KESTON NEWS SERVICE: 20.00, 16 March 2001

I. UKRAINE: ECUMENICAL PATRIARCH�S VISIT WILL TAKE
PLACE, BUT ONLY �WHEN THE TIME IS RIGHT� Invited by the
President of Ukraine, Leonid Kuchma, and the Ukrainian Parliament, the
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew is to make an official visit to Ukraine,
but not until �the time is right�, Keston News Service has learned. The
proposed visit has been the focus of hopes for healing of the schism among
the Ukrainian Orthodox Churches and the creation of a united local church,
but is opposed by the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) and others.

II. UKRAINE: ORTHODOX UNIFICATION HOPES DISAPPOINTED?
Despite a memorandum of understanding signed at the Ecumenical
Patriarchate in November last year, and the creation of a commission to seek
ways of uniting the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAOC) and
the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kiev Patriarchate (UOC KP),
representatives of the two churches expressed no optimism to Keston News
Service about the results of the commission�s work.

I. UKRAINE: ECUMENICAL PATRIARCH�S VISIT WILL TAKE
PLACE, BUT ONLY �WHEN THE TIME IS RIGHT�

by Anna Vassilyeva, Keston News Service

After several months� wait, the President of Ukraine, Leonid Kuchma, and
the Ukrainian Parliament have received a reply to their invitation to the
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to make an official visit. According to
officials at the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the visit will take place, but only
�when the time is right�. The proposed visit has been the focus of hopes for
healing of the schism among the Ukrainian Orthodox Churches and the
creation of a united local church, but it is strongly opposed by the Russian
Orthodox Church (ROC) and a number of organisations belonging to the
Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC MP).
According to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kievan Patriarchate
(UOC KP) and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAOC),
they have received no response to their invitations.

Metropolitan Meliton of Philadelphia told Keston on 9 March that such a
visit was a possibility. He confirmed that invitations had been extended by
the President and Parliament of Ukraine, which had been sent at the end of
last year, but he denied that there had been letters from the UAOC or the
UOC KP. However, asked by Keston how the Patriarch would have
responded to the churches� invitations, Metropolitan Meliton contradicted
himself, saying �he�s already done that�.

The UOC KP sent an official invitation to Patriarch Bartholomew to come to
Ukraine and on 8 December, a delegation of the Supreme Soviet of Ukraine
sent a letter signed by 240 deputies (a majority) asking the Patriarch to help
�unite Orthodoxy in Ukraine�, said the head of the UOC KP, Patriarch Filaret
(Denisenko), speaking to Keston by telephone from Kiev on 19 February.
On 13 March, Patriarch Filaret reported that he had not received a reply but
that as far as he knew, Bartholomew had �accepted an invitation from the
President and Parliament�.

Archbishop Igor (Isychenko) of the UAOC also confirmed by telephone on
21 February that the UAOC had issued an invitation. However, on 12 and 13
March, Keston tried without success to confirm from the UAOC whether
they had received any reply.

State officials only shared information with Keston about the official
invitations very reluctantly, clearly having come up against opposition from
the Moscow Patriarchate. �I am not aware that the President of Ukraine has
sent an invitation to Patriarch Bartholomew�, said Aleksandr Martynenko, a
press officer at the President�s Administration, speaking to Keston by
telephone on 19 February. He advised Keston to ask the Supreme Soviet. On
19 February, Keston tried in vain to establish details about the letter in the
secretariat and in the commissions of the Supreme Soviet of Ukraine, but
none of the officials could say anything on the subject. An employee at the
press-centre of the President�s Administration, Igor Starozhuk, was equally
lacking in information. �I haven�t dealt with that information,� he told
Keston by telephone from Kiev on 12 March.

In spite of the fact that during a meeting at the end of September last year in
Kiev between Keston and the chairman of Ukraine�s State Committee for
Religious Affairs, Viktor Bondarenko, the latter had been optimistic about
the subject of forming a united Ukrainian Orthodox Church, he said in a
telephone interview with Keston on 19 February that he �had not seen the
text of the letter�, but remarked that �it was said to exist�. At a meeting with
Keston in Kiev on 7 March, he said that there had been a response, but
refused to give any details, saying it was �off the record�. (END)

II. UKRAINE: ORTHODOX UNIFICATION HOPES DISAPPOINTED?

by Anna Vassilyeva, Keston News Service

Despite a memorandum of understanding signed at the Ecumenical
Patriarchate in November last year, and the creation of a commission to seek
ways of uniting the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAOC) and
the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kiev Patriarchate (UOC KP),
representatives of the two churches expressed no optimism to Keston News
Service about the results of the commission�s work.

The memorandum, signed on 8 November 2000, �recognises the need to join
together with the aim of forming a united Local Ukrainian Orthodox Church
[�] to create a joint commission to study ways of achieving unity� subject to
conditions such as ending mutual recriminations, suspending episcopal
ordinations, and turning down applications from priests in other
jurisdictions.

But more than three months later there is confusion over the work of the
commission. A representative of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, Metropolitan
Meliton of Philadelphia, declared in a fax message to Keston on 9 March
that Patriarch Bartholomew was �unaware� either of the existence of the
commission or of the results of its work. Patriarch Filaret of the UOC KP,
however, told Keston by telephone from Kiev on 19 February that the
commission had been formed and that Patriarch Bartholomew would have to
�act as arbiter in areas of dispute�. He could not name dates when the
commission had met, nor could he give an account of the issues that had
been discussed at them.

Archbishop Igor (Isychenko) of the UAOC confirmed to Keston by
telephone from Kiev on 21 February that three bishops from the UAOC and
three from the UOC KP were members of the commission. He named
Makari, Andrei and Mefodi of the UAOC and Andrei, Daniil and Dmitro of
the UOC KP. However, he said that he too knew nothing about the results of
the meetings or whether they had taken place at all. Keston has not managed
to speak to members of the commission. Representatives of the UAOC with
whom Keston has spoken were not able to say anything about the results of
its work.

�I am sceptical� about the process of uniting Orthodoxy in Ukraine, said
UAOC press officer Svyatoslav Zastavsky speaking to Keston by telephone
on 19 February. �Neither church has changed its position�. He says the UOC
MP is, as before, waiting for �repentance� and the UOC KP is waiting �for us
to unite with them�. Recently, Patriarch Filaret was found to have made two
statements in a media interview in which he criticised the UAOC. In his
statements, he accuses it of breaking the agreements reached in Istanbul.

Nevertheless, the UOC KP and UAOC have high hopes that the Ecumenical
Patriarch, Bartholomew, will visit Ukraine and help find a way of creating a
Local Ukrainian Orthodox Church. They sent him an invitation the end of
last year. At the same time official invitations were sent from the President
of Ukraine, Leonid Kuchma, and the Supreme Soviet. (see separate KNS
article)

�If the Patriarch does finally come,� Zaslavsky said, �that will bring with it
significant changes for Orthodoxy in Ukraine�. Archbishop Igor declared
that with the arrival of Patriarch Bartholomew they were hoping �to work out
a procedure for convening a Local Council and recognising the canonical
authority of the bishops� who will take part in it and equally the legitimacy
of the creation of a local canonical church. �We are anticipating the
recognition of our Church as the Local Ukrainian Orthodox Church as a
result of this visit�, declared Patriarch Filaret.

The very fact that state officials, priests and leaders of the UOC KP and the
UAOC have turned to Patriarch Bartholomew to assist in the process of
unifying Orthodoxy in Ukraine has aroused vehement protests from Russian
Orthodox Church. It sent an appeal to Patriarch Bartholomew at a Council in
the year 2000, calling the visit a concrete interference in the internal affairs
of the ROC. Following this there came a series of appeals by public and
Orthodox organisations in the UAOC MP. On 22 January, after having
appealed to Pope John Paul II to postpone his visit and declared the
impossibility of meeting with him if he failed to do this, the Synod of the
UOC MP did not then consider the issue of Patriarch Bartholomew�s visit to
Ukraine, according to Father Vitali Kosovski, secretary to the
Metropolitanate, who spoke to Keston by telephone from Kiev on 19
February. Asked by Keston what the church�s opinion would be if the visit
went ahead, Fr Vitali replied �when we know about the visit, then we can
form an opinion.�

Chairman of Ukraine�s State Committee for Religious Affairs Viktor
Bondarenko, who in a Keston interview last October optimistically stated
that he thought �the Moscow Patriarchate would unite� with a newly formed
local church, was very reluctant to discuss the issue during a meeting with
Keston on 7 March.

At the same time, on the pages of the internet server �Orthodoxy in
Ukraine�, a letter appeared from the Union of Orthodox Brotherhoods,
adopted at the Kiev Monastery of the Caves in December of last year,
appealing to Patriarch Bartholomew to postpone his visit to the canonical
territory of the UOC MP, not to meet with representatives of non-canonical
churches and not to become the cause of a new schism in Ukrainian
Orthodoxy. (END)