Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev of Volokolamsk, a bishop of the Russian Orthodox Church, recently expressed hope that the new pope, Francisco Bergoglio, will continue the policy of rapprochement with the Orthodox Church and that he won’t support, what [Hilarion] calls the expansion of the Ukrainian Greek Catholics, saying, “The Unia is the most painful topic in the Orthodox-Catholic dialogue, in relations between the Orthodox and the Catholics. If the pope supports the Unia, then, of course, it’d bring no good”. The metropolitan is worried… it’s said that the new pope has an affinity for the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC). So much so, that one Russian commentator claimed that in Francisco, “we have a Ukrainian pope”. This may worsen relations between Orthodox and Catholics.
The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church confuses most outsiders; it’s an Eastern rite church in communion with the Vatican. Drawing on the Christian legacy of medieval Kievan-Rus‘, it was officially founded through the 1596 Union of Brest (hence, the church’s other widespread name, Uniate). “Greek” was added later to distinguish it from the Roman Catholic Church. Sviatoslav Shevchuk, the head of the UGCC, said that Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the new pope, had a Ukrainian Greek Catholic priest as his mentor, and is familiar with the Church’s rites, says . Previously, Major Archbishop Shevchuk served in Buenos Aires and got to know the future pope there. Many in the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church hope that Francisco would elevate it to a patriarchate, from its status as a Major Archiepiscopate. Today, Greek Catholics make up about 15 percent of the Ukrainian population. Most of them live in the west of the country, including the city of Lvov, and they have a strong presence in the Ukrainian diaspora. After almost half a century of persecution under Soviet rule, the Church resurfaced as one of the pillars of national identity in the Western Ukraine. It’s an influential force here, although it has kept its distance from politics.
Someone once quipped, “In the rest of the Ukraine, religious people go to church; in Lvov, everyone goes to church”. The city is famous for its panoply of churches, most of them now Greek Catholic, although it still has both a Roman Catholic and an Armenian cathedral. Up until 1941, Lvov was also an important centre of the Jewish religion. In the mornings, the sound of the liturgy, sung in Ukrainian, spills out into the cobbled streets. Lvov Business School, part of the Ukrainian Catholic University, affiliated with the [Ukrainian Greek Catholic] Church, combines business education with ethics. Sophia Opatska, the School’s chief executive, said that they try to encourage “trust, openness, and ethics” in the new generation of business leaders, to help change negative trends in the Ukraine. She added that this is especially important in the Ukraine, where “business often takes on social and economic responsibilities that belong to government in democratic countries”.
On 7 April, crowds of Greek Catholics joined a procession through Lvov representing the Way of the Cross, slowing down traffic. The Church’s leaders have already invited Pope Francisco to visit the Ukraine. The new pope himself has made no special mention of the Ukraine since his election as the Ukrainian media pointed up. All the same, many of Ukraine’s Greek Catholics eagerly await the visit of Pope Francisco, the closest they’ve had to a Ukrainian pope.
12 April 2013
The Galician Uniates are the Great White Hope of not only the papists, but of the American rightwing. Indeed, they wish to separate Orthodox in the Ukraine from the MP and entice them into the Western-dominated Unia. Such is their project; it’s clear to all concerned. I’ll predict that its only result will be a strengthening of Orthodoxy and a rededication to our opposition of the Unia and all its works. The Westerners and righties will regret having stirred up this pot… they’ll have woken up a sleeping giant and filled him with a terrible resolve. Thus always to tyrants and their machinations…
Oh, one last thing… do note the deafening silence by the author on the Orthodox clergy killed and the churches stolen or destroyed by Western-financed Uniate mobs… in the West’s eyes, some people ARE “more human” than others are. None dare call it what it is… after all, the West doesn’t engage in such things, dontcha know (their media tells us so daily, doesn’t it?)…