Kiev, July 18, 2019
His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev and All Ukraine, the primate of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church, has appealed to both His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia and Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky to resume the prisoner exchange in Donbass.
The metropolitan spoke about reconciliation, the prisoner exchange, and the Church’s role in these matters in a new interview with the channel “Ukraine.”
“I have already sent letters to His Holiness Patriarch Kirill to organize a motion for our prisoners of war, and to our president with a corresponding letter to restore this process. We are now asking that all the prisoners of war would be released in an ‘all for all’ format,” His Beatitude said.
The primate added that that the Ukrainian Church will continue to do everything possible to help free all Ukrainian prisoners, which was discussed at a meeting with President Zelensky.
“Peace has to start somewhere,” Met. Onuphry said. “And probably, the most logical way, it would be correct to start with those young people—and these are the best people—so they wouldn’t suffer in captivity, in prisons, so they would return to their houses, so sons would return to their mothers, husbands to their wives, and fathers to their children.”
In December 2017, Pat. Kirill met with the leaders of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic and the Lugansk People’s Republic, as well as the head of the public movement “Ukrainian Choice—the People’s Right,” at Danilov Monastery in Moscow, where they reached an agreement on the details of a prisoner exchange that began in late December. At that time, 306 prisoners were released by Kiev, while 74 were returned to Ukraine.
His Holiness commented on the Russian Church’s concern for prisoners on both sides after his December meeting:
This is a very important issue for the Russian Orthodox Church, because this is our flock on both sides. These are our people on both sides. Who so mourns as does the Russian Church in regard to all that is happening, when brother raises a hand against brother? I would like to especially emphasize the necessity of a speedy peaceful solution to this problem… And I greatly appreciate the constructive participation of both sides in the agreement on those positions which we can say, today, we have finally agreed upon.
During his interview, Met. Onuphry also spoke about how to return peace to the country:
We must remember that we must fill ourselves with love for others, patience, respect… We must remember that God has his own views on people, on their internal state. God tolerates us, and we must tolerate each other. We tolerate each other, respect each other, we're different; if we love each other we will have peace; there will be peace and we will have everything. Everything is built on this: economic growth, social and spiritual—everything is built on peace.
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