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    BRAMA News and Community Press

    BRAMA, Oct 11, 2004, 9:00 am ET

    Op-Ed

    Catholic Patriarchate in Kyiv
    By Bishop Paul Peter Jesep

    Bishop Paul Peter Jesep

    Bishop Basil H. Losten posted an Open Letter to Orthodox prelates on the Stamford, Connecticut (USA) Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy's website regarding the establishment of a Byzantine Catholic Patriarchate in Kyiv. His Grace should be applauded for challenging false prophets while furthering Eastern Rite spirituality. He questioned the Russian Orthodox Church's assumed monopoly on the Word of God.

    He notes that the creation of a Byzantine Catholic-Kyiv Patriarchate was assailed "in the Orthodox world even before it was even brought forth as a point of dialogue in the twenty-first century." He is referring to the outrageous remarks of the Russian Orthodox Church Moscow-Patriarchate. The creation of a Byzantine Catholic-Kyiv Patriarchate would further a much needed Ukrainian national consciousness.

    Branches of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the diaspora, like the Byzantine Catholic Church, nurtured and preserved the ethnic heritage abroad. In Ukraine, however, there is no question that the Byzantine Catholic Church, firmly based in Western Ukraine, played a critical role in protecting and furthering the national and spiritual integrity of the motherland. It's courage during fierce persecution is an inspiration.

    It is truly remarkable that anyone would have the insecurity or arrogance to actively work against the Byzantine Catholic Church. It is the individual who decides how to walk with God – Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant, or other. Each denomination offers something that is special. No religion should be concerned about losing souls to another group. Just serve the people well and the rest will take care of itself. This is not meant to be a competitive business.

    "In the beginning was the Word,
    and the Word was with God,
    and the Word was God."

    – John 1:1

    There is no Protestant or Orthodox heaven. God doesn't preside over a particular kind of liturgy celebration. A denomination serves, in part, as a cultural foundation while providing the individual with a vehicle to enhance his or her spirituality. Hence, a person answers to God, conscience, and to the family he or she started. Sadly, the criticism coming from the Russian Orthodox Church suggests that it is engaged in some kind of corporate game rather than the fulfillment of God's word.

    Patriarch Alexy II of the Russian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate behaves as if Ukraine is still a subjugated territory and that the cradle of Eastern Slav Christianity is under his personal dominion. I think not. He needs to be educated about the reality of freedom. Religious and political history can no longer be written or revised under the carnivorous eye of Russian Orthodox Incorporated.

    The same logic used by the Tsars and later Communists to exploit Ukraine are still used today in a religious context. In 2001, the Associated Press quoted Patriarch Alexy II saying of Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus that "there are forces in the world whose soul is against the unity of the Slav peoples. Those forces, using peaceful rhetoric, want to break that unity apart and are engaged in attempts at spiritual and political expansion."

    The only spiritual and political expansion occurring is expressed by a Christian prelate more concerned about the growth of a corporate organization manipulating religious trappings than saving the soul's of God's children. Alexy II has not fulfilled the most basic in Christian ministry – the call to fellowship that serves God – not manmade religious and cultural institutions that purport to solely have the ear of God.

    Bishop Losten correctly pointed out that "the polemics advocated by the Moscow Patriarchate presents an ecclesiological view that exists in a vacuum in the globalized world of today. It is a position that is based upon past privileges granted by Russian imperialism and godless Communism. There are no exclusive canonical territories either in the East or the West in the world of today – there are only territories of ancestral lineage." That ancestral lineage does not include continued Russification as evidenced in the past.

    The Moscow church is as opposed to a Byzantine Catholic Patriarchate as it is a national Ukrainian Orthodox Church. There is common ground for all Ukrainians – in the diaspora and the motherland – to work together to combat foreign, religious influence that serves to divide them. A criticism against one member of the Ukrainian family should be regarded as an attack on all of us.

    It is not just Russian influence that needs to be kept in check. Sometimes non-Ukrainian churches have sided with Moscow to limit the spiritual renewal of Ukraine because it would curry favor with one of the world's largest Eastern Churches. That's not proper religious behavior, but rather a crass political balancing act involving a prid pro quo. "Canonical" is often a word used with political motives. When it happens, all Ukrainian denominations, individually and collectively, need to challenge it. The rebirth of Ukrainian spirituality – Catholic or Orthodox – should not be limited in any way by a non-Ukrainian prelate playing politics with Moscow.

    Bishop Losten should be praised for advocating for religious freedom whether the citizens are Christian or not, Catholic or Orthodox. Ukraine's future is in its diversity that does not treat members of the family in the same manner that the Russian Empire and the Moscow Communists did to ethnic minorities. As the Apostle John shared, the Word is with God, not the corporate institution of a powerful religion headquartered north of Ukraine.

    Bishop Paul Peter Jesep is Chancellor of the Archeparchy and Vicar General of Public Affairs and Government Relations for the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church-Sobornopravna (UAOC-S) based in Cleveland, Ohio. In the past, His Grace also a lawyer and political scientist by training, served on the staff of U.S. Senator Susan Collins (R-ME). Bishop Jesep may be reached at VladykaPaulPeter@aol.com. The views expressed here are strictly personal and do not reflect the official position of the UAOC-S. The UAOC-S does not endorse candidates.

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