Left: Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kiev-Halych speaks Feb. 25 during a Rome news conference. Right: A man passes a mural showing a map of Crimea in the Russian national colors on a street in Moscow March 25 (CNS photos)
Den’ [The Day],
a newspaper in Kyiv, Ukraine, published on March 28 a 4,250-word
interview by Yuri Chornomorets’ with the Head of the Ukrainian Greek
Catholic Church, His Beatitude Sviatoslav Shevchuk. Selected questions
and answers are reprinted below in English translation with permission.
personal impression is that the Pope speaks very little and very
cautiously about Ukraine. Is he afraid of Russia’s wrath? Or do I have
the wrong impression?
I think you have the wrong
impression. Why? The Pope has said plenty about Ukraine. But obviously,
he speaks in a manner that befits the Universal Pontiff. He cannot give
an appraisal of specific concrete acts by the government authorities. He
expresses himself as the Pastor of the Church, in the name of the
People of God. [In] his remarks at the Angelus [on January 26] he very
clearly outlined the nature of the internal conflict in Ukraine [then]:
he said that it was a conflict between the state authorities and civil
society. I think that the Pope gave a very bold, incisive analysis of
all the events that we connect with Independence Square. And, on the
other hand, the Pope concluded his remarks with the idea of the common
good, which is a key concept of the social doctrine of the Catholic
Patriarch Kirill and the Synod of the
Russian Orthodox Church refused to condemn Russia’s aggression in
Ukraine. Is this silence a peccadillo or a turning point in the history
I think that it is the sign of a
definite weakness. For whenever the Church finds herself unusually close
to a specific governmental institution, whenever harmonious
State-Church relations turn into a sort of domination of one by the
other, then, obviously, the Church becomes incapable of speaking the
truth in all its fullness in specific historical circumstances. And
therefore I think that this is exactly what we are seeing now.
really wish that the [Ukrainian] Orthodox Church Moscow Patriarchate,
the Russian Orthodox Church would truly breathe with full lung capacity
in all its ecclesiastical fullness. Then it will be able to be an
authentic witness to Christian truth without any political interests
connected with the ideology of one government or another.
our politicians too “dirty” and our politics too “sick” for the UGCC to
believe in the possibility of a true Christian democracy in Ukraine?
UGCC believes in the possibility of Christian democracy, but it will
never become part of the political process. More than once we have said
that we support no political party or individual politician. But we
strive to educate Christians, who would be capable of honest
Today many people talk [about government reform], using the word lyustratsia
[“ritual cleansing, purification”]. With great alarm I observe how this
topic is being discussed in society. Unfortunately, there is a tendency
to turn this political purification into a routine settling of
In order to talk about an honest purification of the
moral position of a particular politician or official, it is imperative
to establish moral rules, criteria, according to which this should take
place. Otherwise lyustratsia may turn into a means of recklessly degrading a human being.
here, I think, the Church has to have her say. Today we are reflecting
and working on how to propose moral principles for drafting a law on
political purification... which, on the one hand, would protect the
dignity of the human person, and, on the other hand, would help to build
a political society on the basis of honesty, transparency and
Do you feel that the Christians of
Ukraine are partly to blame for the blood that has been spilled and may
be spilled in the future? ... Are we doing everything possible today for
the sake of Ukraine?
If you are going to assign
“blame”, that is, responsibility for all the events that Ukraine has
been going through, it belongs to all of us, and in particular to
Christians. We have to make a thorough examination of conscience as to
whether we have done all that we can to prevent bloodshed. We Church
leaders many times tried to convince people of the effectiveness of
peaceful protest, and of the urgent need at particular moments to cool
down the hotheads, so that there would be no bloodshed. Did we succeed?
Maybe not, because blood was shed. Did Christians listen to our voice?
If we wanted to ask ourselves today, how I can serve
Ukraine, then everyone would have to do everything perfectly at his own
post. The doctorby treating the sick, the police officerby fighting
crime, the politicianby serving his people, the ecclesiasticby
profoundly living out the Word of God that he preaches to others. Then
everyone at his post, first of all demanding one hundred percent of
himself, will have the moral right to demand something of someone else.
Then, I think, together in the solidarity that we see now, we will be
very good builders of our future. But our deeds today will someday be
judged by history....
Young Andrei Sheptyts’kyi
[Sheptytsky], three years after he was enthroned as the Metropolitan of
Lviv, published a programmatic pastoral letter “On the Social Question”.
When will there be a similar major pastoral letter by you?
thanks a lot! I think that Metropolitan Andrei Sheptyts’kyi truly was
very sensitive to the social question, because he had empathy for the
lives of his people. He saw the living conditions in Galicia, especially
on the eve of the First World War. He saw how necessary it was on the
part of the Church to fill in the gaps in various social conditions, to
point out economic opportunities, so that Ukrainian villagers could
truly thrive on their land. And that was right at the time when the
massive emigration of Ukrainians started. Responding to the issues of
that time, Metropolitan Andrei wrote his great pastoral letter....
social circumstances are changing so quickly, that I personally and our
Synod are trying to respond to individual question and needs. For a
meaningful, general, comprehensive position paper of the Church, I think
that we need to wait a bit, until we can really see some new trend or
development in our society. We see that what we might have said last
year is already out of date; we now live in different circumstances....
Whether it will be necessary to write a pastoral letter, or to preach
the social doctrine of the Catholic Church some other way, is a
secondary question, but the Church has spoken and will speak up.
week Patriarch Filaret [of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Kyiv
Patriarchate] issued a very harsh, honest letter in response to the
aggression in Crimea. What about your response?
response is similar. Obviously, we are responding not just by the
written word; we are trying to respond by means of our social position,
especially making use of our international contacts. For we are a Church
that lives in various countries throughout the world, and therefore we
offer an evaluation from various standpoints.
It is an open secret that the annexation of Crimea de facto
broke the whole system of international security. A month ago, when we
were with Patriarch Filaret in the U.S.A. for the prayer breakfast with
President Obama, together with senators and leaders from various states,
we said: What is happening in Ukraine affects not only Europe but the
whole world. Maybe then they looked at us as though we were cranks....
But today the world is so interconnected that the resistance movement in
Ukraine then and now may reveal very deep conflicts in the
international community.... And now, when I talk about this again in
various European circles, and even with contacts in the United States,
no one is laughing. Everyone understands now that that aggression is
And today, in my opinion, it is
everyone’s dutyfor us in Ukraine, and for Churches at the international
level, and for the whole global communityto do everything we can to
prevent another war. Not just cold war, but also a war that would be a
conflagration in which people died.