Patriach Sviatoslav Shevchuk interview with “Kathpress"
RISU remark: in late September a group of Austrian journalists was visiting Ukraine. They had meetings with state officials and church leaders, the metropolatan Anthony Pakanych of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church Sviatoslav Shevchuk among them. Some of the questions of the Kathpress agency to Patriarch Sviatoslav were about the allegations against the UGCC they heard from the metropolitan Anthony. The UGCC press office posted the full version of His Beatitude Sviatoslav's responses.
Please find below the English version of comments translated by Fr Athanasius McVay
Question: Metropolitan Antonii said that your appeals changed from radical (we must fight unto victory) to reconciliation, during your stay in the Holy Land.
Patriarch Sviatoslav: Actually, this was my third appeal for reconciliation during the previous year. It is interesting that they have only now acknowledged it. These appeals to end the war against Ukraine were made last year in an interview with Zenit and George Weigel news agencies.
The Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church has consistently denounced the aggression of Russia against Ukraine. I also consider it unacceptable to create an image of Ukrainians as enemies of the Russian people by attaching various labels to those who that assert the right of Ukraine to exist as an independent state.
Our repeated appeals for reconciliation were primarily directed not to the presidents of Ukraine and Russia (as did the Russian Orthodox Church), but to the Ukrainian and the Russian peoples. We believe that Russian propaganda is fuelling mutual ethnic hatred. It does this by arguing that the Ukrainian nation, language, and culture do not exist, and the very existence of the Ukrainian State is a wound on the body of the one Russian people. This propaganda claims that Ukraine is not a nation or state, but only “a territory.” Our appeals' message is to resist this propaganda, because propagandists and politicians come and go, but nations remain. When we are able to see ourselves as neighbours with equal rights, only then can we speak of true reconciliation, and seek the means for peaceful coexistence.
Our appeal from the Holy Land was special in that, it was a call to [recognise] the common spiritual heritage of Ukrainians and Russians, the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church and the Russian Orthodox Church. [This common heritage includes] the holy martyrs Borys and Hlib/ Boris and Gleb, the first declared saints of Kyivan Rus, the thousandth anniversary of which we are celebrating this year. It is important to note that, this year, the Russian Orthodox Church has paid enormous emphasis to the millennium of the death of St. Vladimir, but completely avoided any attention to Boris and Gleb. Perhaps the example of Saints Boris and Gleb speak to the conscience of Russians and Russian Orthodox, reminding them that we must to obey God rather than men.
The Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church has never called for violence and war, contrary to our adversaries accusations. “We have consistently condemned the aggressors and those who supply weapons and illegal armed formation. Also, together with all members National Council of Churches and Religious Organisations, we called upon them to lay down their arms. We affirm the right and duty of Ukrainians to defend their country from foreign invaders, in accordance with the social doctrine of the Catholic Church. We provide chaplains to minister to Ukrainian soldiers who are defenders of a just peace. We educate Ukrainian society based on Christian patriotism, not based on hatred of foreigners, but with Christian love to our people, our country, and our own state. We believe that Ukrainian victory will be achieved by a just peace, which can never, under any circumstances, be achieve on the terms of an aggressor. We consistently call for reconciliation, but can not accept reconciliation from war, violence, untruth, and the denial of the right of the Ukrainian nation and state to exist.
Question: Metropolitan Antonii explained that the Ukrainian Orthodox Church hold a position to the war in East Ukraine similar to that of Francis Pope and the Vatican, in order to keep the path to dialogue open. What is your comment?
Patriarch Sviatoslav: In the Early Church, especially during the first millennium, the Pope, as successor of the Apostle Peter and Supreme Pontiff, was considered the highest arbiter of the Church of Christ. He was appealed to in cases of dogmatic and administrative disputes among the individual local Churches. According to the ancient rule nemo iudex in causa sua (no one can act as judge over his own case), he performed and continues to perform this ministry today, not as a representative of the Roman Patriarchate, but as Supreme Pontiff. Thus, interestingly, in this vein, we see St. Basil the Great appealing to the Pope to act as arbitrator and mediator in the disputes of the Churches of Asia Minor (4th Century A.D.)
The local Church is of and must stand with its own people. It must act as its voice, it’s mother, and teacher. This is why, briefly speaking, “the nation’s cause” is “the cause of its Church,” its causa sua. (its own cause). The Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church stands with its people. protects their rights and interests, acts as their voice before the Ecumenical Pontiff. Particularly, in the case of war against its own people, it appeals to the Holy Father, and through him to the entire international community.
In a very similar way, the Russian Orthodox Church is concerned with the “joys and sorrows” of its own Russian nation. For it, even the idea of a “Russian world” is also causa sua. Even though the Moscow Patriarch has claimed authority over all that was “Rus” and not only “Russia,” according to contemporary reality, this is clearly not possible for him to do. The moral right for him to represent the “pain and joy” of the Ukrainian people is placed in doubt even by faithful of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, who see their patriarch as “patriarch of the aggressor.”
In the matter of the war in East Ukraine, to compare the role of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church's mediatory mission and ministry of the Supreme Pontiff of Christ’s Church is absurd and dangerous. This demonstrates that the pain and suffering of the Ukrainian nation cause by the war, that is “the nation’s cause,” is not the causa sua of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. Therefore, ordinary people are asking the question: if this Church is completely aloof from its people appears in the position of a partisan judge or mediator, then whose side is it on? How can a Church that claims to be the only Orthodox Church of this nation, stand aloof from the cause of its life or death? I want to believe that this is just an unfortunate comparison and not a refusal of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church to be a national Church for Ukrainians.
Question: Metropolitan Antonii equated the subordination of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) to Patriarch Kirill to the subordination of Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church to Pope Francis. Is this correct?
Patriarch Sviatoslav: This comparison is also completely inappropriate. Even in the Orthodox world, the Moscow Patriarch never considered himself universal or as having any ministry or jurisdiction outside of his own Patriarchate. Moscow has consistently denied any universal service in the Orthodox Church even to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. Indicative in this is the recent theological discussion of the Orthodox-Catholic theological commission of ecumenical dialogue, which the Catholic Church holds with the Orthodox Churches.
The Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church, a local Church with it’s own particular law, is in communion with the Holy Father as Universal Pontiff. We do not belong to the “Latin Patriarchate.” According to the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, our Church enjoys all the rights patriarchal dignity, except the title "patriarch" for the Head of our Church, and we have steadily been building our own patriarchate.
As to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, despite all its rights and so-called autonomy, it belongs to the Moscow Patriarchate and is not seeking to achieve its own. This dependency on the Moscow Patriarchate for the Ukrainian Orthodox Church is an integral part of its ecclesiological identity. Through its very unity with Moscow, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church remains in communion with the rest of world Orthodoxy. A danger should noted: Moscow’s subconscious view of itself as the Third Rome, as much as the Patriarch of Moscow equates itself to the Universal Pontiff [of Old Rome]. So the analogy between the union of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church with the Universal Pontiff and unity of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church with the Patriarch of Moscow is, to be polite, a failure.
Such an analogy could be seriously considered if the Ukrainian Orthodox Church belonged to the ancient Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. Then Patriarch Bartholomew would be truly seen as the “pope of the Orthodox world.” I hope that, here, we are merely dealing with a mistake of an Orthodox spokesman, rather than a “confession of faith” and the real ecclesiology of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.