UGCC to investigate statistics in order to reconcile with Orthodox Churches
The subject of relations between the Ukrainain Greek Catholic Church (UGCC) and the Orthodox Churches in Ukraine was discussed in a recent interview of Patriarch Sviatoslav's with the English-language version of Radio Vatican.
In this regard, the new head of the UGCC said: “The main challenge for the church situation in Ukraine is the divide between the Orthodox, and so it is very difficult to form some relations because if we develop cooperation with one group, the others will feel ignored or rejected. It is very important for us that the special organization, which we call the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations, exists in Ukraine. Each religious community that was registered by the state joined the council. It provides certain kinds of opportunities to cooperate, at least to talk and meet together with state authorities and develop our relations,” said the hierarch.
According to the hierarch, the UGCC has a special task: to be the bridge between the divided communities, not only between Catholics and non-Catholics but even, like in this case, between the Orthodox, to create space where they can not only meet with us but also with each other.
Patriarch Sviatoslav says that the UGCC is open to a dialogue with the Orthodox. “I was 20 when Communism collapsed. And I remember well the tension between the Orthodox and Greek Catholics in western Ukraine. But this tension is no more. And I know well the wounds still carried by our people from that time. There are many of them. Therefore, I speak not only on my own behalf but also on behalf of the communities that were wounded at that time. And I understand this fear, or, to put it more precisely, pain of the Orthodox community and the Russian Orthodox who constantly accuse Greek Catholics of destroying their three eparchies in western Ukraine. It is not an easy question. But I think that, first of all, to be able to touch upon that question, we should be open and ready to forgive each other,” said the hierarch in the interview.
In answer to the question if the new head of the UGCC has any practical ideas, ways of promoting the project of reconciliation, Patriarch Sviatoslav responded: “First of all, we are gathering specific information about churches that may be claimed by the Orthodox and about the current number of their communities in western Ukraine, what kind of relations we have between our communities at the basic, local level, in order for us to have clear statistics about the churches with which we are going to deal, for us to be able to conduct our own investigation. Then we can study and discuss the real situation, not fantastic figures but real facts and names of villages where there may be some tension. Only after this will we be well prepared to meet with the Orthodox and study specific churches and affairs."