The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, on the other hand, had to be rebuilt after being practically eradicated with the so-called pseudo-synod of Lviv in 1946.
In the diaspora, Greek Catholics have kept their identity, established a worldwide Church, and managed to rise from the ashes after the collapse of communism.
The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church is the largest of the sui iuris Churches linked to Rome. It has a major archbishop, who is the equivalent of a “pope” for its people, and it is a genuinely global Church, with a presence and hierarchy in four continents.
Pope Francis has often spoken of the “ecumenism of blood.” In the case of Ukraine, there is a “field hospital ecumenism,” which finds expression in the Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations (UCCRO).
Born in 1996, the council represented 95% of religious communities in Ukraine and played a crucial role after Ukraine’s 2014 “Revolution of Dignity,” remaining close to people and establishing a channel for dialogue between faiths when the Christian denominations remained divided.
For this reason, Shevchuk strongly emphasized: “There is no war between religions in Ukraine. Even the Orthodox do not appreciate when it comes to a war of religions. On the contrary, religions in Ukraine collaborate and do everything possible to guarantee religious peace, as well as help the population.”
The major archbishop explained that the country’s religious confessions were committed to the four pillars of “prayer, solidarity, preaching hope, working for the consolidation of the people.”
The Churches’ unity in defending the nation is apparent from an event on Feb. 24, the first day of the invasion. Metropolitan Onufriy, the head of the UOC-MP, released a surprising statement, in which he said: “Defending the sovereignty and integrity of Ukraine, we appeal to the President of Russia and ask you to immediately stop the fratricidal war.”
“The Ukrainian and Russian peoples came out of the Dnieper baptismal font, and the war between these peoples is a repetition of the sin of Cain, who killed his own brother out of envy. Such a war has no justification for either God or men.”
On Feb. 28, the synod of the same Church addressed the following appeal to the Moscow Patriarch Kirill: “Your Holiness! We ask you to intensify your prayer for the long-suffering Ukrainian people, to speak your First Hierarchical Word on the cessation of fratricidal bloodshed on Ukrainian soil, and to call upon the leadership of the Russian Federation to immediately stop the hostilities that already threaten to turn into a World War.”
On March 2, the clergy of the diocese of Ivano-Frankivsk announced that they would stop commemorating Kirill during Divine Liturgies. This act means that his authority is no longer recognized.
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The Patriarch of Moscow is paying a price for not clearly condemning the Russian invasion.
In a statement on Feb. 24, the first day of the attack, Kirill stressed that he was “the Patriarch of All Russia and the primate of a Church whose flock is located in Russia, Ukraine, and other countries” and called “on all parties to the conflict to do everything possible to avoid civilian casualties.”
He reiterated that “the Russian and Ukrainian peoples have a common centuries-old history dating back to the Baptism of Rus’ by Prince St. Vladimir the Equal-to-the-Apostles.”
“I believe that this God-given affinity will help overcome the divisions and disagreements that have arisen that have led to the current conflict,” he said.
The statement did not include any condemnation of Russian aggression but instead seemed to reaffirm the conviction that Ukraine is Russia’s canonical territory.
Kirill’s position is an isolated one within the Orthodox sphere. The Serbian Orthodox Church, traditionally a friend of Moscow, said on Feb. 28 that it was sending aid to the Church led by Metropolitan Onufriy. This meaningful gesture did not burn the traditional bridges of friendship but it was nevertheless striking.