Metropolitan Cyril (Gundiayev) pronounces that the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church should
“admit the fact that the Orthodox Church does exist in Ukraine and it should not be weakened. I refer particularly to the situation in western Ukraine’s Halychyna. Also, it is no less important that the UGCC recognize that it emerged as a purely local phenomenon in Western Ukraine under the influence of certain circumstances, and this is the region which should be targeted for pastoral services.”
1. The Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church will happily confirm that the Orthodox Church exists in Ukraine and should be strengthened. The Greek-Catholic Church is not obliged to "admit" what she has never attempted to deny!
2. It is, however, false to assert that the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church "emerged as a purely local phenomenon in Western Ukraine under the influence of certain circumstances". In 1596 the Metropolitanate of Kyiv accepted the Union of Brest. The resulting arrangement came to be called the Greek-Catholic Church. This included all of Belarus', and much of Ukraine. At the time, the Eparchy of L'viv, the Eparchy of Peremyshl, and the Eparchy of Lutsk did not
adhere to the Union of Brest - that happened approximately a century later (the exact year varied in each Eparchy). Successive Tsarist governments made use of the partitions of Poland to suppress the Greek-Catholic Church by force and violence, particularly in the reigns of Peter I, Catherine II, Nicholas I, and Alexander II, with the result that the Church was able to survive openly only in the territory which Austria had received during the partitions of Poland and in the lands belonging to Hungary at the time.
Thus the Greek-Catholic Church's virtual confinement to Western Ukraine is an entirely artificial phenomenon accomplished by Tsarist force and violence, largely in the nineteenth century. The hierarchy, clergy, monastics, and faithful in Western Ukraine never forgot their brothers in the rest of Ukraine and in Belarus', and did what they could to strengthen the underground Church in the Tsarist Empire - the situation is comparable to that of the Priestist Old-Ritualists, who could exist legally and above ground only in the Austrian Empire, but in fact continued in much of the Tsarist Empire as well. Nobody would suggest that the Old-Ritualists today should/must be confined to Bukovina!
3. The assertion that Western Ukraine [alone] "is the region which should be targeted for pastoral services” is tragicomic. Not only did the Greek-Catholic Church never die out in Tsarist territory; in Soviet times the Communists accomplished large-scale demographic changes with the result that significant numbers of Greek-Catholics from Western Ukraine found themselves willy-nilly in every section of Ukraine and also elsewhere in the USSR. We do not expect people to change their religion every time they cross a geographic delineation! Thus if an Orthodox Christian moves house from wherever to L'viv, Philadelphia, Chicago, Toronto, Melbourne, Rome, or any other place where an Orthodox Church is accessible, one assumes that he will attend that Orthodox church. By precisely the same token, if a Greek-Catholic from wherever moves house to Odessa, Kharkiv, Moscow, Saint Petersburg or any other place where a Greek-Catholic church is accessible, one assumes that he will attend that Greek-Catholic church. The Church has not only the right but the obligation to serve her faithful and provide them with pastoral care wherever they may be, which is why we have a parish in Dublin, Ireland, to take only one example.
Metropolitan Kyryl said it was a bitter revelation for the ROC to learn of the transfer of the residence of the Head of the UGCC to Kyiv.
Excuse me? Kyiv is a good-sized city and the national capital of Ukraine. The Chief Hierarch has the historic title of Kyiv-Halych and All Rus'; that is how Metropolitan Michael (Rahoza) signed the Union of Brest. By establishing his residence there the current Patriarch Lubomyr did not do anything new. Moreover, it is normal for the Chief Hierarch to reside in or near the national capital.
Neither the establishment of the Patriarch's residence in Kyiv nor the construction of the new Cathedral in Kyiv are in any way compelling anyone to do anything (other than someone who wishes to send a letter to Patriarch Lubomyr, and is therefore "compelled" to address the envelope to the Patriarch's current residence). The moving of the residence of the Patriarch, and the construction of the new Cathedral, are all being accomplished at the financial expense of the Greek-Catholics, not at the expense of the Orthodox Christians, or the Ukrainian Government. So what does Metropolitan Cyril find to grieve about?
Then Metropolitan Cyril continues:
“I find it shameful to speak of this, but we still have not been able to obtain land in Lviv for the construction of our church. We were forced out of our churches; we were, quite simply, driven out.”
1) the Moscow Patriarchate has a church in L'viv, on Korolenko Street;
2) the Moscow Patriarchate had a much larger church in L'viv for their cathedral, on Shcherbakova Street, almost directly across the street from the Ukrainian National Museum. The Patriarchate lost that Church because their Bishop, clergy, and faithful remained with Metropolitan Philaret instead of accepting the administration which Moscow imposed to replace Philaret. That issue and its results have precisely nothing to do with the Greek-Catholic Church. That in turn brings up the reality that the large majority of Eastern Orthodox communities, clergy, and faithful in Western Ukraine adhere to one or another of the Ukrainian Orthodox judicatories striving for autocephaly and want nothing to do with the Moscow Patriarchate.
3) Land prices in L'viv, as elsewhere, have indeed gone up and one can appreciate that the Moscow Patriarchate, with its relatively small flock in L'viv, may find it financially difficult to purchase land if it wishes to build a new cathedral. But that, simply, is not the problem of the Greek-Catholics.
4) Who was driven out of their own Churches? The edifices that Metropolitan Cyril refers to were Greek-Catholic places of worship in 1946, from which the Greek-Catholic clergy and faithful were expelled by Soviet force and violence. A slim majority of those churches in L'viv itself choose to remain Eastern Orthodox, while also disaffiliating from the Moscow Patriarchate. Where needed, the Greek-Catholics built new churches, and are still doing so. If Metropolitan Cyril wants the Moscow Patriarchate to have some sort of access to the historic church edifices which remain in Orthodox hands in L'viv, let him try to make peace and reconciliation with the Ukrainian Orthodox judicatories instead of hurling anathemas at them. In no sense is this the responsibility of the Greek-Catholics.
The Metropolitan wants to start a peaceful and sensible dialogue to resolve existing problems. By all means, but this cannot be done by presenting the Moscow Patriarchate as the victim when she is in fact the aggressor. Let her cease to claim that the 1946 atrocity was somehow "canonical"; let her disavow the persecution and recognize that every Church has the right and obligation to provide pastoral care for her own faithful, wherever they may be, and let her try in other ways to lay the basis for a peaceful, sensible dialogue. Let her also keep appointments, return telephone calls, and stop calling people names.
All this really is a cause of grief. Metropolitan Cyril is one of the best hierarchs in the Moscow Patriarchate. His Eminence knows better than to talk such nonsense. If even he finds it incumbent upon him to spout such lies, to whom in the Moscow Patriarchate can we look to find simple honesty?