Metropolitan Hilarion claimed there are "three forces" behind the push for autocephaly in Ukraine: Ukrainian political leadership, the UOC-KP itself, and the "uniates" of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church, each of which acts "for its own benefit."
During his meeting with Pope Francis, Archbishop Shevchuk touched upon this "uniatism", saying the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church rejects "uniatism" as a method for achieving Church unity, since it has received the Balamand declaration.
That 1993 declaration of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue Between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church said that seeking the conversion of persons from one Church to the other, which it said has been called "uniatism", cannot be accepted as a model to follow or as a model for the unity sought by the Churches.
Archbishop Shevchuk stated to Pope Francis that "it is obvious that the ultimate act of uniatism, in the 20th century, was the 1946 Lviv pseudo-council."
The 1946 Synod of Lviv was the means by which the Soviet Union acted to suppress the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church and forcibly to absorb it into the Russian Orthodox Church.
"Accusations of uniatism directed at the UGCC, due of its active ecumenical position and its invitation to seek paths of unity with the Orthodox, are nothing less than a manipulation of the facts. The Eastern Catholic Churches, in and of themselves, are not 'some sort of method,' but are living members of Christ's Church, which not only have the right to exist but are also called to engage in mission and in the work of evangelization."
The release from the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church said Pope Francis assured the Church of his support and agreed that accusations of uniatism against it are groundless.
"He also thanked the UGCC for its active participation in rebuilding Ukrainian society based on the principles of Catholic Social teaching … He thanked the Church for its promotion of authentic Christian patriotism which, under no circumstances, should be used or manipulated for particular ecclesiastical or ideological goals," according to the statement.
"The Holy Father also expressed his closeness to the Ukrainian nation which, as the victim of unjust aggression, is living through a painful period of its history."
The statement added that Francis drew attention to the importance of Polish-Ukrainian reconciliation, and said he would also remember Ukraine during his July 7 ecumenical prayer for peace in the Middle East which will be held in Bari.