Orthodox Accuse Greek Catholics of Expansionism into Kharkiv and Donetsk

06.02.2002, 10:25
On 29 January 2002, Metropolitan Ilarion of Donetsk and Mariupol of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP) accused the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC) of expansionism. He stated that there were no substantial grounds for the establishment of the separate Donetsk and Kharkiv (eastern Ukraine) exarchate of the UGCC, which he considers “another step of Catholic expansionism into Orthodox Ukraine.”

In an interview for the UOC-MP press service published on 29 January 2002, the Orthodox hierarch said that he first heard of the possible creation of the Catholic exarchate during the summer of last year. After it was officially announced that the exarchate had been established and that Father Stepan Menok had been nominated exarch, Metropolitan Ilarion requested more detailed information. However, neither the regional nor the state Committee on Religious Matters managed to provide any information. “I can hardly see any objective reasons for the establishment of a new Uniate exarchate in Donbas,” stated Metropolitan Ilarion. “There are almost no Uniates here, just a small church in Donetsk and in a few villages north of our eparchy in Horlivka. As a result, we have to deal with further Catholic expansion into Orthodox Ukraine. I would also like to note that, whereas the canonical UOC-MP is always being reminded of Ukrainian sovereignty, the decisions taken by the Uniates are approved by the Pope of Rome, who resides in the Vatican.” RISU asked Bishop-elect Stepan Menok, exarch of Donetsk and Kharkiv of the UGCC, for his comments on the matter. The statistics the bishop-elect referred to showed that on 1 January 2001 there were 37 registered Greek Catholic parishes and another four parishes in the process of registration in seven regions of the Donetsk and Kharkiv exarchate. Twenty parishes are situated in the Donetsk region. Consequently, the bishop-elect assumed that Metropolitan Ilarion had not been acquainted with the true figures. “However, I would not want to focus on confrontation,” emphasized Bishop-elect Stepan Menok. “We need to understand that a struggle between confessions of the Eastern rite which recognize different patriarchs will not do us any good. Attacking each other is hardly becoming of hierarchs, not to mention common parishioners.” The head of the Department of Nationalities, Migration and Religion for the Donetsk regional administration, Henadii Kostenko, in his interview with RISU noted that it was solely a decision of the UGCC whether or not there are grounds for the establishment of the exarchate. “Problems have existed in the past, exist now and will exist in the future. However, we should not be resolving the church’s problems. The state should not interfere in such situations, nor should it interfere with the internal affairs of the church as a whole,” said Kostenko, assessing the relationships between Catholics and Orthodox. Source, photo: www.orthodox.org.ua