Issue 10, Articles 5-6, 5 October 2000

Immediate reporting on violations of religious liberty and on religion in
communist and post-communist lands.

NOTE: New Keston reprint policy. To facilitate the dissemination of
information, Keston News Service may now be reprinted with the one
stipulation, that acknowledgement is given as 'Source: Keston Institute'. We
still rely on your donations and hope that as we have freed up distribution lines,
those who benefit from this innovation will help us to maintain and expand our
service. Thank you!

the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) told Keston last week
that out of over 800 churches in the Lviv diocese, today only five disputes are
ongoing: `Once the fire is out there is no need to shout "Fire!"' Although
poaching churches in this area is cited by Patriarch Aleksi as one of the main
reasons ecumenical dialogue cannot move forward between the Orthodox and
Catholics, last week Keston learned from the Greek Catholic Church in western
Ukraine that `the conflict between us and the Moscow Patriarchate exists only
in the imagination.'

In an area which the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Kiev Patriarchate) admits
was 100 per cent Greek Catholic before the Second World War, Catholics and
Orthodox alike agree it is at least 40 per cent Orthodox today. This is due
mainly to churches leaving the UOC-MP for rival Orthodox churches: UOC-
KP and Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church.

Thursday 5 October 2000

by Geraldine Fagan and Aleksandr Shchipkov, Keston News Service

The continuing conflict between the Moscow Patriarchate and the Greek
Catholic Church in west Ukraine is routinely cited by Russian Orthodox
Patriarch ALEKSI II as the main obstacle to a papal visit to Russia. As recently
as 9 June the patriarch complained on Russian national television channel RTR
that Pope JOHN PAUL II was failing to censure the Greek Catholic
`occupation' of the region. In the Lviv, Ternopil and Ivano-Frankivsk dioceses
of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate), he maintained,
parishioners were being `hounded' from their churches and clergy beaten.

Almost all the Catholic, Orthodox and government representatives interviewed
by Keston in Ukraine in recent days, however, are in agreement that no such
conflict exists. Speaking to Keston in Lviv on 22 September, secretary of the
Greek Catholic synod Bishop YULIAN GBUR remarked, `the conflict between
us and the Moscow Patriarchate exists only in the imagination.' Also speaking
to Keston in Lviv, on 26 September Roman Catholic priest Father ANDRZEJ
LEGOWICZ similarly described the conflict as `artificial'.

Representatives of the UOC (MP) hardly testified to a conflict of sufficient
proportions to impede Catholic-Orthodox dialogue. Speaking to Keston in Kiev
on 29 September, Archbishop MITROFAN (YURCHUK) of the UOC (MP)
stated merely that there were `still problems in some places.' The Lviv diocese
of the UOC (MP) closely follows such cases and maintains a number of files
on their progress, shown to Keston by diocesan secretary OKSANA
ZHABORINSKAYA on 22 September. As evidence for such conflict, she gave
the example of the ongoing dispute over a UOC (MP) church in the village of
Urizh in the Drohobych district of Lviv region. When Greek Catholics seized
the building in 1995, she maintained, parish priest Father NIKOLAI
PETRUSHCHAK was violently expelled from his house, and a court order to
return the church to the UOC (MP) has still not been executed. When asked for
the number of disputes between Greek Catholic and UOC (MP) parishes in
Lviv diocese to date, however, she calculated the total to be a mere five.

`Aleksi II Does Not Meet the Pope Due to the Conflict in Urizh' - a headline in
the 31 January 1998 issue of a local secular newspaper `Moloda Galichina' -
thus appears to come close to the truth. Keston pointed out to Zhaborinskaya
that five disputes represented a tiny proportion of the hundreds of formerly
Greek Catholic churches in Lviv region turned over to the Russian Orthodox
Church in 1946. She conceded that the serious disputes had been confined to
the period of 1991-93, and were now over: `Once the fire is out there is no need
to shout "Fire!"'

Unlike Patriarch Aleksi, Father STEPAN BALAN and novice monk BOGDAN
were no longer shouting `fire!' in this regard when Keston spoke to them at the
Ternopil diocesan offices of the UOC (MP) on 24 September. Asked about the
ongoing conflict with Greek Catholics, they responded: `There is nothing to
say. There was a problem and it is in the past.'

This view was confirmed by government officials. Head of Lviv Regional
Department for Religious Affairs STEPAN BORUTSKY stated to Keston on
26 September that `there is no conflict in our region between Greek Catholics
and the Moscow Patriarchate.' There were `misunderstandings' over property at
parish level in just two locations in the region, he maintained, whereas in the
early 1990s the figure had been 800. When Keston asked Chairman of the
national Committee for Religious Affairs VIKTOR BONDARENKO about the
ongoing conflict between Greek Catholics and the Moscow Patriarchate, he
replied: `What was called a conflict does not now exist in practice.' Speaking to
Keston in Kiev on 28 September, he maintained that the patriarch's continued
statements represented `an out-of-date point of view' tenable only until the mid-
1990s at most.

Why is the Moscow Patriarchate so anxious to claim that the conflict still
exists? The majority of Keston's interviewees were unsure, but those who did
offer a view cited the reasons put forward by Patriarch Aleksi himself.
According to Bishop Gbur, `It is the Moscow Patriarchate's excuse not to
engage in ecumenical dialogue with the Vatican.' Speaking to Keston in Kiev
on 28 September, Patriarch FILARET (DENISENKO) of the Ukrainian
Orthodox Church (Kiev Patriarchate) similarly claimed that the Moscow
Patriarchate needed `some kind of reason' not to allow a papal visit to Russia,
while in Lviv Father Legowicz commented: `If the patriarch does not want the
pope to come to Russia then it will never end.' (END)

Thursday 5 October 2000

by Geraldine Fagan and Aleksandr Shchipkov, Keston News Service

Representatives of the UOC (MP) with whom Keston recently spoke in west
Ukraine view the current threat to their parishes as coming from other
Ukrainian Orthodox jurisdictions. `The conflict now is with the Kiev
Patriarchate and the UAOC [Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church],'
remarked Father STEPAN BALAN at the diocesan offices of the UOC (MP) in
Ternopil on 24 September.

The foremost local dispute for Father Stepan and Novice BOGDAN is not with
Greek Catholics but the UAOC. The Church of the Nativity, the only
functioning church in Ternopil city under Soviet rule, passed from UOC (MP)
to UAOC control in the early 1990s when priest-in-charge Father VALERI
(KUDRYAKOV) (now Metropolitan MEFODI of the UAOC) transferred
jurisdiction. During the subsequent six-year battle for control of the adjacent
priest's house, said Novice Bogdan, there were continual physical attacks.
When parishioners remaining loyal to the UOC (MP) managed to secure the
building, he said, `you couldn't hear the service due to demonstrators beating
on the windows,' whereas once the UAOC gained the upper hand, `police
officers with machine guns prevented our people from attending vespers.'

On 22 September secretary of the Lviv diocese of the UOC (MP) OKSANA
ZHABORINSKAYA told Keston that ten of the diocese's approximately 60
parishes were currently `wavering' between the UOC (MP) and the other
Orthodox jurisdictions. On 25 September Archbishop MAKARI
(MALETYCH) of the Lviv diocese of the UAOC told Keston that every single
one of the UAOC's 330 parishes in Lviv region had belonged to the Russian
Orthodox Church (ROC) before 1990.

If a substantial number of the ROC's pre-1990 churches indeed transferred not
to the Greek Catholic Church but to another Orthodox jurisdiction, the Moscow
Patriarchate's charges of `occupation' in west Ukraine could equally be levelled
against the UOC (KP) and UAOC as against Greek Catholics. Ascertaining
precisely how many have in fact done so proves difficult, however. Although
on 26 September head of the Lviv Department for Religious Affairs STEPAN
BORUTSKY provided Keston with the figure of 1,464 for the total number of
buildings registered with the Russian Orthodox Church in Lviv region in 1991,
he was unable even to estimate how many of these now belonged to the Greek
Catholics, since current statistics included the considerable number of churches
constructed in the interim period. Travelling by road through Lviv and Ternopil
regions on 24 September, Keston indeed observed evidence of extensive
construction; all of the 25 Greek Catholic churches counted over a distance of
160 miles appeared to be very new.

Asked approximately how many of the pre-1990 Russian Orthodox churches
had reverted to the Greek Catholic Church and how many had either remained
under the auspices of the ROC or gone over to one of the other Orthodox
jurisdictions, Keston's interviewees nevertheless gave remarkably similar
estimates. Greek Catholic Bishop YULIAN GBUR, Greek Catholic Abbot
UOC (KP) all suggested 60 and 40 per cent respectively. Greek Catholic
village priest in Ternopil region Father IGOR FEDORISHIN thought that the
balance was 50/50, as did Father Stepan Balan of the Ternopil diocese of the

Taking into account the particularly extensive construction on the part of the
Greek Catholics, these estimates would seem to be borne out by statistics from
the Ukrainian Centre for Economic and Political Studies (UCEPS). According
to UCEPS, the total numbers of religious organisations registered with the
Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, UOC (MP), UOC (KP) and UAOC in Lviv
region as of 1 January 2000 are 1433, 58, 388 and 345 respectively. The
analogous figures for Ivano-Frankivsk region are 651, 21, 285 and 125. For
Ternopil they are 739, 108, 192 and 280 - closer to the 50/50 estimates of
Keston's interviewees in that region.

Why does Patriarch Aleksi not make public complaints about incidents such as
that in Ternopil city, so reminiscent of the alleged `occupation' by Greek
Catholics? In Father Stepan Balan's view, open discussion of the problem
might make it more difficult to unite the various Orthodox jurisdictions, `but
silence is a form of lie.' Bishop Yulian Gbur was clearly reluctant to answer the
same question, which Keston posed several times before he replied `no

When Keston asked Bishop Makari of the UAOC's Lviv diocese on 25
September, he responded that the Moscow Patriarchate `did not wish to wash
its dirty linen in public', but did not enlighten Keston further. Other
interviewees provided a possible explanation: Stepan Borutsky told Keston that
there were just five Orthodox churches in Lviv region prior to the Second
World War; Patriarch Filaret remarked that Galicia used to be `100 per cent
Greek Catholic'. Speaking to Keston in Kiev on 28 September, UAOC
Archbishop IGOR ISICHENKO of Kharkiv and Poltava maintained that the
Moscow Patriarchate had now accepted that Greek Catholics were not its own
(`chuzhiye'), but this was not the case regarding those who had gone over to
one of the other Orthodox jurisdictions.

If Patriarch Aleksi were thus to complain publicly about the activities of the
UOC (KP) and UAOC in west Ukraine, he would highlight their comparative
strength in the region, and by implication their ability to attract up to 40 per
cent of traditionally Greek Catholic believers which the Moscow Patriarchate
was unable to retain after 1990. On 25 September the UOC (KP)'s Bishop of
Lviv ANDREI (HORAK) boasted as much to Keston: `We have preserved
Orthodox parishes.' (END)