UGCC Head comments on statement of Russian Archbishop that Russian Church expects concrete steps from Vatican


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KYIV - Patriarch Lubomyr comments on the statement of the head of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) Department for External Church Relations that ROC is not against a meeting between its head and Pope Benedict XVI but expects the Vatican to "take concrete steps."

In response to the statement of Archbishop Hilarion of Volokolamsk, of November 5, 2008 that the ROC to show that there is a desire to be cooperative, particularly with regard to Orthodox Churches in Ukraine "forcibly seized by Greek Catholics," the head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, Patriarch Lubomyr commented about this situation in an interview for "Dzerkalo tyzhnya": "If there is a genuine desire for rapprochement, communication, then no conditions will be set to meet and communicate. And if you begin to set conditions ‘you should do this and that, then we will love you,' this is an absence of genuine desire to communicate, an absence of the real love. The difference between the policy of former and present patriarchs of Moscow is only in its form - lots of talk, but nothing substantially new occurs," said the head of the UGCC.

As RISU has already reported, Archbishop Hilarion, during an official visit to the Vatican, at a meeting with Pope Benedict XVI (on September 18) and with the cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of Congregation, for the Eastern Churches (on September 17), noted the necessity of concrete practical steps for the "cardinal improvement of situation in the Western Ukraine."

The relations between Orthodox and Greek Catholics in Ukraine the Archbishop Hilarion remain an obstacle for the dialog between the ROC and RCC. The archbishop did not pass up the opportunity, as has become traditional for ROC, to use the accusation against the Greek Catholics that they partook in the "destruction of three Orthodox eparchies - Lviv, Ternopil' and Ivano-Frankivs'k."

In an interview with the Ukrainian BBC service, the head of the UGCC Patriarch Lubomyr commented on the accusations against Greek Catholics expressed by Archbishop Hilarion: "These accusations are expressed continuously but I never heard them proved. I do not know a single example of seizure by us of any Orthodox church building, built by the faithful of the ROC. In 1946, the Russian Orthodox Church received over 500 churches in western Ukraine from the state. One cannot say they were churches of the ROC," explained the head of the UGCC. According to the hierarch, as the Church was emerging from the underground, unfortunate incidents occurred when communities were divided, which caused great misunderstandings. But it has been long in the past and today there is no such conflict. "I am still awaiting objective proof that Greek Catholics seized any church buildings by force or obstructed the construction of new churches," said His Beatitude Lubomyr.