Uniate Drang nach Osten

In his homily on the occasion of the feast of Pentecost, the head of Ukrainian Uniates archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk declared the need for "expansion" to the east of Ukraine, which, in his view, is waiting for the arrival of "the faithful Christians." According to Shevchuk, such an intention was endorsed personally by Pope Francis and Cardinal Pietro Parolin. This statement was the final proof that the Catholic Church has refused the implementation of the Havana Declaration, signed by the Pope and Patriarch Kirill, which condemned "uniatism" and "proselytism". Moreover, Catholics clearly indicated their intention - the expansion of the canonical territory of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in Ukraine. A sort of Drang nach Osten. If anyone doubts the existence of such plans with the Greco-Catholics, we can analyze in detail the events of the past year to ensure the validity of our conclusions.

Immediately after the signing of the Declaration, Ukrainian Uniates expressed strong rejection of those items, which dealt with the condemnation of "uniatism" and "proselytism". Greek Catholics, of course, understood that it was just about them, so they tried to downplay or distort the content of the provisions of the Havana Declaration. The same Sviatoslav Shevchuk said that the content of the Declaration did not matter – the text would be forgotten and discarded, and only the embraces of the Pope and Patriarch Kirill would be remembered. However, in any diplomacy signed texts play a key role. You cannot sign anything and then say that it does not matter. If Pope Francis signed this declaration, then he took on responsibility for the entire position of the Catholic Church, including, and Uniates themselves.

However, Greek Catholics have taken the liberty to speak out against the Havana Declaration. As it was mentioned, the first strategic line the Uniates chose was to ignore the importance of the Declaration. The second line was an attempt to reinterpret the meaning of the paragraphs about the "unia" and "proselytism" and to direct them against the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and the Russian Orthodox Church. As a consequence, Uniates completely distorted the meaning of the Havana Agreement and continue to claim the "unia" to be the best option of relations between the Catholic and the Orthodox Churches. After Havana Greek Catholics held a series of events, which clearly stated their commitment to uniatism.

The "ecumenical" concept UGCC includes quite ingenious principles of attitude to the Orthodox. Greco-Catholics argue that joining the Catholic Church does not harm "the eastern or oriental identity" of Orthodoxy. Moreover, they say that Uniates are "Orthodox" and the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church is "the Orthodox Church in communion with the See of Rome." Such interpretation of the term "Orthodox" is absolutely unacceptable from the point of view of the Orthodox themselves as Orthodox is not "oriental identity" and "orthodoxy" (in low-case letter).

Apparently, the Uniates are still considered by the Catholic Church as a tool for "assimilation" of unfaithful "schismatics". No change in the behavior of Greek Catholics after the signing of the Havana Declaration shows that the Catholic Church, and the Pope himself, are not going to fulfill their obligations. One would assume that the problem is in the intractability of the Uniates, but a series of events confirms that this is a conscious attitude of the Pope and the Catholic Church.

This was clearly demonstrated by the meeting of the Pope with a delegation of the UGCC in Rome, where the pontiff assured the Uniates in their support. This is demonstrated by the frequent visits of high-ranked Catholic officials to Ukraine and their statements. For example, archbishop Gugerotti explained how the Pope sees the signed declaration: "The sides cannot always say what they want to. Sometimes you have to compromise to make a common text, a joint declaration. His Beatitude is well aware of how much work and trouble it cost us to work out the text, which was signed by Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill." Gugerotti, in fact, said that though the Pope did not agree to some points, but he signed the declaration for the sake of compromise.

The same archbishop Gugerotti, during his trip to the east of Ukraine, said that though his activity might be considered as "proselytism", he did not care for such accusations. Such rhetoric is quite rude, because the issue of proselytism is quite serious and has always been sensitive for Orthodox believers. In this case, the Catholic hierarchy made it clear that they ignore the feelings of Orthodox believers and do not intend to agree their actions with the Ukrainian Orthodox. In the light of the Havana Declaration, Gugerotti’s behavior is surprising.

Recently there has been a mini-Union between the UGCC and the so-called Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (former Kharkov and Poltava Eparchy of the UAOC). Several schismatic Orthodox parishes joined the administrative unity with the Ukrainian Uniates and became Uniates themselves. This process was fully approved by the Vatican. You can view this event as an act of pure "uniatism". And it does not matter that the notorious Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church was in schism with the canonical Orthodoxy. In any case, it was an internal affair of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. Consequently, the integration of autocephaly members with Catholic-Uniates just means "separation from their Church." It does not matter that the dissenters themselves were deliberate about that. In this case, the UGCC had to deny their request for accession, citing the Havana Declaration. Using internal divisions in the Ukrainian Orthodoxy in order to assimilate Orthodoxy in Ukraine piece by pieces is a rather unfriendly act.

And this is just one of the episodes of the expansion of the UGCC to the east of Ukraine. Proselytizing activity of the UGCC took place long before the Havana Declaration. The claims of the Greek Catholics spread to Kharkov and Donetsk regions. Surprisingly, there have long been the so-called Donetsk and Kharkov exarchates (sic!) of the UGCC. Actually, this claim to the Ukrainian status the UGCC put forward a long time ago when it moved its residence to Kiev, building a cathedral in the Ukrainian capital. Thus, "on the sly", Uniates are moving to where they have never existed. It should be noted that one of the methods of Catholic proselytism is the creation of new dioceses in areas where there appears a small number of believers.

So did the Catholic Church in the Russian Federation. The ROC rightly pointed to the disproportion of such "care" of their believers, because for the sake of a small number of the faithful it is not necessary to create separate dioceses, which cover large areas, as if "for growth." Moreover, such moves are made by the Catholic Church unilaterally, without the consent of the local Orthodox churches. It is obvious that such an aggressive strategy is aimed at the gradual establishment of Catholic parallel structures – Orthodox duplicates. These methods are also used by Ukrainian Uniates. On February 7, in Khmelnitsky the UGCC proclaimed the creation of the Greek-Catholic diocese of Kamenetz-Podolsk. Sviatoslav Shevchuk said then that the proclamation of the diocese is the result of "a century-long struggle for the assertion of the bishop's center on this land!"

Following the example of Russian Catholics, Ukrainian Uniates begin their "missionary" activity with charity, bribe and appease people to win their confidence so that they can convert a small number of locals to further create another diocese. And, of course, it will be the result of "a century-long struggle for the assertion of the bishop's center on this land." For the assertion of their structures, Catholics use not only "humanitarian aid", but also direct aggression against the Orthodox. In the same Khmelnitsky Catholics won a ban on the construction of an Orthodox church, arguing that it was allegedly to be built on the site of the Catholic cemetery. Although, the Orthodox community had the results of geodetic surveys, showing that there are no graves on the former dumpsite, which was cleared up by Orthodox Christians themselves (Catholics for some reason hadn’t taken care of "the graves of their ancestors"). Local authorities eagerly met the Catholics’ request and banned the construction!

In a wave of the popularity of nationalism Greek Catholics often resort to the help of the local authorities to solve the problems on the construction of their churches in traditionally Orthodox lands. So, preparation of the conditions for the emergence of new communities of the UGCC is already in full swing. In some cities of Donbass Greek Catholics have applied for the allocation of land for the construction of churches. On September 16, 2015, the City Council of Slaviansk approved the development of detailed plan of a site in the center of the city for the construction of a Greek-Catholic church. Earlier, as reported by the city site 6262.com.ua, the acting mayor, the City Council secretary Oleg Zontov said during a meeting with priest Basil Ivaniuk, the head of the Kramatorsk deanery of Donetsk-Kharkov Exarchate of the UGCC that "the city government fully supports the proposal of the UGCC to construct a full-fledged Greek-Catholic church in Slaviansk."

Foreign financial sources make heavy investments in the construction of Greek-Catholic churches. According to the same Ivaniuk, the budget for the construction of the church in Slaviansk is 100 thousand dollars. "The Ukrainian World Congress has allocated funds for the construction of 10 Greek-Catholic churches in the east of Ukraine, on the territory of the Donetsk-Kharkov Exarchate. One of the churches was offered to be built in Dobropolie," shared their plans the UGCC cleric.

All the above facts prove that Catholics are difficult to trust. All the words by Catholics condemning uniatism and proselytism are only words. The liberal public admires "renewal" of the Catholic Church, because, supposedly, it recognized Orthodoxy and called the Orthodox Church "Sister-Church" (although this is not entirely true). However, practice shows that the Catholic Church does not recognize the Sacraments and priesthood of the Orthodox Church. Otherwise, it would not require parallel structures that violate the principle of "one local place – one bishop." The creation of the parallel structures demonstrates the hypocrisy of the rhetoric of the Catholic Church and its failure to recognize the authorities of the Orthodox priesthood in areas where there have traditionally been the Orthodox Church, taking its origin from the old apostolic Patriarchates.

No doubt, all is "in order" with the justification of the Catholics’ actions. They are able to find the right words to justify what they are doing, and even reverse the case against the Orthodox themselves. All these "ecumenical concepts" and "instructions" are an example of virtuoso scholastic casuistry, which makes the term "proselytism" very vague and shallow. In our view, to implement the provisions of the Havana Declaration into practice, the Orthodox hierarchy in Ukraine should require from Catholics the following:

1. Clear formulation of the concept of "proselytism", which includes not only the inadmissibility of the use of violence (at present, of course, it is already impossible), but any Catholic missionary actions on the canonical territory of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. At least in those areas where the Uniate Church is not a historically traditional confession;

2. Ban on creation of new Greek-Catholic dioceses on the territories where they have historically never been;

3. Ban on the admission of Ukrainian schismatics to the UGCC;

4. Any provisions of humanitarian aid on the part of the Greek-Catholic to the population of the East of Ukraine must be made via the UOC structures.

In the case of the full compliance of the Catholic Church with the above requirements, it will be possible to believe in its readiness to conduct a real dialogue with the Orthodox, but not to imitate it.

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How has your life changed since the outbreak of war?
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