2005-08-22 18:10:00

Open Letter of His Beatitude Metropolitan Vladimir of Kiev and All Ukraine to the Pope of Rome Benedict XVI concerning the transfer of the see of the head of the Uniate Church from Lvov to Kiev

Many years have passed since our meeting in Germany in 1970s. It was very important to me, a young bishop from the country, in which militant atheism was the state ideology, to be introduced to the work of the Church with society, and with youth in particular, in which you were involved. Impressions of the long past have left their clear-cut imprint forever.

Today the Lord has given me the many million Ukrainian flock to care for. Being guided by the apostles' directions to seek and pursue peace with everybody as far as it possible, our Church holds the position of peace and toleration towards all religious confessions in Ukraine.

We see our main objective in overcoming consequences of the totalitarian past that tried to wipe out the precious treasure of our God-loving people - their faith. We see a primary task of our Church in active educational activity, charity work for those who need particular attention, in involvement of young generation to church life, as this generation encounters many temptations, such as heavy drinking, drug addiction, and sexual promiscuity a result of which is AIDS - the plague of the 20th century.

On the background of these problems which the Church faces today, the internal and external church controversies are unnecessary, as they exhaust forces that could have been directed to the fulfillment of our primary Christian duty, which is to bring the light of the faith of Christ and to serve Christ through ministry to our neighbours.

Your predecessor John Paul II of the blessed memory signed not long before his demise and at the persistent request of the bishops of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church a decree on transferring the see of the UGCC head from Lvov to Kiev - the capital of Ukraine and on changing its primate's title to 'Major Archbishop of Kiev and Galicia'.

This is going to happen on 21 August 2005, as Lubomir Cardinal Husar informed me in a letter. These news have stirred up Ukrainian Orthodox church and secular public, brought about a new unrest to the already troubled church life and have given a cause for interconfessional and political gambling.

It is well known that for several centuries the relations of Poland, under which the western region of Ukraine had been till 1939, with our country had been rather tense because of the different mentality. The Union of Brest signed in 1596 was not taken in by the Ukrainian people, the overwhelming majority of whom have remained faithful to the Greek Orthodox faith. The Greek Catholic Church has always had a clear regional nature.

The UGCC takes advantage of the interorthodox church life in the present changing political situation and is going to implement the decision, which, - I am confident, - is hardly motivated by ecclesiastical expediency. The decision taken by the late Pope who was a Slav and its approval by the UGCC Synod could be understood from human point of view and from the point of view of national belonging. However, I am confident that its implementation will not benefit the cause of the Church as a whole and will not promote the improvement of interchurch relations.

On my own behalf, on behalf of the hierarchs of our Church, the Ukrainian Orthodox flock entrusted to me by God, and Ukrainian religious and pubic organizations I ask you to reverse the decree signed by your predecessor. I am sure that such display of your good will and the good will of the Apostolic See, will meet response in the hearts of Orthodox Ukrainians and will become an effective step towards the restoration of peace in the Church and the commanded by God unity in our Lord Jesus Christ.

Metropolitan of Kiev and All Ukraine