By Parnell McCarter



In typical fashion, American news reporting of the current crisis in the Ukraine ignores the underlying religious conflict.  The conflict will decide more than whether Ukraine ends in the Russian or European Union orbit.  It may well also determine whether the Ukrainian church looks to Moscow or Rome for religious guidance.  To understand this, let’s first consider these statistics concerning Ukraine, from the CIA World Fact Book ( at http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/up.html ):


Ethnic groups:  Ukrainian 77.8%, Russian 17.3%, Belarusian 0.6%, Moldovan 0.5%, Crimean Tatar 0.5%, Bulgarian 0.4%, Hungarian 0.3%, Romanian 0.3%, Polish 0.3%, Jewish 0.2%, other 1.8% (2001)


Religions:  Ukrainian Orthodox - Moscow Patriarchate 26.5%, Ukrainian Orthodox - Kiev Patriarchate 20%, Ukrainian Catholic (Uniate) 13%, Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox, Protestant, Jewish


The Jesuit magazine America explained this Ukrainian religious landscape in an article entitled “The Pope Looks Toward Ukraine“ (see http://www.americamagazine.org/gettext.cfm?articleTypeID=1&textID=1538&issueID=330 ) :


“When his plane lands at Borispol international airport outside Kiev on the afternoon of June 23, Pope John Paul II will begin what will arguably be the most controversial foreign visit he has undertaken during his 23-year reign. His destination will be Ukraine, a country whose government, after 10 years of independence, is shaky, and whose Catholic and Orthodox churches have had a very difficult time learning to live together under the new conditions of religious freedom.


The very word “Ukraine” originates from a Slavic word meaning “borderland,” and as Samuel P. Huntington pointed out in his 1996 book, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of the World Order, the country does indeed sit astride one of Europe’s great civilizational boundaries. Huntington notes the existence of opposing Western and Orthodox civilizations, and refers to Ukraine as a “cleft country,” caught between its conflicting cultural and religious ties to Orthodox Russia to the east and Catholic and Protestant nations to the west.


Kievan Rus’, the ninth-century political forerunner of Ukraine, adopted the Byzantine form of Christianity as its state religion with the baptism of the inhabitants of Kiev in the river Dnieper at the behest of Prince Vladimir in 988. After the later division between the Christian East and West, the Ukrainians came to identify with Orthodoxy. But much of Ukraine was occupied from the 14th to 18th centuries by Catholic Poland and Lithuania. In 1596, an agreement called the Union of Brest established unity between the Orthodox Metropolitan Province of Kiev and the Catholic Church. That union was the point of origin of today’s Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. A long period of religious and political conflict followed, and the union with Rome was gradually suppressed as Russia expanded its control over Ukraine. By the mid-19th century the tsars had eliminated the Greek Catholic Church within the Russian Empire, but it survived in the far western border Ukranian province of Galicia, which had come under Austrian rule in 1772 and passed to Poland at the end of World War I. Galicia became part of Ukraine again only when the Soviet Union annexed it at the beginning of World War II. Joseph Stalin resurrected the old tsarist policy by forcibly suppressing the Greek Catholic Church in its last homeland. He gave its churches to the Orthodox and subjected it to a vicious persecution that ended only with the collapse of the communist government and dismemberment of the Soviet Union in 1991.


This history has left its mark on the modern Ukrainian nation, which is seeking to find its place in relation to Russia and Western Europe. This has not been an easy task, as there are conflicting views about Ukraine’s identity in different regions of the country. The eastern areas are largely Russian-speaking and strongly support close relations with Russia or even absorption into it. As one moves west, more Ukrainian is spoken and there is stronger support for Ukrainian independence and ties to the West. These demographic and political realities are closely paralleled by religious ones. In the east, which is mostly Orthodox, there is strong sentiment in favor of maintaining the links with the Moscow Patriarchate that have existed for centuries. In the west, the Ukrainian Greek Catholics have their ties with Rome, and two recently established non-canonical Orthodox churches have broken relations with the Moscow Patriarchate.


During the 20th century, any loosening of Russian control over Ukraine was accompanied by the formation of an autocephalous (independent) Ukrainian Orthodox church. The first emerged in 1921 during the brief period of Ukrainian independence, only to be suppressed by the Soviets in 1930. The second formed behind German lines in 1942; but as the Soviets pushed back the Nazi armies, the church dissolved and the episcopate went into exile in the United States. In 1990, aware that Ukraine was moving towards independence, the Moscow Patriarchate granted autonomy to its Ukrainian metropolitanate under the name of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (U.O.C.). This did not prevent the head of the church in exile, Patriarch Mstyslav, from traveling to Ukraine in June 1990 to preside over the third emergence of the autocephalous church. But he returned to the United States for reasons of health the following October.


The situation grew more complicated in 1992, when the U.O.C.’s Metropolitan Filaret (Denisenko) of Kiev was deposed by the Moscow Patriarchate because of his attempts to distance his church further from Moscow. He then joined the autocephalous church and even claimed the title of locum tenens (temporary substitute) in Mstyslav’s absence. This was done without the knowledge of Mstyslav, who broke all ties with Filaret in November 1992. This incident led to the division of the autocephalous movement into two camps: the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Kiev Patriarchate (U.O.C.K.P.), headed by Filaret, who has been patriarch since 1995, and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (U.A.O.C.), which remained faithful to Mstyslav.


Patriarch Mstyslav died in 1993, and his successor, Dimitri, died in February 2000. The U.A.O.C. has not yet elected a new patriarch because it hopes to achieve reconciliation with the other Orthodox churches in Ukraine. Filaret-who is himself a very controversial personality-was formally excommunicated by an assembly of the entire episcopate of the Moscow Patriarchate in 1997. Moreover, neither of the two autocephalous bodies are recognized by any other Orthodox church, and the U.O.C. remains the only canonical Orthodox church in Ukraine.

Overall about 55 percent of the Ukrainian population is Orthodox, but the relative size of the three groupings is a matter of dispute. According to statistics provided by the Ukrainian government in 1999, the U.O.C. had 8,016 parishes and monasteries, while the U.O.C.K.P. had 2,195 and the U.A.O.C. had 1,024. But all opinion polls conducted in Ukraine since 1992 have indicated that the majority of Orthodox believers support the U.O.C.K.P. Both of the non-canonical jurisdictions have a large presence in western Ukraine, where nationalist sentiment is strongest; the U.O.C.K.P. is spread through other areas as well.


There is also a large Catholic presence in Ukraine, concentrated in the western segment of the country and making up about 11 percent of the population. The Roman Catholic community has been traditionally identified with the ethnic Polish minority in these areas, but at least 50 percent of its members are now ethnic Ukrainians, and the great majority are native Ukrainian-speakers. They now have four dioceses and one apostolic administration in Ukraine, with a total membership of about 870,000.


The much larger Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church has experienced a dramatic rebirth since the government restored its legal status in late 1989. After decades underground with no infrastructure or property whatsoever, the church now has-according to official statistics in the 2000 edition of the Annuario Pontificio-4,404,789 faithful in the country, 2,710 parishes, 1,614 diocesan priests, 134 religious priests, 581 men religious, 592 women religious and 944 seminarians. The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church is a major archepiscopal church, which means that it has a high degree of autonomy, selecting its own bishops and-subject to Vatican confirmation-electing its own major archbishop as its head. Major Archbishop Myroslav Cardinal Lubachivsky, who returned to Ukraine from exile in Rome in 1991, died in December 2000 and was succeeded in January 2001 by Lubomyr Husar, who was almost immediately made a cardinal. Ukrainian Greek Catholics have been trying for a long time to get the Vatican to raise the rank of their church to a patriarchate, since it is larger than any of the existing Eastern Catholic patriarchates. Even now the major archbishop is commemorated liturgically as patriarch throughout Ukraine. But the Holy See has not been receptive to the idea, perhaps out of deference to the Moscow Patriarchate, which would undoubtedly be offended by such a move.


And relations with the Moscow Patriarchate are already difficult. It is well known that the pope would also like to visit Russia and that the Russian government would welcome this. But it has been Vatican policy that the pope will not visit an Orthodox country without a twofold invitation-from the government and from the local Orthodox Church. Russian Patriarch Aleksy II has stated many times that his church is not ready to issue such an invitation because of Catholic proselytism and unresolved problems in western Ukraine, where he says Catholics are “persecuting” the Orthodox. There is no doubt that the reemergence of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church and the formation of the two non-canonical Orthodox churches have drastically reduced the presence of the U.O.C. in western Ukraine. But according to most observers, the situation on the ground is for the most part amicable, there are few ongoing disputes about property, and references to persecution are not appropriate.

It was these problems, however, that led Metropolitan Vladimir of Kiev, head of the U.O.C., to send a letter to Pope John Paul II in January relaying the unanimous decision of the 42 members of his synod of bishops to ask the pope to postpone his visit to Ukraine. In his letter the metropolitan says that it is “bewildering” that the visit was set in place without notifying his church and without an invitation from that church. He says the main reason for the synod’s decision is the existence of continuing problems with Greek Catholics in western Ukraine. These Greek Catholics are said to have seized over 1,000 Orthodox churches, and as a result three Ukrainian Orthodox dioceses have been “smashed.” Vladimir fears that the pope’s planned visit “will only seal the existing state of affairs, very unfavorable to our church.” So if the pope comes on the dates proposed, “there will be no meeting between us, and no cleric of our church will take part in the program of the visit.”


Metropolitan Vladimir also states his belief that the Catholic Church has not been clear in its attitude toward the noncanonical Ukrainian Orthodox churches. He warns the pope that any meeting with their leaders would be an interference in Orthodox internal affairs, and would mean “a virtual rupture of any relations between our churches.” Since this letter was written, high Russian Orthodox officials have stated that the visit would create new problems in relations, and Patriarch Aleksy himself has called the proposed visit “untimely.”


Meanwhile, the government of Ukraine has been going through difficulties of its own. President Leonid Kuchma’s government has been rocked by scandals, most seriously by accusations that the president may have been involved in the murder of George Gongadze, a prominent opposition journalist whose decapitated body was found outside Kiev last November. Tape recordings have surfaced on which a voice that sounds like Kuchma’s orders security officials to “deal with” Gongadze. These incidents have sparked a “Ukraine Without Kuchma” movement, marked by protest demonstrations in the streets of Kiev. Western governments are beginning to link the future of financial aid to a resolution of the turmoil. Thus the future of Kuchma’s administration (whose second term does not expire until 2004) appears uncertain. If the president were forced to resign, his successor would have to consider whether or not to reissue the invitation for a papal visit.


In broad strokes these are the political and religious factors that the pope will encounter when he arrives in Ukraine in June. What does he hope to accomplish there?


There is no doubt that one of the pope’s prime objectives is to encourage the long-suffering Catholic community in Ukraine. While it is true that the Soviet government persecuted all religions in various ways, the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church was singled out for particularly brutal suppression, and large numbers of its faithful paid with long prison terms or even their lives for their refusal to break communion with the Church of Rome. The pope will honor that martyrdom, along with that of countless others who died for their faith under Soviet rule.

The pope will also try to extend a hand of friendship to the Orthodox. This will be particularly difficult, especially if the U.O.C. clergy refuse to meet with him and contacts with the noncanonical groups prove too hazardous. If current Orthodox divisions rule out personal meetings, still it can be expected that the pope will find ways to praise the witness of Orthodoxy in the Christian East and renew his calls for reconciliation.


And it is here that the pope’s visit to Ukraine may have its greatest symbolic importance, not only for the churches but for the state as well. Briefly put, Pope John Paul II rejects Huntington’s thesis that the border between the western and eastern Christian traditions is a permanent civilizational divide. On the contrary, his vision of a renewed and reunited Christendom and European civilization is predicated on the reconciliation of these two great traditions, on overcoming the division between them that has lasted 1,000 years. In his 1980 apostolic letter Egregiae Virtutis, in which he proclaimed the Byzantine Saint Cyril and Saint Methodius co-patrons of the continent along with the Latin St. Benedict, he spoke of Europe as “the fruit of the action of two currents of Christian tradition, to which were joined two different-but at the same time profoundly complementary-forms of culture.” …”



Here is more information about the Ukrainian Catholic Church, from http://www.unicorne.org/orthodoxy/hiver2004/patriarchate.htm :

The Ukrainian Catholic Patriarchate:
 No Immediate Hope, says Pope

Dr. Alexander Roman alex@unicorne.org

Last week, His Beatitude Lubomyr Husar paid a visit to Pope John Paul II regarding Rome’s formal acknowledgement of a patriarchate for the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church. Almost predictably, the Ukrainian Catholic leader was put off yet again. And now the obvious question is . . . Quo Vadis?

His Beatitude Lubomyr has clearly done “everything right” with respect to the process to petition Rome with respect to the UGCC patriarchate.

His synod had previously agreed to seek Rome’s acknowledgement and affirmation of a patriarchate and this united wide sectors within the Ukrainian Catholic Church that were hitherto known to be at odds on the issue.

While not formally accepting the title “Patriarch” or at least not until Rome formally approves it, His Beatitude Lubomyr has been actively promoting the type of autonomous ecclesial life within his own church that reflects a “de facto” patriarchate.

But what is truly remarkable is the extent to which His Beatitude is attempting to be as “Orthodox-minded” as possible, even to the point of providing an “Easternized” view of his Church’s relationship to the Pope, i.e. “Eucharistic Communion with Rome.”

Of course, this is sound reasoning since the existence of a Patriarchate doesn’t make sense from within a Latin or Latinized understanding of ecclesiology and theology as a whole.

The Western, Roman Catholic view is, in effect, that the Pope is the only real Bishop with full and immediate powers over every Catholic throughout the world – the world itself being the Roman Pope’s “diocese,” well-intentioned statements about ecclesial self-government from Vatican II notwithstanding.

The Eastern, Orthodox perspective is a decidedly Eucharistic, holistic one based on a real Communion of autocephalous and autonomous Churches who possess unity in that Communion on the basis of a common Apostolic faith, Mysteries and Episcopate.

This is not to say that Rome is, on principle, opposed to the recognition of a Ukrainian Catholic patriarchate. The Pope did not deny the right of the UGCC to this status.

But there are extenuating circumstances that prevent Rome’s recognition of it, not the least of which is the opposition of the Russian Orthodox Church – an opposition shared by world Orthodoxy as well…”



Back in 2001, there was indeed opposition to the Papal visit to the Ukraine, as evidenced in the article below:


UKRAINE: Nuncio Vows Papal Visit will not be Postponed.

by Anna Vassilyeva, Keston News Service, 12 February 2001

Despite the opposition of the bishops of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate to the June visit by Pope John Paul II to Ukraine, the papal nuncio Archbishop Nikola Eterovic insists `the date of the visit will not be reviewed'. Speaking to Keston News Service in Yalta on 6 February, he confirmed that the Pope `intends to visit Kiev and Lviv'. A presidential spokesman agreed that there will be no postponement despite the opposition of Ukraine's largest Orthodox Church. `There is no way that the date of the visit can be postponed,' Aleksandr Martynenko told Keston from Kiev on 9 February, adding that John Paul `plans to take services in Kiev and Lviv'. On 22 January the Ukrainian Orthodox Synod, with the agreement of all 42 bishops, approved a written appeal from Metropolitan Volodymyr (Sabodan) to the Pope urgently requesting him to postpone his visit (see KNS 5 February 2001). Archbishop Eterovic told Keston he `regretted' the Synod's decision, but believed `the decision is not final'.  However, opposition from the Ukrainian Orthodox Church shows no sign of abating. `The West has always been notable for its pushiness,' declared Metropolitan Volodymyr's secretary and adviser Aleksandr Drobinko. `We don't insist that the visit should not take place, we are simply asking that it should be postponed until a more propitious time,' he told Keston by telephone from the Kiev Metropolitanate on 9 February. `At a time of schism within the Orthodox Church in Ukraine, his arrival could be played as another political card, and the bishops of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate will not be able to meet him during this visit. If, despite an appeal from so many bishops, they do not want to change the date of the visit, it means that there are weighty reasons.' Drobinko insists the Roman Catholic Church is acting `improperly towards Ukraine's 30 million Orthodox believers'. Asked by Keston why the Ukrainian Orthodox Church believes the Pope cannot meet his flock in Ukraine, Drobinko declared that `the Pope has been invited as head of the Vatican State, but he is travelling as a spiritual personage'. He said his Church would raise no objection if the Pope came to the country `simply as a diplomat'.  In defence of the Synod's decision and the episcopate's belief that a papal visit is impossible, the Orthodox argue that his visit `will not bring about peace' between the Orthodox and the Eastern-rite Catholics in the western regions of Ukraine but will simply aggravate relations. Moreover, the Orthodox fear `the lack of clarity in the attitude of the Roman Catholic Church towards the schisms' in Ukraine. A potential meeting between the Pope and leaders of `schismatic groups' of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kiev Patriarchate and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church would be tantamount to `ignoring the principles of canonical relations between churches' and would constitute `discourteous interference in the internal affairs' of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate. Invited by President Leonid Kuchma, Pope John Paul is scheduled to visit Ukraine from 23 to 27 June. Martynenko of the presidential administration told Keston that `the Pope of Rome has been invited, above all, as head of the Vatican State and as a state dignitary'. The Ukrainian authorities share the Pope's belief that his first visit to the country will promote dialogue between Orthodox communities in the country. Metropolitan Volodymyr's appeal to the Pope echoed an earlier and even harsher letter from Orthodox brotherhoods insisting that the Pope must put off his visit. The letter - drawn up at a convention of Orthodox brotherhoods in Kiev last December - was sent at the same time to President Kuchma.  Just as it is protesting against the Pope's visit, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate also opposes a proposed visit to the country this spring by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. A theological commission under Patriarch Bartholomew's auspices has begun seeking canonical ways towards unification of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kiev Patriarchate and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church, the second and third largest Orthodox jurisdictions in Ukraine. (END)


This article at,2393,42002,00.html demonstrates the competition between Moscow and Rome :


“ROMA - There is both good news and bad news and for the Patriarchate of Moscow and All the Russias. The good news is that its split with the Russian Orthodox Church of the Diaspora is being mended. The division dates back to the early years of the Communist government, when Orthodox Russians abroad broke off from their mother Church while accusing her of subordination to the regime. For the first time since the split, a delegation of Orthodox Russians paid a visit to Moscow last November. On Dec. 13 Patriarch Alexis II wrote a letter of forgiveness and reconciliation to Laurus, Metropolite of Orthodox Russian Church of the Diaspora. Laurus will be in Moscow this January. The bad news for the Moscow Patriarchate, this time, comes from the Ukraine. This December Cardinal Lubomir Husar (in the photo), the major archbishop of Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, moved his main residence from Leopolis to Kiev, next to his nearly finished new cathedral. Formally, Husar doesn’t bear the title of patriarch; but by a unanimous vote taken in 2002, he and other fellow Ukrainian Greek Catholic bishops consider their Church as having a “de facto” patriarchy. They are only waiting for official papal recognition. Even without the pope’s approval, there is still enough to make the battle between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church ever more hostile. Kiev is the historic cradle of Christianity “of all the Russias”. In Orthodox terminology, this means all the current territory pertaining to Russia, Belarus and the Ukraine. And establishing a Catholic patriarchy in Kiev is all the more unacceptable to the Orthodox Patriarch of Moscow, who has jurisdiction over this territory as well.  Naturally, Cardinal Husar doesn’t think so. He explained why in a interview which appeared in Giulio Andreotti’s monthly “30 Days”, which often plays a supporting role to Vatican diplomacy.   Husar sustains that Kiev has always been the natural seat of the Ukrainian Church that is loyal to Rome. He recalls that nineteenth-century czars were to blame for the disappearance of Catholics from his region. It was they who obliged Ukrainian Catholics to gather themselves to live in the West, in Leopolis. Then came Stalin. “Thanks to his deportation” policies, he repopulated the region of Kiev with Catholics. But it was a Christianity forced to live an underground existence. This is no longer so today. Hence it is right that the Ukrainian Catholics, who are found all over the nation, have their own spiritual leader in Kiev.  The fact that the two competing patriarchates, the Orthodox one in Moscow and the Catholic one in Kiev, have jurisdiction over the same territory is a surmountable difficulty in Husar’s opinion.”

And here is how Husar believes the divide can be settled:


“Husar, as Moscow’s Catholic patriarch, claims his Church is a direct descendent of original Russian Christianity. The difference - he said - is that his Church has never been separated from Rome. In order to unite the two patriarchates, it would therefore be sufficient that the Church of Moscow “open herself to full communion with the successor of Peter.” “At that point we Eastern Catholic Churches will have brought our historic role to a conclusion and could enter into full confidence with our sister Orthodox Churches, just as it was before the divisions occurred.” How much time? “Two or three generations.”   The Patriarchate of Moscow is diametrically opposed. In a recent interview (also appearing in “30 Days”), the metropolite bishop Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad is the director of external affairs for the Patriarchate. He accused the Church of Rome of “expansionist plans” at the expense of the Orthodox Church in its very own territory, as “during the Crusades, when Eastern patriarchates were established in parallel with Orthodox ones.” The one set up in Kiev is a “would-be parallel Patriarchate”. It would have as an “inevitable result the catastrophic worsening in relationships between our two Churches.”  Kirill is the most likely of possible successors to Alexis II, the Patriarch of Moscow and all the Russias, who is seriously ill.  And curiously, Husar is even considered among the possible successors of John Paul II. Indeed, for many years he has been considered the predilect candidate for the next papacy by the one of the most informed American Vatican watchers, John Allen Jr., of the “National Catholic Reporter”.  If it is unthinkable that the battle between Rome and Moscow be settled by an embrace between John Paul II and Alexis II, no less arduous will be the reconciliation to come after them….”


Here is one manifestation of the religious conflict (see http://www.artukraine.com/events/orthodox.htm )  :


UNIAN news agency, Kiev, Ukraine, in Ukrainian, 5 May 04
BBC Monitoring Service, UK, in English, Wednesday, May 05, 2004

ODESSA - About 500 pro-Russian activists of the One Homeland civic
organization and monks from various monasteries of the Russian Orthodox
Church today picketed St Vitaliy's Church in Odessa for five hours,
preventing believers of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kiev
Patriarchate from attending a service in the church, which was to be
consecrated by the bishop of Odessa and Balta of the Ukrainian Orthodox
Church of the Kiev Patriarchate, Payisiy.

Picketers shouted curses against [Kiev Patriarchate head] Patriarch Filaret
and the leaders of [opposition parliamentary factions] Our Ukraine and the
Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc, Viktor Yushchenko and Yuliya Tymoshenko.

"This event, of which the local authorities had been aware but failed to
prevent, resulted in a flagrant violation of the constitutional rights of
local believers of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kiev Patriarchate,"
the secretary of the Odessa eparchial department of the Ukrainian Orthodox
Church of the Kiev Patriarchate, Hegumen Havryyil, has told UNIAN in an
interview. "People had to walk into their own temple this morning literally
through a corridor of Ukrainian-haters, who shouted: "An anathema on
Filaret", held other insulting slogans and grabbed some of the older female
parishioners by the arm, leaving some of them in tears."

It was only thanks to support from a big group of parishioners, who are
members of the local Ukrainian Brotherhood headed by Roman Devyatov,
that priests and Bishop Payisiy managed to enter St Vitaliy's Church.

"Hundreds of well-organized law offenders, including Russian citizens, with
the connivance of the local authorities, tried to strip Odessa residents of
the right to the free choice of a religious denomination," the eparchial
secretary stressed. "Despite these illegal acts, which were aimed against
believers and the patriarch of Kiev and all Ukraine-Rus, head of the
Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kiev Patriarchate, Filaret, the ceremony to
consecrate the church did take place. The scheduled visit to Odessa Region
by Patriarch Filaret, whom thousands of Orthodox believers are looking
forward to meeting on their land, will also be held regardless."

Hegumen Havryyil believes that the incident today was intended "to incite
sectarian hatred and to stage mass street clashes" and once again
demonstrates the methods that are being used in relations with believers of
the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kiev Patriarchate by "the pro-Moscow
figures and pastors of the church. Odessa residents have had the chance to
see for themselves that the authorities and law-enforcement bodies are
turning a blind eye to illegal actions by organized groups of people, who
stop thousands of citizens from fulfilling their constitutional right to
freedom of religion and the choice of a denomination."

[The Moscow and Kiev patriarchates have been locked in bitter disputes over
church property and other issues since Filaret declared independence from
the Russian Orthodox Church and consequently was anathemized by Moscow.]


EDITOR: Such actions by "monks" from various monasteries of the Russian
Orthodox Church throughout Ukraine the past several months are very
shocking, disturbing, disgusting, and should be stopped by the authorities
in Ukraine. Unfortunately these monks are allowed by the authorities to do
about anything they want to, including the destruction of property,
confiscation of property, disruption of meetings, cursing at Ukrainian
citizens, physically pushing citizens around, and a whole host of other
abusive actions. The Russian Orthodox Church, in condoning and encouraging
such actions in Ukraine, has lost its way and is not living up to any
acceptable international moral, civil or religious code of behavior for
sure. When will Ukrainian authorities stop being afraid of the Russian
Orthodox Church and their leadership in Moscow and shut down the
unacceptable and destructive behavior of their monks in Ukraine?



Here is one way the religious conflict manifests itself in the political realm (see http://www.risu.org.ua/eng/news/article;3578/ ) :


UOC-MP Head Gave Blessing “Only to Yanukovych,” He Says


Kyiv- Metropolitan Volodymyr (Sabodan), head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP), said that, of all presidential candidates, he “only gave his blessing to Viktor Yanukovych.” He said this on 9 November 2004 during a broadcast on the Inter television channel. This was in contrast to a reported meeting of 8 November in which the metropolitan met with candidate Viktor Yushchenko and ended the meeting by giving the candidate a blessing.  “The prime minister [candidate Yanukovych] visited the Lavra [Kyivan Monastery of the Caves] and received my blessing for participating in the election,” Metropolitan Volodymyr said. He mentioned that before the first round of the election (which was held on 31 October), Yanukovych prayed in the caves of the monastery. “I see in him a truly faithful Orthodox person, worthy of becoming the head of our state,” said the metropolitan. According to the metropolitan, Yanukovych also received a blessing from Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexis II. As RISU reported on 10 November, quoting Viktor Yushchenko’s personal site, an hour-long meeting of Yushchenko with Metropolitan Volodymyr took place on 8 October. At the end of the meeting, the metropolitan blessed Yushchenko. In the report of Yushchenko’s site, this was not referred to as “a blessing for presidency,” as the press service of the UOC-MP treated it. That same day, information was posted on the UOC-MP’s official site saying that the meeting was private in character, and that “Metropolitan Volodymyr blessed Yushchenko just as he blesses all the faithful.”


This article at http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/ArticleNews/TPStory/LAC/20041129/UKRAEAST29/International/Idx explains the political divide:


East Ukraine a steppe removed from west Opposition leader Yushchenko draws widespread support in certain regions, but he's not universally loved, MARK MacKINNON writes 

By MARK MacKINNON Monday, November 29, 2004 - Page A11    


DONETSK, UKRAINE -- When Natalya Yakusheva flips on the nightly news, she watches the week-old opposition demonstrations that have gripped her country's capital city with confusion and disgust. Like many in Ukraine's eastern industrial heart, she doesn't see the country being saved by Viktor Yushchenko, whose name orange-clad demonstrators in Kiev have chanted for days on end. Instead she remembers him as someone who almost ruined it. Mr. Yushchenko's tenure as prime minister, from 1999 to 2001, is viewed by those demonstrating in Kiev and other cities in western Ukraine as a rare period of decent leadership during the country's 13 years of independence. But in the east, it was a time of uncertainty, a time when the region's coal-mining industry teetered on the brink of collapse and salaries were rarely, if ever, paid in timely fashion. "When Yushchenko was in power, we lost everything. We were never paid on time. We almost starved," said Ms. Yakusheva, a 50-year-old economist. She was among the first to arrive yesterday morning at a planned demonstration on Donetsk's main square in favour of Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich, the man the country's Central Election Commission says actually won the Nov. 21 presidential vote. "The past two years [while Mr. Yanukovich was Prime Minister] were much better," Ms. Yakusheva said, referring to the 11-per-cent growth in the country's gross domestic product in 2003. She and many others in Ukraine's Russianized east say that if the protesters occupying Kiev's Independence Square get their way and install the Western-leaning Mr. Yushchenko as president, the Donetsk and surrounding Donbass region will have to review its future within Ukraine and consider either declaring itself an autonomous republic or applying to join neighbouring Russia. "If a nationalist junta takes power, we reserve the right to hold a regional referendum," Donetsk Mayor Alexander Lukyanchenko told a cheering pro-Yanukovich crowd that numbered in the tens of thousands Saturday. The region, which also includes such major cities as Kharkov and Lugansk, accounts for the bulk of the country's industry with its coal, steel and chemical production and could easily survive on its own, he said. Similar sentiments have been expressed by politicians in the southern region of Crimea, which was Russian territory until 1954, when it was given to Ukraine as a gift by Nikita Khrushchev while both regions were a part of the Soviet Union. Last night, a meeting of 3,500 delegates from 17 pro-Yanukovich regions in the east and south of the country convened near here to plan a joint reaction to events in Kiev. The delegates approved a referendum, to be held Dec. 5, on forming an autonomous republic within the federal state -- fuelling fears that the country could be torn apart. Ukraine's week-old political crisis has seen Canada, the United States and Europe reject the election commission's vote count and lend tacit support to Mr. Yushchenko, who says he would have won the race if not for massive falsifications. But while central and western cities such as Kiev and Lviv have been awash in orange, the colour of Mr. Yushchenko's campaign, the colour is a major fashion faux pas in Donetsk, where official results show that the Kremlin-backed Mr. Yanukovich won upward of 90 per cent of the vote in many districts. Although Mr. Yushchenko's supporters and international observers say those numbers are the result of stuffed ballot boxes and pro-Yanukovich propaganda on state-controlled television, it's hard to find easterners who didn't vote for Mr. Yanukovich. They don't feel misled either. "I don't know where these stereotypes come from. I think the intelligentsia in the west looks down on us working people from the east," complained Sergei Smagin, 24, a marketing executive. "They think we're all bandits and Mafia, but we're just normal hard-working people, and we really chose Yanukovich because we think he'll be better for us." Russian nationalism also plays a role in the wounded pro-Yanukovich sentiment here. Donetsk is a world away from Lviv, whose winding, cobblestone streets have a distinctly Central European feel and where Ukrainian is the predominant language. Only Russian is spoken in Donetsk, a city of 1.1 million that has the feel of Anywhere, Russia, with its statue of Lenin and wide Soviet-style boulevards. Besides being seen as a sound manager, Mr. Yanukovich is popular for his promise to make Russian an official language, and for his close relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has raised the possibility of closer trade ties and dual Russian-Ukrainian citizenships. Even the city's youth appear to back Mr. Yanukovich. Sitting on a snowy park bench and recovering with a bottle of water after a long Saturday night of serving drinks in one of Donetsk's raucous nightclubs, 23-year-old Yana Kondrashenko said she and most of her friends voted for Mr. Yanukovich. "No one in the east, or in Crimea, supports Yushchenko. He lost, and he's just doing all this so that he can have power," Ms. Kondrashenko said. "If they win, we'll just join Russia and have Putin as president."



The article excerpted below (at http://www.catholicherald.com/cns/russia517.htm ) has this interesting quote:  "Most of Ukraine's 49 million citizens are Orthodox. About 5 million people in the Western part of the country are members of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, which is loyal to the Vatican but uses a liturgy virtually identical to the Orthodox and allows married priests."  The Ukrainian Catholic Church may well serve as a model by which various American Protestant denominations in the future could be brought within the fold of Rome.  



“MOSCOW (CNS) -- About 1,000 people marched down Moscow's main street to the Kremlin to protest Pope John Paul II's planned June visit to Ukraine.

The May 12 demonstration, approved by the Russian Orthodox Church, marked a rare cooperative effort between the country's largest faith and a mainstream political party, the nationalist Liberal Democratic Party of Russia.

United by a common threat -- the rebirth of the Catholic Church on historically Orthodox territory -- conservative Orthodox clergy, Cossacks and lay people marched alongside ultranationalist politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky, who has expressed ``concern over the expansion of Catholicism'' in Russia.

In recent weeks, Zhirinovsky, a vice speaker of the Russian parliament, or Duma, has called for the Russian government to explore ways of stopping Catholic expansion in the former Soviet Union. He is especially concerned about Ukraine, where the once-repressed Ukrainian Catholic Church is enjoying a strong revival.

Stoked by months of public complaining by Russian Orthodox leaders about the pope's visit, the demonstrators' anger was focused on the Catholic Church, an institution some said was a political tool for Western governments bent on fomenting Yugoslav-style ethnic unrest in the former Soviet Union.

``We don't want what happened in Yugoslavia to happen here. They were all Slavs there -- the Bosnians, the Croats, the Serbs -- but they divided along religious lines,'' said demonstrator Gennady Moskalyov, 47, a construction company manager from Moscow.

Russians and Ukrainians are united by a common Slavic Orthodox heritage, dating to 988, when Kiev's Princess Olga converted to Byzantine Orthodoxy.

Most of Ukraine's 49 million citizens are Orthodox. About 5 million people in the Western part of the country are members of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, which is loyal to the Vatican but uses a liturgy virtually identical to the Orthodox and allows married priests.

Beginning in 1946, the Soviet government banned the Ukrainian Catholic Church and gave its properties to the Russian Orthodox Church. After the ban on the church was lifted in 1989, Ukrainian Catholics reclaimed more than 1,500 parishes.

Violence sometimes accompanied the transfer of churches in the early 1990s, leading to fears of renewed violence.

``If the pope comes, there will be more bloodletting,'' said Abbot Stefan, a Russian Orthodox monk.

…Like some nationalist politicians in Russia, Abbot Stefan framed the explosion in religious diversity since the 1991 breakup of the Soviet Union as a national security issue, saying it is part of a general Western plan for the ``economic, spiritual and political'' domination of Russia.

``That's why there are already so many sects here. There are Catholics here. There are Protestants here. There are even Jesuits here,'' the abbot said as a small group of demonstrators gathered to hear his words.

…The Russian-language religious news agency Blagovest reported that, at a May 7 press conference in Lviv, Cardinal Lubomyr Husar, head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, compared the possibility of anti-pope protests in Ukraine to those in Greece.

``The behavior of the Orthodox looks bad and the world will condemn them for that,'' the cardinal said.…”