Ukraine: Head of the Greek-Catholic Church praises relations with the Orthodox Church
“Excellent” was how Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, the head of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church, described its relations with the Orthodox Church during a visit to the headquarters of the international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN). Relations have never been as good as today, he said. The task of maintaining these friendly and brotherly relations lay especially close to his heart, Shevchuk emphasised.
Ukraine can look back at a history of over a thousand years of Christianity. But in the last century it went through a period of aggressive atheism. According to Shevchuk, it is the special responsibility of the Christian Churches to “rediscover these Christian roots and to find new ways to reveal their presence in society as Christians.”
“At a time of uncertainty, when many people feel that processes occurring in society can no longer be controlled, great faith is placed in the Christian Churches. According to opinion surveys, more people trust me than the President,” said Shevchuk. Since the Church is not dependent on the state, it can “tell the truth and play an important role in society”. Christianity has an important role to play for the national unity of the Ukraine. “We are politically neutral, but we teach Christian social values, preach the Gospels and defend those who cannot defend themselves,” he explained. In order for it to be able to perform these tasks in an authentic way, priority is given to the good training of priests.
At the same time, the head of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church, which is in full communion with the Holy See, thanked ACN for the assistance that the charity has provided Ukraine for many years. He expressed special praise for the founder of ACN, Father Werenfried van Straaten, who died in 2003. Shevchuk described himself as “a fruit of the work and beneficence of Father Werenfried”; after the collapse of the Soviet Union he was able to study for his doctorate in Rome with a scholarship from ACN, subsequently to return to his homeland as the first Doctor of Theology where he rebuilt the seminary of Lviv, also with the aid of ACN.