22 February 2014

Does anyone understand why so many priests
are to the forefront of the protests in Ukraine?

Praying priests standing between protesters and police in central Kiev (Photograph: AP Photo/Sergei Grits)

Patrick Comerford

Patrick Comerford tries to answer some questions about the role of priests and churches in the rapidly-changing and turbulent events unfolding in Ukraine

Priests have been very visible on the streets of Kiev, praying over the bodies of dead protesters, setting up prayer tents and leading prayers at protests in Independence Square in Kiev, standing on the front line between police and protesters. Is this a Christian country?

Ukraine, with a land area of 603,628 sq km, is the largest country in Europe. Kiev is the capital, and the country has a population of about 46 million people.

A survey eight years ago showed 62 per cent of people are atheist or do not go to any church. But among Ukrainians with religious affiliations, the most common religion is Orthodox Christianity.

Well, is the Orthodox Church playing a role in bringing the people together?

Well, not really, because it’s deeply split itself into four different groupings: the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Kiev Patriarchate (38.9 per cent of Christians), the Ukrainian Orthodox Church Moscow Patriarchate (29.4 per cent), the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (2.9 per cent) and the Old Believers’ Church. Indeed, five if you count the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (14.7 per cent), which sounds, looks and smells like an Orthodox Church, but is in full communion with the Pope and the Roman Catholic Church.

It all sounds very Byzantine …

To compound matters, there are at least three Ukrainian denominations in full communion with the Roman Catholic Church: alongside the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church there is the Ruthenian Catholic Church, which also has Byzantine liturgies and customs, and the Latin-rite Roman Catholic dioceses.

Does that create a crisis of identity?

Of course. Over the course of history, these Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Churches have been closely identified with the struggles for Ukrainian national self-identity and Ukraine’s turbulent relations with its neighbouring states. It is impossible to explain the divisions between these Eastern Orthodox Churches and different Catholic Churches without discussing the tense relations and territorial wars Ukraine has had over the centuries with its neighbours, especially Russia but also Poland, Austria, the former Czechoslovakia, Germany, Lithuania and Romania.

Has Christianity been in Ukraine for a long time?

Christianity in Ukraine dates back to the earliest centuries, and became a dominant presence since its acceptance in 988 by Prince Vladimir the Great (Volodymyr the Great), who established Orthodox Christianity as the state religion of Kievan Rus.

So how far back can you go?

Ukrainian tradition says Saint Andrew the Apostle travelled along the western shores of the Black Sea, to the area that is present-day south Ukraine, and arrived on the site of Kiev in 55 AD. There, legend says, he erected a cross and prophesied the foundation of a great Christian city. Both the 18th century Church of Saint Andrew in Kiev and an earlier church dating from 1086 are said to have been built on the site where he planted his cross before continuing his journey as far north as Novgorod.

So Ukrainian Christianity had no links with the Pope and Rome?

Well, another ninth century tradition says Clement of Rome, known as the fourth Pope, did not die in Rome but was exiled to Chersonesos on the Crimean peninsula in 102.

But what about actual historical evidence?

Bishops from Scythia on the shores of the Black Sea attended both the First Council of Nicaea in 325 and the First Council of Constantinople in 381. Christianity may have been introduced into what is now Ukraine by the invading Goths, and some Ostrogoths who remained in the region after the invasion of the Huns established a Diocese in Dorus in northern Crimea under the Patriarch of Constantinople, around the year 400.

And in the following centuries?

When Pope Martin I was deposed by the Byzantine Emperor he was exiled to the Crimean peninsula and died in Chersonesos in 655. His relics are said to have been retrieved by the brothers Saint Cyril and Saint Methodius, who passed through present-day Ukraine on their way to the Khazars.

By the ninth century, the Slavic population of west Ukraine had accepted Christianity. The East Slavs came to dominate most of the present-day Ukraine, beginning with the rule of the Rus. The Eparchy or Metropolis of Kiev is mentioned as early as 891. By 900, Saint Elijah’s Church had been built in Kiev, modelled on a church of the same name in Constantinople.

Christianity gained a vital supporter when Princess Olga of Kiev was baptised with the name Helen in 955. She and her grandson, Vladimir the Great, are venerated as saints in the Eastern Orthodox Church.

So did Christianity become the state religion?

Yes, when Prince Vladimir ordered the mass Baptism of Kiev in the Dnieper River in 988. That year marks the establishment of the Kiev Metropolis under the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. The first cathedral was built in 996.

Is that the beginning of the Orthodox Church in Ukraine?

After the Great Schism in 1054, most of what is present-day Ukraine ended up on the Eastern Orthodox or Byzantine side of the division. The metropolitans had their seat in Pereyaslav, and later in Kiev, but their seat moved during the centuries that followed, until the 15th century, when the primacy was restored to Kiev with the title Metropolitan of Kiev, Halych and All Rus.

So how did some Orthodox-looking churches end up with Rome?

In the late 16th century, the Bishop of Lviv, Hedeon Balaban, became exasperated by his struggles with the Ecumenical Patriarch in Constantinople, believing he was under the thumb of the Ottoman Sultan and his court. In 1589, he asked the Pope to take him under his protection. He was soon followed by the bishops of Lutsk, Cholm, and Turov in 1590, and then by the Bishops of Volodymyr-Volynskyy and Przemyƛl and the Metropolitan of Kiev. In 1595, their representatives arrived to Rome and asked Pope Clement VIII to take them under his jurisdiction.

Under the terms Union of Brest-Lviv in 1596, this part of the Ukrainian Church was accepted under the jurisdiction of the Pope in Rome and become a Byzantine-Rite Catholic or Uniate Church, known today as the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. The new church gained many followers among the Ukrainians in Galicia.

Did all Ukrainians follow these Bishops and cross the Tiber?

No, the majority of Ukrainians remained within Eastern Orthodoxy under Metropolitan Peter Mogila (Petro Mohyla) of Kiev, who set about recovering many churches and buildings, including Saint Sophia Cathedral in Kiev. But the Orthodox Church was made illegal, its property confiscated, with persecution and discrimination, and large numbers of Ukrainians migrated to Tsarist Russia.

So, did they look to Constantinople or to Moscow?

In 1686, the Ottomans put pressure on the Patriarch of Constantinople to transfer the Orthodox Church of Kiev from the jurisdiction of Constantinople to the Patriarch of Moscow. And this transfer initially gave Ukrainians a major role for in the Russian Orthodox Church that they held well into the 18th century.

What happened to the Uniates who became loyal to Rome?

Well, the Uniate church meanwhile became so dominant among Ukrainian people that few of them remained Orthodox and most church property remained in Catholic and Uniate hands.

That must have been good news for the Papacy?

Actually, Rome started behaving badly. The Latin Catholic authorities began actively converting the Uniates to Latin-rite Catholicism. One Uniate leader, Bishop Joseph Semashko, was so angry he began to argue for the eventual return of all Uniates to Orthodoxy. He won the support of a growing number of the local priests, but the ruling synod rejected all his proposals.

The Uniate Church supported a revolt by Poles against Russian rule in 1831. However, the November Uprising failed, and in their response the Russian authorities removed the members of the Uniate synod and took away most of the privileges of the Polish magnates. The Uniate Church soon began to disintegrate.

The final blow came at the Synod of Polotsk in 1839, convened by Bishop Joseph Semashko, when the Union of Brest-Lviv was rescinded. All remaining Uniate Church churches in Belarus and Right Bank Ukraine within the Russian Empire transferred to the Russian Orthodox Church. The Uniate clergy who refused to join the Russian Orthodox Church – almost 600 out of almost 1,900 – were sent into internal exile or to Siberia. With mass deportations, persecution and even executions, the Uniates were practically wiped out in the Russian Empire.

How did the Uniate Church survive?

A small number of “Greek Catholics” survived and the Uniate Church continued to function within the Russian Empire until the Eparchy of Chelm was abolished in 1875. In Chelm, the conversion to Orthodoxy met strong resistance from local ethnic Ukrainian priests and parishioners, who were confronted by Russian police, Cossacks, and an influx of Russian-speaking priests from east Galicia. The resistance was so strong that in 1905 up to half of the formally Orthodox people of Chelm were allowed to return to Catholicism ... but only to Latin-Rite Catholicism.

Meanwhile, the south-west region of Galicia, including present-day Lviv, Ivano-Frankivsk and parts of Ternopil, had come under the control of the Hapsburg Empire. The Austrians granted equal legal privileges to the Uniate Ruthenian (Ukrainian) Church, removed Polish influence, and provided for Uniate seminary education.

A large educated class developed among the Ukrainian people in Galicia and the Uniate Church became an important primary cultural force among the Ukrainian people in what is today western Ukraine.

So the Uniates were happy once again?

Not for long. In the 19th century a struggle developed within the Uniate Church between those who looked towards Russia and those who saw the Galician Ruthenians as Ukrainians, not Russians. The pro-Russian people were mostly led by older and more conservative priests, while the west-looking people found leadership among the younger priests.

All this developed as Austria become entangled with Russia in a power struggle in the Balkans and as the influence of the Ottoman Empire declined in the region at the same time. When World War I, broke out, the Russian Army quickly overran Galicia.

The Uniate Church had become closely linked with the Ukrainian national movement. The majority of its members were so loyal to the Habsburgs they were known as the “Tyroleans of the East” and resisted reunion with the Orthodox Church. A minority, though, welcomed the Russians and returned to Orthodoxy.

The Austrians counter-attacked and regained lost territories. Reprisals followed, and several thousand Orthodox and pro-Russian people died in concentration camps.

So did the Russian Revolution bring more changes?

After the Russian Revolution in 1917, the Russian Orthodox Church became the victim of repressive actions. In the new Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, the head of the Ukrainian Exarchate, the Metropolitan of Kiev and Halych, was executed in 1918. Churches were closed and pillaged, and many priests were executed.

Paradoxically, however, the Bolsheviks saw the national churches as a tool in their battle with the Russian Orthodox Church.

So more divisions followed?

Indeed. On 11 November 1921, an unrecognised Church Council met in Kiev and proclaimed the formation of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAOC). The Russian Orthodox Church strongly opposed this new church and no bishop would consecrate bishops for the new Church. The priests then ordained their own bishops. In contravention of canon law, they invoked the traditions of Alexandria, and laid their hands on the two senior candidates, consecrating them as Metropolitan Vasy (Lypkivsky) and Archbishop Nestor (Sharayivsky).

That was a break with tradition?

Yes, but they tried to show their desire to continue with tradition, and during the ceremony they used the relics of Saint Clement of Rome – the early Pope who was said to have who died in exile in Ukraine in the first century. Despite the canonical controversy this created, the new church was recognised in 1924 by the Ecumenical Patriarch Gregory VII.

Under Soviet rule in Ukraine, many Orthodox priests joined the new Church to escape the persecution suffered by those who remained in the Russian Orthodox Church. The UAOC gained popular following too.

Did that save their church?

Sadly, no. The Soviet government abruptly reversed these policies. The mass arrests of UAOC bishops and priests ended almost in the liquidation of the church in 1930. Churches that were not closed or destroyed were transferred to the Russian Orthodox Church. On the eve of World War II, only 3% of the pre-revolutionary parishes in Ukraine were still open, and these were mainly in remote rural areas.

Meanwhile, what happed to the remnants of the Uniate Churches?

The Peace of Riga Treaty had carved up the map of the region in 1921. Some ethnically Ukrainian and Belarusian territories were given to the new Polish state. Some areas, such as Polesie and Volhynia, had people who were mainly Orthodox, while the former Austrian Galicia had a mainly Uniate population.

But the Poles regarded the Greek Catholic Ukrainians from Galicia as even less reliable and loyal that the Orthodox Ukrainians. After a visit to Ukrainian Catholics in the US in 1924, the head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, Metropolitan Andrei Sheptytsky, was denied re-entry to Lviv, Polish priests began missionary work among Eastern Rite Catholics, and many churches were confiscated and turned into Roman Catholic churches.

And what happened to Orthodox Ukrainians in Poland?

The Ukrainian Orthodox priests and parishes who found themselves in Poland were now isolated from the Russian Orthodox Church. The Ecumenical Patriarchate intervened and took responsibility, and in 1923 the Polish Orthodox Church was formed.

Other Ruthenian people found themselves in the new states of Czechoslovakia and Hungary after the borders were redrawn following World War I, and this has compounded difficulties in disentangling the layers of confusion around religious and ethnic identities in the region.

Did World War II change all that?

When the Red Army attacked Poland in 1939, many of the Orthodox priests in Poland who were ethnically Ukrainian welcomed the Soviet troops and took advantage of the opportunity to restore links with the Moscow Patriarchate.

Under the occupation of Ukraine by Nazi Germany, yet another Orthodox Church emerged during World War II, calling itself the Ukrainian Autonomous Orthodox Church. In addition, the Polish Orthodox Church continued to claim parishes within Ukraine.

After World War II and another redrawing of the maps, the Russian Orthodox Church regained its general monopoly in Soviet Ukraine. The Ukrainian Autonomous Orthodox Church collapsed, while the leadership of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAOC) and the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church feared they would be forced to accept the Moscow Patriarchate. In addition, those fears within the UGCC were compounded because many of its members were suspected of collaborating with Nazi Germany.

How did the churches survive?

A small group of Uniate priests began to proclaim reunion with Orthodoxy, and in 1948 at a synod in Lviv, the 1596 Union of Brest was annulled. The ties with Rome were broken, and the links were transferred to the Moscow Patriarchate.

Many of the priests and laity accepted the Russian Orthodox Church, but others adamantly refused, and the Patriarchate of Moscow began to use force to take their churches. For almost 40 years, the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church and the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church continued to exist in West Ukraine as an underground minority, threatened with prosecution. Many priests emigrated to Germany, the US or Canada, others were sent to Siberia, and some were martyred.

Did things change with the fall of the Iron Curtain?

The millennium of the baptism of Rus in 1988 was celebrated as the millennium of the Russian Orthodox Church, and the celebrations were organised by Metropolitan Filaret of Kiev. Meanwhile, perestroika and glasnost brought a softening of attitudes to religion.

The Soviet Government publicly apologised for the oppression of religion and promised to return all church property to the rightful owners. The Ukrainian Exarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church recovered several churches in central, east and south Ukraine.

In those parts of west Ukraine where the Uniate Church once had a strong presence, things were more turbulent. The underground Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church resurfaced as Ukrainian national movements came to the fore.

The Russian Orthodox Church was now seen negatively by some as yet another arm of Soviet domination. Bitter, violent clashes followed, with the Russian Orthodox Church slowly losing some parishes to the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.

The Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church also re-emerged from its existence as an underground Church.

So things became difficult for the Russian Orthodox Church?

In an effort to counter a growing schism in the former Uniate territories, the Russian Orthodox Church gave its Ukrainian Exarchate the status of an autonomous church in 1990. The Soviet Union broke up in 1991. But once Ukraine became an independent state, the question of an independent, self-governing or autocephalous Orthodox Church arose again.

Seeing the storms ahead, the leader of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Metropolitan Filaret of Kiev and all Ukraine, decided to seek full independent or autocephalous status for his church – with or without the approval of the Russian Orthodox Church. In 1966, he was the first ethnic Ukrainian in 150 years to become Metropolitan of Kiev, and he was identified with efforts to suppress both the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church.

Critics were quick to point out, however, that Metropolitan Filaret’s determination came on the heels of his unsuccessful attempt to be elected Patriarch of Moscow in 1990.

In November 1991, he asked the bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church to grant autocephalous status to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. Meanwhile, he convinced Ukraine’s newly-elected President, Leonid Kravchuk, the new independent state should have its own independent church.

At the same time – in case the Moscow Patriarchate refused his demands – he also entered a secret agreement with the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAOC), which had no significant following outside Galicia.

Did he get his way?

Most of the bishops of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church initially supported Metropolitan Filaret. However, at a synod in March-April 1992 they openly criticised his plans. He was accused of disregarding monastic vows and of improper financial dealings, and they called on Metropolitan Filaret to retire.

Did he quit?

Of course not, and President Kravchuk gave him his support. But another synod was called in the eastern city of Kharkiv in May 1992. At that meeting, Metropolitan Filaret was suspended, and Metropolitan Volodymyr (Viktor Sabodan), a former Patriarchal Exarch to Western Europe, was named to replace him.

What did he do?

Patriarch Filaret of Kiev ... once hoped to be the Russian Orthodox Patriarch of Moscow

Metropolitan Filaret now had the support of only three bishops. But he went ahead with his plans for unification with the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church. In June 1992, a new church was formed as the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Kiev Patriarchate (UOC-KP) with the 94-year-old Patriarch Mstyslav as its leader, and Metropolitan Filaret as his assistant.

Patriarch Mstyslav died a year later and the new Church was divided by yet another schism, with the former UAOC parishes separating in July 1993. Metropolitan Filaret continued to rely on President Kravchurch and state paramilitaries in the battle for the control of church buildings, parishes and property. Finally, he was excommunicated by the Russian Orthodox Church in 1997.

Has he any friends outside Ukraine?

Patriarch Filaret’s Church is not recognised canonically by any other mainstream Eastern Orthodox Church.

The UOC-KP is in communion with the Macedonian Orthodox Church, the Orthodox Church of Italy, and the Alternative Bulgarian Synod. They all were apparently in communion with the Orthodox Church of Montenegro until recently, when communion was broken due to certain allegedly uncanonical acts … by the Orthodox Church of Montenegro.

The Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate), sometimes abbreviated as UOC (MP), is still the only Orthodox Church in Ukraine in full communion with other Orthodox Churches around the world. The head of the church is Metropolitan Volodymyr (Sabodan), who was enthroned in spring 1992 as the Metropolitan of Kiev and all Ukraine.

Priests from different churches and traditions pray during clashes with police in central Kiev (Photograph: Sergei Chuzavkov/AP)

So, who supports whom?

The claims and legitimacy of the rival Churches is a factor in the present conflict.

The Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Moscow Patriarchate says the other Orthodox Churches in Ukraine have “uncanonical organisations.” To generalise, the UOC (MP) has tended to support President Viktor Yanukovich, who seems to have fled Kiev today, while members of the UOC-KP, the UAOC, and the UGCC tend to support the opposition.

To continue that generalisation, Ukrainians in Kiev and the West who support the opposition and are seen as being pro-European tend to support the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Kiev Patriarchate, while those in the East who back President Yanukovich and are seen as pro-Russian tend to support the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Moscow Patriarchate.

The cathedral of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Kiev Patriarchate (UOC-KP) is the Golden-Domed Church of Saint Michael’s Monastery, which has been restored recently. In the past few days, Saint Michael’s has been used to lay out the bodies of many of the dead protesters from Independence Square.

The main stronghold of the UOC-KP is in Kiev and in the Volhynian provinces, with moderate support in the central and Galician provinces. The church also has several parishes in the West, including the US and Australia, and even in Russia itself.

The UOC (MP), under Metropolitan Volodymyr, has its heartland in Russian-speaking south and east Ukraine, but its main base is in central and north-west Ukraine, and it claims to be the largest Church in Ukraine.

The toughest Orthodox rivalry is played out in the streets of Kiev, where the UOC (MP) claims about half the Orthodox parishes. The only places where the UOC (MP) is a true minority are in the former Galician provinces of Western Ukraine. The UOC (MP) does not have any parishes outside Ukraine.

What about the smaller Churches?

The Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAOC) uses Bartolomeo Rastrelli’s Saint Andrew’s Church in Kiev as its Mother Church. When Patriarch Mstyslav died in 1993, the UAOC separated again from Patriarch Filaret’s Church and reorganised as an independent church. Since that break with the UOC-KP, it has had talks with the UOC (MP).

The UAOC is found almost exclusively in west Ukraine. Its former diaspora communities in Canada and in the US have since formed separate churches that are now under the protection of the Ecumenical Patriarch.

In addition, there is a community of Orthodox Old Believers in Ukraine. This community has exploited the politicised schism in Ukrainian Orthodoxy and, has over 50 communities scattered throughout Ukraine.

And where are the Ukrainian Uniates today?

Although the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church was outlawed in 1948, it continued as an underground church and among the Ukrainian diaspora. It was officially re-established in Ukraine in 1989, and in 1991 Cardinal Lubachivsky returned to Lviv from exile.

The UGCC is centred mainly in West Ukraine. It is led by Patriarch Sviatoslav Shevchuk and is now the third largest Church in Ukraine. Last week, he said it is the role of the clergy to be at the forefront of the demonstrations in order to serve people who have historically faced religious persecution.

However, Saint George’s Cathedral in Lviv is no longer the mother church of the UGCC. The church controversially moved its administrative centre from Lviv to Kiev and built a new cathedral. The move was criticised not only by all the Orthodox churches in Ukraine in a rare show unity.

The UGCC parishes were once confined to the provinces of Lviv, Ternopil and Ivano-Frankivsk in West Ukraine. In recent times, parishes have been established in East Ukraine, mainly for people who have moved from West Ukraine. The UGCC also has parishes in Poland, North America, South America, and Australia.

The Ruthenian Catholic Church, another Byzantine-rite Catholic Church in Transcarpathia, re-emerged from the underground after the collapse of the Soviet Union. It was restored as a Church with separate structures from the UGCC despite opposition from other bishops in communion with Rome, including the Bishop of Khust, who demanded its integration into the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.

Despite this revival, the Byzantine-rite Ruthenian Catholic Church has not regained its pre-war position as the dominant Church in Transcarpathia, where it has its traditional base.

In 1991, Pope John Paul II officially restored the activities of Roman Catholic dioceses in Ukraine and appointed bishops. Latin-rite Roman Catholicism is practiced mainly by non-Ukrainian minorities, including Poles and Hungarians.

A man kneels before an Orthodox priest in an area separating police and protesters near Dynamo Stadium in Kiev last month (Rob Stothard/Getty Images)

Are there any Protestants in Ukraine?

A number of Protestant minority churches are found in Ukraine also. In the 16th century, small groups of Anabaptists formed in Volodymyr-Volynskyi, but the influence of the Reformation in Ukraine remained marginal for another three centuries. Protestant churches arrived to Ukraine with German migrants in the 18th and 19th centuries. They initially enjoyed religious freedom under the Russian Empire. They were mainly Lutherans, with smaller groups of Mennonites.

German Lutheran numbers fell rapidly with the emigration of most German-speakers during the World Wars. But there are still small remnants in the areas around Odessa and Kiev.

Other groups include Baptists (the All-Ukrainian Union of the Association of Evangelical Baptists), Pentecostals (All-Ukrainian Union of Christians of the Evangelical Faith-Pentecostals), Seventh-Day Adventists (Ukrainian Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists) and a growing number of charismatic churches. A Baptist pastor, the Revd Oleksandr Turchynov, is a former head of the SBU, Ukraine’s successor to the KGB, and a former acting Prime Minister.

However, despite recent rapid growth, Protestants in Ukraine remain a small minority in a largely Orthodox Christian country.

On the barricades: a priest stands at Independence Square, on Friday morning, as the Ukrainian presidency said that it has negotiated a deal between police and protesters (Photograph: Church Times/PA)

What about Anglicans?

Christ Church, Kiev, opened on Easter Day 1999 to provide an English speaking Anglican community in Kiev. From a small beginning, it has grown into a welcoming and thriving church, with members from the US, Great Britain, Ukraine, Canada, India and around the world.

Although the church currently does not have a Priest-in-Charge they hold regular services and welcome visiting clergy from time to time. The church meets at 3 p.m. on Sundays in a Lutheran Church and is supported by the Intercontinental Church Society, an evangelical mission agency. Christ Church Kiev also belongs to the Diocese in Europe, within the Church of England. The Mission to Seafarers also has a chaplain working in Odessa.

How do Anglicans feel about the present crisis?

For the past 80 days, the first floor of their church building has been used as a First Aid post both for the police and for protesters.

Alla Gedz, a member of Christ Church in Kiev, told the Anglican Communion News Service this week she has seen horrific scenes. “I am not shocked any more when I see dead people, but can cry any time without any reason. Today, we saw how the dead were pulled out of Saint Michael’s Cathedral and piled near those who died during the night.”

She added: “We are very grateful for your prayers, because being in the midst of the revolution we do have supernatural peace in our hearts.”

The Churchwardens, Thamarai and Anita, say they are saddened by the latest developments in Kiev. They plan to continue Sunday worship this weekend and ask for prayers that good sense may prevail between the Government and Protesters.

They say that it seems unfortunately that the opposition has little control over protesters which is why matters have escalated. They add: “Only prayers all over the world can save the country from further bloodshed.”

The Venerable Patrick Curran, Archdeacon of the East (Diocese of Europe), says he is keeping in regular contact with the church leaders in Kiev and reaffirms the appeal for prayer this weekend.

As for all those divisions and those confusing initials ...

... could make a Monty Python movie ...

... if was not all so sad. Does anyone truly understand the Churches in Ukraine?

“There are more than enough smart-alecs offering dubious expertise from a safe distance,” a writer in the Economist said yesterday, admitting “Ukraine’s religious scene is a hard one to grasp.

The writer concludes: “It is a pretty hard situation to understand unless you have a passion for ecclesiology. In any case, the details probably don’t matter to a wounded or dying protester who is receiving the solace and sacraments of his religion.”

And the last word?

Perhaps the last word should go to Alla Gedz in the Anglican Church in Kiev. The leadership of Christ Church has remained neutral about the political position in Ukraine, and she says: “To understand Ukrainians, people either have to be born with a Ukrainian heart and know the history or to serve this nation.”

No comments: