The meeting of Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill concluded with the signing of a Joint Declaration, which elicited mixed reactions on the part of the citizenry and Church representatives of Ukraine.
His Beatitude Sviatoslav, the Head of the UGCC, shared with us his impressions of the meeting in general and of the document in particular.
Your Beatitude, kindly share with us your impressions of the meeting between Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill. What can you say about the Joint Declaration that they signed?
From our experience, gained over many years, we can say that when the Vatican and Moscow organize meetings or sign joint texts, it is difficult to expect something good. Firstly, I would like to say something about the meeting of the Holy Father with Patriarch Kirill, and then I will comment on the text of the declaration.
One notices immediately, especially from their comments after the meeting, that the two sides existed on two completely different planes and were pursuing different goals. His Holiness Pope Francis experienced this encounter primarily as a spiritual event. He opened his remarks by noting that we, Catholics and Orthodox, share one and the same Baptism. In the meeting, he sought out the presence of the Holy Spirit and received His support. He emphasized that the unity of the Churches can be achieved when we travel together on the same path. From the Moscow Patriarch one immediately sensed that this wasn’t about any Spirit, or theology, or actual religious matters. No common prayer, an emphasis on official phrases about “the fate of the world,” and the airport as a neutral, that is, non-ecclesial environment. The impression was that they existed in two parallel worlds. Did these two parallel realities intersect during this meeting? I don’t know, but according to the rules of mathematics, two parallel lines do not intersect.
I found myself experiencing authentic admiration, respect, and a certain reverential awe for the humility of Pope Francis, a true “suffering servant of God,” who seeks one thing: to bear witness to the Gospel of Christ before humankind today, to be in the world, but remain of Christ, to have courage to be “not of this world.” Thus, I would invite all not to rush in judging him, not to remain on the reality level of those who expect only politics from this meeting and want to exploit a humble pope for their human plans at all costs. If we don’t enter into the spiritual reality of the Holy Father and do not discern together with him the action of the Holy Spirit, we shall remain imprisoned by the prince of this world and his followers. Then, for us, this will become a meeting that occurred but didn’t happen. Speaking of the signed text of the Joint Declaration, in general it is positive. In it are raised questions, which are of concern to both Catholics and Orthodox, and it opens new perspectives for cooperation. I encourage all to look for these positive elements. However, the points which concern Ukraine in general and specifically the UGCC raised more questions than answers.
It was officially reported that this document was the joint effort of Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev) from the Orthodox side and Cardinal Koch with the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity from the Catholic side. For a document that was intended to be not theological, but essentially socio-political, it is hard to imagine a weaker team than the one that drafted this text. The mentioned Pontifical Council is competent in theological matters in relations with various Christian Churches and communities, but is no expert in matters of international politics, especially in delicate matters such as Russia’s aggression in Ukraine. Thus, the intended character of the document was beyond their capabilities. This was exploited by the Department of External Affairs of the Russian Orthodox Church, which is, first of all, the instrument of diplomacy and external politics of the Moscow Patriarchate. I would note that, as the Head of our Church, I am an official member of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, nominated already by Pope Benedict. However, no one invited me to express my thoughts and so, essentially, as had already happened previously, they spoke about us without us, without giving us a voice.
Possibly the Apostolic Nuncio can help me understand the “obscure places” in this text and can explain the position of the Vatican in places where it is, in our view, not clearly formulated.
However, paragraph 25 of the Declaration speaks respectfully of Greek-Catholics and the UGCC is essentially recognized as a subject of inter-church relations between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches.
Yes, you are right. They no longer seem to object to our right to exist. In reality, in order to exist and to act, we are not obliged to ask permission from anybody. The new emphasis here, of course, is that the Balamand Agreement of 1993, which Metropolitan Alfeyev has used until now to deny our right to exist, is now being used for its affirmation. Referring to the rejection of “uniatism” as a method of uniting Churches, Moscow always demanded from the Vatican a virtual ban on our existence and the limitation of our activities. Moreover, this requirement was placed as a condition, in the form of an ultimatum, for the possibility of a meeting of the Pope and the Patriarch. In the past, we were accused of “expansion on the canonical territory of the Moscow Patriarchate,” and now our right to care for our faithful, wherever they are in need, is recognized. I assume that this also applies to the Russian Federation, where today we do not have the possibility of free and legal existence, or on the territory of annexed Crimea, where we are “re-registered” in accordance with Russian legislation and are effectively liquidated.
This change of emphasis is definitely positive, although essentially nothing new has been said. The recognition that “Orthodox and Greek Catholics are in need of reconciliation and of mutually acceptable forms of co–existence” is encouraging. We have been talking about this for a long time, and both Myroslav Ivan Cardinal Lubachivsky and His Beatitude Lubomyr frequently appealed to our Orthodox brothers with these words, but there was no answer. I hope that we will be able to foster bilateral relations with the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC), moving in this direction without interference from Moscow.
How would you comment on this statement: “We invite all the parts involved in the conflict to prudence, to social solidarity and to action aimed at constructing peace. We invite our Churches in Ukraine to work towards social harmony, to refrain from taking part in the confrontation, and to not support any further development of the conflict?”
In general, I would like to say that paragraph 26 of the Declaration is the most controversial. One gets the impression that the Moscow Patriarchate is either stubbornly refusing to admit that it is a party to the conflict, namely, that it openly supports the aggression of Russia against Ukraine, and, by the way, also blesses the military actions of Russia in Syria as a “holy war,” or it is appealing first of all to its own conscience, calling itself to the same prudence, social solidarity, and the active building of peace. I do not know! The very word “conflict” is obscure here and seems to suggests to the reader that we have a “civil conflict” rather than external aggression by a neighboring state. Today, it is widely recognized that if soldiers were not sent from Russia onto Ukrainian soil and did not supply heavy weapons, if the Russian Orthodox Church, instead of blessing the idea of “Russkiy mir” (“the Russian world”) supported Ukraine gaining control over its own borders, there would be neither any annexation of Crimea nor would there be any war at all. It is precisely this kind of social solidarity with the Ukrainian people and the active construction of peace that we expect from the signatories of this document.
I would like to express a few thoughts on the phrase that encourages Churches in Ukraine “to work towards social harmony, to refrain from taking part in the confrontation, and to not support any further development of the conflict.” Churches and religious organizations in Ukraine never supported the war and constantly labored towards social peace and harmony. One need only to show some interest in the topics raised through the appeals of the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations over the last two years.
Instead, the appeal not to participate in the protests and not to support its development for some reason strongly reminds me of the accusations by Metropolitan Hilarion, who attacked the position of “Ukrainian schismatics and Uniates,” practically accusing us of being the cause of the war in Eastern Ukraine, at the same time, viewing our civic position, which we based upon the social teaching of the Catholic Church, as support for only one of the “sides of the participants in the conflict.”
In this regard, I wish to state the following. The UGCC has never supported nor promoted the war. However, we have always supported and will support the people of Ukraine! We have never been on the side of the aggressor; instead, we remained with our people when they were on the Maidan, when they were being killed by the bearers of “Russkiy mir.” Our priests have never taken up arms, as opposed to what has happened on the other side. Our chaplains, as builders of peace, suffer the freezing cold together with our soldiers on the front and with their very own hands carry the wounded from the battlefield, wipe away the tears of mothers who mourn their dead children. We care for the wounded and for those who have suffered as a result of the fighting, regardless of their national origin, their religious or political beliefs. Today, more than ever, the circumstances are such that our nation has no other protection and refuge, except from its Church. It is precisely a pastoral conscience that calls us to be the voice of the people, to awaken the conscience of the global Christian community, even when this voice is not understood or is disregarded by the religious leaders of Churches today.
Your Beatitude, will the fact that the Holy Father signed such an unclear and ambiguous document not undermine the respect that the faithful of the UGCC have for him, given that unity with the successor of Peter is an integral part of her identity?
Undoubtedly, this text has caused deep disappointment among many faithful of our Church and among conscientious citizens of Ukraine. Today, many contacted me about this and said that they feel betrayed by the Vatican, disappointed by the half-truth nature of this document, and even see it as indirect support by the Apostolic See for Russian aggression against Ukraine. I can certainly understand those feelings.
Nonetheless, I encourage our faithful not to dramatize this Declaration and not to exaggerate its importance for Church life. We have experienced more than one such statement, and will survive this one as well. We need to remember that our unity and full communion with the Holy Father, the Successor of the Apostle Peter, is not the result of political agreement or diplomatic compromise, or the clarity of a Joint Declaration text. This unity and communion with the Peter of today is a matter of our faith. It is to him, Pope Francis, and to each of us today, that Christ says in the Gospel of Luke: “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”
It is for this unity with the Apostolic See that our Church’s twentieth century Martyrs and Confessors of Faith gave up their lives, sealing it with their blood. As we commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Lviv Pseudo-Synod, let us draw from them the strength of this witness, of their sacrifice which, in our day, at times appears to be a stumbling block – a stone which the builders of international relations frequently reject; yet, it is precisely this stone of Christ of Peter’s faith, that the Lord will make the cornerstone of the future of all Christians. And it will be “marvelous in our eyes.”Interview in Ukrainian: Fr. Ihor Yatsiv
Statement by the Press Centre of the Kyivan Patriarchate
1. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyivan Patriarchate has always supported and encouraged inter-confessional and inter-church dialogue. A current example of this is the Ukrainian National Council of Churches and Religious Organizations (VRTsRO). For twenty years its eighteen members have cooperated effectively -- including the Orthodox Churches of the Kyivan and Moscow patriarchates, the Ukrainian Greek Catholic and Roman Catholic Churches, and protestant churches and communities (Baptists, Pentecostals, Seventh-Day Adventists, Evangelicals, Lutherans and Calvinists), as well as the Armenian Apostolic Church, Jewish community alliances, and Muslim spiritual centres. Together, these religious organizations encompass over four-fifths of all the religious communities in Ukraine.
The activities of this Council were known to the late Pope John Paul II, who met with it during his visit to Ukraine in June 2001, and also Pope Francis’ personal representative, Cardinal Christoph Schonborn, during his visit as Archbishop of Vienna in December 2014.
The VRTsRO is an example of not merely declarative, on paper, but genuine fruitful interaction between various Churches and various religions, manifested in concrete matters. This interaction takes place both internally in our country and at an international level. In our opinion, it is this kind of “practical ecumenism” that is especially lacking in our times in Europe and in the world. While remaining distinct, we are able to find consensus positions on questions of relations with the state and the public, of defending traditional moral values, and we provide joint responses to current challenges.
2. The Kyivan Patriarchate rejoices that the ideas about changing the focus in the ecumenical movement expressed by Patriarch Filaret in his presentation to Pope John Paul II in 2001 are today being implemented in the common steps being taken by the Catholic Church and the Moscow Patriarchate.
For decades, Patriarch Filaret was an active participant in many ecumenical measures of local and international significance. Based on his experience, he came to the conclusion that under current conditions, the focus in inter-Church relations must change from a seeking common understanding of the dogmas of the faith to common practical steps. The Orthodox, Catholics, and Protestants have differing positions on issues of dogma or Church. But this should not hinder them from already working jointly in areas where there is no disagreement: on protecting traditional morals and family values, in dialogue with the state and with the public, and on issues of mercy and charity.
3. Our Church shares the disappointment expressed by many concerning certain points of the joint Declaration of the heads of the Catholic Church and the Moscow Patriarchate, signed on 12 February 2016 in Havana -- in particular, paragraphs 25, 26, and 27 of this document. We concur with the negative opinions that have been aired in this regard by hierarchs, priests, laypeople, and scholars of the Greek Catholic and Roman Catholic Churches, as well as secular observers and representatives of civil society in both Ukraine and abroad.
The abovementioned paragraphs of the Declaration are seized by a spirit from the worst examples of secular diplomacy, full of equivocal connotations, biased opinions, and groundless assertions. We are convinced that the topics in paragraphs 25–27 would better have been altogether left out of a document intending to declare the position of the Churches to the faithful and the world, rather than broached in such a form.
4. For the Kyivan Patriarchate, it is unacceptable to practice the kind of diplomacy where decisions about Ukraine and Ukrainian ecclesiastical and public affairs are adopted without representatives of Ukraine, ignoring their thoughts and positions. The Munich Pact of 1938 and its bitter legacy testify that issues concerning us cannot be resolved without our participation.
Unfortunately, paragraphs 25–27 of the Declaration presume to do so. An issue that concerns the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (par. 25) fails to take into account the thoughts and position of the Church in question. The assessment of the “conflict in Ukraine” (par. 26) completely ignores the main reasons for it -- Russian armed, political, economic, and informational aggression against Ukraine, violation by Russia of international agreements and norms of international law, and occupation of Crimea and parts of the Donbas by the Russian Federation. The assessment of the situation in the Orthodox Church in Ukraine (par. 27) ignores the fact that canon violations by the Moscow Patriarchate are the reason it is divided.
In the future, when documents are being prepared that concern the situation in Ukraine, we expect that Vatican diplomats, as subjects of international law and international relations with Ukraine, will look to best practices rather than worst ones as examples for themselves.
5. The Church is called on to bear witness to the truth. As regards the war in Ukraine, the truth is that it is not a civil war, not an internal conflict, and not a clash between different minorities or followers of different religions.
The reason for the war being waged in Eastern Ukraine is armed, political, economic, and informational aggression by Russia against our country. This aggression is aimed at hindering the European integration of our state, at forcing it by violent means to return to subordination by the Kremlin. Essentially, Ukrainian is undergoing the same as what happened in Czechoslovakia in 1938 and 1968, Hungary in 1956, and Afghanistan in 1979.
The formulations and assessments of events in Ukraine set forth in par. 26 do not witness the truth; rather, they are a muted repetition of formulaic Russian propaganda, which imposes the idea of an “internal Ukrainian crisis” on the world, having nothing to do with Russia. We did not expect anything different from the Moscow Patriarch, who is dependent on the Kremlin. But for the Pope of Rome to sign these formulations was for many a great disappointment, especially in Ukraine.
While they do mention the persecution of Christians in various regions of the world, it is also a shame that the authors of the Declaration do not say anything about the persecution and infringements visited upon the faithful of various confessions in occupied Crimea and in territories of the Donbas that are controlled by Kremlin collaborators.
6. As concerns the division of the Orthodox Church in Ukraine, the Kyivan Patriarchate believes that it can be overcome, and unity renewed, and that this will take place according to canonical norms.
The main reason for the division is the uncanonical usurpation of the Kyivan Metropoly by the Moscow Patriarchate in 1686. Even the Ecumenical Patriarchate, which the Kyivan Metropoly was a part of for the previous seven hundred years, officially declared several times that Moscow’s annexation of the Church in Ukraine did not follow the principles of canonical rule. Therefore, it is illegal and must be rejected -- which our Church did a quarter-century ago.
We understand that the Moscow Patriarchate is aware of the impending and inevitable recognition of the Kievan Patriarchate as a Sovereign (Autocephalous) Orthodox Church. And so it is seeking any opportunity to hinder this, including by blocking relations between the UOC(KP) and the Catholic Church. We see par. 27 of the Declaration in this context; however, we are convinced that the ruse will not be successful.
We are grateful to both the Byzantine- and Latin-rite Catholic Churches of Ukraine for their clear understanding of who divided, and continues to divide, the Orthodox Church in Ukraine, and why. We hope that in time, such a level of understanding will come also to the professional diplomats and ecumenists in the Vatican Curia. When the Vatican is truly interested in helping to unite the Orthodox Church in Ukraine -- not in word, but in deed -- we will always be willing to cooperate.
7. All that has been set forth above shall testify that the Kyivan Patriarchate believes that the Church in Ukraine must not be an object of politics and collusion between foreign religious entities, but a fully fledged and legitimate stakeholder in inter-Church relations and ecumenical cooperation. Achieving this is the common objective of the temporarily divided Churches in Ukraine, and also of the Ukrainian state and its society. The struggle for Ukraine’s European future and against Russian aggression, in defense of our independence, united our nation -- and ensures its success. In the same way, all the Churches stemming from the Christianization in the time of Volodymyr the Great must work together with society and the state to achieve a proper status and unity for the Church in Ukraine.
15 February 2016, Press Centre of the Kyivan Patriarchate
Заява Прес-центру Київської Патріархії
1. Українська Православна Церква Київського Патріархату завжди підтримувала і заохочувала міжконфесійний та міжрелігійний діалог. Дієвим прикладом цього є Всеукраїнська Рада Церков і релігійних організацій, у якій 20 років плідно співпрацюють 18 членів, зокрема Православні Церкви Київського і Московського Патріархатів, Українська Греко-Католицька і Римсько-Католицька Церкви, протестантські Церкви і об’єднання – баптистів, п’ятидесятників, адвентистів сьомого дня, євангельських християн, лютерани та реформати, Вірменська Апостольська Церква, об’єднання іудейських громад та духовні центри мусульман. Разом всі ці релігійні центри об’єднують понад 4/5 релігійних громад в Україні.
З діяльністю Ради мали можливість ознайомитися нині спочилий Папа Іван Павло ІІ, який мав зустріч з нею від час візиту в Україну в червні 2001 р., а також особистий представник Папи Франциска кардинал Крістоф Шенборн, архієпископ Віденський, під час зустрічі в грудні 2014 р.
ВРЦіРО є прикладом не декларативної, а реальної, не на папері, а виявленої у конкретних справах плідної взаємодії різних Церков і різних релігій. Ця взаємодія відбувається як всередині нашої країни, так і на міжнародному рівні. На нашу думку це є той «практичний екуменізм», якого особливо в наш час бракує у Європі та у світі. Залишаючись різними, ми знаходимо консенсусну позицію в питаннях відносин з державою і суспільством, у захисті традиційних моральних цінностей, даємо спільну відповідь на сучасні виклики.
2. Київський Патріархат радіє з того, що ідеї зміни акцентів у екуменічному русі, висловлені Патріархом Філаретом у його промові до Папи Івана Павла ІІ у 2001 р., нині знаходять своє втілення у спільних кроках Католицької Церкви і Московського Патріархату.
Патріарх Філарет протягом десятиліть був активним учасником багатьох екуменічних заходів місцевого і міжнародного значення. Базуючись на своєму досвіді він прийшов до висновку, що в сучасних умовах у відносинах між Церквами акцент має бути перенесений з пошуків єдності у розумінні догматів віри – на спільні практичні кроки. У питаннях догматів чи структури Церкви православні, католики та протестанти мають різну позицію. Але це не повинно заважати їм вже зараз спільно працювати там, де немає відмінностей: у сфері захисту традиційної моралі, сімейних цінностей, у діалозі з державами та суспільством, у питаннях милосердя і благодійності.
3. Наша Церква поділяє висловлене багатьма розчарування окремими пунктами спільної Декларації глав Католицької Церкви і Московського Патріархату, підписаної 12 лютого 2016 р. у Гавані, зокрема пунктами 25, 26 та 27 цього документу. Ми приєднуємося до критичних оцінок, які з цього приводу прозвучали від ієрархів, священиків, мирян, вчених Греко-Католицької і Римсько-Католицької Церков, світських оглядачів, представників громадянського суспільства як в Україні, так і закордоном.
Вказані вище пункти Декларації пройняті духом гірших зразків світської дипломатії, сповнені двозначних натяків, необ’єктивних оцінок та безпідставних тверджень. На наше переконання у документі, який має свідчити віруючим і світу позицію Церков, краще було би взагалі не торкатися порушених у пунктах 25-27 тем, ніж висвітлювати їх у такій формі.
4. Для Київського Патріархату є неприйнятною практика дипломатії, коли рішення про Україну і українські церковні та суспільні справи ухвалюють без представників України, ігноруючи їхню думку і позицію. Мюнхенська змова 1938 р. та її гіркі наслідки свідчать: питання про нас не можна вирішувати без нашої участі.
На жаль саме такими є пункти 25-27 Декларації. Питання Української Греко-Католицької Церкви (п. 25) не враховує думку і позицію цієї Церкви. Оцінки «конфлікту в Україні» (п. 26) повністю ігнорують його головну причину – російську збройну, політичну, економічну та інформаційну агресію проти України, порушення Росією міжнародних угод і норм міжнародного права, окупацію Російською Федерацією Криму і частини Донбасу. Оцінка ситуації у Православній Церкві в Україні (п. 27) ігнорує той факт, що причиною її розділення є порушення канонів саме Московським Патріархатом.
Сподіваємося, що у майбутньому при підготовці документів, які стосуються оцінок ситуації в Україні, дипломатія Ватикану, як суб’єкта міжнародного права і міждержавних відносин з Україною, братиме за взірець для себе кращі, а не гірші зразки.
5. Церква покликана свідчити правду. У питанні війни в Україні правда полягає в тому, що це не громадянська війна, не внутрішній конфлікт, не протистояння між різними націями чи послідовниками різних релігій.
Причина війни, яка триває на Сході України – збройна, політична, економічна та інформаційна агресія Росії проти нашої країни. Мета цієї агресії – перешкодити європейській інтеграції нашої держави, силою змусити її повернутися до підпорядкування Кремлю. По суті в Україні зараз відбувається те саме, що відбулося з Чехословаччиною у 1938 і 1968 роках, з Угорщиною у 1956 році, з Афганістаном у 1979 р.
Вжиті у п. 26 формулювання і оцінки щодо подій в Україні є не свідченням правди, а пом'якшеним повторенням формул російської пропаганди, яка нав’язує світові думку про «внутрішню українську кризу», до якої Росія нібито не має стосунку. Від Московського Патріарха, який залежить від Кремля, ми не очікували чогось іншого. Але підпис Папи Римського під цими формулюваннями став для багатьох, в першу чергу в Україні, великим розчаруванням.
Також прикро, що згадуючи про переслідування християн у різних регіонах світу, автори Декларації нічого не кажуть про переслідування і утиски віруючих різних конфесій у окупованому Криму та на підконтрольних кремлівським колаборантам територіях Донбасу.
6. Щодо існуючого в Україні розділення Православної Церкви, то Київський Патріархат вважає, що його подолання і відновлення єдності можливе і воно відбудеться саме на основі канонічних норм.
Головною причиною розділення є неканонічне привласнення Московським Патріархатом у 1686 р. влади над Київською Митрополією. Також і Вселенський Патріархат, до якого Київська Митрополія належала протягом попередніх семи століть, кілька разів офіційно засвідчив, що анексія Москвою Церкви в Україні відбулася не за приписами канонічних правил. Отже, вона незаконна і має бути відкинута – що і здійснила наша Церкви чверть століття тому.
Ми розуміємо, що Московський Патріархат усвідомлює наближення і невідворотність визнання Київського Патріархату як Помісної Православної Церкви. А тому шукає будь-якої нагоди завадити цьому, в тому числі перешкоджаючи відносинам між УПЦ КП і Католицькою Церквою. Саме в цьому контексті ми розглядаємо п. 27 Декларації, однак переконані, що ця спроба не матиме успіху.
Ми вдячні Католицьким Церквам України східного і латинського обрядів за те, що вони добре розуміють, хто і навіщо розділив та й далі ділить Православну Церкву в Україні. Сподіваємося, що з часом такий же рівень розуміння буде досягнутий і професійними дипломатами та екуменістами ватиканської Курії. А якщо у Ватикані не на словах, а на ділі зацікавлені допомогти єднанню Православної Церкви в Україні – ми завжди є відкритими до співпраці.
7. Все вище зазначене Київський Патріархат вважає ще одним доказом того, що Церква в Україні повинна бути не об’єктом політики та домовленостей закордонних релігійних центрів, а повноцінним і рівноправним суб’єктом відносин між Церквами та екуменічної співпраці. Досягнення цього – спільне завдання поки що поділених Церков в Україні, а також Української держави і суспільства. Так само, як боротьба за європейське майбутнє України, протистояння російській агресії та захист державності об’єднали наш народ, що є запорукою перемоги – також і всі Церкви Володимирового Хрещення разом з суспільством і державою мають працювати для досягнення гідного положення і єднання Церкви в Україні.
Прес-центр Київської Патріархії
Joint Declaration of Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia
“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God the Father and the fellowship of the holy Spirit be with all of you” (2 Cor 13:13).
1. By God the Father’s will, from which all gifts come, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the help of the Holy Spirit Consolator, we, Pope Francis and Kirill, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, have met today in Havana. We give thanks to God, glorified in the Trinity, for this meeting, the first in history.
It is with joy that we have met like brothers in the Christian faith who encounter one another “to speak face to face” (2 Jn 12), from heart to heart, to discuss the mutual relations between the Churches, the crucial problems of our faithful, and the outlook for the progress of human civilization.
2. Our fraternal meeting has taken place in Cuba, at the crossroads of North and South, East and West. It is from this island, the symbol of the hopes of the “New World” and the dramatic events of the history of the twentieth century, that we address our words to all the peoples of Latin America and of the other continents.
It is a source of joy that the Christian faith is growing here in a dynamic way. The powerful religious potential of Latin America, its centuries–old Christian tradition, grounded in the personal experience of millions of people, are the pledge of a great future for this region.
3. By meeting far from the longstanding disputes of the “Old World”, we experience with a particular sense of urgency the need for the shared labour of Catholics and Orthodox, who are called, with gentleness and respect, to give an explanation to the world of the hope in us (cf. 1 Pet 3:15).
4. We thank God for the gifts received from the coming into the world of His only Son. We share the same spiritual Tradition of the first millennium of Christianity. The witnesses of this Tradition are the Most Holy Mother of God, the Virgin Mary, and the saints we venerate. Among them are innumerable martyrs who have given witness to their faithfulness to Christ and have become the “seed of Christians”.
5. Notwithstanding this shared Tradition of the first ten centuries, for nearly one thousand years Catholics and Orthodox have been deprived of communion in the Eucharist. We have been divided by wounds caused by old and recent conflicts, by differences inherited from our ancestors, in the understanding and expression of our faith in God, one in three Persons – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We are pained by the loss of unity, the outcome of human weakness and of sin, which has occurred despite the priestly prayer of Christ the Saviour: “So that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you … so that they may be one, as we are one” (Jn 17:21).
6. Mindful of the permanence of many obstacles, it is our hope that our meeting may contribute to the re–establishment of this unity willed by God, for which Christ prayed. May our meeting inspire Christians throughout the world to pray to the Lord with renewed fervour for the full unity of all His disciples. In a world which yearns not only for our words but also for tangible gestures, may this meeting be a sign of hope for all people of goodwill!
7. In our determination to undertake all that is necessary to overcome the historical divergences we have inherited, we wish to combine our efforts to give witness to the Gospel of Christ and to the shared heritage of the Church of the first millennium, responding together to the challenges of the contemporary world. Orthodox and Catholics must learn to give unanimously witness in those spheres in which this is possible and necessary. Human civilization has entered into a period of epochal change. Our Christian conscience and our pastoral responsibility compel us not to remain passive in the face of challenges requiring a shared response.
8. Our gaze must firstly turn to those regions of the world where Christians are victims of persecution. In many countries of the Middle East and North Africa whole families, villages and cities of our brothers and sisters in Christ are being completely exterminated. Their churches are being barbarously ravaged and looted, their sacred objects profaned, their monuments destroyed. It is with pain that we call to mind the situation in Syria, Iraq and other countries of the Middle East, and the massive exodus of Christians from the land in which our faith was first disseminated and in which they have lived since the time of the Apostles, together with other religious communities.
9. We call upon the international community to act urgently in order to prevent the further expulsion of Christians from the Middle East. In raising our voice in defence of persecuted Christians, we wish to express our compassion for the suffering experienced by the faithful of other religious traditions who have also become victims of civil war, chaos and terrorist violence.
10. Thousands of victims have already been claimed in the violence in Syria and Iraq, which has left many other millions without a home or means of sustenance. We urge the international community to seek an end to the violence and terrorism and, at the same time, to contribute through dialogue to a swift return to civil peace. Large–scale humanitarian aid must be assured to the afflicted populations and to the many refugees seeking safety in neighbouring lands.
We call upon all those whose influence can be brought to bear upon the destiny of those kidnapped, including the Metropolitans of Aleppo, Paul and John Ibrahim, who were taken in April 2013, to make every effort to ensure their prompt liberation.
11. We lift our prayers to Christ, the Saviour of the world, asking for the return of peace in the Middle East, “the fruit of justice” (Is 32:17), so that fraternal co–existence among the various populations, Churches and religions may be strengthened, enabling refugees to return to their homes, wounds to be healed, and the souls of the slain innocent to rest in peace.
We address, in a fervent appeal, all the parts that may be involved in the conflicts to demonstrate good will and to take part in the negotiating table. At the same time, the international community must undertake every possible effort to end terrorism through common, joint and coordinated action. We call on all the countries involved in the struggle against terrorism to responsible and prudent action. We exhort all Christians and all believers of God to pray fervently to the providential Creator of the world to protect His creation from destruction and not permit a new world war. In order to ensure a solid and enduring peace, specific efforts must be undertaken to rediscover the common values uniting us, based on the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.
12. We bow before the martyrdom of those who, at the cost of their own lives, have given witness to the truth of the Gospel, preferring death to the denial of Christ. We believe that these martyrs of our times, who belong to various Churches but who are united by their shared suffering, are a pledge of the unity of Christians. It is to you who suffer for Christ’s sake that the word of the Apostle is directed: “Beloved … rejoice to the extent that you share in the sufferings of Christ, so that when his glory is revealed you may also rejoice exultantly” (1 Pet 4:12–13).
13. Interreligious dialogue is indispensable in our disturbing times. Differences in the understanding of religious truths must not impede people of different faiths to live in peace and harmony. In our current context, religious leaders have the particular responsibility to educate their faithful in a spirit which is respectful of the convictions of those belonging to other religious traditions. Attempts to justify criminal acts with religious slogans are altogether unacceptable. No crime may be committed in God’s name, “since God is not the God of disorder but of peace” (1 Cor 14:33).
14. In affirming the foremost value of religious freedom, we give thanks to God for the current unprecedented renewal of the Christian faith in Russia, as well as in many other countries of Eastern Europe, formerly dominated for decades by atheist regimes. Today, the chains of militant atheism have been broken and in many places Christians can now freely confess their faith. Thousands of new churches have been built over the last quarter of a century, as well as hundreds of monasteries and theological institutions. Christian communities undertake notable works in the fields of charitable aid and social development, providing diversified forms of assistance to the needy. Orthodox and Catholics often work side by side. Giving witness to the values of the Gospel they attest to the existence of the shared spiritual foundations of human co–existence.
15. At the same time, we are concerned about the situation in many countries in which Christians are increasingly confronted by restrictions to religious freedom, to the right to witness to one’s convictions and to live in conformity with them. In particular, we observe that the transformation of some countries into secularized societies, estranged from all reference to God and to His truth, constitutes a grave threat to religious freedom. It is a source of concern for us that there is a current curtailment of the rights of Christians, if not their outright discrimination, when certain political forces, guided by an often very aggressive secularist ideology, seek to relegate them to the margins of public life.
16. The process of European integration, which began after centuries of blood–soaked conflicts, was welcomed by many with hope, as a guarantee of peace and security. Nonetheless, we invite vigilance against an integration that is devoid of respect for religious identities. While remaining open to the contribution of other religions to our civilization, it is our conviction that Europe must remain faithful to its Christian roots. We call upon Christians of Eastern and Western Europe to unite in their shared witness to Christ and the Gospel, so that Europe may preserve its soul, shaped by two thousand years of Christian tradition.
17. Our gaze is also directed to those facing serious difficulties, who live in extreme need and poverty while the material wealth of humanity increases. We cannot remain indifferent to the destinies of millions of migrants and refugees knocking on the doors of wealthy nations. The unrelenting consumerism of some more developed countries is gradually depleting the resources of our planet. The growing inequality in the distribution of material goods increases the feeling of the injustice of the international order that has emerged.
18. The Christian churches are called to defend the demands of justice, the respect for peoples’ traditions, and an authentic solidarity towards all those who suffer. We Christians cannot forget that “God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise, and God chose the lowly and despised of the world, those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who are something, that no human being might boast before God” (1 Cor 1:27–29).
19. The family is the natural centre of human life and society. We are concerned about the crisis in the family in many countries. Orthodox and Catholics share the same conception of the family, and are called to witness that it is a path of holiness, testifying to the faithfulness of the spouses in their mutual interaction, to their openness to the procreation and rearing of their children, to solidarity between the generations and to respect for the weakest.
20. The family is based on marriage, an act of freely given and faithful love between a man and a woman. It is love that seals their union and teaches them to accept one another as a gift. Marriage is a school of love and faithfulness. We regret that other forms of cohabitation have been placed on the same level as this union, while the concept, consecrated in the biblical tradition, of paternity and maternity as the distinct vocation of man and woman in marriage is being banished from the public conscience.
21. We call on all to respect the inalienable right to life. Millions are denied the very right to be born into the world. The blood of the unborn cries out to God (cf. Gen 4:10).
The emergence of so-called euthanasia leads elderly people and the disabled begin to feel that they are a burden on their families and on society in general.
We are also concerned about the development of biomedical reproduction technology, as the manipulation of human life represents an attack on the foundations of human existence, created in the image of God. We believe that it is our duty to recall the immutability of Christian moral principles, based on respect for the dignity of the individual called into being according to the Creator’s plan.
22. Today, in a particular way, we address young Christians. You, young people, have the task of not hiding your talent in the ground (cf. Mt 25:25), but of using all the abilities God has given you to confirm Christ’s truth in the world, incarnating in your own lives the evangelical commandments of the love of God and of one’s neighbour. Do not be afraid of going against the current, defending God’s truth, to which contemporary secular norms are often far from conforming.
23. God loves each of you and expects you to be His disciples and apostles. Be the light of the world so that those around you may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father (cf. Mt 5:14, 16). Raise your children in the Christian faith, transmitting to them the pearl of great price that is the faith (cf. Mt 13:46) you have received from your parents and forbears. Remember that “you have been purchased at a great price” (1 Cor 6:20), at the cost of the death on the cross of the Man–God Jesus Christ.
24. Orthodox and Catholics are united not only by the shared Tradition of the Church of the first millennium, but also by the mission to preach the Gospel of Christ in the world today. This mission entails mutual respect for members of the Christian communities and excludes any form of proselytism.
We are not competitors but brothers, and this concept must guide all our mutual actions as well as those directed to the outside world. We urge Catholics and Orthodox in all countries to learn to live together in peace and love, and to be “in harmony with one another” (Rm 15:5). Consequently, it cannot be accepted that disloyal means be used to incite believers to pass from one Church to another, denying them their religious freedom and their traditions. We are called upon to put into practice the precept of the apostle Paul: “Thus I aspire to proclaim the gospel not where Christ has already been named, so that I do not build on another's foundation” (Rm 15:20).
25. It is our hope that our meeting may also contribute to reconciliation wherever tensions exist between Greek Catholics and Orthodox. It is today clear that the past method of “uniatism”, understood as the union of one community to the other, separating it from its Church, is not the way to re–establish unity. Nonetheless, the ecclesial communities which emerged in these historical circumstances have the right to exist and to undertake all that is necessary to meet the spiritual needs of their faithful, while seeking to live in peace with their neighbours. Orthodox and Greek Catholics are in need of reconciliation and of mutually acceptable forms of co–existence.
26. We deplore the hostility in Ukraine that has already caused many victims, inflicted innumerable wounds on peaceful inhabitants and thrown society into a deep economic and humanitarian crisis. We invite all the parts involved in the conflict to prudence, to social solidarity and to action aimed at constructing peace. We invite our Churches in Ukraine to work towards social harmony, to refrain from taking part in the confrontation, and to not support any further development of the conflict.
27. It is our hope that the schism between the Orthodox faithful in Ukraine may be overcome through existing canonical norms, that all the Orthodox Christians of Ukraine may live in peace and harmony, and that the Catholic communities in the country may contribute to this, in such a way that our Christian brotherhood may become increasingly evident.
28. In the contemporary world, which is both multiform yet united by a shared destiny, Catholics and Orthodox are called to work together fraternally in proclaiming the Good News of salvation, to testify together to the moral dignity and authentic freedom of the person, “so that the world may believe” (Jn 17:21). This world, in which the spiritual pillars of human existence are progressively disappearing, awaits from us a compelling Christian witness in all spheres of personal and social life. Much of the future of humanity will depend on our capacity to give shared witness to the Spirit of truth in these difficult times.
29. May our bold witness to God’s truth and to the Good News of salvation be sustained by the Man–God Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour, who strengthens us with the unfailing promise: “Do not be afraid any longer, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom” (Lk 12:32)!
Christ is the well–spring of joy and hope. Faith in Him transfigures human life, fills it with meaning. This is the conviction borne of the experience of all those to whom Peter refers in his words: “Once you were ‘no people’ but now you are God’s people; you ‘had not received mercy’ but now you have received mercy” (1 Pet 2:10).
30. With grace–filled gratitude for the gift of mutual
understanding manifested during our meeting, let us with hope turn to
the Most Holy Mother of God, invoking her with the words of this
ancient prayer: “We seek refuge under the protection of your mercy,
Holy Mother of God”. May the Blessed Virgin Mary, through her
intercession, inspire fraternity in all those who venerate her, so that
they may be reunited, in God’s own time, in the peace and harmony of
the one people of God, for the glory of the Most Holy and indivisible
Bishop of Rome Patriarch of Moscow
Pope of the Catholic Church and all Russia