His Beatitude Sviatoslav: "In order to exist and to act we are not obliged to ask someone’s permission"

   On February 12, the historical encounter between the Heads of the Catholic and Russian Orthodox Churches took place. The last time such an encounter was held was around 1000 years ago. The result of this meeting was a commonly stated Declaration which had diverse reactions in Ukraine. Here, we offer some ideas expressed by the Head of the UGCC, Sviatoslav Shevchuk, in this regard.
On the encounter:
"Based on our many years of experience, we can say: when the Vatican and Moscow organize encounters or sign some common texts, we can hardly expect something good out of it. It is evident that they were in completely different dimensions and set before themselves different tasks. The Holy Father Francis experienced this encounter primarily as a spiritual event. He started his word from the fact that we, as Catholic and Orthodox Christians, share one and the same Baptism. The Patriarch of Moscow made it clear, immediately, that he is not concerned about any Spirit, theology, or specifically religious matters. It’s only politics: no common prayer, pronouncedly official phrases on the ‘destiny of the world,’ and the airport as a neutral, i.e. non-ecclesiastical, environment".
On the signed Declaration:
"Concerning the signed text of the Common declaration, it is generally positive. It approaches subjects common for both Catholics and the Orthodox, opening new horizons for cooperation. I encourage everyone to take notice of these positive characteristics. However, the points regarding Ukraine, in general, and the UGCC, in particular, have raised in me more questions than answers".
On the Ukrainian question:
"It seems that we are not deprived of the right to exist anymore [according to the point 25 of the Declaration-ed.]. In reality, in order to exist and to act, we are not obliged to ask someone’s permission. A new emphasis here is the fact that the Balamand agreement of 1994, employed so far by Metropolitan Alfejev to forbid our right to exist, is now used for its acknowledgement. Reassuring is the appeal that "the Orthodox and Catholics are to reconcile and to find mutually acceptable modes of co-existence". We have spoken about it for a long time. I hope we in Ukraine can nourish bilateral relations with the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, moving in that direction without Moscow’s interference".
On article 26 of the signed Declaration:
"Article 26 of this Declaration is the most controversial. One can get an impression that the Moscow Patriarchate obstinately does not recognize being part of the conflict, i.e., openly supporting Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. The very term "conflict" here is ambiguous since it rather inclines the reader towards thinking that we have "a civil conflict" and not an external aggression of the neighboring country ".
On the appeal to not interfere with the war in Ukrainian East:
"Churches and religious organizations in Ukraine have never supported war and constantly worked on social accord and harmony. Such an appeal somehow totally reminds me of Metropolitan Ilarion’s accusation used for attacking "Ukrainian dissenters and uniates", accusing us almost in that we have caused the war in the East of Ukraine, while our civil position, reflecting the social doctrine of the Catholic Church, is a support to only one of "the parts participating in the confrontation".
The UGCC never supported nor propagandized war. We, instead, have always supported and will support the people of Ukraine! We have never sided with the aggressor but stayed with our people in Maidan, while they were killed by representatives of the "Russian world". Our priests have never taken weapon into their hands, contrarily to those who are on the other side. The pastoral conscience calls us to be the voice of these people, awakening the conscience of the global Christian community even when this voice is misunderstood or neglected by the religious leaders of modern Churches".


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