UOC-MP’s and Kyiv Patriarchate’s Reps Voiced Positions on Musorivtsi Conflict
KYIV — The information portal “Orthodoxy in Ukraine” on January 15, 2010, held the first web conference “How to view the attempts to seize religious buildings by representatives of other denominations against the background of the already begun dialogue between the UOC [Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate] and UOC-KP [Kyivan Patriarchate]?” The readers’ questions were answered by Archbishop Serhij of Ternopil and Kremenets of the UOC and Bishop Yevstratij (Zoria), the head of the Information and Publishing Department of the UOC-KP. Yurij Reshetnikov, the head of the State Committee on Nationalities and Religions, acted as an independent expert.
The archbishop of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church called the conflict in Musorivtsi a “question of principle” in the dialogue between the Ukrainian Orthodox Church [Moscow Patriarchate] and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Kyivan Patriarchate. The bishop of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Kyivan Patriarchate stressed that individual conflicts over parishes are used to “torpedo” the preparation of the dialogue and that the future of the dialogue cannot be made dependent on individual conflicts.
“Yes, I think it is a question of principle. If we are finally going to make such an important step in reconciliation as the actual overcoming of the division, cannot a few dozen people hush up for the sake of the many millions in the flock? Cannot a leverage of influence (which probably exists) allow one to call and say: brethren, do not obstruct, we are doing work for the whole church, have patience for a while, keep silent, stop it, do not hinder… When a house is built, a foundation is laid and then the roof. If no foundation is laid the house will not stand,” commented Archbishop Serhij on the question if the problem in Musorivtsi can be called an obstacle of principle for the dialogue between UOC and UOC-KP. The hierarch stressed that “the rate of growth of the conflict shows it is not a local conflict, to be more exact, it is not a conflict but our self-defense.”
He also noted that the Kyivan Patriarchate has many facts connected with conflicts provoked by representatives of the Moscow Patriarchate, which are not in the spirit of the dialogue; however, the UOC-KP, according to him, “does not make one dependent on the other.” “…on our part, we can also lay claims: for the picket in front of St. Catherine’s Church in Chernihiv, whose participants called our head bad names, and for the attempts of representatives of the UOC-MP to take away a church of the Kyivan Patriarchate… But we do not demand prohibitions and so forth,” stated the bishop.
Bishop Serhij said that convergence is only possible if the schismatics repent and admit their errors. Bishop Yevstratij noted: “I do not consider my membership in the Kyivan Patriarchate a sin or a reason to repent. On the contrary, if I join the MP I will have to renounce the Holy Sacraments I received in the Kyivan Patriarchate. And for me it is the same as disowning Christ.”
Yurij Reshetnikov stated that “unfortunately, instead of the observance of the constitutional equality of all churches before the law, there is a danger of a regionalization of attitudes toward denominations.” “In order to overcome it somehow, a bill is being developed to define the mechanism and principles of transferring former religious buildings.” He noted that it also deals with the “responsibility of the local self-government authorities.”