill's argument. Father Georgy Kovalenko said that "the conflict in the east of the country cannot be considered inter-confessional."

Father Kovalenko, who heads the information agency for the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, also veered from the Russian line regarding the control of Crimea. "As citizens of Ukraine, we feel the same way as our government and the entire international community," he said. "The Crimea is a territory of Ukraine and it must be returned."

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Show 3 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: geoffreysmith1 - Aug. 20, 2014 7:52 AM ET USA

    "This dangerous mixture of religion with nationalism is archaic and volatile." Not only in Russia but also in Israel and the Middle East.

  • Posted by: bruno - Aug. 20, 2014 12:19 AM ET USA

    I've been wondering if the Moscow patriarchate is more interested in advancing a political strategy than in the care of souls. Perhaps they believe there fortunes are tied to those of Putin?

  • Posted by: John J Plick - Aug. 19, 2014 10:02 AM ET USA

    This dangerous mixture of religion with nationalism is archaic and volatile.