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Ukraine Business |22Apr2012 |Vasyl Pawlowsky*

A not so holy visit

“The hegemonistic and expansionist policies of the Vladimir Putin government and those of Patriarch Kirill, as head of the Moscow Patriarchate, are different sides of absolutely the same coin. Any former Soviet government that does not recognize -- and steadfastly oppose -- this joint attack on its independence and sovereignty is likely to find itself in as bad or worse position of subjugation than it suffered within the Soviet Union.”

With the most holy of days of the Christian calendar just passed, most lay people will have probably recognized only one thing, that Easter, the celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, fell one week later for Orthodox Christians than for other Christian denominations this year.

However, very few lay people and not that many more Christians know the difference between the Russian Orthodox Church, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate, the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church, and the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. They recognize that the various church groups set their Easter calendars according to different parameters but their understanding in many cases goes no further.

This year as Ukrainians were about to celebrate this joyous occasion, Oleksandr Yefremov, head of the  Party of Regions fraction in the Ukrainian Parliament at a briefing wished everyone the best for the holiday celebrating Christ's birth. If someone has highly placed as Yefremov manages to totally misinterpret the meaning of Easter, then perhaps I am being too hard on laymen for their lack of sophistication on the differences between the various Ukrainian-related confessions.

I seldom poke my nose into church matters, coming as I do from Canada, a nation in which Church and State have been divided for some time -- and I like it that way. But nonetheless, no matter where you go, the Church, regardless of which one you talk about, has its politics too. However, when you get into the politics of the churches that exist in Ukraine the matter becomes quite difficult for even the best of history buffs to understand.

This is particularly true when dealing with the various Orthodox Church groups that have current or historical roots in Ukraine, as each seems to think that is more canonically right in their position. Let us begin this discussion by saying as directly and forcefully as possible: it is all about politics and ethics has almost nothing to do with this issue. Some of my Orthodox friends may be incensed by this statement; I am willing to deal with that. However, I defy anyone of them to prove that statement and the opinion it represents as being false or even misleading. It is not.

Anyone who cares to question my statement about the political name of the matter being immensely more important has only to consider a number of different pieces of information both directly and indirectly about the visit to Canada of Patriarch Filaret, head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Kyiv Patriarchate.

First, I received an itinerary for Patriarch Filaret’s visit from the Toronto Branch of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress. This itinerary included a visit to the Ukrainian Care Centre, followed by a tour of St. Volodymyr Cemetery in Oakville, Ontario, followed by a luncheon with community leaders.

However, a few days later I became aware in an e-mail sent to me by Bishop Paul Peter Jesep, a copy of his commentary: Aiding and abetting the Moscow Patriarchate, that there are agents of Moscow even in Canada. Most of the politically informed among the Ukrainian-Canadian community have known this all along but for the less well-informed this is likely to come as another dastardly and underhanded Moscow Patriarchate intrusion into matters that it should leave alone.

Before we elucidate further on this matter, perhaps we should introduce a fact into the discussion that sometimes escapes public notice. The hegemonistic and expansionist policies of the Vladimir Putin government and those of Patriarch Kirill, as head of the Moscow Patriarchate, are different sides of absolutely the same coin. Any former Soviet government that does not recognize -- and steadfastly oppose -- this joint attack on its independence and sovereignty is likely to find itself in as bad or worse position of subjugation than it suffered within the Soviet Union.

It doesn’t take too much digging to understand just how Moscow has used the Church to do its dirty work. When Bishop Paul Peter Jesep sent me a link to his commentary on Ukraine Business Online he also sent me the supporting documentation of a letter from the Consistory of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada signed by Archbishop Yurij, born in Lachine, Quebec where I grew up. As a former parishioner of St. George's Orthodox Church in that same vicinity, I understood that they were continuing their dirty work.

As Bishop Jesep quite rightly makes the point in his commentary, Patriarch Kirill (Vladimir Gundyaev) is alleged to have amassed considerable personal wealth during his climb through the Moscow Patriarchate leadership ladder. Other publications recently pointed out, and included documentary photographic proof, Kirill has an extremely expensive watch given by a follower, alleged to have cost USD 35,000. Photographs taken at a public ceremony clearly showed the patriarch wearing the watch in question. However, in the same photo was shown in a Moscow Patriarchate publication, the watch had mysteriously disappeared, airbrushed into non-existence.

If I were in charge in the Moscow Patriarchate, I would be working very hard to have the same photo retoucher who made the Patriarchate’s expensive watch disappear make Metropolitan Yurij’s hate-filled letter sent to all his parishes also disappear. The letter commands all officials and followers of the Moscow Patriarchate to observe that Patriarch Filaret “cannot at this time be welcomed nor have banquets organized in his honour in the parishes, or their properties, of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada.” The letter even goes so far as to instruct that no one should even be in the vicinity of the visiting official, fearful that someone might be seen in a photo with Filaret and somehow thereby legitimize his visit.

What makes the letter by Metropolitan Yurij all the more obnoxious that it states that these hateful instructions are in “accordance and blessing of His All-Holiness Bartholomew.” The so-called Ecumenical Patriarch, at least theoretically head of the Orthodox Church worldwide, is a pitiful and pitiable figure who has little power and fewer resources. Increasingly, Bartholomew has been marginalized as the Moscow Patriarchate seeks to establish its pre-eminence among all Orthodox Churches, enriched and supported by the government of the Russian Federation.

My message to Metropolitan Yurij is simple and direct. I don't like corruption and I don't like the politics that are dictated from Moscow to you via Istanbul. Because you have chosen to play the political game and not one of any ethics you have chosen to pass on the instructions of Moscow, at least theoretical reinforced by the Ecumenical Patriarch.

For the reasons that Bishop Jesep points out, I could do no more than agree with him. Moscow, in not only Church matters has had much more influence than it is due, because of primarily a lack of understanding of the politics of Moscow, but also in the grandiose world of politics.

It is a mystery how Archbishop Yurij, as someone who grew up for most of his life in Canada, can propagate the nonsense of Moscow, particularly supported by those parishioners of St. Georges Orthodox Church in Lachine, who grew up with him. I sometimes wonder how any of those who consider themselves to be ethical individuals can support his “aiding and abetting” of the Moscow Patriarchate that has one thing in mind -- to destroy Ukraine and its people and believers.


*Vasyl Pawlowsky is a Ukrainian-Canadian who lived and worked in Ukraine for many years. In more recent days, he has returned to Canada where he works as an independent consultant. However, he still maintains a very active interest in Ukraine, as is evidenced by the commentary above. Pawlowsky may be contacted via e-mail at: [email protected] or on Skype at vasyl.pawlowsky

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