Russian Patriarch attacks Ukrainian Catholics

Accuses Greek Orthodox of ‘political activities’

Patriarch Kirill of Moscow has accused the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church of meddling in political activities in Ukraine while sowing anti-Russian sentiment in the country.

Speaking in Moscow on May 28 in the wake of Ukrainian presidential elections which saw the pro-EU candidate, Petro Poroshenko emerge as a clear winner, the patriarch criticised perceived Greek Catholic actions and warned that his Church’s relations with the Vatican have been harmed as a result.

“The Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church is engaging in direct political activities, unfortunately, using sharp Russophobic slogans and statements and making sharp statements against the Russian Orthodox Church in its public declarations,” Patriarch Kirill charged, describing the “very dark shadow” cast over Moscow-Rome relations.

The patriarch’s words come after a recent sharp exchange between Metropolitan Hilarion, head of the Russian Orthodox Church’s Department for External Church Relations, and Major Archbishop Svyatoslav Shevchuk of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. When the metropolitan accused Greek Catholics of taking sides and sowing disunion in Ukraine, this was strongly denied by the archbishop, who stressed that clerics of his Church did not participate in protests but ministered to those who had felt compelled to take to the streets in recent protests.

In the same exchange, Metropolitan Hilarion refused to condemn reports of threats and intimidation of Catholics in Crimea, insisting he had heard of no such incidents.

As Patriarch Kirill made his own intervention last week, news emerged from Ukraine of the kidnapping by pro-Russian forces of a Polish priest, Fr Pawel Witek in the eastern city of Donetsk.