February 12, 2016

Pope and Russian Patriarch to meet today in Havana : Ukrainian nationalist Uniates fearful, By Andrew Taylor Feb 11, 2016


Ukrainian Uniate followers fear that detente between the Russian Orthodox and Catholics will undermine their position and power
By Andrew Taylor
February 11, 2016
Today a historic meeting is being held in Havana, Cuba between Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia. The mere fact that it is taking place seems to represent a softening by the Vatican toward the Russian Orthodox Church and it's historic positions. Attitudes are emotional and apprehensive within the "Greek-Catholic" (Uniate) church in Ukraine, the longtime DMZ between the Catholic and Orthodox communions.

The Uniate Church in Ukraine dates from  1596, through the Brest-Litovsk Union, when two Ukrainian Orthodox bishops acceded to recognize  the Roman claim to the primacy and supremacy of the pope on the promise they could at the same time retain the Orthodox liturgies and a married priesthood. 

As a result, the Greek Catholic Church of Ukraine is and has been historically pro-western and politically close to Poland. The base of the Uniate church is in western Ukraine, notably in Galicia. It's claim is that it has suffered unjustly for its obedience to Rome, and during the Soviet era it was proscribed. After the defeat of Soviet power the Unia was resurrected and disputes over church-properties and parishes broke out. The Greek Catholic Church of Ukraine is also a leader in the post-Maidan right-nationalist campaign against all things Russian.

Both Orthodox and Catholics have inquired why the patriarchs of Rome and Moscow are meeting. Some points:

-All Orthodox churches are staging a grand council in June for the first time in 1,000 years, Moscow has a clear political incentive for favouring a platform with the pope to strengthen its internal standing.

-Many Russian Orthodox have negative attitudes toward Roman Catholics in light of the imperialistic policies of Catholic expansionism over the centuries. Rome's concerted 'sheep-stealing' in Belarus, Ukraine and Russia following the collapse of the strong central power of the Soviet state in the 1990s is particularly remembered.

-The Russian Orthodox have a tight relationship with the Russian State, and the geopolitical side of the Meeting cannot be ignored.


-Pope Francis is taking a big risk from the Roman Catholic side. The Ukrainian Catholics (Uniates) are angry and apprehensive that their position and power in Ukraine and the Diaspora may be undermined by concessions from the Roman side in the meeting.

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