January 13, 2014, UGCC Department of Information
People demonstrating in the Square (Maidan) in Kyiv [Kiev] have turned to the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church and other Churches, asking them to pray together with them. Indeed, at a time when dialogue between the government and the citizens is lacking, those who believe in God feel a special need to pray for peace and tranquility in Ukraine, and for an end to the violence that has trampled the dignity and the constitutional rights of the citizens of Ukraine.
So declared His Beatitude Svyatoslav (Shevchuk), Head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, during a press conference sponsored by Ukrainski Novyny [Ukrainian News] on January 13, 2014.
The hierarch said that such activity by priests embodies the idea expressed by Pope Francis in his apostolic exhortation, The Joy of the Gospel, that pastors should be with their people, because “a pastor should have the smell of his sheep.”
During the press conference on Monday, the head of the UGCC made public his written statement in response to the letter from the Ministry of Culture of Ukraine about possible grounds for terminating the activity of the religious organizations of the UGCC.
His Beatitude Svyatoslav said that for the first time since the independence of Ukraine the threat “of terminating responsible religious organizations” was voiced. This is the gist of an official letter from the Ministry of Culture of Ukraine dated January 3, 2014, (№ 1/3/13-14) signed by First Deputy Minister Timofiy Kokhan. [A scanned copy of the letter in Ukrainian is posted with this news story at www.ugcc.org.]
The reason for such a reaction by the government is religious activity, allegedly carried out by “the representatives, in particular of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, on Independence Square in Kyiv during December of last year and in the new year 2014, to violate Ukraine’s legislation on freedom of conscience and religious organizations.”
The head of UGCC said that the Church is not a participant in the political process, but it cannot stand by when its faithful ask for spiritual care. To be with his faithful is the priest’s duty, which is connected with the very mission of the Church. “Our Church has always been true to this mission that Christ entrusted to our Church and will remain so for the future and despite any threats.”
Speaking of the official position of the UGCC on the present socio-political situation, His Beatitude Svyatoslav said that it is described in a series of addresses issued both on behalf of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church and in common with the members of the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religions Organizations (AUCCRO).
“The Church reserves the right to assess the situation in the country, if there are violations of human rights and of the principles of public morality flowing from God’s law and reflected in the social teaching of the Church,” His Beatitude Svyatoslav explained in his statement.
In conclusion, the Head of the UGCC once again stated that the only way to solve the socio-political crisis in Ukraine is honest and open dialogue among all parties, the starting point of which is the willingness of the authorities to listen to their people.
English translation by UGCC Department of Information, revised by Michael J. Miller