Monday, July 27, 2015

Moscow Patriarch Blames Uniatism, Not Ukrainian Orthodoxy, for Ukrainian Crisis

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 27 – Moscow Patriarch Kirill says that “the danger hanging over Ukraine now” is the produce of the Union of Brest in 1596 which he says was “always directed at the division of the people living in this region, adding that this aggression is all the worse because it is “internal.”

            Kirill and the Moscow Patriarchate have been concerned about the possibility that bishoprics, parishes and believers will shift from its jurisdiction to a Ukrainian Orthodox Church, something that would significantly reduce the size and influence of the Russian church in the world (
            But the passion of Kirill’s remarks in Moscow yesterday suggests that like many Russians religious and not, he sees the Uniates who are eastern rite but who accept the supremacy of Rome as a greater threat to Russia and Russian Orthodoxy than any Ukrainian Orthodox denomination.

            “And when today they shed crocodile tears in suggesting that someone from the side has destroyed the unity of the Ukrainian people, we respond: be quiet! You have been working for 400 years in order to divide our people in Ukraine, and this is worse than any aggression because it is aggression from the inside.”

            In a comment on these remarks entitled “The West is Accused of Spiritual Diversion for the Last Four Centuries,” Andrey Melnikov, who edits “NG-Religii,” suggests that Kirill’s reference to “crocodile tears” refers in part to the words of Pope Francis who from the beginning has expressed regret about the conflict in Ukraine (

            But even more, the Moscow specialist on religion says, Kirill’s words are directed at “the entire West” which in his view has been striving “to destroy Holy Rus” for a millennium, by creating institutions like Uniatism and now “has adopted more contemporary political forms” to achieve that goal.

            What Kirill said yesterday is completely consistent with what he and other hierarchs of the Russian church have said in the past.  Whenever there have been discussions about the possibility of a meeting between Kirill and Pope Francis, the Moscow patriarchate has “stressed that the main obstacle for this remains the role of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.”

            Kirill himself in a letter to Constantinople Patriarch Varfolomei said that “already … at the start of the current political crisis in Ukraine, the representatives of the Greek Catholic Church and splitter communities … openly promoted hatred to the Orthodox Church, called for the seizure of Orthodox shrines and the exclusion of Orthodoxy from Ukraine.”

            “From the very beginning of military actions,” he continued, “the Uniates and the splitters,having received arms, under the form of a counter-terrorist operation began to carry out direct aggression in relation to the clergy of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church [of the Moscow Patriarchate] in the east of the country.”

            Thus, Kirill continued, “the conflict in Ukraine has an unambiguous subtext.”

            The Moscow patriarch also used yesterday’s event to declare that his church now “lives under conditions of complete religious freedom. The church was never as free as it is now. Don’t believe those who speak about the merger of the church with the state or about the subordination of the Patriarch to the secular authorities.”

            According to Kirill, “not one decision has ever been taken [by his church] at the direction of the secular powers.”

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