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Ukrainian Catholic leader: we are more than an ‘ecclesial community’

March 02, 2016

The head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church has renewed his criticism of portions of the recent joint statement of Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill of Moscow.

Referring to the Eastern Catholic churches—of which the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church is the largest—the document stated that “it is today clear that the past method of ‘uniatism,’ understood as the union of one community to the other, separating it from its Church, is not the way to re–establish unity. The ecclesial communities which emerged in these historical circumstances have the right to exist and to undertake all that is necessary to meet the spiritual needs of their faithful, while seeking to live in peace with their neighbors.”

Commenting on this portion of the declaration, Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk told the Catholic News Agency that “the ecumenical vocabulary of the Catholic Church uses the phrase ‘ecclesial communities’ to refer to Protestant churches, that is to label those communities which do not bear all the richness of the apostolic tradition.”

“Professors of ecclesiology, but also common people, raised concerns and doubts about the use of this expression referred to the Greek Catholic community,” he continued.

While welcoming the Moscow patriarchate’s acknowledgement of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church’s right to exist, he said that “in the end, we are not called to ask anyone permission for our right to exist.”

Major Archbishop Shevchuk explained that “the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church can testify that communion with the Successor of Peter does not take anything out of the richness of the Eastern tradition. It is the contrary! It helps this tradition to grow. It brings this tradition out of provincialism, out of strict nationalism.”

Describing the meeting between Pope Francis and the patriarch as “just the beginning of the path,” Major Archbishop Shevchuk said that “we must not fix our attention on one only point. We must think what to do after. The first thing is to free religion from politics. We cannot reconcile with geopolitics, but we can reconcile with our brothers.”


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  • Posted by: Randal Mandock - Mar. 03, 2016 5:16 PM ET USA

    I don't always agree with Shevchuk, but he has a good point of contention this time. If a Church is Catholic and in full communion with the Chair of St. Peter, then it is properly called a Church, and not an ecclesial community. Shevchuk has it exactly right.