Vatican City, September 17, 2019
The official website of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic church reports that Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople met with the leader of the (Uniate) Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, Svyatoslav Shevchuk, during his visit to the Vatican. The meeting was organized by the Vatican Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.
Pat. Bartholomew and Svyatoslav Shevchuk discussed the situation in Ukraine, and in particular, “ecumenical relations” between the Uniates and the schismatic “Orthodox Church of Ukraine” (OCU), created by Pat. Bartholomew and currently unrecognized by any Orthodox Church in the world save the Patriarchate of Constantinople itself.
During the meeting, Svyatoslav expressed to Pat. Bartholomew his hopes that, “with the granting of autocephaly, the ecumenical dialogue with the Orthodox Church of Ukraine will be raised to a qualitatively higher level. It is from this historic moment of the proclamation of autocephaly for the OCU that the main interlocutor in the ecumenical dialogue for the UGCC is no longer the Russian Orthodox Church, but the local Orthodox Church in Ukraine.”
Of course, from a canonical point of view and in the eyes of the world’s Orthodox Churches, there has been an independently administered Church in Ukraine since the early 1990s, with faithful Ukrainians being shepherded by faithful Ukrainian hierarchs and clergy.
As many experts have noted in detail, however, the autonomous status of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church actually enjoys more freedoms than the so-called “autocephalous” unrecognized schismatic OCU; so much so, that even His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev and All Ukraine, well-known for his soft-spoken nature, said that the schismatics received a tomos of slavery, not autocephaly.
It was noted, in fact, by experts that the autonomous Ukrainian Orthodox Church even has more freedoms than Constantinople granted to the Church of Greece when it gave autocephaly, specifically citing the independent canonization of saints.
In this context, one wonders why Patriarch Bartholomew is discussing the prospects for ecumenical dialogue of the allegedly autocephalous OCU with the Uniates; if the OCU is truly autocephalous, another Church would not discuss their possibilities of dialogue on their behalf, as that Church would have zero influence on the government and policies of an autocephalous Church, even if it is the mother Church.
During the meeting, the Uniate head Shevchuk also suggested that Pat. Bartholomew create a mixed commission of Orthodox and Uniate churches to “give a new impetus to the ecumenical dialogue.”
Pat. Bartholomew in turn explained his steps towards “granting autocephaly” to the OCU, which must have been fascinating for the Uniates, considering many Orthodox themselves do not fully understand that process.
The head of the Uniates expressed his “joy” that members of the “Kievan Church recall that their Mother Church is Constantinople.”
Pat. Bartholomew then praised the “openness of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church towards ecumenical communion.” It is perhaps worth noting that Pat. Bartholomew himself graduated from the Pontifical Oriental Institute of the Gregorian University in Rome and has a history of supporting ecumenical dialogue.
OrthoChristian reported earlier today, that Epiphany, the leader of the schismatic OCU, called for “Orthodox” people to work together with the Uniates on “national interests.”
This all raises several major issues, but the most pressing being the fact that the Uniates were historically among the greatest persecutors of Orthodoxy, especially in Ukraine, and are also heavily involved in persecuting and attacking believers of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church today.
Their potential collaboration with the other primary persecutor of Orthodoxy in Ukraine—the schismatic OCU—paints a horrifying picture. For example, against the backdrop of a blasphemous icon of the Mother of God together with soldiers is Nazi uniforms, members of the OCU served a funeral for actual members of the Nazi SS together with Uniates. The schismatic and heretical clergy commented that they consider the SS fighters to already be saints.
Uniate clergy have frequently served memorial services for Nazis, complete with honor guards in Nazi uniforms. There was also an incident when a high-ranking mitered Uniate priest, glorifying WW2-era Nazi collaborators, called for terror and assassination.
There was also the terrifying moment when the infamous Uniate Chaplain Nikolai Medinsky assaulted Orthodox grandmothers while seizing a church in Kolomyya, while he and his fellow Greek Catholic priests declared: “We will not throw crumbs to you Moscow pigs. You are biomass devoid of rights. We will take not only this church from you, we will take it all. We will kick you off our land, and from the Kiev Caves Lavra!”
The Union of Orthodox Journalists made an English-language YouTube video discussing the assaults of the Uniates on the Orthodox.
Ukrainian Archpriest Fr. Rostislav Yarema, a Doctor of Theology from Lviv, Western Ukraine, writes that in 1990, there were 2,639 parishes of the Russian Orthodox Church in Galicia (Western Ukraine), and that between 1990 and 1997, the Uniates seized around 2,000 of them, including around 1,000 in the Lviv Province alone.
Thus, it is concerning that Pat. Bartholomew would meet with the leader of one of the largest persecutors of Orthodoxy in Ukraine and discuss with him the prospect of ecumenical dialogue.
None the less, the two leaders greeted each other warmly, and exchanged gifts, the Uniate leader presenting the Patriarch with a facsimile of the Halych Gospel, and Pat. Bartholomew presenting the Uniate with a historical commemorative mark of the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to Constantinople in 2006.
Recall that the head of the Uniate church, Svatoslav Shevchuk declared that the ultimate goal of the Uniates and schismatics is to create a single patriarchate, in union with both Rome and Constantinople. “This is not utopian thinking, as some people call it. This is the goal of the ecumenical movement,” said Shevchuk.