“The Patriarch stresses that the visit has no political or state agenda”
Interview with archpriest Heorhij KOVALENKO, press secretary of the head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, head of the synod division “Mission of Spiritual Enlightenment” of the UOC, head of the press service of Moscow Patriarch Kirill’s visit to Ukraine.
— In July and August Patriarch Kirill of Moscow will visit Ukraine. Is his program already established, with whom will he meet? Will there be any inter-confessional meetings or meetings with government officials?
— There are no inter-confessional events planned. The visit of the patriarch will be exclusively religious: divine services, visitation of churches and monasteries, and meetings with his flock.
As for the program of the visit, it is completely ready, minus a few small details. The patriarch will visit all three Lavras in Ukraine: the Kyiv Cave Monastery, the Sviatohirsk Cave Monastery in the Donbas region, and the Holy Dormition Pochayiv Lavra in western Ukraine. In each he will hold a divine service. By the way, the patriarch will be in Kyiv for the celebration of St. Volodymyr the Great on 28 July; at the Sviatohirsk Lavra for the celebration of the Sviatohirsk Virgin Mary Icon on 30 July; and in Pochayiv for the 450th anniversary of the arrival in Ukraine of the miracle working icon of Our Lady of Pochayiv on 5 August. In addition to the three Lavras, on 2 August, St. Illya’s Day, the Patriarch will hold a liturgy at the site of Prince Volodymyr’s baptism in Khersones (Sevastopol).
—What is the main purpose of the visit? What is the goal, what expectations are there?
—The patriarch stresses that the visit has no political or state agenda. The visit will have an exclusively religious format. The patriarch is going to his flock for a communal prayer.
—During the visit, does the session of the Holy Synod plan to come to any decisions?
—No decisions are planned to be made during the visit. The resolution which Ukraine awaits needs assiduous preparation in order to prevent a repeat of the tragic mistakes of the early 1990s.
During the visit, there will be a session in Kyiv of the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC). This, however, is a continuation of the new tradition of the sessions of the Holy Synod of the ROC (Moscow – St. Petersburg – Kyiv – …). Discussion of controversial questions during such a session is not planned. Maybe the patriarch is using the example of the Holy Synod of the UOC that took place in Kyiv, Kharkiv, Pochajiv, Zymnenskyj Monastery…
—The topic of Hetman Mazepa’s anathema has become a hot topic in today’s mass media. Is there any progress by the special theological commission which is engaged in this question? Can we expect some resolution to this question during Patriarch Kirill’s visit to Ukraine?
—This topic has become too politicized. Furthermore, it has been used and, maybe, will continue to be used by certain Church-affiliated forces as a provocation before or during the patriarch’s visit. Thus, in the near future there will be no official decision.
I especially feel that the discussion of this question at the Holy Synod, by the Theological Commission, and at the Kyiv Spiritual Academy is a resolution; it is evidence of the lack of unanimous reception of this anathema among the episcopates, clergy, and faithful of our Church. And, as we know, by the reception of council decrees by the Fullness of the Church, councils were recognized Ecumenical, and without such reception, other councils were recognized false; even though, formally and outwardly, they were the same.
—What measures does the press service of the UOC plan in regards to this visit? Will there be any informative materials published?
—Together with the informational service of the Moscow Patriarchate, we will establish a press service and press center in Kyiv for the visit of Patriarch Kirill to Ukraine. The press service of the visit will work with the mass media from 10 to 24 July, and the press center will continually function during the visit in the building of the Holy Dormition of the Kyiv Cave Monastery.
Specifically for the visit, a website will be launched at patriarh.in.ua. Together with the TV channels “Inter” and “Glas,” we plan direct broadcasts of the divine services from the three Lavras and from Khersones, as well as continual informational updates on the visit. We will work together with all interested channels, radio stations, and print and internet publications. We hope we will satisfy the most rigid viewer or reader.
—Thank you for the interview!
Interviewer: Taras Antoshevskyj,
Lviv-Kyiv, 25 June 2009