The Head of the UGCC Commission for Interconfessional Relations met with a representative of the Vatican's Dicastery for Interreligious Dialogue
During the meeting, they discussed the current situation in Ukraine, as reported by the Information Department of the UGCC.
According to Father Shaban, Ukrainians, ordinary people, and survivors of this war have endured thanks to global Christian solidarity and prayer. He also mentioned two captive priests of the UGCC from Berdiansk, Ivan Levytsky and Bohdan Heleta, whose fate has remained unknown since 2022.
The interlocutors also touched upon recent words of Pope Francis during a video conference with Russian youth about "great Russia, its culture, and heritage." Father Shaban explained to Archbishop Celestino that these words had wounded Ukrainian society and Ukrainian Catholics in particular, causing pain to the Ukrainian people because, in Ukraine, no one has forgotten how thousands of bishops, priests, and faithful of the UGCC were exiled to Siberia and killed for preserving their faith and love for their Church after World War II.
"It seems that the Pope's understanding of Russian history is quite superficial. He undoubtedly heard about two Russian tsars: Peter and Catherine. Perhaps he did not hear that the first one built his new capital on the bones of Ukrainians and burned the Ukrainian capital, just like the second one destroyed the Ukrainian Cossack Republic. Just as Putin does in our days when, for the sake of restoring the Russian empire, the Kremlin kills thousands of Ukrainians and burns our lands," Father Igor noted.
"It is quite possible that the Pope is seeking ways of dialogue. Clearly, the Pope has decided that it can be done through youth. Perhaps he was inspired by the World Youth Days in Lisbon in early August. And this, of course, can be understood because we are truly grateful to the Bishop of Rome for calling for prayers for Ukraine every week in St. Peter's Square, for condemning Russia's aggression against Ukraine directly on several occasions, and for directly engaging in the return of Ukrainian children and soldiers from captivity. Therefore, today, the UGCC, together with all the citizens of our state, condemns the ideology of the 'Russian world.' We hope that the Holy Father will hear our voice," Father Igor added.
At the end of the meeting, the interlocutors discussed the current challenges facing the UGCC during its service in times of war, particularly in the social sphere. Father Igor highlighted the activities of the charitable Patriarchal Foundation "Mudra Sprava" (Wise Cause), which has already provided food kits to tens of thousands of needy families and evacuated several thousand people from the east and south of Ukraine with the help of volunteers.
It is worth noting that Father Igor Shaban is currently in the capital of France, where he is attending a working meeting of official representatives of the Catholic Church responsible for interreligious dialogue in various European countries.