Ukrainian President-elect Viktor Yanukovich (1950- )
Clerics at the Kievo-Pecherskago Lavra hope that the [victory of Viktor Yanukovich] in the presidential election will do good for the Ukraine. “Like everyone else in the Ukraine, I expect this election to improve life in our country. For this, we prayed every day. We hope for nothing but improvement in both the welfare of the people and the image of the Ukraine“, Archimandrite Varsonofy Stolyar, the Treasurer of the Lavra, said in comments published on Monday in the Kiev edition of the newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda. He also hoped that the new administration would not interfere in Church affairs, “which are separate from the state. We don’t need assistance; the main thing is that we don’t get any meddling [from government authorities]. It’s difficult in our circumstances to choose the ideal candidate. However, I’d like to see that he was a man anchored in the faith. Historically, our country’s a Christian country. Also, if one wants a strong state, it must have faith”. On Election Day, the brotherhood of the Kievo-Pecherskago Lavra went to vote at a polling station in Kiev School No 90.
Archbishop Ionafan Yeletskikh of Tulchin and Bratslavsky expressed hope that the new government in Ukraine would change its policy towards the Church. “We hope that with the change in administration due to the Ukrainian presidential election would result in a positive change in the state policy in regard to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church”, he said in an interview with Interfax-Religion on Monday. He pointed up that, over the past few years, the UOC/MP experienced “very, very much harassment from President Yushchenko and his entourage. That was a gross interference in the affairs of the UOC/MP. They attempted to meddle in the Church, bypassing both our First Hierarch [Metropolitan Vladimir Sabodan] and His Holiness the Patriarch of Moscow and all the Russias. God grant that those days are gone”, he said. Noting that, “God loves the truth”, he expressed the wish that “this truth was revealed in the recent election, and what it will bring us, we will see, whatever it is”. Last summer, President Dmitri Medvedev awarded the Order of Friendship to Archbishop Ionafan “for his great contribution to the development of cooperation between Russia and the Ukraine. Vladyki Ionafan was one of the disciples of Metropolitan Nikodim Rotov of Leningrad and Novgorod, who was the spiritual father of many contemporary Church leaders, including Patriarch Kirill.
In a related vein, Archbishop Ionafan went on to say that he considers a division of the Ukraine into western and eastern sections on confessional grounds unfounded and unreasonable. “I can say, with all due conscientiousness, that, firstly, dividing God’s people into eastern and western divisions in the Ukraine doesn’t correspond to reality. Orthodox believers are everywhere, we see a spiritual rebirth everywhere, and we see a return of the lion’s share of the people to the bosom of the Church everywhere”, he said. In the past, Archbishop Ionafan was the archpastor of the dioceses in Sumy and Kherson Oblasts in the Ukraine. After saying that the Orthodox Church in the Ukraine, “due to political and nationalistic motives, unfortunately, has suffered a schism”, at the same time, he emphasised, “The vast majority of Orthodox remained loyal to the UOC/MP and to His Holiness the Patriarch. It’s been one year since the installation of Patriarch Kirill. I can say that, of course, the Ukrainian Orthodox people stood up, and many, both priests and ordinary believers, are proud to say they belong to the Moscow Patriarchate”. In reply to a question on the situation in his diocese, that of Tulchin in Vinnitsa Oblast, Vladyki Ionafan said that the vast majority of believers and clergy under his care feel that they’re an integral part of the Russian Church. “Of course, there are some mere dozens of priests and lay people, mostly migrants from the western regions, who sympathise with the idea of an autocephalous Ukrainian Church, but they’ve little influence on the main current of religious life in Vinnitsa Oblast, he added.
8 February 2010