Kyiv Church Opposes Russian Patriarch's Inauguration Prayer in Ukraine
KYIV -- Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Kyivan Patriarchate (UOC-KP) criticized president-elect Viktor Yanukovych for inviting the Russian patriarch to lead a church service before his inauguration as politically incorrect, reported finchannel.com.
"Inviting the Russian patriarch to the inauguration of the president of an independent Ukraine is not quite the right decision," podrobnosti.ua reported on Monday quoting Bishop Yevstratii, a senior UOC-KP official, as saying.
Yanukovych has invited Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, to lead a church service ahead of his inauguration on February 25 in a further indication of his pro-Russian drive.
The bishop of UOC-KP said Yanukovych had only won a narrow victory and should have taken more heed to Ukrainian voters who did not support him in two rounds of Ukraine’s presidential election.
Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, a leader of the pro-Western "orange revolution" protests that overturned Yanukovych's tainted election in 2004, was defeated by only 3.48% of the vote in the February 7 runoff. She had moved to challenge the vote results in court, but unexpectedly withdrew a legal appeal last week removing the final obstacle to his inauguration.
Yanukovych has vowed to restore ties with traditional ally Russia that strained under president Viktor Yushchenko who had sought to bring the ex-Soviet state into NATO and the European Union, and over a gas price disputes.
Bishop Yevstratii said the Russian patriarch's blessing Yanukovych for presidency would look odd and could send reverberations across Ukrainian society. He also said the Ukrainian Church has not received invitations to inauguration events from the new leader yet, the paper reported.
Ukraine is a predominantly Orthodox country, but the Orthodox Church in Ukraine is divided, with the Moscow Patriarchy controlling the larger branch of Ukrainian Orthodoxy. Yushchenko, who had sought to reduce Russian influence in the country, had advocated unifying Ukrainian Orthodox churches under the Kyiv Patriarchate.
According to the bishop, Kirill’s attitude towards Ukraine and his Russian World concept put Ukraine in the Russian orbit, something that makes his presence in Kyiv questionable. Bishop Yevstratij reminded that former presidents Leonid Kuchma and Viktor Yushchenko met with representatives of major Ukrainian confessions. In this context, the red-carpet treatment of Kirill can be viewed as manifestation of disrespect for Ukrainian Orthodox confessions. The presence of Kirill also casts doubt on the status of Metropolitan Volodymyr, the head of UOC (Moscow Patriarchate), the bishop said. If Yanukovych is blessed by Kirill on the day of his inauguration, it will be received with mixed feelings by Ukrainians, he added.
Patriarch Kirill's trips to Ukraine were accompanied by minor protests staged by nationalists and activists from the rival churches.
Kirill is expected to conduct a prayer along with Ukrainian Metropolitan Volodymyr of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate at the Kyiv Cave Monastery ahead of the inauguration ceremony.