Participants of the Inter-Church dialogue in St. Sophia of Kyiv advised the UOC-MP and the OCU to start unification
"In this difficult time, it is crucial to preserve the spiritual unity of the Ukrainian people, the origins of which go back to the ancient Kyiv Orthodox tradition. Therefore, we strive to achieve the unification of all Orthodox Ukrainians in a single conciliar and local (autocephalous) Ukrainian Orthodox Church, recognized by the entire Christian Orthodox world. We understand that the path may not be easy, but it is our duty to start this movement," the statement reads.
The UOC and OCU recommend rebooting the relationship and changing the information policy in order to prepare the basis for dialogue.
Both faiths are invited to start cooperation in cultural and educational projects, serve together during cultural and religious events, as well as during the burials of Ukrainian defenders. The participants of the interchurch dialogue also called on both denominations to recognize the church sacraments in order to overcome barriers to Eucharistic communion between the communities of both churches.
"We call for a direct dialogue without any preliminary conditions to develop models that would make it possible to unite the UOC and the OCU into a single Local Church in the future. To this end, we propose to create a joint working group, which will include bishops and professional theologians of the local Orthodox Churches, to develop a step-by-step plan of unity. We also expect the leadership of the UOC and the OCU to make public a clearer position on inter-Orthodox dialogue," the statement reads.
Address of the participants of the interchurch dialogue in St. Sophia of Kyiv to the bishops, clergy and faithful of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and the Orthodox Church of Ukraine
I. Russia's armed aggression against the sovereign Ukrainian state was the culmination of centuries-old imperial pressure on the spiritual and cultural identity of our people. Guided by the imperial and chauvinist ideology, under the slogans of the Russian World, Russia has always denied the right to the existence of a local Ukrainian Church. The Russian Orthodox Church invades the canonical territory of Ukrainian churches and blesses Russia's occupation actions and war crimes on the territory of the Ukrainian state.
II. "In this difficult time, it is crucial to preserve the spiritual unity of the Ukrainian people, the origins of which go back to the ancient Kyiv Orthodox tradition. Therefore, we strive to achieve the unification of all Orthodox Ukrainians in a single conciliar and local (autocephalous) Ukrainian Orthodox Church, recognized by the entire Christian Orthodox world. We understand that the path may not be easy, but it is our duty to start this movement.
III. We are aware that among a significant part of the clergy and laity of the two Ukrainian Orthodox jurisdictions, there is a deep alienation, distrust and the formation of the "image of the enemy", which leads to mutual dehumanization. That is why we insist on the need to reset our relationships, feel a mature need to renew our relationships, get rid of old claims and prejudices. It is also important to change the information policy and rhetoric of mutual depreciation of representatives of both churches (UOC and OCU) in order to form the prerequisites for dialogue. The Ukrainian episcopate should rise above corporate interests and start a dialogue for the sake of unity.
A significant part of the faithful and clergy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church is convinced of the illegality of changing the subordination of religious communities, and also expresses doubts about the canonical legitimacy of the OCU hierarchy. But the Ukrainian society and the OCU believers demand that the UOC leadership more strongly condemn the manifestations of collaboration between individual representatives of the UOC clergy. The Ukrainian state under martial law is concerned about the preservation of the destructive influence on society of structures that are subordinate to the aggressor state. Therefore, draft laws are being initiated that would make it impossible for religious organizations affiliated with the center of influence in the aggressor country to break the church-canonical connection with the Moscow Patriarchate.
With this in mind, we perceive the state and Civil Society of Ukraine as important participants in the dialogue of unity between the UOC and the OCU. We see the prospect of relations between Orthodox churches and the state and society based on the principles of the rule of law, mutual respect and partnership. Therefore, we call for a broad discussion of those legislative initiatives that relate to complex and often painful issues of religious life.
IV. Noting the different views in our communities on these issues, with the understanding that existing conflicts do not have an easy and quick solution, we nevertheless offer the first steps for our rapprochement and call on the episcopate, clergy and faithful:
- to cooperate at the level of local communities in Christian cultural and educational projects, as well as in all types of social service to our neighbors that the Lord Jesus Christ commanded us, first of all, in caring for our defenders and those who are especially vulnerable during the war: those who lost their loved ones, the wounded, orphans, those deprived of their homes, and other victims;
- promote the possibility of participation and joint ministry of representatives of both churches during cultural and religious events of local and national significance;
- to encourage the joint prayer of clergy and believers of our churches, where possible: prayer services, memorial services, burials (especially if it is the burial of a soldier-defender who died defending Ukraine);
- to recognize the fullness of the action of divine grace in the church sacraments and sacred rites performed in our churches, in particular baptism and ordination to the priesthood of all degrees;
- make every effort to overcome the barriers that hinder the main goal of our unity – the Eucharistic communion of the communities of both Churches.
V. "We call for a direct dialogue without any preliminary conditions to develop models that would make it possible to unite the UOC and the OCU into a single Local Church in the future. To this end, we propose to create a joint working group, which will include bishops and professional theologians of the local Orthodox Churches, to develop a step-by-step plan of unity. We also expect the leadership of the UOC and OCU to publish a clearer position on inter-Orthodox dialogue. We hope that the unification process will start in the near future and will take a noticeable shape this year. We are aware that the resolution of the Inter-Church conflict in Ukraine is impossible without the active mediation of representatives of ecumenical Orthodoxy, in particular the Ecumenical Patriarchate, in cooperation with which an international platform for dialogue should be created.
VI. We express our sincere hope that thousands of believers of both churches will join our voice, who support the fate of orthodoxy in Ukraine and strive for unity and victory in the struggle for our independence. Only through joint efforts can we overcome mutual hostility and make orthodoxy in Ukraine United, and our society integral, strong and successful. Each of us believes that there are no problems and misunderstandings that cannot be resolved in the spirit of Christ's love: "by this all will know that you are my disciples, when you will have love among yourself" (Jn. 13:35).
VIІ. On the anniversary of the full-scale Russian invasion on February 24, 2023, we call for the initiation of joint prayers for the victory of Ukraine and the onset of a just peace, as well as for the fallen soldiers and victims of Russia's military aggression.
Kyiv, St. Sophia Cathedral, February 16, 2023