Ukrainian News | 06Dec2012 | Marco Levytsky (editorial)

Orthodox faithful deserve an open dialogue

In a letter to the editor, published alongside this editorial, the Rev. Fr. Cornell Zubritsky of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada (UOCC) takes exception to my editorial decision to run a recent opinion piece entitled “Christian? No. Orthodox? Apparently so.” by Larissa Bayrachny, who submitted it on behalf of the Brotherhood for the Revitalization of Ukrainian Orthodoxy in Canada, which she described as “a group of private individuals concerned about the future of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Canada”.

   In his letter Fr. Zubritsky takes me to task for deciding “to forego any fact-finding about the issues raised in this opinion piece” before printing it. While he refers to “facts”, he neglects to mention any concrete facts in his letter, nor does he address any of the issues raised by Bayrachny. It appears that Fr. Zubritsky’s main objection is to the fact I allowed it to be printed in the first place. Printing an opinion piece doesn’t necessarily mean that it is the position of a newspaper, nor even that we agree with it. It is simply a recognition of the fact that the writer has addressed an issue that deserves to be aired in a public debate, and done so in a thoughtful manner. Basically it’s called freedom of expression.

   Back in April, when I reported on the issue which generated this opinion piece, namely the order issued by His Eminence, The Most Rev. Metropolitan Yurij (Kalistchuk), forbidding UOCC clergy from meeting with His Holiness Patriarch Filaret of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Kyiv Patriarchate (UOC – KP) during his visit to Canada, I attempted to consult with Metropolitan Yurij to get his side of the story. I contacted Marusia Kaweski of the Office of Communications of the UOCC with a request for a statement from Metropolitan Yurij and was told to contact him personally. I sent an e-mail to his address and left voice messages on both his telephone lines, but got no response.

   When Bayrachny sent me her article, I read it and found it to be a thoughtful and articulate piece by a devoted believer who is deeply concerned about the direction her Church is heading in, particularly in respect to its relations with the Church in Ukraine. Also from talking with Orthodox faithful I understand that many others are also concerned about relations with the Church in Ukraine and what Bayrachny says reflects the views of a significant group. Her piece could be considered a plea for transparency and an open discussion of some very serious issues. As such, that article deserved to see the light of day.

   I can appreciate that the UOCC finds itself in a very difficult and painful position regarding its relationship with the Kyiv Patriarchate. I am quite certain that deep in their hearts, the clergy of the UOCC would like nothing better than to recognize the Kyiv Patriarchate as a canonical church for Ukraine and maintain normal relations with it. Doing so, however, goes against the position of the Ecumenical Patriarch in Constantinople who recognizes the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Moscow Patriarchate as the only canonical church in Ukraine. Defying the Ecumenical Patriarch by recognizing the Kyiv Patriarchate runs the risk of repercussions that may even lead to the UOCC itself losing its canonical status.

                However, I do not believe that Ukrainian News was promoting divisive behaviour by printing Bayrachny’s piece. Instead we were allowing a voice to some devout believers who were expressing some very serious concerns. I would certainly welcome a response from the hierarchy of the UOCC to the issues raised by Bayrachny, including a rebuttal of any of the claims she makes that the UOCC believes are incorrect and would gladly publish them. An independent press should provide a forum for a wide range of opinion. But, painful as the whole matter of relations between the UOCC and the UOC – KP can be, I do not believe this is an issue that should be ignored -- instead it is one that needs to be addressed in an open dialogue. (Marco Levytsky)