Pope Receives the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Major Archbishop, to Calm the Waves After the Cuba Meeting with the Moscow Patriarch
Text: Giuseppe Nardi
Major Archbishop Schewtschuk and Pope Francis: Ukrainian Catholics Concerned and Discouraged by Rome [Who isn’t?]
(Rome) The waves, because of the historic meeting between Pope Francis and the Russian Orthodox Patriarch of Moscow, have not been smoothed in Ukraine. The Greek Catholic Ukrainians, about 12 percent of the population, feel “betrayed”. They accuse the Pope of representing too pro-Russian a line. To dispelled the fears, Francis received a delegation of the Uniate Ukrainians last Saturday in the Vatican.
The meeting between the two heads of churches on 12 February on the Caribbean island of Cuba earned general praise, but not in Ukraine. The apostolic nuncio tried in February to reassure the Greek Catholics. The day after the meeting in Havana, Nuncio Claudio Gugerotti went so far as to explain to the Ukrainians united with Rome in Kiev, they should simply “forget” the “Joint Declaration ” of Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill I of Moscow. It is a counsel, which, considering a conflict that has been brewing for centuries, and has meant persecution and oppression to the Uniates, is not sufficient. Certainly not, since an armed territorial dispute prevails in Eastern Ukraine between Ukraine and Russia. At the same time the nuncio assured the Uniate Ukrainians that Pope Francis was “close” to them.
The head, of the Orthodox Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, who has been in union with Rome since the 16th century, Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kiev-Halych, translated on 13 February, the words of the Nuncio for his confreres into Ukrainian, but not sparing his comments.
Uniates see themselves as the Eastern Orthodox Church, which adheres to the agreement of 1439
The Uniate Ukrainians, some five million believers, see themselves as representatives of the historical reconciliation of Western and Eastern Church at the Council of Florence of 1439. The remaining of orthodoxy approved the agreement of Florence, and sealed it with their signatures but then they have not kept it. It’s a breach of contract which the Uniates refused to join. The Orthodox churches, especially the Russian Orthodox Church, see in contrast the Uniates as renegade Orthodox, which serve as “bait” by Rome.
The Moscow Patriarchate, according to estimates has 150 million believers worldwide, considers the Ukraine part of the Rus. In recent decades Rome was expected to retreat to the pastoral care of Latin Catholics. That’s three percent of Ukrainians. The question of Unitarianism was illuminated the historian Roberto de Mattei: The “historic” meeting between Francis and Kiril ).
Pope Francis receives Greek Catholic Ukrainians in Vatican
As the words of the Nuncio were not enough to calm the Uniate Ukrainians, Pope Francis on Saturday, March 5, received the Major Archbishop Shevchuk of Kiev-Halych and other bishops of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in the Vatican. Ukrainians reiterated here that the encounter between Pope and Patriarch have been “prophetic” per se. But they have expressed at the same time also their unease over the political part of the “Joint Declaration” of Havana.
Rome states that the essential aim of the “Joint Declaration” is the creation of an alliance between Catholics and Orthodox against the persecution of Christians in the Middle East. Moscow also spoke of an alliance against the “crisis of the family”, “against abortion and gay marriage.”
While the Greek Ukrainians were shocked that the statement in the form of union with Rome is referred to as “outdated”, Metropolitan Hilarion, the “Foreign Minister of the Moscow Patriarchate” showed himself to be happy “about it and spoke of satisfaction that had befallen the Russian Orthodox Church. The Declaration of Metropolitan Hilarion was published last Friday by the Osservatore Romano as an editorial. For the Russian Orthodox “Foreign Minister”, the declaration is a step toward a “durable peace” in Ukraine.
Yves Hamant: Political Part of the explanation of Havana “is” Moscow
For the French Russia expert Yves Hamant, that it is “evident that the meeting serves the political interests” of both Patriarch Kirill just as much as Russia’s President Vladimir Putin . “Kirill is recognized by the pope as the head of a community of a country where religion flourishes, while much of the rest of Europe is completely secularized.”
Through the meeting, said Hamant, Francis had recognized the Moscow Patriarch as equal, as in Orthodoxy all the patriarchs have the same rank.
Barely an hour after the signing of the “Joint Declaration,” Pope Francis showed himself, however, already worried about the political orientation of the document. In the airplane on the way to Mexico he tried to minimize the political side. “This is not a political statement, it is not a sociological statement, it is a pastoral statement,” said the Catholic Church leader.
The Greek Catholics of Ukraine saw it differently and are still concerned. Then there was also the secrecy which formed ahead of the meeting in Cuba. The declaration was negotiated without the involvement of Ukrainian Catholics.
Kirill told the Russian news agency, Interfax that before signing, only five people on his staff knew the content of the “Joint Declaration.” “It is impossible to prepare for an event of this kind in public,” said the Patriarch.
Last Saturday Rome has tried to address the concerns and fears of the Uniate Ukrainians. Has it succeeded?