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Former Soviet Dissident Shares Views on War in Ukraine

Kharkivian

John Burger - published on 11/19/14 - updated on 06/07/17

It doesn’t mean there are no doctrinal tensions among the Churches; of course there are, but it seems to me that the importance of common experience at Maidan will be visible and important at least for a year or two. I want to be moderate in my expectations.

At the Synod on the Family in Rome, Russian Orthodox Metropolitan Hilarion made some remarks criticizing the “Uniates,” or the Ukrainian Greek Catholics. How do you feel when you hear things like that?

I feel that the Russian Orthodox Church has no arguments at all because the argument about Uniatism is the last one. They stop with this accusation any negotiations, any dialogue. I immediately thought, “Oh, they have nothing to say except ‘Awful uniates.’” This argument might have worked at the beginning of the 90s, but when so many foreigners, representatives of western Churches, visited Ukraine and saw the real life without something artificial, without Potemkin villages, without artificially made impressions, just real life, people understood that Russia used a false argument. …  Both Catholic and protestant segments want to preserve the last remnant of the dialogue, but there is no dialogue at all with the Russian Orthodox. That is the question. I visited many ecumenical meetings as a representative of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. If there is dialogue we will all benefit from it. But there is a moment when the hierarchs from the Russian Orthodox Church come, take the floor, say something negative about Catholics, then say “I’m very sorry, I’m very busy” and withdraw. It is even mentioned in the social doctrine of the Russian Church. If you read carefully, you will see the dialogue of the Russian Orthodox Church with the ecumenical movement. And what idea is behind that? “We will use that opportunity to deliver our position.” That’s all.

A delegation from my Church once went to the Danilov Monastery in Moscow. We were invited by [Russian Orthodox Church spokesman] Vsevolod Chaplin. He invited us to sit down and for 10 minutes he spoke about how awful we are, and then gave us the floor. You cannot imagine that in the Vatican. But how is it possible for the Catholic community to respect that behavior? This is not Christian—absolutely not ecumenical dialogue.

So something has to be changed in understanding. Because the Catholic Church respects such a behavior it doesn’t allow the positive development in the Russian Orthodox Church because this ugly behavior is successful, because the whole world respects them. Why should they change?

It’s a pity that my Church has pushed itself into one narrow space and cannot change that because we will lose everything. No! We have to put clear rules. “Okay, you don’t want to go into negotiations? Okay, we will respect your will, and we will do what is possible with other Orthodox Churches.”

By the way, at the beginning of the Second Vatican Council, Moscow didn’t plan to be part of it, but when they heard that Rome was negotiating with Constantinople they immediately came. so it’s the best way to invite through the dialogue, showing, “Okay, we respect your will,” and do many good things with Constantinople or other Orthodox Churches.  I know these  people from Romania; they are excellent Orthodox theologians. Why are they secondary in comparison to Russians? It would be real ecumnical dialogue. 

This is the second part of a series of articles about Ukraine one year after the beginning of the Euromaidan protests. Part 1 can be read here.

John Burger is news editor for Aleteia’s English edition.

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