Ukrainian Orthodox Warn Against Russian Patriarch's Visit

KIEV, Oct 18, 02 ( - A legislative leader's invitation for Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexei II to visit Ukraine has prompted strong protests from other political leaders, as well as representatives of the independent Kiev patriarchate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

Vologdymry Lytvyn, the speaker of the country's parliament, issued the invitation for Patriarch Alexei to visit Ukraine before the end of this year. But Pavlo Movchan, a member of the parliament's Committee on Culture and Spirituality, quickly dismissed the invitation as «canonical and ethical nonsense,» pointing out the it came from «a politician who has no relation to the Church.»

The parliamentary committee as a whole advised against the Patriarch's visit, saying that the Russian prelate would be «a dangerous and destabilizing factor in Ukraine's religious life.» The committee said that Patriarch Alexei «is not welcome, since the majority of the Ukrainian people think of the Russian prelate as persona non grata in this country.»

The controversy surrounding Patriarch Alexei reflects the deep divisions among the Ukrainian Orthodox faithful. The divisions date back to 1993, when Patriarch Filaret of Kiev, the recognized leader of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, demanded greater autonomy from the Moscow patriarchate. The Russian Orthodox Church responded by excommunicating Filaret, who then established his own independent Patriarchate of Kiev. The Kiev patriarchate has steadily attracted followers away from the established Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which remains allied with the Moscow patriarchate. (A third group, the Autocephalous Orthodox Church of Ukraine, is often allied with Patriarch Filaret against the Moscow-backed group.)

A spokesman for the Kiev patriarchate, Bishop Dymitrii of Pereiaslav, also said that a visit by the Russian prelate would «lead to discord and hatred.» He said that if he did visit Ukraine, Patriarch Alexei would see at first hand the results of his harsh treatment of the independent Orthodox faithful there. «The hostility of the Moscow patriarch means that we will give him the same sort of hostile reception,» he warned.

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18. oktober 2002

av Webmaster publisert 21.10.2002, sist endret 21.10.2002 - 10:47