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Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada | 01Jan2015 | Rev. Ihor Kutash, Rev. Cornell Zubritsky


RE: Fr. V. Malchenko reaction to Dr. Bennett presentation

The Very Rev. Archpriest Vladimir Malchenko, Rector of Holy Trinity Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (Toronto, ON), has taken the initiative to e-mail -- in wide distribution to Orthodox clergy, parishes and faithful, primarily throughout eastern Canada -- his personal response to a presentation by Dr. Andrew Bennett, Canada’s Religious Freedoms Ambassador. We, too, are recipients of this e-mail and, considering its confrontational tone and highly subjective content, we feel a profound responsibility to offer a response.

Fr. Vladimir responds to Dr. Bennett’s presentation to the Conference on the Ecumenical Patriarchate held in Toronto, this fall [21Oct2014]. Having lauded Dr. Bennett on his noble successes in the important mission of defending Christians throughout the world, he, nevertheless, accuses him of bias and falsehood in denouncing the actions regarding limitations, encouraged by the government of the Russian Federation, led by its president, Vladimir Putin, of religious freedom in Ukraine, and especially in Crimea -- presently in a state of illegal annexation by Russia. Dr. Bennett has stated that these actions appear to be geared at propping up the Moscow Patriarchate (the Russian Orthodox Church), building upon Russian nationalism united to Orthodoxy.

Mr. Putin’s actions in Ukraine, together with a vast media campaign of disinformation, have already called forth strong criticism and condemnation on the part of the world community, coupled with economic and political sanctions, which have placed Russia in a most difficult -- and deteriorating -- position. Fr. Vladimir seems determined to continue the wave of disinformation issuing from his leaders. Claiming the authority of “our Orthodox Church in Toronto, Canada and worldwide”, he speaks of “the persecution of the Orthodox in Ukraine”, referring to the (internally autonomous) Ukrainian Orthodox Church under the omophorion of the Moscow Patriarchate.

Fr. Vladimir’s message echoes the document issued by the Russian Congress of Canada entitled “An Open Letter Regarding Comments by Andrew Bennett from the Orthodox Community of Toronto”, which, again, appears to be part of the above -- mentioned wave of disinformation. The very title of that document is misleading, in that the above Congress does not have a mandate to speak on behalf of the entire Orthodox community of Toronto. It contains the same sort of accusations against the legally -- elected government of Ukraine (recognized as such by the world community) and its armed forces, as levelled by Mr. Putin’s propaganda campaign, i.e. that it is not the militant Russian-supported separatists in the oblasts of Luhansk and Donetsk, but the Ukrainian forces that have indiscriminately shelled civilian areas.

The tragic, horrendous conditions in those oblasts make it difficult to obtain precise, objective information about all that is going on. It is quite clear, however, that it was the aggressive actions of those separatist forces, led by officers of the Russian army (e. g. Igor Girkin, a.k.a. “Strelkov”), starting with the seizure of government offices and the murder of a Ukrainian politician, Volodymyr Rybak, which finally prompted the Ukrainian government (initially reluctant to do so) to respond with its on-going Anti-Terrorist Operation.

A pluralist democracy, such as Canada -- and such as Ukraine is slowly recognizing herself to be -- assures all registered religious bodies, including those of the same confession but diverse authorities, of equal protection and freedom. There is every sign that Ukraine seeks to give such protection to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, both of the jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate and the independent Kyiv Patriarchate, as well as the Ukrainian Catholic Church. There is a great deal of evidence that the first is the only one of these three faith communities which enjoys such protection and freedom in the separatist-controlled areas and in Crimea, annexed illegally by Russia. Various Protestant communities, and especially the (Muslim) Crimean Tatar communities, have found themselves in a similarly precarious situation in those areas.

The above document of the Russian Congress, which Fr. Malchenko declares to be representative of all the Orthodox, accuses Dr. Bennett (and the Canadian government) of intervening in Orthodox Church affairs and that this “will send alarm signals to all Orthodox Churches in Canada.” The defence of religious freedom is one of the prime values of Canadians and no other community except the Russian Congress (and Fr. Vladimir Malchenko, on a personal level)  seems to be alarmed at Dr. Bennett’s criticism of Mr. Putin’s policies.

Dr. Andrew Bennett speaks of dialogue between religious communities. The Russian Congress, too, spoke of an, alas, interrupted dialogue with the Ukrainian Canadian Congress. Dialogue is indeed important and it is in this spirit that we respond to Fr. Vladimir Malchenko. True dialogue, we remind Fr. Vladimir, requires good will and honesty, otherwise it is mere argumentation which resolves nothing.

In the spirit of the present season of fasting before the approaching Feast of the Nativity, we seek to hear and proclaim the life-changing message of the Angels who greeted the Shepherds of Bethlehem: “Glory to God in the highest! Peace on earth. Good will to men.” May that peace and goodwill continue to flourish, for the glory of God, in our Canadian society, and may it touch all regions and all peoples of our ancestral homeland, Ukraine!

-- Briefing and Information Team
of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada
Rt. Rev. Mitred Archpriest Dr. Ihor Kutash
Rev. Cornell Zubritsky

[W.Z. Since there is no date provided in the pdf document on the UOCC website, I have arbitrarily chosen 01Jan2015. The presumed contents of the original Email attributed to Rev. Malchenko are reproduced below. I could not find the date of publication and cannot vouch for its accuracy or the spelling errors (Bennet, the Ukraine, etc.). I could not find the document issued by the Russian Congress of Canada entitled "An Open Letter Regarding Comments by Andrew Bennet from the Orthodox Community of Toronto" referred to in the article above.]

Dear Reverend Bishops, clergy, and fellow Christians,

The Open Letter of the Russian Congress in Canada represents the feelings  of our Orthodox Church in Toronto, Canada and worldwide concerning Mr. Andrew Bennet's analysis of the persecution of the Orthodox in the Ukraine.

I feel that Mr. Andrew Bennet's work in defending Christians worldwide is very important and has brought many fruits of success in this very noble cause. The persecution of the Orthodox in the Ukraine is very familiar to all of us and my Orthodox community finds his statements concerning the Canonical Church of the Ukraine quite bias and untrue. The Canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church headed by Metropolitan Ounufry is being harassed, persecuted and purged by the quite unchristian methods of brutal force of the uncanonical group known as the "Kievan Patriarchate" of the false patriarch Philaret, the Uniate Catholic Church of Western Ukraine and right-wing thugs. Mr. Andrew Bennet completely overlooks this grave and critical situation and focuses his sights on President Putin as the  persecutor of the Orthodox.

We have very close ties with the Canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Kiev and have brought to their attention the findings of Mr. Bennet concerning the persecution of the Orthodox in the Ukraine. We are waiting for the reaction of the Canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Kiev concerning the very bias and untrue statements of Mr. Bennet.

One of our bishops from the United States mentioned in his letter to me how could the Greek Metropolis invite Mr. Bennet to their conference and thus give him a forum to speak to an Orthodox audience? Many representatives of the Orthodox clergy at that Conference hosted by the Greek Metropolis, (Greek, Ukrainian and Serbian) mentioned to me that they did not agree with Mr. Bennet's statement on the situation in the Ukraine during his presentation.

The people of Canada wish to have trust and admiration for such noble causes as defending the persecuted Orthodox and other religions throughout the world. Unfortunately the statements made by Mr. Andrew Bennet have shattered our trust and admiration of the monitoring group he represents.

The Orthodox people of the Ukraine deserve better understanding and assistance from the government of Canada and all Christians in Canada.

Asking your prayers in the service of the Orthodox Church,

Archpriest Vladimir Malchenko
Rector of Holy Trinity Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia,
23 Henry Street, Toronto, Ontario.
Dean of Eastern Canada

Conference on the Ecumenical Patriarchate | 21Oct2014 | Andrew Bennett [34:43]


Published on 29 Oct 2014
Truth, Dignity and Justice: Promoting Religious Freedom Around the World (October 21, 2014)

[W.Z. In my opinion, Andrew Bennett's wide-ranging speech (available at the youtube link above) was rather innocuous with only two references to Ukraine. I suspect that the newspaper articles in the Globe and Mail, CBC and Telegram in early October 2014 prior to Mr. Bennett's visit to Ukraine were the catalyst for the outburst. These were followed by later articles -- the links to which are appended below.]

Globe and Mail | 05Oct2014 | Mike Blanchfield

Canada’s religious freedom ambassador blasts Putin on eve of Ukraine visit

Canada’s religious freedom ambassador is bound for Ukraine and says Russian President Vladimir Putin is orchestrating the persecution of Orthodox Christians, Catholics and Muslim Tatars.

Andrew Bennett’s one-week, fact-finding mission begins Monday in Kiev, where he meets religious leaders and government officials, among others.

He is also expected to announce a package of Canadian government assistance aimed at promoting religious freedom, democratic development and inter-faith tolerance.

Bennett says the measures will be aimed at mitigating the negative effect of Putin, whom he accused of systematically targeting Christian groups in eastern Ukraine, where pro-Russian militias are active, as well as Muslim Tatars in Crimea, which Russia unilaterally annexed in March.

Russian forces have kidnapped priests, detained nuns, firebombed churches and intimidated worshippers, he says.

The Russian forces are targeting the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyivan Patriarchate, which Bennett sees as part of a plan by Putin to prop up the Moscow Patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church.

“It’s definitely part of a calculated plan,” Bennett said in an exclusive interview with The Canadian Press. “It’s a narrative drawn from the 19th century, not the Soviet period. This is a narrative building upon Russian nationalism that is rooted in Orthodoxy.

“In Putin’s Russia, we’re seeing again the using of these older constructs within Russian political society and Russian history to advance Russian aims.”

Bennett said he’s hearing reports that Russians want all religious communities in Crimea to re-register as religious communities, as they do in Russia. While that would target Muslim Tartars in Crimea, Bennett said it could be used against Catholics, Protestants and Orthodox groups, particularly the Kyivan Patriarchate in eastern Ukraine.

“This has been used in the past as an administrative form of persecution.”

The Moscow Patriarchate views its Kyivan counterpart as a breakaway sect, said Bennett.

“As it has happened through a lot of its history, the Russian Orthodox Church is allowing itself to be co-opted and is being co-opted by the state, the Russians, to advance Russia’s interests.”

Bennett’s office has a modest annual budget of $4.25 million for projects that support religious freedom. Bennett won’t say how much of that budget he plans to earmark to Ukraine, when he announces some specific projects in the coming days.

He said he wants to meet some of the people who will benefit from the Canadian support before making his announcement.

The projects will be aimed at “broadening religious dialogue between the different religious communities in the country, working with youth to make the links around religious freedom, democratic development, the role of religion and religious communities within society.”

There’s been a historic lack of dialogue within Ukraine communities, so Canada wants to help address that, he said.

Bennett said he won’t travel to Crimea or eastern Ukraine because it is too dangerous.

The Harper government has particularly vocal in its criticism of Putin as being personally responsible for provoking unrest on Ukrainian soil.

Bennett also took Putin to task for positioning himself as a defender of religious freedom.

In the Middle East, Putin sees himself and Russia as defenders of Orthodox Christians in Syria and Iraq and has spoken out loudly against their persecution, said Bennett.

“We all need to speak out,” he said. “But it’s very disingenuous when he does it on one hand in the Middle East and through his proxies they’re persecuting their fellow Christians in Ukraine.”

With some 1.2 million Canadians of Ukraine descent living here, Ukraine is a top foreign policy priority for the Harper government.

As he recently welcomed Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to Ottawa, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said the two peoples are like “family” and that their bond transcends simple foreign policy interests.


http://archeparchy.ca/news_details.php?news_id=77  16Oct2014

http://www.catholicregister.org/item/19048-cnewa-lands-grant-to-aid-ukraine  24Oct2014

http://mfa.gov.ua/en/news-feeds/foreign-offices-news/28530-kanada-realizuje-dva-projekti-z-pidtrimki-svobodi-virospovidannya-v-ukrajini  08Oct2014

http://news.gc.ca/web/article-en.do?nid=890859  08Oct2014