Rome, Italy, Feb 24, 2016 / 06:01 am America/Denver (CNA).
What’s next for ecumenism? After the recent meeting between Pope Francis and the Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church has emphasized that “the first thing is to free religion from politics.”
“We cannot reconcile with geopolitics, but we can reconcile with our brothers,” Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kyiv-Halych told CNA Feb. 23.
He reflected on the joint declaration signed by Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill in Havana Feb. 12. The Pope and the Patriarch stressed that “it is our hope that our meeting may also contribute to reconciliation wherever tensions exist between Greek Catholics and Orthodox.”
Archbishop Shevchuk said the declaration has many positive points, while also emphasizing some critical points of the declaration. He considered it too imbalanced toward the Russian Orthodox positions, and in general excessively politically oriented.
The archbishop had also voiced his criticism in a Feb. 14 interview on the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church’s web site.
Speaking to CNA, Archbishop Shevchuk maintained that “the meeting between Patriarch Kirill and Pope Francis was very important, according to my mind and to what I heard from the Ukrainian population.”
“I agree to call that meeting historical, as we need to meet in order to discuss and to carry forward our path to unity,” the archbishop said.
However, he underscored that “the meeting in Havana is just the beginning of the path.”
“We must not fix our attention on one only point. We must think what to do after. The first thing is to free religion from politics. We cannot reconcile with geopolitics, but we can reconcile with our brothers,” he said.
Archbishop Shevchuk is Major Archbishop of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church and a member of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity. The dicastery was directly involved in drafting the joint declaration. However, Archbishop Shevchuk was not involved in the drafting process, nor was he asked for recommendations.
The archbishop said that for him, “it was important that the voice of the local Church was heard, since it was called up in the declaration.”
“There are two points of view: that of the universal Church, and that of the local Church, that might see the same problems, but from a different point of view. For this reason, to us, to the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church, it was important to listen to the Holy Father and at the same time to be listened to by the Holy Father,” the archbishop said.
Archbishop Shevchuk became close to Pope Francis when both were in Argentina. He served as a bishop in the Ukrainian Eparchy of Santa Maria del Patrocinio in Buenos Aires from 2009-2011, while Bergoglio served as the Archbishop of Buenos Aires.