Patriarch Kirill accused Greek-Catholics and Kyiv Patriarchate in aggression against canonical Orthodoxy in the Donbas
Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Orthodox Church (Gundyaev) on August 14 published a letter to the Primates of the Orthodox Churches, which urged to pray for peace in the Ukrainian land and protect the canonical Orthodoxy (meaning Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Moscow Patriarchate) from violence. Last night, the document appeared on the official website of the Department for External Church Relations of the Russian Orthodox Church, but in the morning it was removed.
In a letter head of the Moscow Patriarchate noted every case where, and under what circumstances, priest of the UOC (MP) suffered and pointed to representatives of world Orthodoxy who is guilty of aggression.
Patriarch Kirill puts the responsibility for what is happening in the East Ukraine of the Greek Catholics and Kyiv Patriarchate believers, whom he calls "Uniates" and "schismatics." Patriarch of the ROC does not mention Russian armored columns that cross the border of Ukraine each day, ammunition depots in temples UOC (MP) and the Moscow Patriarchate priests who support separatists.
Here is the full text of an open letter. RISU doesn’t know why it disappeared and was it really sent to patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople.
Your Holiness, Brother and concelebrant beloved in the Lord!
I cordially greet you with a wish of peace, God-sent physical strength and unfailing God's help in your First Hierarch’s ministry.
I’m urged to write you this letter by a deep sense of pain and extreme concern about the situation of the flock of the Church in the eastern Ukraine, where the fratricidal civil war has not stopped for several months.
Back in the fall of the past year, at the beginning of the current political crisis in Ukraine, representatives of the Greek-Catholic Church and schismatic communities who spoke at Kyiv’s Maidan, openly preached hatred of the Orthodox Church, called for capture of the Orthodox shrines and eradication of Orthodoxy from the territory of Ukraine. Since the beginning of hostilities, Uniates and schismatics, having taken up arms, under the guise of anti-terrorist operation started exercising direct aggression towards the clergy of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the East.
At the same time, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, unlike the Greek Catholics and schismatics, remains unaffected by any political bias. It continues to exercise its pastoral care of a large congregation, including the people who find themselves on opposite sides of the conflict, trying to reconcile them, and constantly calls for dialogue.
In recent weeks, we have been receiving messages from the local bishops reporting abuse of the clergy of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church, their purposeful pursuit. Here are a few examples.
On July 17 this year, during the Divine Liturgy in the Church of the Resurrection in Slavyansk, a gang of armed men led by the Greek-Catholic military chaplain, broke into the church and threatened it rector Archpriest Vitaly Vesely. The representative of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church declared that Ukraine was not the place for the Moscow Patriarchate, and lamented the fact that the president did not allow seizure of the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra by Uniates.
On July 19, Dean of Nikolayiv deanery of the diocese of Horlivka Archpriest Andrei Chicherinda was subjected to harassment and interrogation in handcuffs with death threats.
On July 20, near Syavyansk, some men armed with machine guns made Archpriest Vadim Yablonovsky dig his own grave, on the same day Archpriest Victor Stratovich was handcuffed and taken away with a bag on his head into the woods, where he was put on his knees and was interrogated in this position.
On July 30, in the village of Krasnoarmeyskoe, Donetsk region, a group of armed men performed illegal search of the home of Archpriest Igor Serhienko, rector of the Church of St. Alexander Nevsky. The priest was insulted and accused of involvement in clandestine organizations, threatened with torture and was demanded to leave the territory of Ukraine, giving up the constituent documents of the temple, confirming rights to church property.
On the same day in Amvrosievsky district of Donetsk region, the Ukrainian military servicemen detained Archpriest Eugene Podgorny, showering abusive swear words. He was bound and thrown to the ground, and was kicked and beaten with a rifle, shot over his head, in order to make him admit that he supported the militants. The archpriest from Donetsk was forced to take off the priestly cross, but he refused, so they forcefully tore away hi cross, put him in a pit with a bag on his head, threatened to kill his son, and robbed his house. The priest was released only through the intervention of the parishioners.
We cannot ignore the fact that the conflict in Ukraine has unambiguous religious motivation. The Uniates, joined by dissenters, try to defeat the canonical Orthodoxy in Ukraine, while the Ukrainian Orthodox Church continues to guide its suffering faithful with patience and courage in this challenging environment. The priests are performing their ministry in places that have become a battleground; the vast majority remains with their flock, sharing with them all the horrors of civil war. Their families suffer from attacks, lack of water and food, get killed by shells during the shelling. Since July 31, during the shelling of residential neighborhoods of Luhansk, Archpriest Vladimir Kreslyansky was injured and soon died of his injuries. The deceased priest was survived by his wife and five children.
Eastern Ukraine, the blooming land inhabited by millions of hardworking Orthodox Christians, has now converted into a scorched field. The residence of Metropolitan Hilarion of Donetsk and Mariupol was destroyed by bombing. Artillery shell damaged Horlivka Diocesan Administration. The Convent of St Iveron Icon of Donetsk Diocese lies in ruin, burned during the fighting. But the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church, the Church-martyr, in spite of these difficult conditions, stays with its flock, doing everything possible to help people experiencing the worst time in the modern history of Ukraine. In the fire of civil conflict hundreds of thousands of people lost their homes and became refugees. Many of them, in order to escape the horrors of war, found shelter in churches and monasteries, in particular, in the Holy Dormition Monastery of Svyatogorsk, which to date is full of refugees. In Donetsk, Horlivka, Luhansk the civilians, hoping to escape from the bombardments, remain in the churches for the night, get free food and shelter. Other monasteries, parishes, dioceses of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church also render assistance to refugee and civilians on the whole.
The Moscow Patriarchate uses every opportunity to provide humanitarian assistance to the civilian population in the areas where fighting is taking place. In the churches of the Russian Orthodox Church a special prayer for peace and overcoming the internecine warfare in Ukraine is raised every day. The Church takes care of many thousands of refugees from eastern Ukraine, placed in camps and transferred to specially prepared premises in different regions of Russia. Aid is provided to everyone without national or religious distinction. The Ukrainian army soldiers who do not want to shoot their own people are among those who are seeking refuge in Russia.
On these days, which are difficult for the Russian Orthodox Church, especially for its faithful children in Ukraine, I’m asking for the prayers of Your Holiness, of the archpastors, pastors, monastics and all the faithful of the Holy Church of Constantinople for peace in the Ukrainian land, for termination of bloodshed and about our suffering brethren in the Lord, especially about the archpastors and pastors, who continue to courageously fulfill their duty and perform their church ministry, to defend Holy Orthodoxy in the most difficult conditions of civil strife.
I’m asking Your Holiness to use every opportunity to elevate your voice in defense of the Orthodox Christians of eastern Ukraine, who live in daily fear for themselves and their loved ones in the situation of increasing violence on the part of Greek Catholics and dissenters, for fear that the Orthodox be forced to renounce their faith or will be subjected to severe discrimination if the persecutors take power.
With brotherly love in the Lord, + KIRILL,
Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia