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Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada | 01Jan2015 | Rev. Ihor Kutash,
Rev. Cornell Zubritsky
RE: Fr. V. Malchenko reaction to Dr. Bennett presentation
The Very Rev. Archpriest Vladimir Malchenko, Rector of Holy
Trinity Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (Toronto, ON), has
taken the initiative to e-mail -- in wide distribution to Orthodox
clergy, parishes and faithful, primarily throughout eastern Canada --
his personal response to a presentation by Dr. Andrew Bennett, Canada’s
Religious Freedoms Ambassador. We, too, are recipients of this e-mail
and, considering its confrontational tone and highly subjective
content, we feel a profound responsibility to offer a response.
Fr. Vladimir responds to Dr. Bennett’s presentation to the Conference
on the Ecumenical Patriarchate held in Toronto, this fall [21Oct2014].
lauded Dr. Bennett on his noble successes in the important mission of
defending Christians throughout the world, he, nevertheless, accuses
him of bias and falsehood in denouncing the actions regarding
limitations, encouraged by the government of the Russian Federation,
led by its president, Vladimir Putin, of religious freedom in Ukraine,
and especially in Crimea -- presently in a state of illegal annexation
by Russia. Dr. Bennett has stated that these actions appear to be
geared at propping up the Moscow Patriarchate (the Russian Orthodox
Church), building upon Russian nationalism united to Orthodoxy.
Mr. Putin’s actions in Ukraine, together with a vast media campaign of
disinformation, have already called forth strong criticism and
condemnation on the part of the world community, coupled with economic
and political sanctions, which have placed Russia in a most difficult
-- and deteriorating -- position. Fr. Vladimir seems determined to
continue the wave of disinformation issuing from his leaders. Claiming
the authority of “our Orthodox Church in Toronto, Canada and
worldwide”, he speaks of “the persecution of the Orthodox in Ukraine”,
referring to the (internally autonomous) Ukrainian Orthodox Church
under the omophorion of the Moscow Patriarchate.
Fr. Vladimir’s message echoes the document issued by the Russian
Congress of Canada entitled “An Open Letter Regarding Comments by
Andrew Bennett from the Orthodox Community of Toronto”, which, again,
appears to be part of the above -- mentioned wave of disinformation.
The very title of that document is misleading, in that the above
Congress does not have a mandate to speak on behalf of the entire
Orthodox community of Toronto. It contains the same sort of accusations
against the legally -- elected government of Ukraine (recognized as
such by the world community) and its armed forces, as levelled by Mr.
Putin’s propaganda campaign, i.e. that it is not the militant
Russian-supported separatists in the oblasts of Luhansk and Donetsk,
but the Ukrainian forces that have indiscriminately shelled civilian
The tragic, horrendous conditions in those oblasts make it difficult to
obtain precise, objective information about all that is going on. It is
quite clear, however, that it was the aggressive actions of those
separatist forces, led by officers of the Russian army (e. g. Igor
Girkin, a.k.a. “Strelkov”), starting with the seizure of government
offices and the murder of a Ukrainian politician, Volodymyr Rybak,
which finally prompted the Ukrainian government (initially reluctant to
do so) to respond with its on-going Anti-Terrorist Operation.
A pluralist democracy, such as Canada -- and such as Ukraine is slowly
recognizing herself to be -- assures all registered religious bodies,
including those of the same confession but diverse authorities, of
equal protection and freedom. There is every sign that Ukraine seeks to
give such protection to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, both of the
jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate and the independent Kyiv
Patriarchate, as well as the Ukrainian Catholic Church. There is a
great deal of evidence that the first is the only one of these three
faith communities which enjoys such protection and freedom in the
separatist-controlled areas and in Crimea, annexed illegally by Russia.
Various Protestant communities, and especially the (Muslim) Crimean
Tatar communities, have found themselves in a similarly precarious
situation in those areas.
The above document of the Russian Congress, which Fr. Malchenko
declares to be representative of all the Orthodox, accuses Dr. Bennett
(and the Canadian government) of intervening in Orthodox Church affairs
and that this “will send alarm signals to all Orthodox Churches in
Canada.” The defence of religious freedom is one of the prime values of
Canadians and no other community except the Russian Congress (and Fr.
Vladimir Malchenko, on a personal level) seems to be alarmed
at Dr. Bennett’s criticism of Mr. Putin’s policies.
Dr. Andrew Bennett speaks of dialogue between religious communities.
The Russian Congress, too, spoke of an, alas, interrupted dialogue with
the Ukrainian Canadian Congress. Dialogue is indeed important and it is
in this spirit that we respond to Fr. Vladimir Malchenko. True
dialogue, we remind Fr. Vladimir, requires good will and honesty,
otherwise it is mere argumentation which resolves nothing.
In the spirit of the present season of fasting before the approaching
Feast of the Nativity, we seek to hear and proclaim the life-changing
message of the Angels who greeted the Shepherds of Bethlehem: “Glory to
God in the highest! Peace on earth. Good will to men.” May that peace
and goodwill continue to flourish, for the glory of God, in our
Canadian society, and may it touch all regions and all peoples of our
ancestral homeland, Ukraine!
-- Briefing and Information Team
of the Ukrainian
Orthodox Church of Canada
Rt. Rev. Mitred
Archpriest Dr. Ihor Kutash
Rev. Cornell Zubritsky
Since there is no date provided in the pdf document on the UOCC
website, I have arbitrarily chosen 01Jan2015. The presumed contents of
the original Email attributed to Rev.
Malchenko are reproduced below. I could not find the date of
publication and cannot vouch for its accuracy or the spelling
errors (Bennet, the Ukraine, etc.). I could not find the
document issued by the Russian Congress of Canada entitled "An Open
Letter Regarding Comments by Andrew Bennet from the Orthodox Community
of Toronto" referred to in the article above.]
Dear Reverend Bishops, clergy, and fellow Christians,
The Open Letter of the Russian Congress in Canada represents the
feelings of our Orthodox Church in Toronto, Canada and
worldwide concerning Mr. Andrew Bennet's analysis of the persecution of
the Orthodox in the Ukraine.
I feel that Mr. Andrew Bennet's work in defending Christians worldwide
is very important and has brought many fruits of success in this very
noble cause. The persecution of the Orthodox in the Ukraine is very
familiar to all of us and my Orthodox community finds his statements
concerning the Canonical Church of the Ukraine quite bias and untrue.
The Canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church headed by Metropolitan Ounufry
is being harassed, persecuted and purged by the quite unchristian
methods of brutal force of the uncanonical group known as the "Kievan
Patriarchate" of the false patriarch Philaret, the Uniate Catholic
Church of Western Ukraine and right-wing thugs. Mr. Andrew Bennet
completely overlooks this grave and critical situation and focuses his
sights on President Putin as the persecutor of the Orthodox.
We have very close ties with the Canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church in
Kiev and have brought to their attention the findings of Mr. Bennet
concerning the persecution of the Orthodox in the Ukraine. We are
waiting for the reaction of the Canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church in
Kiev concerning the very bias and untrue statements of Mr. Bennet.
One of our bishops from the United States mentioned in his letter to me
how could the Greek Metropolis invite Mr. Bennet to their conference
and thus give him a forum to speak to an Orthodox audience? Many
representatives of the Orthodox clergy at that Conference hosted by the
Greek Metropolis, (Greek, Ukrainian and Serbian) mentioned to me that
they did not agree with Mr. Bennet's statement on the situation in the
Ukraine during his presentation.
The people of Canada wish to have trust and admiration for such noble
causes as defending the persecuted Orthodox and other religions
throughout the world. Unfortunately the statements made by Mr. Andrew
Bennet have shattered our trust and admiration of the monitoring group
The Orthodox people of the Ukraine deserve better understanding and
assistance from the government of Canada and all Christians in Canada.
Asking your prayers in the service of the Orthodox Church,
Archpriest Vladimir Malchenko
Rector of Holy Trinity Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia,
23 Henry Street, Toronto, Ontario.
Dean of Eastern Canada
Conference on the Ecumenical Patriarchate | 21Oct2014 | Andrew Bennett [34:43]
Published on 29 Oct 2014
Truth, Dignity and Justice:
Promoting Religious Freedom Around the World (October 21, 2014)
In my opinion, Andrew Bennett's wide-ranging speech (available at the
youtube link above) was rather innocuous with only two references to
Ukraine. I suspect that the newspaper articles in the Globe and Mail,
CBC and Telegram in early October 2014 prior to Mr. Bennett's visit to
Ukraine were the catalyst for the outburst. These were followed by
later articles -- the links to which are appended below.]
Globe and Mail | 05Oct2014 | Mike Blanchfield
religious freedom ambassador blasts Putin on eve of Ukraine visit
Canada’s religious freedom ambassador is bound for Ukraine and
says Russian President Vladimir Putin is orchestrating the persecution
of Orthodox Christians, Catholics and Muslim Tatars.
Andrew Bennett’s one-week, fact-finding mission begins Monday
in Kiev, where he meets religious leaders and government officials,
He is also expected to announce a package of Canadian
government assistance aimed at promoting religious freedom, democratic
development and inter-faith tolerance.
Bennett says the measures will be aimed at mitigating the
negative effect of Putin, whom he accused of systematically targeting
Christian groups in eastern Ukraine, where pro-Russian militias are
active, as well as Muslim Tatars in Crimea, which Russia unilaterally
annexed in March.
Russian forces have kidnapped priests, detained nuns,
firebombed churches and intimidated worshippers, he says.
The Russian forces are targeting the Ukrainian Orthodox Church
of the Kyivan Patriarchate, which Bennett sees as part of a plan by
Putin to prop up the Moscow Patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church.
“It’s definitely part of a calculated plan,” Bennett said in
an exclusive interview with The Canadian Press. “It’s a narrative drawn
from the 19th century, not the Soviet period. This is a narrative
building upon Russian nationalism that is rooted in Orthodoxy.
“In Putin’s Russia, we’re seeing again the using of these
older constructs within Russian political society and Russian history
to advance Russian aims.”
Bennett said he’s hearing reports that Russians want all
religious communities in Crimea to re-register as religious
communities, as they do in Russia. While that would target Muslim
Tartars in Crimea, Bennett said it could be used against Catholics,
Protestants and Orthodox groups, particularly the Kyivan Patriarchate
in eastern Ukraine.
“This has been used in the past as an administrative form of
The Moscow Patriarchate views its Kyivan counterpart as a
breakaway sect, said Bennett.
“As it has happened through a lot of its history, the Russian
Orthodox Church is allowing itself to be co-opted and is being co-opted
by the state, the Russians, to advance Russia’s interests.”
Bennett’s office has a modest annual budget of $4.25 million
for projects that support religious freedom. Bennett won’t say how much
of that budget he plans to earmark to Ukraine, when he announces some
specific projects in the coming days.
He said he wants to meet some of the people who will benefit
from the Canadian support before making his announcement.
The projects will be aimed at “broadening religious dialogue
between the different religious communities in the country, working
with youth to make the links around religious freedom, democratic
development, the role of religion and religious communities within
There’s been a historic lack of dialogue within Ukraine
communities, so Canada wants to help address that, he said.
Bennett said he won’t travel to Crimea or eastern Ukraine
because it is too dangerous.
The Harper government has particularly vocal in its criticism
of Putin as being personally responsible for provoking unrest on
Bennett also took Putin to task for positioning himself as a
defender of religious freedom.
In the Middle East, Putin sees himself and Russia as defenders
of Orthodox Christians in Syria and Iraq and has spoken out loudly
against their persecution, said Bennett.
“We all need to speak out,” he said. “But it’s very
disingenuous when he does it on one hand in the Middle East and through
his proxies they’re persecuting their fellow Christians in Ukraine.”
With some 1.2 million Canadians of Ukraine descent living
here, Ukraine is a top foreign policy priority for the Harper
As he recently welcomed Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko
to Ottawa, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said the two peoples are like
“family” and that their bond transcends simple foreign policy interests.