Tuesday, March 21, 2023

    It is necessary to restart our relations – Appeal by OCU, UOC (MP) priests

    The resolution of the inter-church conflict in Ukraine is impossible without proactive mediation on the part of the representatives of world Orthodoxy, in particular the Ecumenical Patriarchate, in cooperation with which an international platform for dialogue should be created.

    This is stated in the Address by the participants of the inter-church dialogue meeting, which took place on February 16, 2023 in St Sofia of Kyiv, to the episcopate, clergy, and believers of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, published by the State Service for Ethnic Policies and Freedom of Conscience.

    1. Russia’s armed aggression against the sovereign Ukrainian state was the climax of centuries of imperial pressure on the spiritual and cultural identity of our people. Guided by the imperial-chauvinist ideology, under the slogans of the “Russian world”, Russia has always denied the Local Ukrainian Church the right to existence. The Russian Orthodox Church invades the canonical territory of the Ukrainian Churches and blesses the occupation and war crimes committed by Russia on the territory of the Ukrainian state.
    2. In this difficult time, it is extremely important to preserve the spiritual unity of the Ukrainian people, the origins of which go back to the ancient Kyivan Orthodox tradition. Therefore, we strive to achieve the unification of all Orthodox Ukrainians in a single cathedral and local (autocephalous) Ukrainian Orthodox Church, recognized by the entire Christian Orthodox world. We understand that the path may not be easy, but it is our duty to start this movement.

    III. We are aware that deep alienation, mistrust, and the formation of the “image of the enemy” is observed among a large part of the clergy and laity of the two Ukrainian Orthodox jurisdictions, which leads to mutual dehumanization. That is why we insist on the need to restart our relations, we feel a mature need to renew our relations and get rid of old claims and prejudices. It is also important to change the information policy and rhetoric of mutual devaluation by representatives of both Churches (UOC and OCU) in order to form preconditions for dialogue. The Ukrainian episcopate must rise above corporate interests and launch dialogue for the sake of unity.

    A significant part of believers and clerics with the Ukrainian Orthodox Church is convinced of the illegality of changing the subordination of religious communities and expresses doubts about the canonical legitimacy of the OCU hierarchy. Instead, Ukrainian society and believers with the OCU demand from the leadership of the UOC a more decisive condemnation of the manifestations of collaborationism by some UOC clergymen. The Ukrainian state in the conditions of martial law is concerned about the preservation of the destructive influence on society of structures that are subordinate to the aggressor state. Therefore, draft laws are being initiated that would disallow operations of religious organizations affiliated with the center of influence located in the aggressor state, demanding that they sever the church-canonical link with the Moscow Patriarchate.

    In view of this, we perceive the state and civil society of Ukraine as important parties to the dialogue on unity between the UOC and the OCU. We see the prospect of relations between the Orthodox Churches, state, and society based on the principles of the rule of law, mutual respect, and partnership. Therefore, we call for a broad discussion of the legislative initiatives concerning complex and often painful issues of religious life.

    1. Noting the different views of our communities on these issues, with the understanding that the existing conflicts have no easy and quick solution, we, however, offer the first steps for our rapprochement and call on the episcopate, the clergy and the faithful:

    – to cooperation at the level of territorial communities in Christian cultural and educational projects, as well as in all types of social service to our neighbors, which the Lord Jesus Christ commanded us, first of all, in caring for our defenders and for those who are especially vulnerable amid war: for those who lost relatives and friends, for the wounded, orphans, homeless, and other affected persons;

    – to promote the possibility of participation and joint service of representatives of both Churches during cultural and religious events of local and national importance;

    – to the joint prayer of clerics and believers of our Churches, wherever possible: performance of prayers, memorial services, burials (especially if it is the rite of burial of a soldier who perished while defending Ukraine);

    – to the recognition of the completeness of the action of Divine grace in church sacraments performed in our Churches, in particular, baptism and ordination to priesthood of all degrees; and

    – to make every effort to overcome the barriers hindering the main goal of our union – Eucharistic communication of the communities of both Churches.

    1. We call, without any preconditions, for a start of a direct dialogue for the development of models that would allow for the UOC and the OCU to unite into a single Local Church in the future. For this purpose, we propose that a joint working group be created, which will include bishops and professional theologians with local Orthodox Churches, to develop a step-by-step plan for unification. We also expect the leadership of the UOC and OCU to publish a clearer position on inter-Orthodox dialogue. We express hope that the unification process will kick off in the near future and will take on visible outlines as early as this year. We are aware that the resolution of the inter-church conflict in Ukraine is impossible without the active mediation of representatives of world Orthodoxy, in particular the Ecumenical Patriarchate, in cooperation with which an international platform for dialogue should be set up.
    2. We express our sincere hope that our voice will be joined by thousands of believers of both Churches who cheer for the fate of Orthodoxy in Ukraine and seek unity and victory in the struggle for our independence. Only by joint efforts can we overcome mutual hostility and make Orthodoxy in Ukraine united, and our society wholesome, strong, and successful. Each of us believes that there are no such problems and misunderstandings that cannot be resolved in the spirit of Christ’s love: “By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one for another.” (John 13:35).

    VII. On the anniversary of Russia’s full-scale invasion on February 24, 2023, we call for the initiation of joint prayers for Ukraine’s victory and the coming of a just peace, as well as for the fallen soldiers and victims of Russia’s military aggression.

    Kyiv, Saint Sofia of Kyiv, February 16, 2023