The archbishop emphasized the need for ecumenical dialogue in Ukraine, especially with Orthodox Christians, who are deeply divided in the country, especially after a disagreement over the relationship between Ukrainian and Russian Orthodox Churches. That disagreement has become a contentious debate involving the Orthodox Patriarch of Moscow, Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko, and the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I.
"Ecumenical dialogue," Shevchuk underscored "is crucial for Ukraine, because Ukraine is a multiethnic and multi-religious country and there is also a painful situation of an internal division between the Orthodox."
Shevchuk said that "of course there is some sort of competition between Churches, especially those who would call themselves as Orthodox; of course, there is a sound risk of the instrumentalization of the Church for geopolitical proposals; of course there are some facts that even Orthodox priests took up arms against Ukraine's army; but nevertheless I think that the consciousness that religious peace is a common good of all of us is prevailing right now."
The head of Greek Catholics of Ukraine discussed the roots of the current disagreement: a request from some Ukrainian Orthodox Churches for independence from affiliation with the Russian Orthodox Churches.
"Of course," he said, "Ukrainian Orthodox Churches which are not in communion with the Moscow patriarchate are trying to come out of isolation within worldwide Orthodoxy; of course, they would look toward the mother Church, the Church of Constantinople."
"There are some inner tensions in each Church as well, but thanks to be to God until now we have religious peace among us," he added.
The archbishop expressed regret that "there is no bilateral dialogue" among the Churches, as "there is no alternative to dialogue. With no dialogue, there is just confrontation."
He then praised a Ukrainian NGO, the "Council of the Churches and Religious Organizations" that "can help us to meet and to cooperate together for the common good of the Ukrainian society."
He added that, despite Ukraine's struggles, he has hope.
"We are Christians, we trust in God's providence. Only God is the master of peace, and there is no peace without justice," he concluded.
The US Embassy to the Holy See will co-sponsor a June 25 conference on religious freedom, which will take place at the Pontifical Holy Cross University in Rome.
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