Ukrainian Greco-Catholics and Roman Catholic Church – is there any reason for concern?

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  • 20.Sep ‘19
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Since the time of Patriarch Athenagoras, Orthodox alarmist resources have been predicting with enviable regularity the coming union between Rome and Constantinople. Most often, such messages caused only irritation and boredom, since it was clear to everyone that the ecumenical movement of the beginning of the 20th century had long run out, and there could be no talk of any real unification of the two oldest branches of Christianity in the foreseeable future.

However, recent events make us take a fresh look at changing reality. Here is an example.

September 12th, the head of the OCU Epiphanius spoke to students of the L’viv Polytechnic university. He spoke on-duty phrases about how the OCU together with the UGCC confront external aggression and strengthen Ukrainian statehood. However, at the end of his speech, he said something unusual. Speaking about the possible unification of the OCU and the UGCC, he said that the “key” to this association is not in the Ukraine, “This key lies in Rome and Constantinople. It is there that the ecumenical dialogue is taking place, on which our relations here in the Ukraine will depend. These relations are very good now, and I believe that in the future they will only improve”.

On September 16th, a meeting between the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and the Primate of the UGCC Svyatoslav (Shevchuk) took place in Vatican. During this meeting, Shevchuk told patriarch Bartholomew about the interaction between the UGCC and the OCU, and noted with pleasure that now the main partner for the ecumenical dialogue is not the “Russian Orthodox Church, but the Orthodox Church in Ukraine”. Shevchuk suggested the Ecumenical Patriarch to create a commission on the ecumenical dialogue between Orthodox and Greek Catholics in order to “give a new impetus to ecumenical communion”.

Well, patriarch Bartholomew has already given a push and not one. Because of them the whole Orthodox world is in shock. Remember how 2 years ago the idea of canonical recognition of the UOC-KP and UAOC was something from the realm of fiction? And now this is a fact. Bartholomew showed that he could take decisive steps without taking into account opposition from the outside. Therefore, the alarmist theory of the “union of Rome and Constantinople” no longer seems so insane.

In 2025 there will be celebrations in honor of the 1700th anniversary of the First Ecumenical Council. What is not a good reason to show the productivity of the work of the commissions on ecumenical dialogue? The scene is also beautiful and symbolic – a single baptismal font of the Dnieper.

If such plans are really discussed on the sidelines of the Vatican and Istanbul, then it threatens a huge tragedy for the entire Orthodox world. It is understood that now there are both clergy who are happy to be united with the opposite side, and theologians who will write multivolume treatises, justifying any decisions of the hierarchs, and lay people longing for such a development of events. However, do not forget about simple sociology. According to Rew Research Center, on average only 35% of Orthodox people support the idea of restoring communication with Rome (the highest percentage is among the members of the Romanian Orthodox church (62%), among the ones of the Russian Orthodox Church – 17%).

If the Pope and patriarch Bartholomew, spurred on by Shevchuk and Epiphanius Dumenko, decide to create a new “adventure of the century”, it will undoubtedly cause a much deeper split not only in the already divided family of Orthodox churches, but also among the flock of each particular Local Church.

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