CWN - The Russian Orthodox Patriarchate of Moscow has stepped up its complaints against Ukrainian Catholic Church, demanding that the next worldwide meeting of Orthodox leaders should discuss the status of Eastern churches that are in communion with Rome.
At the same time, however, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople has issued a statement of friendship for the Ukrainian Catholic Church, welcoming its support for the recent Orthodox council in Crete.
The Moscow patriarchate, which has complained for years about the “uniate” Catholic Church in Ukraine, has redoubled those complaints, charging that Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk has inflamed hostility toward the Ukrianian Orthodox Church that is allied with Moscow. The Catholic prelate, the Moscow patriarchate charged, has used rhetoric “unprecedented in its aggressiveness toward the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church and the Moscow patriarchate.”
The statement from Moscow alluded to a statement from Archbishop Shevchuk charging that “the Moscow patriarchate has often been used as a tool in the hands of the aggressor.” The archbishop referred to the Moscow patriarchate’s support for Russia’s involvement in Ukraine. (The Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow patriarchate has been notably less aggressive in its statements on the conflict in Ukraine.)
The Moscow patriarchate went on to say that the hostile attitude of the Ukrainian Catholic Church has created an “emergency” which should be addressed at the next meeting of Orthodox leaders. Referring to the “uniate” churches as “a bleeding wound,” Moscow called for the resumption of a discussion of their status. The statement from Moscow blamed the same Ukrainian Catholic Church for having caused a disruption of earlier discussions on that topic.
Meanwhile, Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople sent a message of thanks to Archbishop Shevchuk for his support of the Pan-Orthodox Council held in Crete. Significantly, the statement from Constantinople was addressed to “Patriarch” Shevchuk—giving the Ukrainian Catholic leader a title that Moscow rejects and even the Vatican does not acknowledge. In his message Patriarch Bartholomew promised his prayers for “peace and stability in Ukraine.” He also strongly suggested that Moscow’s hostility toward the Ukrainian Catholic Church was not shared by other Orthodox bodies. The Ecumenical Patriarch said:
We can assure Your Eminence that our commitment to dialogue with our Sister Church was overwhelmingly supported in the conciliar sessions and officially recorded in the final document. This, in our opinion, is certainly crucial for reliable and unified witness to the Gospel in our troubled world and time.