There has been a lot of debate in Ukrainian society over the past two weeks about the current events. The first stage was discussion of the EU Association Agreement and peaceful student protests. The second was a violent beating of peaceful demonstrators and purposeful resistance against the current government, which resulted in a nationwide strike. As this was occurring, we could hear, through media channels, the standpoints of various segments of our society, including the clergy.
THE POPE BEGAN TO SPEAK UKRAINIAN…
In the article “The Church and the European Vector” (Den, No. 194-195, October 25-26), we focused on the steps the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations (ACCRO) had taken in late September this year. It will be recalled that council representatives had visited Brussels shortly before, where they had a lot of meetings and discussed the possibility of signing the agreement. Last week Archbishop Yevstratii (Zoria) shared his reflections on meetings in the “EU capital” in a Ukrainian channel’s telethon. The church hierarch emphasized that the European Union has in fact Christian roots, as one of its founding fathers was Robert Schuman. As is known, parishioners of the Metz diocese in France tried to have Schuman beatified. For many, the long-lasting peace after World War Two is a miraculous achievement of Schuman’s political strategy. In his commentary, His Eminence Yevstratii spoke about EU symbols. The circle of 12 stars resembles the Holy Virgin’s halo in the Catholic Church tradition. “Ukrainian society has followed the path of secularization through, among other things, Soviet atheism. On the contrary, Europe did not have this opportunity, so it is being ‘tempted’ by godlessness today. From this angle, Ukraine can spiritually help Europe,” the hierarch emphasized.
Another important sign of unity in the days of peaceful protests is the service of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church’s clergy and its primate, His Beatitude Sviatoslav, in St. Peter’s Cathedral and a Christian message from Pope Francis in the Ukrainian language. This event makes us draw the following conclusions. Firstly, we are important in Europe, for we are a nation-personality. Secondly, the West needs the sources of Ukrainian spirituality.
CHURCH AND PEOPLE ARE TOGETHER
The November 30 events are the proof of Ukrainian society’s confidence in the church. St. Michael’s Golden-Domed Cathedral, where the nonviolent Euromaidan protesters, scared by riot police violence, have found refuge, is now in the spotlight of social networking sites and Internet resources. Many websites carry comments that allude to the Tatar Mongol horde’s forays, when civilians also hid themselves in temples. The situations with a time interval of almost 10 centuries are practically the same in essence. But, unlike their ancestors, the 21st-century Ukrainians are luckier – the riot police stopped short of stepping over the threshold of a sanctuary, even though they could do so. St. Michael’s Cathedral now symbolizes the return of the Ukrainian national soul to the true spiritual primary source. Incidentally, on December 1 St. Alexander’s Roman Catholic Church, next to Ukrainian House, opened its door for Kyiv protesters who can enter the temple 24 hours a day.
These days representatives of all the Ukrainian denominations have come out against violence and called for peaceful actions and prayers on the squares of all cities in Ukraine. For example, on Lviv’s Euromaidan, people pray almost daily for the destiny of Ukraine and some downtown temples are open for the protesters 24 hours a day, so that they can get warm, pray, and speak to a priest.
It is significant that His Beatitude Liubomyr (Huzar), Archbishop Emeritus of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, addressed a million-strong Euromaidan protest rally on December 1. The hierarch called on Ukrainians to do good in order to overcome evil. In these difficult times, Ukrainians must heed this advice and thus show their spirituality and aspiration for peace and freedom. And evil must destroy itself!
“THE CHURCH PRAYS FOR THE STATE”
Luka KARPIUK, spokesman, Lviv-Sokal Eparchy, Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Kyiv Patriarchate:
“Unfortunately, the church in Ukraine is constitutionally separated from the state, and, quite regrettably, its opinion and position often does not matter when some important issues are at stake. It would be quite proper, first of all, to address God whenever people choose their further course and a future for themselves and their descendants, for we must not forget that the Divine providence and care for the destiny of humankind is much more important than human reasoning and wishes.
“But the essence of serving the church lies in witnessing to Christ, and Christ is the Truth and Love. Therefore, it is the duty of church to defend the truth and preach love. For this reason, the church is not only authorized, but also obliged to respond to this kind of situations in society, when there is a danger of truth distortion, violence, deceit, and flouting the opinion and choice of a whole nation. The Apostle Paul said a well-known phrase: ‘All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient.’ All today’s actions can be turned into a nationwide ‘day of wrath,’ but God will not be with us under these circumstances. He will not support us in such deeds. The church is supposed to keep people’s behavior within the frameworks of Christian morality, to remind us that we are first of all Christians and only then Ukrainians and Europeans, and, naturally, to offer spiritual support.
“Is it enough to just pray? A prayer is an appeal to God, which means gratitude or a request for help. And what is higher than this? Nothing. So a sincere prayer for the Ukrainian people is the best thing that every Ukrainian can do today for their nation. And the church prays for the state and the nation every day during each divine service. Paraphrasing the Euromaidan’s topical slogans, I can assure you that the church, including the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Kyiv Patriarchate, and the Lviv Eparchy as its structural unit with His Eminence Dymytrii, Metropolitan of Lviv and Sokal, at the head, is with the people of Ukraine. The main thing is that the people of Ukraine should also be with the church, and then the Lord will help us in everything.”
“WHEN THERE IS A PRIEST ON THE MAIDAN, THE MOOD AND BEHAVIOR OF PEOPLE CHANGE”
Brother Volodymyr MAMCHYN, 5th-year student, Lviv Holy Spirit Theological Seminary, Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church:
“The church not only HAS THE RIGHT TO, but also MUST react to what is going on in this country. When Ukraine’s integration into Europe was foiled, people went on strike in a peaceful and civilized way. The church immediately supported them because they had a legitimate right to peaceful assembly in order to express their attitude. His Beatitude Sviatoslav made a statement to this effect. And when the riot police were unleashed on the peaceful protesters, the church could by no means remain silent, for, as the Gospel says, “…if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out” (Luke 19:40). The church reacted quite sensitively to this. In particular, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Kyiv Patriarchate, offered shelter to those beaten up, while the primate made a statement to this effect.
“As for the forms of involvement, the church has no other means than, firstly, to pray and, secondly, to stand by the people. When there is a priest or a seminary student on the square, the very fact of his presence changes the people’s mood and pattern of behavior. Ukrainians feel respect for the clergy, so when clerics stand by them during a protest action, they show more restraint and there is peace in their hearts. So these means are sufficient to keep up the people’s spirit. As for prayers, the Lviv Theological Seminary will be conducting, from Monday onwards, a 24-HOUR NONSTOP prayer in the seminary’s temple for all those who are on the Maidans. Seminary students also offer a joint prayer every evening on Lviv’s Euromaidan.”
“IN 1983 THE CHURCH PLAYED A CRUCIAL ROLE IN TOPPLING THE COMMUNIST REGIME IN POLAND”
The Reverend Mykola MYSHOVSKY, editor-in-chief, newspaper Credo, Roman Catholic Church:
“The church is obliged to protect the offended people. So when there is violence and aggression on the part of anybody, the church must side with the unprotected. How can the church perform this action effectively? What people need today is peace and a clear-cut position, so a prayer can become a viable instrument of the church’s assistance. The influence of God’s grace on this situation is obvious. There have been many downfalls of political regimes in history. For example, the church played a crucial role in toppling the communist regime in the neighboring Poland in 1983. There should be not only prayers, but also the presence of priests on the Maidan. This will make people stronger and more confident. As is known, Roman Catholic bishops have unequivocally condemned the current government’s violent actions. Our church also encourages temples to keep their doors open for 24 hours a day in order to support the protesters spiritually and physically.”