The conflict between Greek Catholics and Orthodox in Western Ukraine has to be resolved from both sides, said Cardinal Kurt Koch, head of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. “Only by recognizing this can we move together into the future,” he said December 17, responding to journalists' questions at a press conference in Moscow.
A correspondent from Blahovest-info asked about the cardinal’s attitude toward the issue, which, the Russian Orthodox Church believes, complicates the preparation of a possible meeting between the Moscow Patriarch and the Pope. The journalist quoted statements recently made by Metropolitan Hilarion’s at a Russian-Polish conference: “Even in the twentieth century, we are faced with a situation that is still unhealed – a situation in western Ukraine, where the Greek Catholics at the turn of 1980-90s forcibly expelled the Orthodox from churches and where there are still towns and villages where the Orthodox do not have their own churches.”
“I agree with Metropolitan Hilarion: The situation in Ukraine is very serious. But from my point of view, it has two sides, and Metropolitan Hilarion willingly speaks only of one. I have visited many parishes in Western Ukraine and saw the suffering on both sides. If the blame for what happened just lay on the Greek Catholics, we would have a lot of influence,” he answered in response to a question about the possibility of returning to the Orthodox churches.
“What are the Orthodox guilty of?” a journalist from ITAR-TASS asked. “The Orthodox themselves should answer this. We must not forget that the Catholic Church was virtually eliminated by the Soviets. Greek Catholics were forced to convert to Orthodoxy. And that they came out into the public space after the fall of the Soviet regime is their right. Of course, it is the state’s fault, but it along with the Orthodox has to be concerned about the Greek Catholics getting what rightfully belongs to it,” said Cardinal Koch.
According to him, this situation is also complicated by the presence in Ukraine of several Orthodox jurisdictions. He himself during his visit met only with the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate. However, in some places the Greek Catholic clergy have are in contact with the Orthodox believers who belong to unrecognized Orthodox Churches, and for them it is “much more difficult not to have contact with those who are not in communion with the Russian Orthodox Church.” “We must do everything so that this tension is reduced. If Orthodoxy in Ukraine was united in one church, that would be a major step toward solving the problem,” the cardinal said.
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