Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Moscow Patriarchate warns Pope

The Foreign Minister of the Russian Orthodox Church, Metropolitan Hilarion, warns the new Pope Francis against promoting the Greek Catholic Church in the Ukraine. In a Tuesday interview published by the Moscow Patriarchate Hilarion said: "If the Pope is supporting the Uniate Church,  this will lead to  no good." The Church associated with Rome was the "most painful issue in the Orthodox-Catholic dialogue." Francis has close relations with the Uniates as they have one of their strongholds in Argentina.

The Russian Orthodox Church accuses the Greek Catholic Church in the former Soviet Union, since being repermited by Mikhail Gorbachev of having taken by force in the early 1990s in Western Ukraine hundreds of places of worship.

The Uniates have vehemently denied this. They remember only that they only got back those churches that had been taken away from them in 1946 when ordered by Stalin into a forced merger with the Moscow Patriarchate.

Hilarion had said in the past week, told journalists in Moscow: "The rebirth of the Church in Western Ukraine is a difficult moment in the relations between the Orthodox and the Catholic Church." Orthodox believers at that time were displaced from their cathedrals.

Hilarion and the head of the Greek Catholic Church of Ukraine, Major Archbishop Shevchuk Swjatoslav of Kiev  both attended on Tuesday the Mass for the inauguration of Pope Francis in St. Peter's Square. The Pope received the Russian Orthodox metropolitans on Monday in a brief interview.

According to the Moscow Patriarchate, Francis said that he had on Monday prayed at a church service for the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill I.   The occasion was the Feast of St. Cyril of Jerusalem (c. 315-386). Moreover, the Pope thanked them for an exhibition of Russian icons in Buenos Aires in the fall of 2012, which he attended as a former archbishop of the Argentine capital.

Major Archbishop Shevchuk had recalled in a recent intervie of the Uniate-connection of the new Pope. He is very familiar with the Eastern Catholic Churches. One of the early mentors of Jorge Mario Bergoglio was a  Ukrainian religious priest and later Greek Catholic Bishop Stepan Czmil've (1914-1978).

Bergoglio had as a student in Buenos Aires celebrated together with Czmil've worship in the Byzantine rite, according to Shevchuk. "The Holy Father not only knows our church very well, but also our liturgy, our rituals and spirituality," said Shevchuk.

The Major Archbishop had himself begun his episcopal career in Buenos Aires under the eyes of Bergoglio. From 2009 to 2011 the native of Lviv served as bishop for the Ukrainian Uniate Church in Argentina. "For this reason I am convinced that the Holy Father will be a great help for our church," said Shevchuk. Under Pope Francis, the Uniate Church looks forward to a good future.

The Greek-Catholic Church of Ukraine is the largest Catholic Eastern Church. She has about seven million members. Of which about 1.5 million are living abroad, where more than half of the dioceses and exarchates lie.


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