Friday, June 20, 2014

Window on Eurasia: Ukraine’s Orthodox Leader Calls on Russian Patriarch to ‘Speak the Truth’

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 20 – Patriarch Filaret, the head of the Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate, has reacted strongly and angrily to suggestions by Patriarch Kirill of the Moscow Patriarchate that the Ukrainian people has no independent existence or right to “real statehood, sovereignty or independence.”

            Instead, the Ukrainian church leader says, Kirill continues to “propagandize the idea of a ‘Rusian world’ in which Ukraine is only a constituent part and subordinate to Moscow” and to seek to justify “the  interference of the leadership of Russia in the internal affairs of Ukraine” (

            Filaret’s open letter appeared a day after the Moscow Patriarchate released Kirill’s latest declaration about the “Russian world” and the events in Ukraine, a declaration that has received attention because of the Russian cleric’s call for a peaceful resolution of the Ukrainian crisis (

            But as the Ukrainian churchman points out, peace and an end to hostilities are not the same thing: “Occupation will bring a cessation of military activities but it is not a true peace.” And “therefore, as long as Russian forces remain on Ukrainian land and Russian does everything to support armed actions on Ukrainian territory, a true and just peace cannot be established.”

            The kind of appeal Kirill is making in the name of a “Russian world,” Filaret continues, is exactly equivalent to the use of the term “Slavic world” by “apologists of the Russian empire” to justify “the seizure and dismemberment of Poland and the bloody suppression by Russian forces of the struggle for the re-establishment of Polish statehood.”

            Using such rhetoric, the Ukrainian patriarch says, undercuts what Kirill claims to be promoting: Its fundamental implications mean that it will “not promote an end of military operations, the restoration of peace or the overcoming of the ever-growing hostility in relations between Russia and Ukraine.”

            As a Christian and leader of the Moscow Patriarchate, Filaret says, Kirill has “a responsibility to speak the truth” to President Vladimir Putin and to declare that “the Church does not approve Russia’s aggression against Ukraine,” something the Russian churchman has not only failed to do but in fact has done the reverse.

            If Putin ordered an end to Russian aggression, the conflict in Ukraine would quickly be solved, Filaret continues.  But tragically, the Kremlin leader has done just the reverse and the consequences of his action are spreading throughout Russia, promoting “aggressive nationalism, xenophobia, and inter-ethnic hostility.”

            Kirill’s failure to speak out violates not only the principles of Christianity but also the declared doctrine of the Moscow Patriarchate, the Ukrainian churchman says. That doctrine holds that the Church will not take sides in inter-ethnic conflicts “except in cases of obvious aggression of injustice by one of the sides.”

            “The entire world condemns Russia’s aggression against Ukraine,” Filaret says, “but You,[Kirill,] remain silent either to please the earthly powers or out of fear of them and do not stop the Russian leadership  as the aggressor.”

            Filaret says that he “certainly desires that Ukraine and Russia should live in peace and mutually useful cooperation and that the Russian and Ukrainian Orthodox Churches should be in communion.” But that will be possible, he continues, “only when Russia stops viewing Ukraine as part of its territory, the Ukrainian people as part of the Russian people, and the Ukrainian Church as part of the Moscow Patriarchate.”

            Regardless of what the Kremlin or the Moscow Patriarchate want, Filaret says, “Ukraine is not Russia, the Ukrainian state is an independent and sovereign one, and the Ukrainian people is a self-standing political nation.”  Kirill shares responsibility for ending the bloodletting in Ukraine if he does not speak out.


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