Church and elections: what denominations urge to vote for
War, the “right President” or the unification of Ukrainians around Christ — what the Uniates, schismatics and the Orthodox are talking about on the eve of the elections.
There are two days left till the first round of the presidential elections in Ukraine. Candidates for the main post in the country use every opportunity to attract votes. Not the least of the ways to win voter sympathies is religious leaders’ campaigning.
It makes sense to analyze what, and, consequently, who the leaders of the main religious denominations in Ukraine – His Beatitude Metropolitan Onufry, Epiphany Dumenko and Sviatoslav Shevchuk – urge to vote for. Such an analysis is necessary not to predict the outcome of the elections but to see firsthand who is involved in politics in Ukraine, and who is aimed at the salvation of human souls.
Let's start with the leader of Ukrainian Eastern Orthodoxy Sviatoslav Shevchuk, the Major Archbishop of Kiev-Galiсia, the Catholicos of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.
The other day, he gave an extensive interview to the “Ukrainska Pravda”, in which he rather thoroughly touched upon the topic of presidential elections.
The head of the UGCC admitted that the topic of the elections, the question of who to vote for, is a constant topic of his communication with his flock: “Talking to our believers, I always try to focus their attention not only on the person they like or dislike. After all, sometimes our people are so oriented – I will vote because this is a decent man or a beautiful woman. Unfortunately, such sentiments sometimes dominate. I try to ask what tasks you want to entrust a person with?”
Indeed, common people often vote based on the appearance of candidates or their own sympathies, and such a choice cannot be called a reasonable one. Sviatoslav Shevchuk proposes to think of how a particular candidate will be able to cope with the tasks that are set for him/her. And it is very interesting what tasks exactly Sviatoslav Shevchuk, the leader of a religious organization, wants to entrust the future president with.
Maybe, he wants the state to ban propaganda of violence and depravity or introduce into the school curriculum lessons of the Law of God? Or perhaps, he would like the president to promote the restoration of churches or the allocation of land for the construction of new ones? Probably, Sviatoslav Shevchuk would like the state to finally pay attention to the problems of the disabled, the poor and the disadvantaged? Or take measures to strengthen the family and encourage the birth rate?
All these tasks, naturally, are supposed to be heard from the mouth of a man who declares himself a servant of God. But Sviatoslav Shevchuk sets very different tasks for the future president: war and a nice image in the eyes of the world (primarily Western) community.
Sviatoslav Shevchuk: “If we are talking about the president of Ukraine, this is first and foremost the Commander-in-Chief of the country that is de facto in a state of war. You should understand that when electing a president, you elect the one who will command the troops and defend our country. Does one candidate or another have the necessary skills, qualities, experience or not?
Also, the president is the one who is responsible for the foreign policy course of Ukraine and should be a figure that can unite the world community to support Ukraine. Will the candidate you want to choose cope with the task well? Will he/she be appropriate in the eyes of the world community? Will the world leaders see him as a partner you can trust? Trust your political capital, authority, because support is always an investment of authority, financial leverage, even military one?
I think that our voters should orient themselves on the task, and the Church today can really help raise a mature voter who will make a wise choice.”
Sviatoslav Shevchuk sets only two tasks for the future president: war and a nice image in the eyes of the world community.
This is all that is required of the future president of our country: to fight and earn sympathy from the West. Shevchuk did not use the word "West", but no one doubts that in the eyes of the leader of the UGCC, it is the Western countries that are a guideline, authority, and embodiment of all world values. The call to vote "for what" easily suggests the call to vote "for whom". Which of the real candidates for president is characterized by the most militant rhetoric and campaigns most for the pro-Western course of development? Well, yes, the current guarantor of the Constitution. The fact that in the five years of his rule, Ukraine has become the poorest and most corrupt country in Europe does not confuse the Catholicos of the UGCC.
The public organization "Public Audit" has presented an interesting table.
But the main thing is that the head of the UGCC urges his parishioners when electing a president to be guided primarily by the criterion of belligerence.
The same criterion is proposed by the head of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine Epiphany Dumenko. On the eve of the elections, the Synod of this structure adopted an address to the citizens.
The third paragraph in this appeal, immediately after the introductory words, is a call to be guided in the voting by the criterion of militancy: “For more than five years, Ukraine has been forced to defend itself against the large-scale aggression of the Russian Federation against our state. Therefore, under circumstances of the war imposed by the aggressor on our people, during the voting one should especially take into account that the president is the Commander-in-Chief. Therefore, the approach of victory over the aggressor and the achievement of a real fair peace but not a capitulation to the enemy, to which, speaking of peace, in fact, some politicians call for, depends on our choice.”
It seems that the statements made by the head of the UGCC Sviatoslav Shevchuk and the text of this address of the Synod of the OCU were agreed with each other.
The call not to sell their vote but to vote in accordance with their beliefs is followed by the phrase: “Our common task is to preserve the statehood, independence, and unity of Ukraine. Therefore, evaluate candidates not by promises, but by the fruits of their deeds, their ability to cope with the tasks set for the head of state.”
That is the task of the OCU is “to preserve the statehood, independence, and unity of Ukraine”. Neither the salvation of the soul, nor a service to God, nor the preaching of the Gospel! The range of tasks is outlined very clearly: the preservation of the statehood, independence, and unity of Ukraine. No other tasks are set.
Let’s think about the phrase: “… evaluate candidates not by promises, but by the fruits of their deeds, the ability to cope with the tasks set before the head of state”. Everything seems correct, but in the address, the OCU sets no other tasks for the president – neither an increase in the standard of living of the population, nor economic development, nor improvement in education and health care. Nothing – only war. And this is not the fantasy of the opponents of the OCU, this is the text of the address of their Synod.
It seems that the statements of the UGCC and the OCU were agreed with each other.
By means of simple logical reflections, it can be concluded that the most militant candidate for president is Petro Poroshenko. Actually, Epiphany Dumenko declared this openly: “We see only President Poroshenko in this post.”
Based on the above-mentioned, we can make an unambiguous conclusion: the two religious confessions of Ukraine which call themselves Christian Churches openly and officially campaign for one of the candidates in the elections and set only one task for this person: war!
The Ukrainian Orthodox Church did not address the believers regarding the elections and did not make loud statements about this. On March 19, 2019, His Beatitude Metropolitan Onufry met with representatives of the OSCE Election Observation Mission.
At this meeting, the question of the UOC’s attitude to the elections and its role in this event was raised. As a follow-up to the meeting, the Department for External Church Relations of the UOC reports: “His Beatitude Metropolitan Onufry said that the Church does not oblige its believers to vote for one candidate or another. Believers of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church have different political sympathies.”
The head of the UOC also outlined the goals of the Church and the tasks for the future president: “The task of the Church is to unite all around Christ. The Primate expressed his wish that any candidate who will be elected to the presidency, first of all, should take care of the common people, the poor and disadvantaged.”
Let everyone decide for themselves which of the positions expressed by the heads of Ukrainian denominations is more in line with the Gospel.